Why Don't More Vegans Support Clean Meat?

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Lay Vegan
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Why Don't More Vegans Support Clean Meat?

Post by Lay Vegan » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:53 pm

I'm more than half way through Paul Shapiro's book "Clean Meat" and I'm so intrigued, I can barely put the book down to focus on my studies.

Paul makes an excellent case for how "cellular agriculture" can transform the food production process and totally remove animals themselves from the equation.

Cultured meat, if made commercially viable, would be far more resource efficient, requiring up to 45% less energy, 96% less water, and 99% less land than conventional beef (Tuomisto & Mattos, 2011). Given that clean meat would put far less strain on the environment, and would require no animal suffering whatsoever, I have to wonder why so many vegans do not seem to support this technology.

My guess is that the "stricter" deontological vegans would oppose clean meats because they do not fall neatly under the definition of vegan, but I have to ask; where is the harm? If anything, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Some vegans might instead want to put focus on plant-derived alternatives to meat, but I'm not sure plant-based alternatives will convince billions of meat eaters around the globe to give up meat. The Beyond Burger was EXCELLENT. But I was already a vegan after trying it. I'm not sure it would've convinced me to drop the real thing and become vegetarian. And that's exactly what most consumers want. The real thing. And if enough people invest in this technology we can provide them the real thing (minus the animal suffering).

Yet many vegans/animal rights activists refuse to support clean meat. They prefer to set-up in public spaces, showing ridiculous videos of animals being tortured in factory farms, thinking that this would move people to make the rational decision. Or they urge meat eaters to try plant-based "alternatives" to meat products, assuring them that they taste JUST LIKE meat.

I'm afraid most of these tactics are futile, going from personal experience and also from history. As Shapiro points out in his book, it wasn't people's concern of horses that ended their use for transportation, it was the invention of the car. The discovery of kerosene saved the whales, not animal welfarist sentiment. Lab-grown meat can do the same for the chickens, pigs, and cows of today. It can literally save lives.

What can we do to convince more vegans to support this technology?


So far in the online community, I've only seen Unnatural Vegan and Mod Vegan leading the way on this topic.



References:

Tuomisto, H. L., & Mattos, M. J. (2011). Environmental Impacts of Cultured Meat Production. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(14), 6117-6123. doi:10.1021/es200130u

Shapiro, P. (2018). Clean meat. New York: Gallery Books.

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Post by Canastenard » Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:37 am

I agree with you that if in-vitro grown meat can compete with meat of slaughtered animals then developing it is the moral thing to do. Concerns about it from vegans I think can come from the original use of animals to make its development possible in the first place, and also whether it'll be technologically viable in the future.

A common criticism of in-vitro meat is that to develop it scientists use fetal bovine serum which is definitely not vegan since it comes from slaughtered pregnant cows. It's only taken for the sake of research and development, to analyse it and identify which kind of molecules are necessary for meat to grow, and all in-vitro meat companies seek to completely eliminate the need for it. In-vitro meat made from FBS wouldn't be any more ethical than meat from slaughtered animals, and relying on it economically makes no sense because it's an expensive product with unreliable supply. Some vegans might not want to support it because it originally required animal death, but as a consequentialist I think the alternative to not developing in-vitro meat is more animal suffering for a longer amount of time.
There's also the concern of animal cell lines. Alongside a vegan growth medium, immortal cell lines is something in-vitro meat companies are aiming for, so they don't have to continuously do biopsies from live animals. But in fact not all in-vitro meat companies are actually aiming for immortal cell lines: Mosa Meats says they still need donor animals, with one sample of a cow being able to make 20,000 tons of beef
(http://mosameat.eu/faq.html). It's much less harm with only a fraction of the number of animals used, so it's a huge improvement over current meat production, but it's still continuous use of animals and not quite the standards vegans may hope for.
Now let's do some math. Netherland's population in about 17,200,000 people (https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/visualisaties/population-counter), and beef consumption per capita in Netherland in the last few years has been around 15.5 kilos
(https://www.statista.com/statistics/618821/per-capita-consumption-of-beef-in-the-netherlands/). That means annual beef consumption for the entire population of Netherland (I take this country because it's where Mosa Meats is) is about 266,000,000 kilos. I suppose by "ton" Mosa Meats means non-metric ton, which converted to metric would mean 18,143,695 kilos. Let's divide: 266,000,000 / 18,143,695 ≈ 14.65 which would mean taking cells from 15 live cows per year could be able to supply the demand of beef in Netherland. Assuming the biopsy is harmless and not too invasive, this perpetual need of using cows might be a nitpick for a consequentialist vegan rather than a big deal.

