Why Laboratory Grown Flesh Is a Bad Idea
A Clean Meat Hoax Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Joan Harrison
March 2021

Laboratory grown flesh is still flesh and therefore unhealthy. That it's grown in a bioreactor makes it doubly unhealthy.... The enabling of palatal enslavement will not advance the liberating of animals. The societal addiction to flesh needs to be treated like any addiction. The taste of flesh needs to be replaced by other tastes—which exist in abundance.

happy meat
Happy Meat - ©2015 Sue Coe

[Unpublished letter]

Jon Emont
The Wall Street Journal
New York City

Re: "Real Meat That Vegetarians Can Eat," WSJ, March 6-7, 2021, p. C3

March 24, 2021

Dear Mr. Emont,

Thank you for reporting on the development of laboratory grown flesh in Singapore and for noting some of the difficulties with it. There are other difficulties that also need noting. 

The eating of animal flesh is unethical from the outset because, among other things, it tacitly reduces the living beings to commodities and thus reinforces their subjugation. "Living property" is Aristotle's—and Frederick Douglass'—definition of a slave. Animal law activists today, as you know, are striving for legal recognition of animals as persons rather than property. For as long as animals are regarded as food—or clothing or entertainment or laboratory specimens or other commercial products to be bought and sold for human consumption, rather than individuals with their own needs, desires, joys, sorrows, families, lives, integrity, and intrinsic worth apart from their use for humans—they will be misperceived and abused.* To feed on animal flesh is to legitimize slaughter.

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley regarded the eating of animal flesh as the source of nearly all social ills including wars and extreme poverty. Nor was he alone in that. Today, despite the silencing of scientists and others, including climate activists, that is almost a commonplace—with the exposing of animal agriculture's central role in climate change, world hunger, the global water shortage, species extinction, environmental pollution of all sorts and so forth. The subjugating of animals continues to provide a model for human subjugation—the confinement in tiny boxes for days on end of foreign detainees in American prisons modeled on battery cages for hens and other confinement farming; global normalizing of sexual violence against women paralleling the annual rape by artificial insemination of dairy cows to insure lactation, etc. (See Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat.) Indeed, the psychology of slaughter and the psychology of fascism coincide. (See the abstract and introductory comments in War, Fascism, and the Psychology of Meat.) And the gratuitous suffering of innocents was always the crucible in which the beneficence of an all-powerful, all-knowing deity was tried—so to justify a reactionary religion it's been often, and continues to be, justified, even with all its known devastating effects on the human psyche.

Though the consumption of flesh is unethical, however, its rejection today in most cases is not based on ethics, rather, on health, beauty, trending, or public relations concerns. Though more and more people, many undoubtedly inspired by Greta Thunberg, are turning to a vegan diet out of a wish to reverse climate catastrophe—that, like the other reasons, is grounded in a concern for the interests of humans rather than those of non-human animals. Few give up flesh out of an ethical regard for the animals themselves and outrage over the magnitude of their suffering. And yet, as Mohandas K. ("Mahatma") Gandhi pointed out, only when the eating of animal flesh is rejected for ethical reasons is the rejection likely to be permanent. Happily, the abolition of black slavery shows that a significant change in the laws has the power to heighten ethical awareness.

Laboratory grown flesh is still flesh and therefore unhealthy. That it's grown in a bioreactor makes it doubly unhealthy. (See Will lab-grown food really save the planet?) Nor, as you point out, is it cruelty free. The promise to cease depending on the slaughter of pregnant cows so as to extract fetal bovine serum from the hearts of their unborn babies is only a promise. (See Vegans Spill the Truth about Lab Grown Meat.) And until the fantasized immortal cells become available, donor herds need to be exploited. If, moreover, laboratory grown flesh puts money into the pockets of agribusiness giants such as Tyson and Cargill (see cleanmeat-hoax.com), it is fostering the very animal factories many claim it will nullify. And according to Paul Shapiro, who wrote a book endorsing laboratory grown flesh, vegans will by and large reject it; the primary market for it will be people who feed regularly on the offerings of McDonald's, i.e., the poor.

