Should Animal Rights Advocates Promote “In-Vitro” or “Cultured” Meat?
That’s an easy question. The answer is: Absolutely not.
The reason is simple: cultured meat involves taking cells from living animals; it also involves growing those cells in an animal medium, such as fetal serum from calves or horses. So animals are killed in the process of producing cultured meat.
If you believe that animals have moral value and possess moral rights, you don’t support killing animals. Period. You don’t say that killing 2 is okay to save 10 anymore than you would say that it’s okay to use 2 humans as forced organ donors to save 10 humans.
What about the argument that this technology would provide meat for the billions of people who want to continue to eat meat, and would involve the slaughter of fewer animals?
Apart from the fact that animal rights advocates do not promote killing animals, there are already many 100% plant-based meat substitutes–and there are more being developed every day. So if people want the sensation of eating something corpse-like, they already have many options that do not involve killing animals There is no reason to believe that cultured meat will have any greater success or social acceptance than 100% plant-based products do.
But let me reiterate a point I made earlier: animal rights advocates do not promote killing some animals to (supposedly) save more animals any more than a human rights advocate does not promote commodifying some humans in order to save a larger number of humans.
What about the argument that animal rights advocates should stop being “binary” (i.e., all or nothing). That is, they should put aside their rights convictions and support “cultured” meat because it will supposedly save animal lives (but will still involve killing animals as sources of cells and culture medium). That argument is transparently speciesist. We would never advocate making those trade-offs were humans involved.
Those who advocate animal rights should keep educating everyone they can about veganism as a matter of justice. That will change the world. Animal rights advocates should never promote or support any form of animal exploitation just as human rights advocates would never promote commodifying and killing some humans in order to save others.
I recognize that there are some “animal people” who are very excited about cultured meat and are investing money or other resources in it. I could not disagree more with them.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.
Embracing veganism as a moral imperative and advocating for veganism as a moral imperative are, along with caring for nonhuman refugees, the most important acts of activism that you can undertake. Never fall for the line that we need to exploit animals in order to stop animal exploitation. That is absurd.
The World is Vegan! If you want it.
Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.
Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Professor of Law, Rutgers University
Honorary Professor (Philosophy) University of East Anglia
©2018 Gary L. Francione