There also may be concerns about the technology's maturity and the feasability of the concept. I guess some people may think that putting faith in in-vitro meat is merely blind faith in technology, and might be as unrealistic as replacing all fossil fuels with solar panels. I'm not one of those people, the technology sounds more feasible and scalable to me than something like nuclear fusion, but I would like to know more about the technology's maturity. Does Shapiro talk about it in the book? There are reasons to be optimistic, after all the sequencing of the human genome originally took several years and billions of dollars of investment, now the sequencing of an individual's genome can be done for less than 1,000 dollars and only a few days. But I'd like to know more about the challenges biologists are facing and how realistic overcoming them might be.

Another concern I have seen being expressed is related to bacterial contamination. Because in-vitro grown meat would lack an immune system, it could easily be attacked by pathogens, making antibiotics necessary. But on the other hand proponents often say that not using antibiotics is one of the many advantages of in-vitro meat, my guess is that it's grown in an ultra sterile environment, similar to where "bubble babies" are forced to live because of their extremely impaired immune system.

The response I've seen from some vegans is that it's unnecessary and useless, because we might as well eat vegetables instead. I think those are overestimating how much willpower people have, and are simply dismissing other people's taste for animal products because of how much more important they think their animalist cause is. I agree that the taste pleasure people are taking from animal products doesn't make up for all the ethical problems caused by animal farming, but that doesn't mean completely dismissing the taste of animal products shared by more than 90% of people is okay.

If, or rather hopefully when, in-vitro meat becomes a commercial reality I don't know for sure how I'll approach it. Maybe I'll still be competely disgusted at the idea of eating animal flesh even without the ethical concerns of animal slaughter, maybe I could try it occasionally to inspire meat eaters to eat it rather than meat of slaughtered animals, but either way I find unlikely that I'll eat it regularly again. On the other hand other animal products like dairy, leather and gelatin don't disgust me at the same fundamental level as meat for some reason, and I would have no rational or irrational objection to any of these if they become available animal-free like how some companies are working on them — and I'm not gonna lie, even as a vegan I can't deny how delicious dairy products can be and since they still don't make me irrationally disgusted like meat does I'd gladly introduce Perfect Day's yeast milk products in my diet once they become available.
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Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Jan 29, 2018 12:08 pm

Canastenard wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:37 am
A common criticism of in-vitro meat is that to develop it scientists use fetal bovine serum which is definitely not vegan since it comes from slaughtered pregnant cows. It's only taken for the sake of research and development, to analyse it and identify which kind of molecules are necessary for meat to grow, and all in-vitro meat companies seek to completely eliminate the need for it. In-vitro meat made from FBS wouldn't be any more ethical than meat from slaughtered animals, and relying on it economically makes no sense because it's an expensive product with unreliable supply. Some vegans might not want to support it because it originally required animal death, but as a consequentialist I think the alternative to not developing in-vitro meat is more animal suffering for a longer amount of time.
Numerous start-ups are attempting to find more ethical alternatives for fetal bovine serum. This study investigated the feasibility of using platelet lysates (PL) as a substitute for FBS. Sourced from outdated human platelet donations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22130485

There are also other synthetic alternatives. The drawback is that the non FBS alternative would take multiple sera to create the product. If you plan to grow muscle tissue, you'd need muscle tissue sera. For brain tissue, brain tissue sera, and so-on. But the sera do exist.

The technology is still new, so it's up to us to invest in research that could produce an efficient, ethical alternative to FBS that would render cultured meat commercially viable.
Canastenard wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:37 am
There's also the concern of animal cell lines. Alongside a vegan growth medium, immortal cell lines is something in-vitro meat companies are aiming for, so they don't have to continuously do biopsies from live animals. But in fact not all in-vitro meat companies are actually aiming for immortal cell lines
This is a legitimate concern. Unless there is a way to prove that continually extracting cell samples from animals is less harmful than slaughtering them altogether, there isn't really a need to look into cultured meat. However, most in-vitro meat companies (Modern Meadows immediately comes to mind) are looking for ways to remove animals entirely from the process.
Canastenard wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:37 am
There also may be concerns about the technology's maturity and the feasibility of the concept. I guess some people may think that putting faith in in-vitro meat is merely blind faith in technology, and might be as unrealistic as replacing all fossil fuels with solar panels.

