There’s been a lot of hype about lab grown meat over the last few years, and it’s only building. Over the last week, news about lab grown meat has flooded my social media feed, with vegans excitedly pushing the possibility of their omnivorous friends no longer having to be complacent in the killing of animals.
Specifically, the Israeli startup SuperMeat wants to develop technology to produce chicken meat without harming chickens, and is peddling this as the solution to ending animal suffering.
Here’s why I don’t buy it.
- Lab grown meat companies actively market themselves with the claim that meat is delicious and there’s no need to give it up.
Eating meat is not only harmful to animals, but it is also bad for our own bodies. Ending animal suffering is not the only reason to exclude meat from our diets. In addition to saturated fat and cholesterol, compounds in meat such as L-carnitine are transformed by our bodies into metabolites that contribute to heart disease. Of course, eating meat is also bad for our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, which is why yogis practice a vegetarian lifestyle.
Some vegans support lab grown meat because (supposedly) no animals will be harmed, and because they abstain from all animal products, many have failed to make an important distinction here: meat is not just another animal product.
Eating meat is different from consuming milk or honey because to consume the flesh of a living being is a fundamentally violent act, even if no killing is involved. It isn’t our fault for craving it, but it is still a perverted desire based on social acceptance and emotional comfort. If we weren’t taught from childhood to like meat, we wouldn’t, which is why the thought of eating animals that weren’t bred for consumption, such as dogs, cats, or exotic animals, disgusts most of us. Unlike true omnivores (like bears), the sight of raw flesh and blood is repulsive to most humans and can even cause fainting in some.
Eating meat is neither delicious, nor necessary, so the entire premise of lab grown meat is wrong.
Meat isn’t good, whether animals suffer or not.
- Lab grown meat is complicated, expensive, and impractical compared to other solutions.
SuperMeat claims that their solution will be affordable, but it will never be accessible to everyone (unlike fruits, vegetables, rice, and beans, which are significantly cheaper, healthier, and environmentally friendly).
Even with SuperMeat, those outside of urban areas around the world will continue to obtain meat from slaughterhouses. The first lab burger was made in 2013 and cost as much as a house (and it also looks disgusting). It was made with thousands of muscle tissue strands, and it was difficult to keep the cells nourished and contamination-free during their growth.
For those who want to wean themselves off meat, why not try veggie burgers? They’re made cheap, low in fat, and also without any harm to animals. Save yourself the heart disease and buy a house instead.
We cannot trick nature, and I have very little faith in scientists ever getting this right. We will never be able to replicate flesh on a scale large enough to “meat” (I had to) current demands, and we will never be able to manipulate the genes of the animals or ourselves to make meat biologically healthy for us to consume.
Frankly, it’s a waste of time and resources better spent on advancing civilization in more practical ways, such as space exploration. But putting an end to animal suffering, most cases of cancer and heart disease, rainforest destruction, species extinction, and world hunger? That’s easy.
The answer is already right in front of us.
- Lab meat companies use scuzzy marketing tactics.
SuperMeat founders are actively trying to promote themselves by reaching out to vegan social media personalities, and so far this has been going surprisingly successfully, with them getting exposure from several vegan YouTube channels.
Why not market this to those it’s actually relevant to, i.e. meat eaters? Could it be because a lot of them just don’t care so passionately about ending animal suffering? That they just want to eat the meat and don’t want to know where (or who) it comes from?
And why have none of the channels pushing SuperMeat even bothered to note that they were approached by the founders who explicitly asked for a shout out? Only one person I know of has called them out on this, and refused their request for publicity.
Why should animal activists carry the burden of promoting something that is only slightly better than our current model of mass slaughter? It is a (still unhealthy) impractical way for a few people to eat chicken while feeling a little less guilty. This will never end animal suffering. I appreciate SuperMeat’s enthusiasm, but at best what they have achieved is a faulty business model built around a tenuous premise.
At worst, this whole lab meat thing is just plain shady, and as more and more scientists struggle to curate the perfect lab burger, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cargill jumps in for a piece of the pie. Or if these experiments will in fact be funded by agribusiness, if they aren’t already.
It isn’t about what’s healthy for us or what’s best for the animals. Big business doesn’t want people to stop eating meat. And animal agriculture is big business.
- No animal suffering? Really?
Cultured meat is made by taking small tissue samples from livestock. The premise is the same: animals are raised for human consumption; they just aren’t killed in the process. Even companies that begin with pure intentions see these animals as commodities, still raised for their flesh.
Do you trust the same companies telling you that “meat is delicious!” and “you don’t have to give it up!” to truly have the best interests of animals, and us—the consumers—at heart? That they’ll let the animals live and roam free and have happy lives and just occasionally take a teeny, painless tissue sample and that’s all they need?
I don’t trust the sincerity of lab meat companies. If they wanted to do good, they’d be leaving the animals alone and selling us food that wouldn’t kill us, instead of trying to convince us that using animals for their meat doesn’t have to hurt them.
*Note: It has come to my attention that most vegans support SuperMeat, yet condemn ahimsa milk, even though both allegedly (I have my suspicions about SuperMeat) do not involve animal suffering. This is completely illogical. Ahimsa milk is obtained by people who love and worship cows and wouldn’t dream of harming them, while SuperMeat will be obtained from people who crave animal flesh but “limit” themselves to a tissue sample, rather than the whole tissue. Furthermore, unlike meat, milk is full of nutritional value and centenarian yogis in India have thrived on diets comprised only of dairy and fruits for millennia. I’d rather spend the rest of my days eating mangos, bananas, yogurt, and tropical milkshakes than live off of cultured meat, which is not healthy for the body.
Vegans who support SuperMeat yet condemn ahimsa milk need to ask themselves two questions. What is healthier for humans? What is better for the animals? Encouraging SuperMeat while lambasting Hindus and vegetarians gives the impression that you only support what is trendy, new, shiny, “civilized” and technologically advanced, and automatically reject anything with ancient cultural or traditional value, regardless of how ethical and good for the animals that it is.