Why do vegans allow vegetarianism to define veganism?

http://www.thisishopethebook.com/vegans-allow-vegetarianism-define-veganism/

Shake hands, declare independence 

 

We must end our non-critical acceptance of vegetarianism’s influence and power over veganism. Though unintentional, vegetarianism will continue to harm and subvert veganism’s progress until vegans stand up to claim and control veganism’s definition and affirm that it is an entirely different belief system and way of life. It’s been this way so long that it may not be obvious, but it’s there for all to see.

By definition, vegetarianism allows the option of consuming animal products, which is a direct and open acceptance of the violence and endless harm it does. In the minds of its practitioners, vegetarianism is an intention to create good as an improvement in one’s health, a belief it will stop the suffering and killing caused from eating flesh, and perhaps to believe it is a temporary place for transition to veganism. Those assumptions don’t stand up to scrutiny. What vegetarianism does is transfer predation through eating flesh to predation through dairy and egg consumption. Cows and their calves, chickens and their chicks are still harmed and slaughtered at a young age in animal agriculture due to the demands of vegetarianism.

 

Veganism up to now has allowed itself to be associated with and defined as just one of many types of vegetarianism whosepractitioners overwhelmingly consume dairy and/or eggs, honey—and sometimes outside of vegetarianism’s expectations—also eat fish and other animal-derived substances.

Lumping types of vegetarianisms together causes havoc with food labeling and consumer understanding of what is and is not effective to reduce suffering and end the killing of source animals. Vegetarianism causes unnecessary destruction to ecosystems that in turn impoverishes wildlife and people alike. Because we care to our core about these tragedies, we have a duty to turn this around and prevent them with veganism.

The Vegetarian Society, founded in 1847, is still home to the 1800’sdevelopment of the concept of vegetarianism and sees it this way: “A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs [my emphasis]. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish*, insects, by-products of slaughter or any food made with processing aids created from these.”

That the Vegetarian Society and many similar organizations believe stealing calves’ milk from the females’ udders, and eggs coming from an ovulating bird through her uterus do not come from “any part of the body of a living…animal” is preposterous. Their milk and eggs are biologically intimate and as necessary for cow and chicken existence as blood and muscle. The simple fact that the business of stealing calves’ milk and chickens’ eggs harms them to an early death should end this nonsense. 

Being consistent, the Vegetarian Society offers their, “… Approved trade mark… [for]… products containing free-range eggs” in addition to vegetarian (and vegan) product certification. One of their certification criteria, “Free from any ingredient resulting from slaughter,” ignores that the fact that their approved ingredients and certifications cause the slaughter of spent chickens, cows and their calves, and other species. This magical thinking dominates many vegetarian organizations. Those with certification programs actually make money from exploiting animals. The European Vegetarian Union also specializes in logos that certify products as being “vegetarian” (and “vegan”) using the same misleading, illogical standard that screams approval. Why, why, why would vegans enable them in any way?

 

The Vegan Standard

Veganism easily and powerfully stands on its own; so how did we inherit the junior status within the list of vegetarian choices? Since vegetarianism was historically (in the European context) first on the scene in the early 1800s before Donald Watson and others coined “veganism” in 1944, perhaps we have fallen into accepting veganism as secondary just as it was in its historical timeline. That is beginning to change, thankfully.  

In 2016, the Council of the Consumer Protection Ministers who represent German states proposed official definitions for vegan and vegetarian food labeling. Though not legally binding, the Council realized what vegans and vegetarians alike should remember: the German state ministers used “vegan” as the baseline definition and then described what is not vegan to define vegetarian.

The European Vegetarian Union translation of those definitions from German:

(1) Vegan are foods that are not products of animal origin… [full text is in the link]

(2) Vegetarian are foods which meet the requirements of paragraph 1 with the difference that in their production

  1. milk,
  2. colostrum,
  3. eggs (No. 5 of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004),
  4. honey (Annex I to Directive 2001/110/EC),
  5. beeswax,
  6. propolis or
  7. wool grease including lanolin derived from the wool of living sheep or their components or derivatives may be added or used.

