FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
1. Cells for cultured meat must come from living animals. As read in an article, the developer "has taken cells from the necks of cows and grown very tiny quantities in petri dishes, repeating the procedure 'thousands of times' to generate enough for a hamburger patty."
Answer: Indeed, the researcher who made the first cultured meat burger took cells from a living animal (adult stem cells). However, once the research reaches its conclusion, cells from a living animal will have to be taken only ONE initial time. The use of adult stem cells in the making of the first burger was carried out only to prove that cultured meat CAN be made (a proof of concept). The future of the research lies in embryonic stem cells and not adult stem cells. Once embryonic stem cells are taken and all their properties understood (for example how to culture them, how to take the inner cell mass from the blastocyst, etc.), or once CiPS will be made (which means creating embryonic stem cells from regular cells), they will be stored and serve as a permanent pool for the world to produce cultured meat from. Hence, there is no need to use or kill animals for that goal, or to repeat the procedure with every single burger.
2: Assuming it could ever become commercially viable, and assuming a significant number of meat eaters will actually want to consume it, the need to enslave animals for dairy, eggs, and other foods or clothing items will remain unchanged.
Answer: This argument is ridiculous. What, for example, is the problem with a vegan product designed to substitute a single type of meat? If someone sees a problem with cultured meat for that reason, they should object to every single individual vegan substitute. For example, soy beef merely replaces meat (actually just one specific kind of meat) and does not replace milk or eggs, and the same goes for every other alternative to meat. There is simply no logic to this argument, it is utterly empty; like saying you oppose rubber shoes because they don't solve the entire leather problem, just the shoes. Obviously, every specific substitute solves one specific problem, not the entire spectrum of animal-derived foods or materials. We WISH the problem with cultured meat were that it “only” abolishes the meat industry! We, along with about 150 billion animals every year, are sure, would gladly accept that trade-off right now.
3. "Cultured meat is not helpful in changing public attitudes toward nonhuman animals".
Answer: Agreed, but again – the same goes for every individual meat-alternative in the market today, and yet animal rights activists promote them quite enthusiastically. Furthermore, activists use health/ecology arguments to advance veganism, too, and that definitely doesn't help change the moral status of nonhuman animals. This argument is inconsistent at best. Should we come out vehemently against rubber shoes, for example, like so many did against cultured meat? Should we attack the production of soy milk? Of course not! These products should not represent the struggle for animal liberation or be at the forefront of it, but surely no one who cares about animals will object to their existence. Also, the most effective way to stir the eating habits away from animal products is not through ethical arguments, but rather through solutions such as cultured meat, which can help solve a significant part of the environmental, financial or water crises around the world. Once this technology is perfected and made available, it has the potential to have a truly global impact. In our opinion, it is impossible to change public attitude towards animals (at least not in a significant manner), and that is why we should consider other paths.
4. "There is no reason to assume cultured meat will decrease demand for factory farmed meat"
Answer: Actually, there is. Cultured meat IS MEAT, while meat alternatives aren't. The truth is, there are no vegan products with the ability to fully replace burgers, steaks, fish etc. down to the last detail, and there probably never will be. Even if there were, we must come to terms with the psychological (as well as the cultural, biological and evolutionary) factors at play here. Simply put, most meat eaters would rather continue eating meat - even cultured - than switch to soy, tofu or vegetable-based substitutes. Psychology, culture, biology and evolution are some very strong forces we are up against, and we need a game-plan capable of overcoming them in order to create a vegan world. It is our humble opinion that cultured meat is the best tool for that. You cannot fight such forces with a flyer. In order for the animal rights movement to succeed, it must understand the reasons for the animal holocaust. It must acknowledge that biology and inherent qualities, not culture, are to blame. We have to realize that it’s not a coincidence that almost every culture in the world exploits animals and consumes animal products (from eating meat to riding horses). Culture is made by organisms (in this case humans), and organisms are subjected to the forces of biology in general, and evolution specifically. The reason almost all cultures around the world use animals, no matter what religion, race or gender, proves the inherent selfishness of humans, and the benefits humans gain from using animals. These are things we unfortunately cannot change. Changing biology is impossible. Changing an existing culture is possible but extremely hard, especially when people gain so much joy, elementary products, and other things from it.
5. "Experimenting with cultured meat is a waste of money and resources which could better serve the animal rights movement"
Answer: Well, a large percentage of the money involved (as well as the scientific research) actually comes from meat-eaters and would not be available to our projects and groups anyway, so it's a net profit for the animals. Also, and despite what many self-delusional activists seem to have convinced themselves of, the animal rights movement has not been able to make a significant global impact even with vastly larger amounts of money than what is being spent on this research. We believe it's best to invest this money in something with the potential to actually abolish the meat industry, instead of yet another campaign about farm animals that the average person just doesn't care about. The best argument against the outreach method is a five-minute conversation with the average meat eater. We think we should actually invest even MORE money in this research, and that more activists should consider spending their time promoting it.
6. Cells used for cultured meat are cancerous cells, as well as being technically a "genetically modified" substance.
Answer: This is simply not true. These cells are not cancerous cells (otherwise every living creature that has developed from a zygote would be already dead). Also, they are not genetically modified. There will be no genetically engineered changes in the cells that will comprise the final product of the meat. So these two issues pose no threat to the success of the cultured meat project, and no health risk for the final product.
7. The research process requires the use of animal-derived products, therefore, even though the end result will be vegan – it is still incompatible with the ethics of animal liberation.
Answer: First, we have to keep in mind that our primary task is to help animals, not be holier-than-thou purists and feel good about ourselves. If the bottom line is that using animal-derived substances to create cultured meat benefits animals more than NOT creating cultured meat, then it is not just the right thing to do – it is our obligation to do so, as activists working to end the animal holocaust. Being pragmatic is an integral part of being an activist.
