"Perpetuating a myth that meat is and will always be intrinsically desirable"
Leaving aside the discussion about whether or not in vitro meat (IVM) is capable of reducing (non-human animal) suffering; reducing environmental impact and positively affecting human health, The Vegan Society considers that at the present time in vitro meat is a distraction from its core work of advocating plant-based (vegan) diets.
In vitro meat is likely to be an expensive item for quite some time. Plant-based diets are readily available and need not be expensive. There is still much public resistance to IVM whereas everyone already eats some plant-based foods in their diets (although many people do not eat enough of these foods for good health). It is possible that in order to overcome the public resistance to IVM, governments and charities will be asked to fund PR campaigns and meet the research and development costs of IVM.
Public revenue may be spent on developing and promoting a technology and product that the majority of the public does not want and that will be of benefit to only those who can afford it. IVM will produce inequalities of wealthy meat eaters who will be able to pay for the benefits claimed for IVM - a situation analogous to the current claims made for 'free range organic meat'. Furthermore, IVM ignores the powerful vested interests and social forces that create ‘demand’ for meat and that routinely stigmatise veganism. In fact IVM further stimulates ‘demand’ for meat by perpetuating a myth that meat is and will always be intrinsically desirable.
Promoting veganism has immediate potential. Plant-based diets are available here and now and are democratic rather than discriminatory. The massive scale of exploitation of other animals and environmental damage consequent to meat eating must not wait for the speculative promises of IVM advocates for a solution. Idiosyncratic tastes aside, the public do not currently object to eating plants. There is no ‘yuck factor’ to be overcome. Better policy alternatives to promoting IVM might therefore include: subsidising the substitution of horticulture, forestry and so on for the exploitation of farmed animals; educating the public on the preparation, benefits and pleasures of plant-based diets; changing public food procurement policies to make plant-based meals ubiquitous in public services such as schools and hospitals and eliminating the advertising of foods that depend on the exploitation of farmed animals.
Written by Dr Matthew Cole, chair of The Vegan Society Research Advisory Committee References: Cole, M. (2010) Is in vitro meat the future of food? The case against, paper presented at Vegetarian Society AGM, 11 Sept, Dragon House, London.