I was interested in this article and video clip of attempts to make meat in the laboratory. This technology has been talked about for some time and is advancing. They are already able to make chicken, beef, and pork. They do this by using stem cells to grow the protein in the labs. I have no idea how it compares with regular meat in terms of taste and texture. The video below explains the process by which it happens and the advantages.
This video is clearly produced by proponenst of this technology and argues that this a more environmentally friendly way of producing meat and fish protein than the usual ways. The cost of production is currently extremely high but the people behind the movement suggest that it will come down to comparable levels fairly soon.
Some issues are purely empirical, such as whether producing meat in the labs on a massive scale would indeed be less energy consuming or produce less greenhouse gases than animal farming. But others are more difficult to address, such as whether animal products created in the lab from animal cells are still animals and eating them as ethically prohibited.
I was curious as to whether lab grown meat would meet the ethical standards of vegetarians and vegans. On the one hand, it would avoid the killing of animals to meet the rising demand for meat. That might satisfy those vegetarians for whom the killing of animals and the suffering endured in the factory farming process is the main concern. But since animal stem cells are being used, I suspect that it may not meet the standards of all vegans for whom using food coaxed from animals in any way (such as eggs and milk) is still considered exploitative and unethical.
This video suggests that the touted benefits of lab grown meat are not as clear-cut as proponents suggest and that opinions are mixed within the vegan community and the subject of controversy.
Peter Singer, the well-known ethicist who is considered the founder of the modern animal rights movement, has of course looked into this issue and seems to think that lab grown meat is an acceptable alternative. For him the issue is minimizing suffering and since lab-grown tissues do not have a central nervous system that can experience pain, that removes the main ethical obstacle to meat.
Some vegetarians and vegans may object to in vitro meat, because they don’t see the need for meat at all. That’s fine for them, and of course they are free to remain vegetarians and vegans, and choose not to eat in vitro meat. My own view is that being a vegetarian or vegan is not an end in itself, but a means towards reducing both human and animal suffering, and leaving a habitable planet to future generations. I haven’t eaten meat for 40 years, but if in vitro meat becomes commercially available, I will be pleased to try it.
Since I am neither vegetarians nor vegan, I can only guess at the wide range of reactions among them. I would be curious to hear from those who are as to how they view this development.