Animal Instinct: A Pragmatic Manifesto For Synthetic Meat
Synthetic meat is on the rise— and this shouldn't just be big news for vegans. Philosophers and activists agree that closing slaughterhouses is vital for our animals, our planet and ourselves.
PARIS — By 2040, the majority of the meat we will consume won't come from animal flesh. According to a recent report by the firm by the firm AT Kearney, it will be cultivated in a laboratory or made from plant compounds.
Let's call this new fare "synthetic meat," as the official name is still up for debate. Its manufacturing techniques are constantly improving while the cost of production is predicted to drop below that of traditional meat— great news for Buddhist monks and animal activists alike. Yet the rest of us can't deny that synthetic meat paves the way to a world free of animal suffering, combining technology and innovation with respect for sentient beings. As we fight for equal rights for all classes, skin colors and gender identities, we must also transcend human-first thinking and focus on equal rights for all living creatures.
Until 2015, animals were treated more like commodities than living beings under the civil code. Now, it's time for further progress as individuals accept and take seriously things that will seem so obvious to future generations. Giving up meat is not just a fad, but a cause defended by great thinkers. Personally devoid of any sentimentalism for the subject and ready to quote Deleuze, who believed "those who love cats, dogs are idiots," I was finally convinced by the bible of the genre, Peter Singer's incontestable Animal Liberation. Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that it is not the faculty of reasoning, but the capacity to suffer that gives rights. As a consequence, he believes, equality does not imply equality of treatment, but equality of consideration.
Animal rights doesn't mean giving them the right to vote, it means eliminating cruelty towards them — as Montaigne wrote in his famous essays. Not only are the conditions of industrial farming unsustainable — rightly denounced by intellectuals like Jonathan Safran Foer as well as associations like L214 — they also produce a scale of suffering that has likely never been rivaled in the history of life on Earth.
Animal rights need to transcend selfish motives.
Animal Liberation argues that if an animal really were to spend its existence in a healthy environment and be slaughtered without pain, there is no ethical reason not to consume it. Singer, an Australian moral philosopher, is careful not to establish vegetarianism as a hard rule. He does point out, however, that it's impossible to know the exact origin of our meat in today's food production system. Therefore, he believes a complete boycott of meat is the best mode of political action we can currently take against animal cruelty.
This is where synthetic meat could stir things up. Imagine the possibility of artificially and economically producing most of our culinary desires. (I say "desires' rather than "needs' because proteins can just as easily be found in beans as in rib steaks.) With the same taste, why not have the nuggets, lasagna, hamburgers and other Bolognese sauces come from polished laboratories rather than from bloody slaughterhouses? Nothing could prevent us from enjoying the occasional flank of beef or a scrumptious roast chicken.
Though it may cost more, you could enjoy it with the knowledge that the animal was raised in open meadows or sunny backyards, and ideally slaughtered on the spot (which is currently illegal). You would no longer need to become vegan to be virtuous.
When we say that we want to "save the planet," many of us are really seeking our own salvation— for the human race to perpetuate despite the climate's instability. Animal rights need to transcend these selfish motives. The real motive should be to free the 74 billion farm animals, the group the most unjustly and universally oppressed, from exploitation. As a bonus, this plan is also incredibly beneficial to our planet.
Reducing meat consumption will reduce methane emissions, free up clean water resources, cut back the production of cereals for animal feed and provide significant space for reforestation. By saving the animals, we are also saving ourselves.