FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
- How can animal rights activists support the development of cultured meat when it involves (as of current time) some form of animal exploitation?
- Can someone who joins the research avoid animal exploitation?
- Why would people want to eat a product which isn't "natural"?
- Why would the meat industry want to use cultured meat instead of farmed meat?
- Tasty plant-based "meat substitutes"/vegan products already exist today and are becoming more and more popular. Would it not be better to invest our time promoting those products rather than a product with an unclear future?
- The chances cultured meat will become what its advocates hope for is small, so why should the Animal Rights movement not only support but also invest its time and resources to promote cultured meat?
- Do you really believe scientists will be able to develop commercially-available cultured meat?
- Ok, lets say cultured meat works; what about all the nonhumans who are exploited outside the meat industry? How do you plan to liberate those animals without educating the public about Animal Rights?
- How can I help to promote cultured meat?
"I totally disagree with your approach. Do you want to hear what I would have done if I had no faith in humanity?"
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For more general questions on cultured meat, visit New Harvest's FAQ page.
How can animal rights activists support the development of cultured meat when it involves (as of current time) some form of animal exploitation?
There is no justification for animal exploitation. The claim that all animal rights activists are utilitarian to some degree does not make it justifiable either. However, the situation gets complex when one gets to a realization that the current shape of activism will lead to a significant change. In such case, the activist should choose () between:
- Being a passive observer to the everlasting holocaust of nonhumans.
- Helping to promote a product which currently is not being conducted in accordance with our moral principles but has the potential to be such, and at the same time, has the potential to reduce the exploitation of nonhumans by an .
There is no doubt the development of cultured meat will not be a fully ethical process (at least in the beginning) because most of the scientists involved are not doing it for noble reasons but rather for selfish (environmental) reasons. Let us hope that as more animal-rights people get involved in this process, the less immoral it will become.
Can someone who joins the research avoid animal exploitation?
Prior to answer this question, it should be mentioned that there are two aspects where animals are being exploited in the research (vivisection is one of them):
- The extraction of the cells from the animal. This action can be done via biopsy, without causing pain to the animal.
The use of animal-derived ingredients in the medium in which cells grow.
One of the main goals in the research is to find a medium free of animal ingredients in which cells could grow effectively, and according to New Harvest organization, "a growing number of media are animal-free".
Here is an excerpt from FutureFood.org website:The aim is to find a medium in which the cells can grow that is cost effective and free from animal ingredients. Serum from calves, for example, cannot be used with cultured meat. Because cultured meat does not have the digestive organs that a live creature has, which convert nutrients to feed the cells, the medium must be able to supply the cells directly with what they need. [source]And here is an excerpt from The In Vitro Meat Consortium website:An environmentally friendly cultured meat technology rests on four basic premises: ... (3) the application of a growth medium that does not contain animal products ... [source]
Read the following December 2010 article for in-depth information on this subject: "Food: A taste of things to come?"
As for the original question, the research is divided to more than one study, so a new comer may be able to choose an area in which he will be able to operate without exploiting others. However, in order to be sure, please contact one of the people listed on the contact page of the In Vitro Meat Consortium.
Why would people want to eat a product which isn't "natural"?
At least 80% of the public eat/does what it is being told by the industry/media. If the meat industry will have an interest to use cultured meat instead of farmed meat, the public will cooperate (as it always does). How obedient is the public? Read about: Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, The Third Wave.
Already today the public eats products that are much more gross than cultured meat - hamburgers & hotdogs are just two examples.
Why would the meat industry want to use cultured meat instead of farmed meat?
Basically, if the production of cultured meat will be cost-effective. Assuming the product will become commercially available one day, there are few reasons to believe the meat industry will want to use it rather than using the conventional farmed meat:
- The poor environmental state in which the world currently lies will eventually force government authorities to restrict the current methods of livestock - the top cause of global warming (at least according to common belief), water pollution and resources waste. Less productive breeding methods will result in higher costs.
- The demand for meat in the world grows day by day while the land is not, which is one of the main reasons for the global Food Crisis and another reason why the price of meat will only get higher during the upcoming years.
- The Peak Oil will probably have a much higher impact on the meat industry (which uses huge amount of resources) than on production of cultured meat. The costs should behave accordingly.
- After cultured meat will become commercially available, the technology of cells proliferation may improve as years go by, what should lead to lower production costs.
As for the current high price of culture meat, here is an explanation from external source:The current far higher price of cultured meat, even on a per item basis so that research costs are not included, has been explained by the price of the fluid needed to soak the muscle tissue in order to promote growth. Bovine fetal serum can be used but, as well as being of animal origin, is prohibitively expensive with half a liter costing over US$200 at the time of writing. A leading trial has found a growth medium made from Maitake mushrooms is of comparable effectiveness. It is also cheaper; a 25 kilogram drum of powdered extract costs under US$1,000. I am not sure of the quantities required for production.
Tasty plant-based "meat substitutes"/vegan products already exist today and are becoming more and more popular. Would it not be better to invest our time promoting those products rather than a product with an unclear future?