There are reasons to be optimistic, after all the sequencing of the human genome originally took several years and billions of dollars of investment, now the sequencing of an individual's genome can be done for less than 1,000 dollars and only a few days. But I'd like to know more about the challenges biologists are facing and how realistic overcoming them might be.
Funny, because this example was discussed in Paul Shapiro's book :D

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few challenges in making clean meat commercially viable, it's still quite a new technology after all. The biggest obstacle is the cost. The very first cultured hamburger costed over $300,000. Far more research is needed to develop the technology to make this accessible to large populations. In order to foster cell growth in a petri dish, you've got to have the right growth factors, which we just don't have to produce on a mass scale. Scientists are working hard to make this technology more affordable.

It seems as though the biggest obstacles are producing in-vitro meat on a mass-scale, all the while making it cheaper than the meat we already have.

With more investing in this technology, perhaps these obstacles can be overcome? Again, should clean meat become commercially viable, I think the benefits would far outweigh the risks. I'm not finished reading Shapiro's book, so we'll see what solutions he proposes. :)
Canastenard wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:37 am
The response I've seen from some vegans is that it's unnecessary and useless, because we might as well eat vegetables instead. I think those are overestimating how much willpower people have, and are simply dismissing other people's taste for animal products because of how much more important they think their animalist cause is.
Agreed. I also think those vegans are misunderstanding the target audience of clean meat, which isn't vegetarians. As I stated in my original post, I think plant-based proteins taste great, but they're not going to convince billions of die heard meat-lovers to forfeit meat. However, with clean meat, they don't have to. They would have the exact same product sans wasted resources and animal suffering. I'm not asking vegetarians to try clean meat, I'm asking them to support this technology which could literally saves millions of lives.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Mon Jan 29, 2018 2:25 pm

Great discussion. Can you two post here? http://philosophicalvegan.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3335
I'l love to copy some of this over to start an article on clean meat.

http://philosophicalvegan.com/wiki/index.php/Clean_Meat

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Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Jan 29, 2018 3:29 pm

I also want to add that researchers have been able to effectively culture animals cells with a serum-free medium from maitake mushrooms. Some cells even show a higher rate of growth with maitake mushroom extract than with with FBS (Bhat & Fayaz, 2011). This could be a far more ethical alternative to fetal bovine serum for culturing animal cells. Without these alternatives, you can pretty much throw any ethical argument for clean meat out the window, which is why so many cellular ag companies are doing away with FBS.

References: Bhat, Z. F., & Fayaz, H. (2011). Prospectus of cultured meat—advancing meat alternatives. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 125-140. doi: 10.1007/s13197-010-0198-7

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:05 am

Thanks guys, I dumped some of the discussion into the Wiki, I'm working on cleaning it up.
http://philosophicalvegan.com/wiki/index.php/Clean_Meat

Lay Vegan, maybe you'll have some more info to add as you get through the book.
By the way, sign up for the Wiki if you can, and I'll give you editing permissions (or somebody else will if they beat me to it). Just let me know on the forum if you sign up and your username. Would love to have you able to contribute.

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Post by Canastenard » Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:14 am

I don't see how my paragraph in the "Other in-vitro animal products" has its place here. It was just a personal opinion that only engages myself. A section about them has its place, though, to present lab-made collagen and dairy proteins and other animal products made vegan through biotechnology. These have the advantage of being more technologically mature than in-vitro meat, with Modern Meadow being expected to release their leather products this year, and I'm also expecting Perfect Day to release their products before in-vitro meat becomes commercially available.

Speaking of Modern Meadow, since for what I can tell they don't rely on growing cells but only on producting collagen from engineered yeast, is it really appropriate to mention them in the "Cell Lines" section? For what I know they used to look for growing animal skin cells in-vitro similar to in-vitro meat until they realized they really only needed the collagen protein to make leather and that using engineered yeast was the easiest way to achieve that.

I also think the Mosa Meat example has its place in the "Deontological opposition" paragraph, because the company said they're still going to rely on taking samples from live cows. If it's only something like one harmless sample taken from 15 cows per year I wouldn't have a strong case against it (although it would probably make me even less tempted to eat it myself), but that's assuming they have happy lives and good welfare standards. That sounds much more plausible than in a regular farm, but there's still the possibility of bad treatment due to people supposed to take care of them potentially trying to cut financial corners. The best bet for animal welfare in this case I think is to make mandatory for in-vitro beef companies to source their cells from non-profit sanctuaries rather than by the companies themselves or other for-profits, because I'm pretty sure animals being seen as commercial products is an easy start for a slippery slope towards abuse. There's also the problem of keeping breeding individuals from races with inherent welfare concerns, similar to dogs with respiratory problems related to their anatomy or chickens whose body grows so fast ther legs can barely support it, assuming the meat cells that grow the best in-vitro come from an animal of such a race.