The endorsement by Peter Singer is unsurprising and consistent with his utilitarianism, which cannot provide a basis on its own for unconditionally rejecting the use of animals as food. And even though Singer's 1975 pioneering work Animal Liberation—which inspired and continues to inspire many—begins with a powerful rejection of human tyranny over animals, the logical culmination of Singer's utilitarian argument with its pleasure/pain calculus may be seen in his more recent embracing of so-called humane slaughter, vegetarianism over against veganism, the most obscene genetic modifying of animals for the purpose of palatal delectation, even infanticide, and now, of course, laboratory grown flesh, in short, adult human supremacy over all other life forms (see Karen Davis, "What Happened to Peter Singer?"). According to Professor Will Kymlicka, the modern animal liberation movement, often said to have been sparked by Singer’s work, was in fact catalyzed largely in reaction against Singer’s utilitarianism.

Nearly the entire history of philosophy presupposes humanocentrism—defining "human" in terms of its difference from "animal," almost always to the detriment of the latter. Now at last that presupposition is being widely questioned, and it itself may provide an answer to the question often asked—by Theodor W. Adorno, by Hans and Sophie Scholl, and many others—how out of a country of thinkers and poets something like Auschwitz could arise, or how it was that philosophy could not save the world from Auschwitz. For the tormented cries of the slaughterhouse fall as much on deaf ears today as those of Auschwitz during the last World War, and yet the belief in human supremacy over animals almost certainly antedates any apotheosizing of race.

Though it is relatively easy to abstain from eating or drinking the flesh and fluids of animals, animal cruelty is so entrenched, so normalized, that a vegan life based on "ahimsa" would seem impossible. An overwhelming number of foods and other products entail animal suffering—honey, almonds, olive oil, anything non-organic, anything gummy, sugar, avocado, etc.; clothing made of down, wool, silk, fur, leather, pashmina, etc.  Crop agriculture kills field mice and many other wild creatures including bees and other insects. Even computers, cameras, and some auto parts make use of the residue of slaughter. Though time will undoubtedly solve much or all of this problem, it is not merely an historical phenomenon. Every time a human or animal breathes, countless microorganisms die. And there is now a body of evidence for sentience and other cognitive capacities in plants which, unlike animals, we do need for food. PETA makes the point that given that so-called food animals eat mostly plants, by ending the eating of animals huge numbers of plants will be saved. Though the issue of plant sentience, often used by carnivores as a red herring, is generally dismissed by vegans, it raises important philosophical and theological questions. And the impossibility of veganism may provide the foundation for its necessity.

According to Sir Isaac Newton, among many others, for example, the world is a cryptogram encoded with messages from God.  If that is so, then—particularly given that more than 70 billion land creatures and trillions of marine animals are tortured and killed each year for food alone—maybe we should conclude that this world is intrinsically evil. That would be consistent with Jesus' and Paul's avowing that the ruler of this world is the devil—and there are of course traditions going back to antiquity of an evil world: Manichaean, Gnostic. Yet to perceive evil as evil is to begin to transcend it. And even an incipient transcending of evil brings with it the recognition of a moral imperative.

The liberating of animals will not advance by the enabling of palatal enslavement. The societal addiction to flesh needs to be treated like any addiction. The taste of flesh needs to be replaced by other tastes—which exist in abundance. The original impetus behind the vegan movement was a moral one, and the movement itself brings with it hope for a better future, as is obvious from this famous statement by Donald Watson, the British conscientious objector who coined the word "vegan" and founded the first vegan society and vegan newsletter in 1944:

"We can see quite plainly that our present civilization is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals' bodies. Even though the scientific evidence may be lacking, we shrewdly suspect that the great impediment to man's moral development may be that he is a parasite of lower forms of animal life."


*As I attempted to relate in an earlier communication with the Wall Street Journal, according to Bill Crain, Professor of Psychology at City College, anti-hunting activist, and director of a sanctuary for farmed animals in New York State, a study randomly dividing a number of meat eaters into separate groups—with one group being questioned while eating an animal part or product, the other while eating something non-animal—found that those questioned while eating food derived from animals held animals in significantly lower esteem than those eating non-animal food.

Joan Harrison
New York City

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