Compare that translation to Vegan Germany’s:

(1) A food is vegan if it is not an animal product and if the following substances are not used and not added in any step of production or processing, if they are from animal origin:
– ingredients (including additives, carrier materials, flavourings, enzymes) or
– processing agents or
– items what are not additives, but that are used in the same way and with the same purpose as processing agents

(2) [vegetarian products – not relevant]

That’s right, not relevant. They have refused to define veganism by referencing vegetarianism. That’s how it is done.

The multitude of disastrous possibilities within vegetarianism’s fog of eggs, milk, and other transgressions is a problem for vegetarians to solve. Our first responsibility is to insist that vegans are not vegetarians by definition or reference. Vegans create that clarity by never again referencing veganism as a type of vegetarianism and ask vegetarians to respect that. Vegans own veganism.

 

 

For Whom the Bell Pepper Tolls

This is an essential but maybe scary change for some because it challenges friends and organizations that we love and support. Yes, relationships might be strained or even ended but not by us. People face social pressure when they are perceived “different,” and that’s always been part of the social environment during societal change. We are humbled and motivated by the power and immense importance of veganism to transform human behavior away from violence and towards justice for all life on Earth. Remember that the visionary founders of veganism—Donald Watson, Leslie Cross and othersؙ—stood up in 1944 out of necessity to differentiate veganism from vegetarianism.

Our responsibility is to make it easier for hundreds of millions of people to embrace veganism and create the global tipping point. We must not operate from a sense of weakness out of fear that the vegetarian and vegan movements will be unavoidably jeopardized if we stand up for making veganism the primary concept that actually stops exploitation and ecological destruction as vegetarianism never will.

A social movement cannot function at its best and hope to succeed if it doesn’t know how to define itself so others can understand and be motivated by the vision it advocates. Let’s remove the word “vegetarian” from our speech and writing, from the names of our organizations, and not use that term to define veganism because they are nothing alike. In the end, it is not about us, but what we must do. END

Short videos that inspire veganism:

These two videos will reinforce your convictions (both videos have some animal distress portrayed despite being tagged as “not graphic”):

 

 

Is this the beginning of the end of meat?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/17/is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-meat/?utm_term=.2b39ca176579

March 17

Patrick Brown founded Impossible Foods with the goal of supplanting the meat industry. He believes America’s 230 million omnivores can be made to trade their hamburgers and steaks for a plant-based equivalent, scienced into being.

That vision may yet be a long way off — even Brown admits as much. But next week the concept will get an important early test: Impossible Foods is opening its first large-scale facility in Oakland.

The Oakland plant, which will begin to produce burgers this summer, is the first concrete sign that Impossible Foods and flagship offering are anything more than utopic moonshots. The plant will prove whether or not the concept can scale, which has implications for public health and the environment.

Can a burger made from pea protein replace meat?

Play Video1:30
The beyond burger from Beyond Meat aims to replicate the texture, color and taste of a beef burger. (Jayne Orenstein, Joe Yonan/The Washington Post)

It also has consequences for the emerging clean-meat industry, of which Impossible Foods is an early (and highly visible) player. Unlike Boca or Morningstar before them, which sought to corner the vegetarian market, these companies aim to appeal to hardcore meat-eaters by creating a meaty plant-based product. Beyond Meat, a popular vegetarian brand, has dipped a toe in those mainstream waters with its beet-juice “bleeding” Beyond Burger. And earlier this week, the start-up Memphis Meats announced that it had successfully created a lab-grown chicken strip — at a whopping price per pound of $9,000.

The future of meat?

Plant-based and clean meat companies are attracting big investments. This chart shows the current equity funding, according to Crunchbase, for six of them.

Impossible Foods
$182,000,000
Hampton Creek
$120,000,000
Beyond Meat
$17,000,000
Clara Foods
$3,450,000
Memphis Meats
$3,050,000
SuperMeat
$151,340

But few of these companies have proved that they can commercialize yet, and even those that have, like the Beyond Burger, still only sell at Whole Foods. With this new facility, a spokesperson for Impossible Foods said, the company’s production capacity will increase 250-fold — allowing it to supply 1,000 restaurants by the end of this year.

“The mission of the company is to making the existing method for producing meat obsolete,” said Brown on the phone from California, several weeks before the factory’s ribbon-cutting. “That means we need to be competitive everywhere. And soon we will be.”

