Yes, lab-grown meat is vegan

i wish i came to veganism through a revelation about the right to personality of animals, or acknowledgment of the environmental damage caused by animal husbandry. But I didn’t. What turned me vegan was a night of vomiting caused by undercooked ostrich. It was Glastonbury Festival, 2019. Being 21, hungover and hungry I thought I would get a snack from the only vendor at the festival with no queue. Later, while huddled in a portaloo brushing aside the hallucinations of ostrich slaughter, I vowed never to eat meat again.

These days I eat the same diet as many vegans. My diet is determined by wanting to avoid animal suffering and damage to the environment, but unlike some vegans, I don’t dislike meat. I know that if I tasted salmon again my taste buds would explode with pleasure, but I abstain because I don’t think my right to life trumps that of any other animal. Trust me, me want to to eat meat again. But I don’t.

That is, I will not eat the flesh of an animal that is still alive. When I discovered that lab-grown meat had been declared safe to eat by the US Food and Drug Administration, I was overjoyed. Meat, grown like a plant, without suffering… Immediately I thought of future Christmas dinners: lab turkey with cranberry sauce on the side.

But when I announced my excitement to my vegan friends, they backed off. Everyone felt grossed out. Ella Marshall, deputy trademark manager of the Vegan Society, the world’s oldest vegan association, told me in an email that “we cannot officially support cultured meat because animals are still used in its production.” […] we would not be able to register such products with the Vegan Trademark.”

I had been naive in thinking that vegans would embrace cultured meat. Veganism is a broad church, filled with different interpretations. So if lab-grown meat becomes available as a cheap, sustainable form of protein that doesn’t require animal suffering, veganism will face an identity crisis. There will be a conflict between vegans whose philosophy is defined by simply avoiding animal products and those who believe in a more radical restructuring of our relationship with the animal world.

Ultimately, arguments against cultured meat could hinder the progress of animal liberation. Vegans are not allowed to do this. If we want animal exploitation to end, it is our moral obligation to call cultured meat vegan, even if it makes us nervous.

If you read science fiction, the idea of ​​lab-grown meat might not seem so strange. Writers from Philip K. Dick to Douglas Adams have explored the technology. But how does it work in real life?

To grow meat, stem cells are taken from an animal to grow in bioreactors. While these biopsies are invasive, the process is less painful than many of the procedures an animal may undergo during its lifetime on a farm, and most importantly, the process does not involve killing the animal. In the bioreactors, the cells are fooled into believing they are still in an animal’s body, as they are kept in a substrate made up of nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins. Once the meat has grown, the product is harvested and processed into whatever form the manufacturers want to sell. Since the first $375,000 hamburger was eaten in 2013, production costs have fallen. While it is still expensive compared to conventional cultured meat, the cost reduction is radical and will continue. Ultimately, lab-grown meat could be possible become more affordable than traditionally kept animals.

For vegans, there should be a lot of love for this new technology. The potential to reduce everything from animal suffering to greenhouse gas emissions makes the technology, if not revolutionary, at least a useful tool in the fight against climate change.

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