A common trope in science fiction is that in the future meat is grown as a tissue culture in vats rather than as part of a living animal. This is obviously more humane as nothing with a brain has to be slaughtered.

This is now moving out of science fiction, with some laboratory demonstrations of vat-grown meat. At present this is very expensive, but the hope is that industrialisation will bring the price down to something comparable to in-vivo meat.

From this its an obvious small hop to the idea of growing human meat by starting with a small biopsy from a willing volunteer. Two works which include this are the short story The Food of the Gods by Arthur C. Clarke (in which a meat manufacturer reveals the dark secret of his competitor's hit product) and a passing reference to the "Morningside Cannibals" in Rule 34 by Charles Stross (in which the police had busted a group of friends who dined on cultured meat grown from each other, but then couldn't figure out what to charge them with).

So the question is: would it be legal to eat cultured human meat produced in this way? And if so, would it be legal to sell it?

I'm not including a jusridiction here, so feel free to describe the law anywhere.


In the US, cannibalism per se is generally legal, although murder is not, and there is the possibility of civil action for desecrating a corpse, or a low-level criminal prohibition against illegal disposition of a human corpse. Chicken Little scenarios overcome such legal impediments given existing US law, though there's no reason to think that when the technology develops, the laws will remain the same. Idaho maintains a law against cannibalism, but that prohibition forbids consumption of "flesh or blood of a human being". This would get us into the sticky matter of determining whether stuff manufactured using human cells is "flesh of a human being".

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