Proclamations like this one have earned Brown and his six-year-old company constant attention almost since its founding. A former biochemistry professor at Stanford, Brown became interested in industrial meat production after learning that it’s a major contributor to climate change: livestock account for nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gasses, according to the United Nations.

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Brown became convinced that, given enough time and resources, science could essentially solve that problem by engineering plant-based “meats” that look and taste like the original artifact. Since 2011, he has received more than $180 million in investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Google Ventures to pursue the project.

His first offering is the Impossible Burger: a patty composed largely of wheat and potato proteins that — thanks to a iron-containing molecule called heme — looks, handles and (reportedly!) tastes quite a lot like ground beef. The burger has caught the eye of several high-end chefs, including New York’s David Chang and San Francisco’s Traci Des Jardins, who have put the burger on their respective menus for roughly $15 apiece.

But even as the burger earned rave reviews from curious patrons, its central tenet has remained unproven. Namely, Brown still has to show that he can churn out burgers en masse — and that red-blooded meat-eaters will buy them.

That could prove difficult in two respects, say analysts and advocates who know the industry. First, Brown and his team will need to optimize their supply chain and manufacturing process to bring the price of the Impossible Burger on par with conventional beef.

Some of that will happen naturally, said Bruce Friedrich, the executive director of the Good Food Institute: all food startups, regardless of what they make, benefit from economies of scale as they standardize and mechanize the way they make their food. Prices will also come down once Impossible Foods has a reliable distribution network. And the company has another advantage, as well: Compared to conventional livestock slaughter, its methods are inherently more efficient.

But sourcing has still provided challenges — such as the question of heme. The iron-containing molecule is what makes the Impossible Burger taste like meat. Brown initially extracted it from the root nodules of soybeans, but that process, at scale, costs a fortune and releases a lot of greenhouse gasses. Impossible Foods eventually skirted the issue by engineering yeast that produce heme, meaning that the company no longer needs to extract the molecule from soybeans. It can be produced in vats.

It’s also not the only uncertainty that faces Impossible Foods. The company’s biggest challenge may be getting it to catch on not only with the coastal Whole Foodies who have flocked to Manhattan or Los Angeles to try it thus far, but with average and middle-income Americans. Brown is adamant that his product is not designed to appeal to vegetarians; he’s after the old-school meat-eater, who is motivated largely by price, taste and convenience.

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State and the president of the Institute of Food Technologists, believes this type of consumer might prove difficult to convince, even if plant-based meats are priced on par with their conventional equivalents. Some focus-groups and studies have suggested that consumers aren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of meat that doesn’t technically have any animal in it.

“So much is going to play out in psychology, more even than in chemistry,” Coupland said. “Meat is an incredibly gendered thing to eat. How is that going to play out? Are you picking the light beer by having this stuff? It’s too early to tell if it’s really going to take off.”

We may find out very shortly. While Impossible Foods is not releasing any details on the new plant’s exact capacity, cost or headcount until after the March 22 launch, it’s already clear that the facility represents a significant ramp-up from what the company has produced thus far.

By the end of the year, Brown said, the burger will be in multiple restaurants, including some chains like Bareburger, which debuted the Impossible Burger at its flagship location in February. Those restaurants won’t all be coastal hotspots, Brown added — they’re pursuing deals in the heartland, as well. Brown has also reportedly been in talks with McDonald’s, though the company doesn’t have that capacity yet.

Such a coup could move the whole industry much closer to dinner tables across America. And other plant-based and clean meat companies are watching the experiences of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat closely, Friedrich said. Their success or failure in scaling could inform the whole market.

“This is brand-new for the plant-based meat industry,” he said. “It’s lifting the whole sector and inspiring other entrepreneurs and food scientists to get involved with it.”

Got Almond Milk? Dairy Farms Protest Milk Label on Nondairy Drinks

If milk comes from a plant, can you still call it milk?

Not according to the dairy industry. Facing growing competition from dairy alternatives like almond, soy and coconut milk, the nation’s dairy farmers are fighting back, with an assist from Congress. Their goal: to stop companies from calling their plant-based products yogurt, milk or cheese. Dairy farmers say the practice misleads consumers into thinking that nondairy milk is nutritionally similar to cow’s milk.

A bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress is asking the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on companies that call plant-based beverages “milk.” They say F.D.A. regulations define milk as a “lacteal secretion” obtained by milking “one or more healthy cows.” Proposed legislation from Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, a state known for its cheese, suggests a slightly broader definition. Their bill would require the F.D.A. to target milk, yogurt and cheese products that do not contain milk from “hooved mammals.”

“The bottom line for us is that milk is defined by the F.D.A., and we’re saying to the F.D.A.: Enforce your definition,” Mr. Welch said.

But critics say consumers know exactly what they are buying when they choose almond or soy milk instead of dairy milk. “There’s no cow on any of these containers of almond milk or soy milk,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group representing 70 companies. “No one is trying to fool consumers. All they’re trying to do is create a better alternative for people who are looking for that option.”

And what about other nondairy products with dairy names? Will milk of magnesia, cocoa butter, cream of wheat and peanut butter have to change their names as well?

In recent years, dairy milk alternatives made from almonds, soy, cashews and coconuts have exploded in popularity. Many people consider them more nutritious than cow’s milk. Some people buy them because they have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Others choose them for environmental reasons or because they want a vegan diet. And some just like the taste.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Miyoko Schinner, chief executive and founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen makes nut-based cheeses and butters in Fairfax, Calif. CreditJason Henry for The New York Times

Cow’s milk was once one of America’s most iconic beverages. But Americans are drinking less of it. Americans drink 37 percent less milk today than they did in 1970, according to the Department of Agriculture. Dairy milk sales tumbled to $12 billion last year, down 20 percent from $15 billion in 2011. Part of the reason is that people switched to other beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water and soy and almond milk. Mintel, a market research firm, found that negative health perceptions were driving the decline in sales of cow’s milk.

Plant-based milks, with brand names like Almond Breeze and Silk, are sold in the dairy aisle and still represent a fraction of the beverage market, but they are growing in popularity. According to Nielsen, sales of plant-based milks have surged to $1.4 billion from $900 million in 2012.

Much of the growth in plant-based milk has come from the rising popularity of almond milk. Last year, Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, announced that it would begin offering almond milk to lighten its espresso drinks, to meet customer demand. The chain said it was one of the most-requested customer suggestions of all time.

Experts say sales of almond milk are surging for a number of reasons. The dairy industry has come under fire over concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of livestock, which contributes to air and water pollution. Almond production has an environmental impact as well: Most of the world’s almonds come from drought-stricken California, where farmers have been accused of diverting dwindling groundwater reserves to their almond orchards, and producing just 16 almonds requires an estimated 15.3 gallons of water. But ultimately the environmental impact of producing cow’s milk in areas where almonds are grown would be far worse, said David Zetland, an assistant professor of economics at Leiden University College in the Netherlands and the author of “Living With Water Scarcity.”

Many consumers also consider almond milk a healthier alternative to cow’s milk. The dairy industry says that’s not true. They point out that milk has nine essential nutrients that are necessary for good health, like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and potassium. The industry has also created ads claiming that milk has up to eight times as much protein as almond milk and fewer ingredients and additives. Some brands of soy and almond milk do contain large amounts of added sugar. But they also come in unsweetened varieties with zero sugar, and some are fortified with calcium, B12 and other nutrients.

There is also debate over the nutritional merits of cow’s milk. In 2013, for example, two of the country’s top nutrition experts, Walter Willett and David Ludwig, both at Harvard, published an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics arguing that healthy adults who get plenty of vegetables, nuts and protein in their diets may not get any extra benefit from cow’s milk. They also raised concerns about exposure to hormones in milk and high levels of added sugar in the chocolate milk served in many schools.

As the dairy industry continues to press its case, producers of nondairy milks are fighting back. The Plant Based Foods Association sent letters to the F.D.A. stating that plant-based milks were properly labeled with their “common or usual” names. A petition from the Good Food Institute opposing the dairy labeling legislation has garnered more than 41,000 signatures.

