Lab grown meat has been proclaimed to be the next food revolution on the horizon. After author Paul Shapiro’s book Clean Meat, everybody’s talking about the very real possibility of lab cultured meat dominating our supermarket shelves in the near future, with its promises of solving global environmental, economic and food security issues, and of course saving animal lives. What’s more, lab grown meat has benefited from two huge high profile investments from Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. But how does the vegan community feel about clean meat?

Lab grown meat

Lab grown meat could save animal lives | Image courtesy of Neil Williamson via Flickr

Would vegans eat cultured meat?

As vegans, we’ve built our lives around avoiding eating meat, so it seems strange to eat meat in any form. And the idea of having huge industrial labs growing flesh sounds like an odd mass production of Frankenstein’s monsters. On the other hand, if our goal is to reduce and eventually end animal suffering, this sounds like a strong solution. Perhaps lab cultured meat is the easiest way to convert meat-eaters to having a diet that doesn’t involve any animals being killed. We want to ask, would you eat lab grown meat?

We want to provide a non-judgemental, respectful platform for those with a variety of different opinions and positions to discuss their points of view. We asked our followers on Instagram and Facebook if they would eat lab grown meat, and here’s what they thought…

It still uses an animal product

As clean meat is meat grown from animal cells, it’s undeniable that lab grown meat does still use an animal product in the production process, as TV and film actress Toks Olagundoye points out:

Prrrrrooooobably not, BUT, while it’s still not ideal because there has to be at least one poor animal they get the initial cells from I’d rather meat eaters go that way over the support of slaughterhouses and massive amounts of animals being tortured and murdered. All of that said the ideal would be a fully vegan future for the planet!

@tolykay via Instagram

Whilst it’s true that it’s not a perfect solution, as Toks points out, the broader context of the amount of harm caused by its alternative put its into perspective. Clean meat seems to be an attractive compromise for those advocating for animal rights to those who do choose to eat meat at the moment, whilst we’re on our journey to an entirely vegan future.

The way in which lab grown meat is produced with surprisingly little involvement with the original animal, as Vegan Fashion World explained:

actually no animal suffers for lab growing (it’s completely cruelty free) watch how they do it , 5 minutes documentary called “Clean Meat: a vision of the Future” on youtube, they show the process how it’s being done, it will blow your mind away…

@theveganfashionworld via Instagram

To find out exactly how this cultured meat is produced, here is the video mentioned above from Just Meat.

Clean meat will cause real change

Those who can affect real change are those who currently eat meat, and this is exactly who this product might be able to persuade to make a kinder choice, as @brighton_food_diary notes:

Personally, no. But I think you have to be realistic and keep the big picture in mind. For us it’s an important step towards a sustainable, and hopefully cruelty free, future. The people that hold the key to change are not the guys you typically think of. Vegan restaurants are great, and we’re super lucky here in Brighton but how many non vegans do you find in them? It’s the same with typically vegan products, how many non plant-based eaters are buying them? Not many, is the answer. The real change-makers, in the short term at least, are the guys offering brilliant plant based options on their regular menus and the clean meat / lab protein companies offering viable alternatives in supermarkets that are encouraging people to make better choices, in the moment, without it feeling like a compromise 🌱

@brighton_food_diary via Instagram

@brighton_food_diary raises a good point here, to offer a strategic solution to the problem that most people eat meat. If clean meat is as readily available and cheap as meat from killed animals, then there really is no change the meat-eater has to make to their lifestyle to save millions of animals’ lives every year. This idea fits aptly into our previous Vegan Dialogues about how you talk about your veganism to those who eat meat to promote it most effectively, if you’d like to read more.

Lab grown meat a safer alternative for meat-eaters

Cindy Carpenter on Facebook puts a spotlight on the fact that clean meat can also be sold to meat-eaters as a healthier and safer alternative to meat from killed animals:

Yep, I’m all for it. It would be clean meat (no shit in it), no adrenaline from the terror of the killing floor, and best of all, a lot of people who aren’t vegan will use it because it’s easy for them to be kinder. Also, it will be great for animal foods. Bring it on, I say! ETA, I wouldn’t eat it, no need, but for the mass market, deffo yes.

