- BIOETHICS FORUM ESSAY
A Turkey in your Tank
Vegetarians may have to stop driving. It was announced on April 16, 2007, according to Associated Press, that the fat from slaughtered animals will be used to make fuel for U.S. vehicles. This brainchild of oil giant ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat producer, is the latest twist in the alternative fuels movement and an interesting case of “Be careful what you wish for.”
Most of the world would now like to wean itself off petroleum-based fuels for various reasons, including concerns about depending on the volatile Middle East, exhausting a finite resource, and heating up the atmosphere. Recently the hope has been that we might shift to biofuels. To date this has meant plant-based fuels, including corn for ethanol and soybean for biodiesel. Producing ethanol from corn is now also considered controversial, however, because of questions about its true energy and environmental costs. Meanwhile producing biodiesel from soybeans has become more expensive as demands for soy diversify, including, ironically enough, to feed meat animals in China. With increasing prosperity, the Chinese are apparently losing their appetite for tofu, but this just means still more soybeans, since it requires more soy to feed the animals than to feed the humans directly.
So now comes the move to “render” animals into fuel. ConocoPhillips has figured out how to make diesel fuel from animal fat that performs as well as regular diesel and can be distributed via the same pipelines, etc. Furthermore production has become economically viable because of the new tax-incentives for alternative fuels. Finally, by teaming up with Tyson, which has abundant fat from slaughtered poultry, cattle, and hogs available for rendering, ConocoPhillips has found a way to fuel the U.S. trucking fleet that is infinitely renewable. It’s simply the best of all worlds … except for the animals, who now have one more reason to be fettered to a factory-farming system that treats them inhumanely their whole life long and already slaughters 10 billion of them every year in the U.S. alone.