Photo

Janet Clark, with a calf at her family’s dairy farm, Vision Aire Farms in Wisconsin, was one of the farmers who asked Senator Tammy Baldwin to restrict the use of the word milk outside the dairy industry.CreditBen Brewer for The New York Times

“Don’t they have better things to do than to care about what a product is called?” asked Miyoko Schinner, the chief executive of Miyoko’s Kitchen, which sells popular nut-based cheeses and butters at almost 2,000 stores nationwide. “The only reason they would care is because they’re protecting their special interests.”

Marsha Cohen, an expert on food and drug law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said that the dairy industry faces an uphill battle. She said the government’s definitions for milk and other foods — known as “standards of identity” — are intended primarily to protect consumers from financial harm, such as being duped into buying cheap or imitation foods masquerading as more expensive ones. She noted that the F.D.A. recently allowed the company Hampton Creek to call its vegan mayonnaise substitute “Just Mayo,” even though the F.D.A.’s legal definition of mayonnaise states that the condiment must contain eggs.

The debate over what can and can’t be called milk already has played out in courts, with judges so far siding with the plant-based milk industry. In 2013, Judge Samuel Conti of Federal District Court in San Francisco, dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that claimed that almond, coconut and soy milk were mislabeled because they do not come from cows. Judge Conti said the claim “stretches the bounds of credulity,” and that it was “simply implausible that a reasonable consumer would mistake a product like soy milk or almond milk with dairy milk from a cow.” He said the lawsuit was reminiscent of an earlier case in which a woman claimed she was misled by Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal because she thought it contained real fruit (that case was thrown out).

More: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/well/eat/got-almond-milk-dairy-farms-protest-milk-label-on-nondairy-drinks.html?_r=0

Could Going Vegan Save Millions Of Lives? Who would have thought?

OPINION: Embrace world vegan month

November welcomes World Vegan Month, and with it comes a new perspective on a lifestyle that holds individuals accountable for what they eat.

Vegans have to dodge relentless stereotypes — but these people are not the grass-eating hippies many make them out to be. Veganism promotes a healthier and sustainable lifestyle that seeks to eliminate a dependency on animals, and instead supplement meat with plant-based protein. This protein comes in many forms, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts.

While this may seem extreme to some, vegan products have expanded greatly to fit the need of the market. Milk, meat and cheese substitutes are found on grocery store shelves everywhere, and vegetarians and vegan consumers are able to find food sections dedicated to fit their needs.

Five percent of Americans identify as vegetarians and about half of these individuals follow a vegan-based diet, according to most recent data published by The Vegetarian Resource Group.

+2 

Cook-off
Piles of vegetables were cooked for the after cook-off festivities on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Erin O. Smith, eosmit8@uga.edu)

Erin O. Smith

Though many vegans adopt their eating habits to enjoy a diet that is free from guilt in regards to animals, it is not the only reason to quit frequenting Chick-Fil-A and the like.

The desire to go vegan can stem from a number of reasons — including wanting to become healthier and more energized, lessening one’s carbon footprint and also eliminating one’s part in the tons of crops and water it takes to raise farm animals, according to PETA.

Vegan or not-vegan, the decision to cut out animals from a diet raises important questions about the apparent disconnect between humans and the food on their dinner plate. Before we pull into the drive through of the nearest fast food joint, we don’t stop to think about how the meat we are about to consume was produced, and whether there was malpractice involved.

Overwhelmingly, 79 percent of American consumers believe producing healthy choices is important for farmers and ranchers to consider when planning their production practices, yet 72 percent of consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching, according to research conducted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

With a nation uninformed, fast-food industries and major corporate chains are able to get away with mass producing meat products while cutting corners. Seventy percent of all antibiotics important to human medicine in the United States are sold for use in animal agriculture, according to a report by Friends of the Earth, an environmental and consumer advocacy organization.

These drugs are used unnaturally to stimulate growth in animals, fed routinely and misused to stimulate an industry that overlooks the process of how a chicken sandwich became a chicken sandwich. The money we spend on a lunch break doesn’t just feed us, it feeds an industry of neglect.

The same fast food restaurants frequented by the masses are receiving failing grades on their use of antibiotic policies, according to the same report by Friends of the Earth. Olive Garden, Starbucks, Chilis and Burger King are just a few on a long list of companies that are less than transparent about how they feed their customers — receiving an F on the 2016 scorecard by FOE.

