|In vitro replications of Nonhuman Animal bodies ignore the problem of speciesism, exclude millions of species, and perpetuate prejudicial and violent attitudes.|
On July 15, 2012 the Humane Research Council (now Faunalytics) posted the following on their Facebook promotional page:
If you care about animals and the environment, you should support in vitro meat. According to this interview with New Harvest (http://www.facebook.com/pages/NewHarvest/120523511144) [link is no longer valid], "Research at Oxford University looked at that question and estimated that mass production of cultured meat would reduce water and land use and CO2 emissions by 90% or more.Animal advocates are often posed the question of in vitro meat. PETA has famously offered a one million dollar reward to the first scientist to create and market it. However, it is my stance, and the stance of many abolitionist advocates for that matter, that in vitro meat is not the answer.
Simply put, in vitro meat, while theoretically sparing millions of nonhumans the torture of agricultural industries, completely overlooks the millions of other nonhumans not directly raised and slaughtered for their flesh and those in non-"food" industries. The in vitro scheme overlooks speciesist attitudes in general.
In vitro meat purports to meet the supposedly insatiable public demand for Nonhuman Animal flesh (a demand that is, incidentally, artificially controlled by industry) without the guilty conscience of killing Nonhuman Animals and polluting the environment. But, only a portion of the nonhumans we exploit are specifically raised for "meat." In vitro schemes beg the question as to what will happen to nonhumans who are indirectly killed for flesh when their bodies become unproductive in other industries. Dairy cattle, veal calves, wool producing sheep, and layer hens, for example, all go to slaughter when their bodies become "spent" and they become a burden on the industry. In vitro schemes speaks nothing to their plight. Unless dairy and eggs become obsolete, these animals will still be sent to their deaths regardless of in vitro markets.
And what of leather and fur? In vitro meat does nothing to reduce the demand for animal flesh used for fashion. What of rodeos, horse racing, and circuses? In vitro is totally unrelated. And vivisection? Not only does in vitro fail to solve the problem of animal testing, but it will inevitably require considerable amounts of animal pain and death to create in vitro meat.
The in vitro meat scheme ignores speciesism. It ignores an ideology of oppression. Beyond excluding many other facets of animal exploitation, it also condones the consumption and oppression of Nonhuman Animals as a symbolic matter. To "okay" this behavior, even if it is not directly hurting the nonhumans represented, is hugely detrimental to the advancement of nonhuman rights. Consider a campaign to reduce sexual harassment and violence against women that provided blow up dolls for men to insult, beat, or otherwise have their way with. Surely, women directly benefit in having the wrongs usually inflicted upon them inflicted on their non-sentient representations. But, one must consider the symbolic consequences that will inevitably arise in a society that has normalized sexist and violent attitudes towards women. One could not expect that the position of women would be advanced to any significant extent if representations of women were made freely available for the privileged to dominate. Sexism and violence would (and do) continue against women. This happens because such a strategy only supports women's subjugated status and aggravates their objectification.
|Technology has provided a number of substitutes for women's bodies, but real women are still hurt at epidemic levels in a society that objectifies them and normalizes violence against representations of them.|
If our job is to fight speciesism, then we have no business supporting in vitro meat. In vitro meat, as we see in the quote provided by the Humane Research Council, is really concerned with environmental issues. It's also concerned with assuaging human guilt with the unnecessary consumption of sentients. The environment and personal conscience are completely removed from the core issue: the rights we owe to Nonhuman Animals. (In vitro meat schemes also ignore the terrible damage that animal products inflict on the health of vulnerable human communities).
For this reason, in vitro meat is a manifestation of post-speciesism. Post-speciesism supposes that speciesism is a thing of the past, or is otherwise being attended to. Species difference is thus made irrelevant, and systemic discrimination is made invisible by the fantasy. It is an ideology that works to squelch political opposition and the potential for contentious action.
In vitro meat will reduce some violence against some nonhuman animals, but it will allow for many other forms of violence. It also reproduces the notion that Nonhuman Animals are "food" and the institutions slaughtering them for food will not realistically end simply because in vitro becomes available. So long as we leave the prejudices and violence against other animals unchallenged, the exploitation and death will continue indefinitely.
Considering the limited nature of our time and resources, I suggest we focus on promoting veganism and fighting speciesism. The results will be far more socially rewarding: environmental destruction will be reduced, human health will flourish, and, more importantly, the Nonhuman Animals we are representing will be afforded the equal consideration they deserve. In vitro science is only a display of domination and privilege.
This essay originally appeared on The Examiner, July 17, 2012.