Cindy Carpenter via Facebook

This could persuade even those who aren’t concerned with the ethical implications of meat-eating to make the switch to lab grown meat motivated purely by health reasons. Cultured meat would avoid the spread of disease that factory-farming fosters, for example, and be free of antibiotics used to prevent these diseases.

Lab grown meat

A mock-up of lab grown meat | Image courtesy of Just, formerly known as Hampton Creek

Clean meat for pet food

Cindy also touches on the benefits of using clean meat for feeding carnivorous animals, which our next commenter Suzy also highlighted:

No but I support it over actual meat and would feed it to my cats if they made a clean meat pet food […] I know my cats are no more important than the animals we feed them and maybe it is selfish but I don’t know what I’d do if I switched their diet and it hurt them as they mean so much to me. In an ideal world I don’t think we would keep animals as pets at all and all animals would do what is natural to them but the domesticated pets that do exist still need loving homes.

@finaccurate via Instagram

Buying pet food can often be a tricky ethical dilemma, as of course we wish to avoid buying meat in all forms, yet we also need to ensure we take proper care of our feline friends, who are naturally carnists. Cultured meat would both avoid killing animals to create the food, and provide a healthy diet for our meat-eating pet cats.

Clean meat would be more sustainable

The global impact of animal farming is huge, so lab grown meat could resolve these issues, as Katie Ireland points out:

I think it’s a good solution. We kinda can’t really go on using so much land for farming meat, but I can’t see that everyone in the world would become vegan, they just won’t. The animal rights issue is one thing, but the energy, pollution, over use of antibiotics and deforestation involved in current meat production is not sustainable. This could provide an answer. If they can avoid packaging it in plastic also …

Katie Ireland via Facebook

After accepting the difficult truth that many still do eat meat, clean meat seems a much more sustainable alternative to the vast and complex web of environmental damage that is caused by rearing animals.

Would clean meat impact on your health?

The ethical benefits of lab grown meat could be huge, but what about the impact on your health? Rachel Leah Fields on Facebook notes that even clean meat would be problematic:

I am all for clean meat. There are some people who will never go vegan and this is a wonderful solution. Opposing this opportunity would be a detrimental loss to farm animals. I am not sure if I would ever personally eat any form of meat again, given what I have read about the negative health effects of its consumption. To be clear, I am vegan, first for the animals, second for the environment and third for my health. If clean meat will bring the same negative health consequences as slaughterhouse meat, then I would either completely abstain or eat it occasionally.

Rachel Leah Fields via Facebook

Even kill-free red meat would bring about the same health issues associated with red meat, so those who did eat it may have to still be mindful of this when considering how frequently to eat it.

Lab grown meat aimed at meat-eaters

For many, clean meat is just too close to meat from killed animals to ever be welcome on their plate. Lina from Leo and Rose cruelty-free lifestyle blog feels this way too:

I’m not sure I would ever eat meat again regardless of where it came from BUT I think it’s a good alternative for anyone who still does eat meat and for pet food as well.

@leoandroseapproved via Instagram

We think this is the key nuance worth emphasising: even if it wouldn’t be something we personally wish to eat, it’s a good alternative for those who do eat meat. And Lina recognised the usefulness for pet food like Cindy and Suzy – great minds think alike!

Clean meat still too weird for many

Many answered our question of whether they would eat lab grown meat with a simple “No!” and a variety of sickly looking emojis. Perhaps it will be too strange a concept for some to stomach, especially for those who have created a lifestyle that doesn’t involve meat in any form. Taking this into consideration, perhaps clean meat should be thought of as being directed squarely at those who currently eat meat, who may be looking for a safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly alternative to actual meat.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Toks Olagundoye, @theveganfashionworld, Katie Ireland, @leoandroseapproved@brighton_food_diary, Cindy Carpenter, @finaccurate and Rachel Leah Fields for permission to quote their perspectives for this article, and everyone who commented on our posts on Instagram and Facebook. Watch out for the next Vegan Dialogues next week, about the ethical issues surrounding parent companies owning cruelty-free brands.

Join the discussion!

What do you think about lab grown meat? Is clean meat’s involvement with animals problematic for you? Should we all be recommending lab grown meat to our omnivorous friends and family? We would love to hear more perspectives. We hope The Vegan Dialogues fosters a non-judgemental and respectful online debate about the issues affecting veganism, so any and all contributions are always welcome. Join the discussion below!

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