It might, none of us knows what the future has in store, but there are two factors which make you wonder how successful plant-based products could be:
Plant-based meat substitutes have gotten a lot better over the last 20 years, and there are great products out there getting closer to what meat-eaters expect in a product. But they aren't there yet; the products still aren't fooling most people. It's unclear how much more they can improve-there's only so much you can do with plant proteins to texturize them and give them the "right" taste profile. And lots of people are allergic to soybeans, or concerned about phytoestrogens. Just as we're exploring lots of different renewable energy sources, we need to have a diversity of possible alternatives to meat, because chances are that one technology won't work for everybody. There will probably always be some part of the market that, for whatever reason, wants to eat animal muscle rather than texturized plant proteins. Supporting parallel technologies is key. [source]Anyway, if not taking the cultured meat path, the plant-based "substitutes" path seems to be the second best choice. For example, at this stage (when people have a great interest in consuming eggs) a campaign to convince food companies to use cost-affective egg-replacer rather than eggs is more affective than trying to make the public care about eggs consumption.
- (to use a term Howard Lyman uses) and think eating meat is an integral part of human beings; they have been told from childhood that meat is essential for their body. In addition, many of the brain dead men associate meat with social power and afraid they will lose their manhood by becoming vegan. Therefore, it will be less difficult and much more tempting for the industry to shift the public to meat-type products than to plant-type products.
about the pain they inflict upon innocent creatures. Since health is not on top of their priorities either, they will generally prefer the tastier product. As for today, there are vegan products that taste very similar to processed meat products, but there are certainly no such products with regard to non-processed meat products, like steak, beef, pork chops, etc. FutureFood.org expresses well the importance of taste:
To put it in a nut shell: What any form of vegetarian meat, cultured meat, egg replacement products or non-dairy milk drinks products, have to do is completely satisfy the taste preferences of the majority of the population. It is very probable that taste is the most important key to success, and at the same time, one of the biggest challenges.
It should be pointed out that talking about "taste" also considers the texture of the product and how filling or satisfying it is to eat.
" Nothing is more irrelevant to me [Average Joe] than what you think I should want. [...] Give people what they want, not what they should want. " full speech video
~Jeff Popick , "The Vegan Sage"
The chances cultured meat will become what its advocates hope for is small, so why should the Animal Rights movement not only support but also invest its time and resources to promote cultured meat?
The idea of cultured meat might very well turn out to be an unreachable dream in our generation, scientifically. However, since no other activity or technique has proven itself as capable of controlling the global increase in meat consumption (see figure 1.1) - even in developed countries (figure 1.2), the possibility of cultured meat is a direction the Animal Rights movement should not only support but also invest its time and resources in.
Why no explanatory activity or technique has succeeded, and never will? There are a lot of reasons for that and some of them are listed in the "Factors" page. If something will succeed, it will not be related to vegan education but rather to some sort of a global crisis (Food Crisis, Peak Oil, Global Warming, etc.).
Eventually, the only way the majority of people will agree to give up on meat, dairy & eggs is if they will not have a choice or if a tastier product will exist. It will not be due to ethical reasons.
Meat Consumption Data:
Developed/Developing CountriesFigure 1.2
Selected CountriesFigure 1.3Click on image to enlarge
Do you really believe scientists will be able to develop commercially-available cultured meat?
Firstly, the previous answer explains why it is worth taking the risk even if the chances to develop commercially-available cultured meat are small.
In addition, here are few notes indicating the chances may not be so small after all:
- In a thoroughly written article published September 2010 in Israel, Henk Haagsman, Chair of the in vitro meat consortium, is quoted saying "If once I was pessimistic, then today I'm optimistic regarding a solution to most problems on the way to mass production of cultured meat." In the article it says Haagsman believes that the obstacles will be removed one by one in the up coming years.
- In the "Mar+Apr 2009" edition of VegNews magazine, Jason Matheny from New Harvest revealed that a recent developmental breakthrough is "Dr. Klaas Hellingwerf's success in using recombinant bacteria to produce growth factors, which is much less expensive than other mediums being used, and will help make it possible to manufacture meat on a mass scale using industrial bioreactors."
- Please watch this clip - a bit old but encouraging.
Ok, lets say cultured meat works; what about all the nonhumans who are exploited outside the meat industry? How do you plan to liberate those animals without educating the public about Animal Rights?
Firstly, take a look at the stats mentioned in this article. Considering all the factors we present in this website, ending most of animal exploitation without one more person being persuaded about Animal Right is something we can all agree on as being a good thing.
Secondly, the less interest people have in resisting the idea of Animal Rights, the greater the chances of them accepting it. In other words, the less a person exploits nonhumans in his personal life (and meat eating takes a great deal in one's exploitation), the more chances of him willing to accept that using them as property is wrong. More on this issue...
How can I help to promote cultured meat?
In general, the research desperately needs and . To get a more specific and updated information, please contact New Harvest.
Be sure to also read the following essay:
From Theory to Practice - how to promote cultured meat
One activity any activist can do is to ask wealthy animal advocates to help the research financially.
List of potential donors and their contact details.