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Basil
According to Mother Earth Living, this fabulous herb has been spicing up our lives for centuries, but did you know that basil can be used to treat arthritis thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties? Basil is also proven to help slow the process of aging and contains a vast array of antioxidants. For non-vegetable lovers, basil can be added to any soup, salad or pasta dish.

Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

While these facts are alarming, and prove the overwhelming detachment between consumers and their meals, it does not mean that one has to jump on the vegan bandwagon to take a stand. Companies like FOE enact several petitions towards companies that engage in this malpractice in order to spread the word, and encourage many to be apart of the movement.

NPR also lists a number of apps available to consumers that provide information on food and products that are produced through sustainable practices.

While veganism is not for everyone, it sheds a light on how we see our food, and quite frankly — what we don’t see.

Next time someone hands you a flyer in tate that advocates for Meatless Mondays, think twice before throwing it away. Do research on the companies you frequent and become informed about better choices, because until we do, it is those without a voice that bear the burden.

Ignorance was bliss; time to go vegan

‘Lobsters have a long childhood, an awkward adolescence and feel pain.’
‘Lobsters have a long childhood, an awkward adolescence and feel pain.’ Photograph: Getty Images/Image Source

Iwas in the local fish shop buying my dinner when another customer in front held up two live lobsters that he had just bought. He needed some advice about what to do with them. “I’m going to boil one today,” said he, “but how long can I keep the other before I boil it? Will it last two days?”

There were the poor lobsters, held aloft, waving their arms about in a frenzy. Did they know what awaited them? Horrible. I suddenly remembered those Buddhist monks who saved hundreds of lobsters in July – bought them, carefully untied their claws and set them free again. They probably knew that lobsters “have a long childhood and awkward adolescence” and feel pain. So that cheered me up a bit – not all humans are greedy, heartless bastards. But it means no more lobsters for me, and perhaps I should cut out fish, too, and be a proper vegetarian. Or even a vegan, because once you start on this road, there’s no way back.

And it’s difficult, because I was brought up eating meat. Lovely tasty stews, roast dinners, bacon for breakfast, and shellfish. My mother cooked it all, in defiance of Jewish dietary laws and her own ferociously kosher mother. But those were more innocent and ignorant times, when we didn’t know about how dairy cows suffer, or eat such gigantic chunks of everything; when there was no Twitter, Facebook and endless campaigns against eating, boiling and torturing dogs, pigs and more or less anything that moved, and we just thought animals wandered freely around fields or spacious pens and didn’t miss their children, or mind being slaughtered, or feel anything much. And we didn’t yet know that the planet was almost totally buggered.

“This is a middle-class activity,” says Fielding harshly. “And remember, you live in Islington. People will mock.” Who cares? I’m not claiming to be saintly. I have lapses; I eat Olivia’s heavenly roast chicken, pretending to myself that I’m just being polite. Daughter’s making more effort than me, often turning to tofu. Perhaps the next generation will do better than us, and save the world. If they still have time.

Lab-grown “Meat” Anyone?

Veganism is all about reducing the harm we cause to sentient beings to the best of our ability. This is why we don’t eat animal products. It’s impossible to take the body part or secretion of a living being without exploitation and pain.

Or is it? If meat and other animal products could be made without harming animals, would there finally be such a thing as vegan meat? [tweet this] When it comes to lab grown meat, there are vegans on both sides of the debate. With the potential for massive reductions in the environmental impact of animal agriculture and an end to the suffering and death of trillions of animals every year, why wouldn’t every vegan be championing the cause for test tube meat?

Well like most topics I set out to cover, cultured meat production is far more complicated than it may first appear. We’re going to cover some of the pros and cons of cellular agriculture and why it’s a hot button within the vegan community.

As always, I’ll be barely scratching the surface, so you can dig into the citations and resources at the base of this post for more information.