In other news, Memphis Meats got another investor, and it's no other than the big meat company Tyson Foods! A way of both making scientific research necessary for the commercial deployment of clean meat financially easier (and potentially faster) and helping meat companies transition to a more ethical post-animal agriculture world.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/chloesorvino/2018/01/29/exclusive-interview-tyson-invests-in-lab-grown-protein-startup-memphis-meats-joining-bill-gates-and-richard-branson/#38a523823351
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Post by Lay Vegan » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:57 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:05 am
Lay Vegan, maybe you'll have some more info to add as you get through the book.
By the way, sign up for the Wiki if you can, and I'll give you editing permissions (or somebody else will if they beat me to it). Just let me know on the forum if you sign up and your username. Would love to have you able to contribute.
Just created an account. Later this evening perhaps, I'd love to make some edits on my comments you added to the wiki. Just a side note, ModVegan has read and reviewed the book on her YT channel, it might be helpful to have her jump in.

I also hear Unnatural Vegan plans to review it on her channel.

Do we have any polls on vegans in support/against clean meat?

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Post by Lay Vegan » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:25 pm

Canastenard wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:14 am
I don't see how my paragraph in the "Other in-vitro animal products" has its place here. It was just a personal opinion that only engages myself. A section about them has its place, though, to present lab-made collagen and dairy proteins and other animal products made vegan through biotechnology. These have the advantage of being more technologically mature than in-vitro meat, with Modern Meadow being expected to release their leather products this year, and I'm also expecting Perfect Day to release their products before in-vitro meat becomes commercially available.
It's not totally irrelevant. it might be useful to discuss how other in-vitro products, like leather, could serve as a sort of "entry product" that warms consumers up to the idea of eating/wearing animal products produced outside of animals. Once consumers are open to the idea of lab-grown leather, lab grown meat might not sound as foreign.

If we want clean meat to succeed, we may need clean leather to succeed first.

I fully support Modern Meadow and their effort to get lab grown leather into the market.
Canastenard wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:14 am
I also think the Mosa Meat example has its place in the "Deontological opposition" paragraph, because the company said they're still going to rely on taking samples from live cows. If it's only something like one harmless sample taken from 15 cows per year I wouldn't have a strong case against it (although it would probably make me even less tempted to eat it myself), but that's assuming they have happy lives and good welfare standards. That sounds much more plausible than in a regular farm, but there's still the possibility of bad treatment due to people supposed to take care of them potentially trying to cut financial corners. The best bet for animal welfare in this case I think is to make mandatory for in-vitro beef companies to source their cells from non-profit sanctuaries rather than by the companies themselves or other for-profits, because I'm pretty sure animals being seen as commercial products is an easy start for a slippery slope towards abuse.

Good point, the animals should also probably be anesthetized. Deontological vegans would absolutely oppose this. To them, use is abuse, regardless of consequences.


There's also the issue of working around European Laws. They've already got some pretty strict GMO laws. Plus, taking a biopsy from a live animal is considered an animal experiment in the European Union. This would pose some serious drawbacks to Mosa Meat, and any other company trying to find animal cells to culture in a lab. Perhaps scientists could work around this by taking samples from recently slaughtered animals? Though this could benefit slaughter houses.

Overall, I'm not sure how this technology could prosper in Europe.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:16 pm

Canastenard wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:14 am
I don't see how my paragraph in the "Other in-vitro animal products" has its place here. It was just a personal opinion that only engages myself.
I'm working on cleaning it up a bit. I only had an hour to work on it before.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:57 pm
Just created an account. Later this evening perhaps, I'd love to make some edits on my comments you added to the wiki.
Awesome, you should be good to edit.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:57 pm
Just a side note, ModVegan has read and reviewed the book on her YT channel, it might be helpful to have her jump in.
That would be good, I'll tag her into the conversation so she gets an alert when she comes on.
ModVegan wrote:...
Lay Vegan wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:57 pm
Do we have any polls on vegans in support/against clean meat?
I know some have been done informally around the net, and there have been some of non-vegan support I think. I'll take a bit to look and put them in the Wiki if I find anything good.

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