What happened
Animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Monday it would give $1 million to the first person who came up with a commercially viable way to create meat in a test tube by 2012. PETA cofounder Ingrid Newkirk said the idea for the prize launched “a near civil war in our office,” as a great number of PETA members are repulsed at the thought of eating animal flesh, even if it were created in vitro. PETA vice president Lisa Lange said her initial reaction was that she "would be much more comfortable promoting eating roadkill.” (The New York Times, free registration) PETA announced the prize after a scientific conference on in vitro meat held in Norway earlier this month. One paper presented at the conference said vat-grown meat could be on shelves at comparable prices in 5 to 10 years. (Wired)

What the commentators said
The plan is “a bit impractical,” but certainly good news for “vegans who, in actuality, are closet carnivores,” said Terry Cowgill in his blog at The Lakeville (Conn.) Journal. This PETA verbal “civil war” over the fake meat, though, is indicative of “how overheated the rhetoric gets from these people.” Seriously, how can it be wrong to grow meat in a tube? “No animals suffer and I can still get a cheeseburger at Applebee's.”

The internal struggle could actually be “good for PETA,” said Graeme Wood in The Atlantic’s The Current blog. And if it signals that the group is “jettisoning” its “reflexively anti-science wing” and those simply disgusted by animal products, then it’s good for the “anti-cruelty movement,” too. “PETA’s acceptance (subsidy, even) of meat-eating,” even in this “so-far hypothetical” manner, is central to “what should be the core mission of the group, which is alleviating the needless suffering of animals in whatever way possible.”

The in-vitro meat “compromise” does go a long way toward showing that PETA “may not be as radical as some people think,” said Ed Morrissey in the blog Hot Air. But it seems like “a kidney-pie-in-the-sky solution.” The four-year time frame is “ridiculously ambitious,” and where would we get the protein for the meat? You can’t make even fake meat “out of thin air.” As for the prize, “I’d bet a steak dinner that it will go unclaimed.”