Second, any activist making this claim is being grossly inconsistent, as "traditional" animal rights activism involves plenty use of animal-derived products as well. The manufacture of plastics (such as the materials found in information stalls, for example) involves the use of animal products, and often the end product actually contains them; so do the vehicles activists use to get to protests and the computers used for organizing gatherings. When we take part in marches we step on insects; when we organize a Meatout event we use food whose growth and harvest involved killing animals; our flyers and stickers regularly harm or destroy animals' habitats, and so on. In the end, we all understand that in order to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the machinery of animal murder and abuse, we cannot completely avoid some contact and participation in it, and that some of the tools we currently employ to dismantle that machine required the exploitation of animals. It is a matter of making a cost-benefit analysis, and in the case of cultured meat the benefits significantly outweigh the costs. Actually, this claim comes back as a boomerang to the people bringing it up. Are outreach and education truly efficient enough to offset the damage they cause? How many people go vegan for every single flyer handed out? That is in our opinion the real question, as in the case of cultured meat we're certain the cost-effective ratio is significantly in favor of the effectiveness.
8. Considering the fact that meat eating is generally not beneficial for people's health, why should we then promote cultured meat?
Answer: We'd like to address this line of argument from two different angles. First, let us clarify that people with the above attitude are actually part of the problem we referred to earlier within the animal rights movement. We are a movement FOR THE ANIMALS, whose aim is to stop the animal holocaust. Whether meat is or isn't healthy is simply irrelevant – the only question is what's best for the animals. Most of humanity is not going to give up meat; hence the real choice is between a population consuming meat from abused and murdered animals, or meat which did not harm animals. Genuine anti-speciesist activists ask whether an idea is good for the animals, not whether it's good for their fellow human beings. In a movement so riddled with speciesism – as is the case with the animal rights movement, unfortunately - questions like that are regrettably all too common.
Second, in response to the actual question posed, there are those extolling the health benefits of meat just as surely as there are those claiming the exact opposite. We are not here to educate the public about nutrition. Either way, one thing we are sure of is that cultured meat will be the healthiest type of meat in the market – in fact ever - as it has many unique advantages (complete control over the amount of fat, a significantly more hygienic mode of production, etc). Humanity has chosen to consume animal flesh, unfortunately; we are here to minimize and ultimately abolish the suffering caused by that choice as much as possible.
9. We should not promote cultured meat, as meat in general is an unnatural food for human beings.
Answer: Again, we'd like to approach this from three different angles. The first is similar to the previous argument – namely that it's irrelevant whether meat is natural or not. It is our job to advance the cause of animal liberation, and cultured meat is currently our best bet for abolishing the meat industry in the foreseeable future.
Second, human beings are omnivores. That means we consume meat and plants as food. In the course of our species' evolution, all our human ancestors ate meat and plants (including Australopithecus Africanus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, etc). We are talking about millions of years during which we have adapted to eating meat as part of our diet in addition to plants. Meat eating is in our nature, sadly, and our movement is fighting very strong forces in trying to get humanity to switch to a vegan diet. We have no choice but to come to terms with it (we can however lead a healthy life without meat). People do not like meat merely because of television commercials, cultural habits or education (even though these serve as strong positive reinforcements for their eating habits); People like meat for biological reasons. The desire for meat has developed in us, naturally, through millions of years of evolution. Having said that, the mere fact something is natural to us does not, of course, make it ethically acceptable; murder and theft are also quite natural to us, and yet we all condemn those. Simply put, it would be significantly easier (and faster) to alter the way meat is produced so that it doesn't involve animal abuse and murder, rather than convince the entire human race to adopt a completely meatless diet.
Third, we should stop referring to nature as something inherently good (by 'nature' we are talking about its common, popular meaning, as something preceding modern eras and even civilization). Glasses are not "natural", yet they solve the natural problem of our eyesight's decline. Airplanes aren’t natural, yet their existence is extremely useful to us. Viruses and bacteria are natural (and so are many diseases), but advancements in medicine as well as basic hygiene have advanced life expectancy in humans. Using light and lamps at nighttime isn’t natural, yet we don’t hesitate to do so. Tomatoes, corn, broccoli, bananas, wheat etc. are also 'unnatural', as they have been artificially selected to become what they are today (and that is very different from their original, natural form, prior to our interference). So are birth controls, air conditioners, computers, phones, trains, refrigerators, internet, electricity, cameras, TVs and the list goes on and on. The point is, nature is not perfect, and even if something is "natural" – for instance meat eating - it does not mean we are obligated to stick to it or must not improve on it.
10. We should not promote cultured meat because we are against eating meat.
Answer: This argument illustrates all too well the problem of fixation within the animal rights movement. No, we are not against meat in and of itself; we are against exploiting and murdering animals. The fact that meat includes and necessitates the murder and abuse of animals - THAT is the reason for our objection to it. If meat can be produced without the use of animals, the animal rights movement should embrace and promote it. In a similar fashion, if a restaurant chain like MacDonald's, for example, were to abandon all animal products in favor of vegan foods or cultured meat, we would be wise to overcome our historically long, deep-seated opposition to it and actually support it. We mustn't forget that we are not against meat as a substance, and we must always understand the reasons and purposes of our actions and choices. Ultimately, our fixations cause stagnation and ineffectiveness and are therefore detrimental to the struggle of the animal rights, and to the advancement of our paths.
11. Why do you think people would like to eat lab-grown meat?
Answer: Although the research is held in labs, that is not how it will be done eventually. It will be made in some kind of factory, just like many other popular foods/drinks. For more information please watch Andras Forgacs speech.