The concept of growing and maintaining muscle outside of the body is not new. Starting in 1912, biologist Alexis Carrel kept cells from an embryonic chicken heart beating in a nutrient bath in his laboratory for more than 20 years.[1] In 1931, Winston Churchill wrote in a predictive essay optimistically entitled Fifty Years Hence that, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”[2]

Over the decades from NASA-backed fish fillets made of goldfish cells[3][4] to the 2013 taste test of the first lab-grown burger,[5][6] the cultured meat, well, culture, continues to grow. [See a brief but thorough timeline in the ‘In-Vitro Meat” section of this essay][7]

The advantages of this method of meat creation are obvious. Despite the efforts, hopes and dreams of vegans and activists alike, the global demand for meat is on the rise with India and China leading the charge.[8][9]

With animal agriculture contributing as much as 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions,[10] using a third of the earth’s fresh water,[11][12][13][14] up to 45 percent of the Earth’s land,[15][16] causing 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction[17][18] and serving as a leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and habitat destruction,[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29] the environmental implications alone could be staggering. [tweet this]

A 2011 study concluded that, “cultured meat involves approximately 7–45% lower energy use … 78–96% lower GHG emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use depending on the product compared.”[30] While these numbers sound promising, the study was largely criticized for basing its numbers on a not-yet-proven method of cultured meat growth.

While still theoretical, a 2014 study accounting for other potential production methods found that energy use for cultured meat actually exceeded current levels for beef production, but had significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and land usage and was only higher than poultry in water usage.[31]

The reality is that the actual environmental impact of cultured meat remains unknown because it’s still in such an experimental phase. The ground meat grown for 2013’s seminal burger was a relatively simple creation of pure protein. It lacked any of the fat and blood that give meat its flavor or the firmness of once-active muscle tissue. In order to create meat products of more substance, the muscle, which is what meat is after all, has to be exercised and provided with artificial blood flow, oxygen, digestion and nutrition. [32][33][34][35] Some scientists speculate that this increased energy demand may negate any reduction in land usage and agricultural input. [36][37]

Basically, when it comes to the environmental benefits, it’s still too early to know.

So what about the other main benefit: an end to the suffering and death of trillions of beings every year? [tweet this]

Here is where cultured meat has the potential to shine.

Maybe. Eventually.

There are several significant hurdles to overcome before lab-grown meat can be called anything near “cruelty and animal-free.” The major issues on the ethics end are establishing self-renewing stem cells and finding plant-based materials for the growth medium and scaffolding.

To understand what that means, I’ll give a very simplified version of in-vitro meat production. Initially, cells are taken via biopsy from a living animal and deposited into a growth medium where they proliferate and grow. Eventually, in order to produce meat products with more structure than the ground patty, they will need a form of scaffolding to hold their shape.

The first ethical issues arise when considering the long-term viability of the initial harvested cells. Professor Mark Post, the man behind the famous taste-tested burger, has said that, “the most efficient way of taking the process forward would still involve slaughter,” with a “limited herd of donor animals” kept for stock.[38] Others in the movement envision the establishment of a self-renewing stem cell line, meaning only an initial biopsy would be required at which point the cell line would replicate indefinitely.[39][40][41]

Yet another concern is that, given humanity’s love of the new, different and exotic, we may start breeding specialty animals for cell harvesting, which would still require the confinement and reproductive control of sentient beings.[42]

As a side-note, Post’s famous burger was made with egg powder to enhance the taste, introducing another level of animal suffering.[43] This is by no means, however, a necessary practice.

The second major ethical issue and one that isn’t widely addressed in most of the news reports on cultured meat, is the growth medium into which the cells are deposited. At the moment, the most widely used medium is bovine fetal serum. Fetal serum from an array of animals is commonly employed in a wide range of experiments, including those for tampons, which I covered in my “Are Tampons Vegan?” video.

The harvesting of bovine fetal serum is far from transparent. One study reached out to 388 harvesting entities with only 4% responding with any kind of methodology data. Five sources explicitly declared their harvesting methods to be confidential.[44]

Of those that did respond, the typical procedure for fetal serum harvesting was “by cardiac puncture” meaning a needle directly into the beating heart of the fetal cow. They specify that, “Fetuses should be at least 3 months old; otherwise the heart is too small for puncture.” The general process is as follows:

“At the time of slaughter, the cow is found to be pregnant during evisceration (removal of the internal organs in the thorax and abdomen during processing of the slaughtered cow) … The calf is removed quickly from the uterus [and] a cardiac puncture is performed by inserting a needle between the ribs directly into the heart of the unanaesthesised fetus and blood is extracted.” This bleeding process can take up to 35 minutes to complete while the calf remains alive. Afterwards, “the fetus is processed for animal feed and extraction of specific substances like fats and proteins, among other things.”[45]

The study continued with a detailed debate as to whether the fetal cows can feel this procedure and their possible slow death from anoxia, meaning lack of oxygen, from placental separation, and estimated that between 1 and 2 million fetuses are harvested annually for serum.[46]

All in all, fetal serum from any animal is not, by any stretch of the imagination, cruelty-free. The good news is that the champions of the cultured meat movement seem to be invested in finding plant-based medium alternatives with both algae and mushrooms providing promising options.[47][48][49][50][51] Fetal serum’s drawbacks don’t stop at the ethical line. There are scientific concerns as batches vary considerably in their composition. It also poses the threat of pathogen introduction, is not environmentally friendly and is cost-prohibitive. Dr. Neil Stephens of Cardiff University states that: “Everyone in the field acknowledges this as a problem … It currently undermines a lot of the arguments that people put forward in support of in vitro meat.”[52]

This leads into two of the additional pros of cultured meat, both revolving around human health. Though I personally believe that health is the last worry when it comes to producing a possible alternative to mass animal slaughter, it’s worth noting that the composition of cultured meat can be altered to provide superior nutritional benefits. The level of fat and type of fat can be selectively controlled. The threat of food contamination and spread of pathogens would also be greatly reduced, as cultured meat would not involve all the biohazards of traditional slaughter.[53][54][55]

So if scientists are able to create a self-replicating cell line, thus eliminating the enslavement and potential slaughter of animals, and find a suitable plant-based growth-medium and scaffolding, thus eliminating the cruelty of fetal serum and other animal byproducts, what objections remain against going after this concept in full force?

Two of the largest are cost and what’s best described as “the ick factor.” Surveys involving every range of dietary practice seem to indicate that the majority of people are put off by the concept of lab-grown meat.[56][57][58][59][60] Interestingly enough, those people with the highest rates of meat consumption appear to be the most sensitive to disgust.[61]

Of course cultured meat proponents emphasize that “lab-grown” is a bit of a misnomer. While in the testing stages, the meat is grown in laboratories. However, were it to go to commercial production, it would be made in factories just like all of our packaged food items, and some could argue, would be more natural than other chemical concoctions the public readily consumes. [see[62] for an illustration of potential production methods].

Also, given what all we inject into our food animals from hormones to antibiotics, to our outright manipulation of their genes, one could ask just how natural “standard” animal products really are.

While cultured meat doesn’t require the use of GMO’s, it’s possible that genetically modifying cells may allow them to reproduce faster and thus prove more economical.[63]

Speaking of cost, Mark Post’s initial burger in 2013 cost approximately £250,000 (over $350,000) to produce.[64] However, by 2015, Post stated that the cost is now down to £8.00.[65][66]

As with any new technology, the initial cost investments will be steep, but Post and others in the movement see cultured meat eventually attaining a competitive price to traditional products, though most likely not for at least another decade.[67]

The vegan community is most dramatically torn on either side of this issue. [ See [68] for examples]Some feel that any product derived from an animal remains a form of exploitation. Others believe that with the insurmountable fight against the ongoing animal holocaust and more non-vegans being born every day, we need to search for practical and viable solutions to replace humanity’s rising demand for meat.[69] The vegans on the pro-cultured meat side I’ve come across through my research say their motivation is putting the animals’ interests above all else. They believe it’s unrealistic to expect humanity on a global scale to cease or even reduce their consumption of animals. Thus, providing an alternative that not only looks and tastes like but actually is meat could be, with the proper harvesting method and growth medium, the most immediate path to animal liberation currently available. With the concurrent rise of research into milk and egg-producing yeast and leather and other animal byproducts,[70] could it be that the laboratory and not the picket line will be the ultimate genesis of a vegan world? [tweet this]

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot debate in the comments below. Check out resources below for more on cultured meat and other animal-free animal products.

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