Tag Archives: Lab meat

13 Years a Vegan (and counting)

2018 is quickly approaching and with it, my thirteenth veganniversary. 🙂

Living vegan was never something I had thought about, planned for or aspired to but, from the moment I understood that animals are individuals and not objects to be used for pleasure and experienced a seismic shift in my attitude toward individuals of other species that instantly led me to veganism, I knew that returning to living a non-vegan life was not an option.

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Before going further, at the risk of offending those who self-identify as some version of “vegetarian” — Pescatarian, Flexitarian, Reducetarian, LactoOvo-Bilbo-Frodo-Groucho-Chico-Harpo-Zeppo-Marco-Polo-I-Dunno-No-tarian — it needs to be understood that when one is vegetarian (i.e., still consumes some animal parts or secretions), one continues to directly participate in animal exploitation.  Arbitrarily excluding certain products of animal exploitation, like veal or other “meats”, from one’s diet does nothing to reduce animal suffering or help change the current paradigm that allows and demands that non-human individuals to be used as disposable, replaceable human resources/property.  Vegetarianism may seem on the surface to be helpful, but one need only look a little deeper to realize that, sadly, this is simply not the case.  The tacit message of vegetarianism is that “some violence and exploitation is not ok, but some is ok”.  When put in a human context (child or spousal abuse, for example), we clearly see the problem and immediately take appropriate action to a) cease our complicity in such morally unjustifiable activities and b) advocate for a full stop to all such activities.  If you identify as “vegetarian”, please consider this information and commit to living vegan as quickly as possible.  See the links at the end of the essay for valuable resources!

Solving a Mystery – When Did I Start Living Vegan?

For years I’ve wondered exactly when it was that I made the ethical decision to live vegan, as opposed to the mostly arbitrary decision I’d made some months earlier to “become a vegetarian”.

I mean, I knew it was late in 2004 and certainly know the circumstances (I’ll never forget…) but I couldn’t recall the date and always wished I could.  Earlier this year, I was leafing through an old journal (from back in the days when people actually wrote privately in journals rather than blogging, tweeting and Facebooking every thought in their head, a behavior of which I’m certainly guilty) and was excited to find some entries that have essentially solved the mystery for me.

From what I can deduce from the third entry below, it was within a few days of New Year’s Eve 2004 while my cousin Scott and his future wife Laura were visiting Florida on vacation.

Entry 1 is the first indication that I had gone vegetarian, which we can see was not based on any ethical considerations; it was all about me.  I had simply eaten so much meat over one particular weekend that I felt I’d “eaten all the meat I’ll ever need to eat” (I actually said something very similar at the time):

[Keith's Journal Entry #1] 8/21/04 - I haven’t checked in here in quite a while.  I’ve decided to become a vegetarian and have been eating strictly veg (OK, lacto-ovo veg, as this morning’s omelette would suggest) since March 19th (2004), immediately following the Grilled Meat-Fest at Rudy’s [my now ex-father-in-law].  Don’t worry Rudy - it’s not you, it’s me.

Note my use of the term “veg” (above) which is pretty meaningless as it lacks any real definition.  That morning, “veg” included eggs (and very likely cheese) which are not, to my knowledge, “veg”etables.

Entry 2, paragraph 1 shows a glimmer of awareness – albeit wrapped in self-righteousness – that laziness and selfishness are two qualities inherent in (most? all?) humans that can make it challenging for one to take a stand against any societal norm, even when that norm requires the egregious and morally indefensible enslavement, exploitation and execution of trillions of innocent non-human individuals every year for no better reason than “they taste good”.

[Keith's Journal Entry #2] 12/8/04 - [in an Asian-fusion restaurant] - The college-age kid seated to my right commented to his dinner date that, “I think I could be vegetarian”.  My first thought was to tell him he’s right and just how easily he could make that transition [but] simply put, vegetarianism is NOT the easier, softer way.  Culturally, in this country, meat is easier.  You don’t have to look deep into a menu to find chicken and burgers and steak.  But a vegetarian dish that’s more than just a side of something?  Often, this requires effort, and Americans don’t want to put in effort.  After all, this is the society that invented fast food and the drive-thru.  

I love when non-vegetarians (y’know - flesh-eaters) find out I’m vegetarian!  The #1 question - right out of the box, within seconds - is “How do you get your protein?”  I have to remember to write up some index cards to carry around explaining how it’s done and debunking the protein myth.  I could just go with, “Well, I still eat human flesh.  I don’t think that counts as meat... Human is a vegetable, right”?

Paragraph 2 (above) shows – once again wrapped in self-righteousness – the spark of my desire to educate others (or just be a pain in their ass).  Unformed and without direction, it was there nonetheless.  Entry 3 shows me what I wanted to see.  A fundamental, life-altering shift had occurred – I was leaving my non-vegan life behind and moving forward with a commitment to no longer participate in animal exploitation.

Entry 3 shows me what I wanted to see – a fundamental, life-altering shift had occurred.  I was leaving my non-vegan life behind and moving forward with a commitment to no longer participate in animal exploitation.

[Keith's Journal Entry #3] 1/7/05 - I’m at Sublime [vegan restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, FL], waiting for a table.  I was here New Year’s Eve with Cousin Scott and his girlfriend Laura.  They’re both vegan and just wonderful, spiritual people.  They didn’t give me the vegan hard-sell, but I’ve decided to go that direction.  I’ve already bought two belts made from man-made-materials to replace my leather ones.  I’ve gone online in search of non-leather shoes, sneakers and wallets as well.  I’ll need to get past my sentimental attachments to my leather stuff because I really don’t like the idea that someone died and, prior to that, lived miserably to produce them.  I watched Peaceable Kingdom with Scott and Laura and saw the unbelievably wretched conditions food animals “live” in.  I came away feeling... haunted.  It was like watching footage of Nazi concentration camps.  There should be an animal holocaust museum.

After seeing how dairy cows are mistreated, I’ve realized they are nothing more than slaves.  I don’t want to be a part of the slave ‘n slaughter culture anymore.  Scott and Laura simply refer to all animal products as “death”.  Couldn’t be more accurate.  My death-free entree has arrived - seitan with mashed potatoes and veggies.  It’s one of the best things I’ve EVER tasted. 

I find it notable that my earlier entry stating I’d “decided to become a vegetarian” went no further or deeper, except to show just how non-committal I really was about the whole thing.  I was even jokey about it.  Going “veg” was no more significant a life choice than, say, making the decision to wear khakis more often or take up cross-country skiing or mahjongg (or cross-country mahjongg while wearing khakis… whatever).  It was just another thing to do, a whim subject to change at a moment’s notice.  I recall that, along with that decision, I also very loudly “reserved my right” to eat fish and eggs “if I need to”.  I’ve since learned that a) no human “needs” to eat fish or eggs for any reason and b) when the “right” I’m reserving denies another sentient being his or her right to live freely, it’s not a right I’m reserving – it’s a morally unjustifiable wrong.

By contrast, in discussing my decision to start living vegan in Entry #3, I included some of my feelings and reasoning for making that decision (including identifying animal use as slavery, a fundamental injustice I oppose, which was the catalyst for my decision to live vegan), action I’d taken and plans for further action in the same direction.  Put another way, this was not some spur of the moment whim.  I was serious.

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When it comes to veganism and animal rights, I’m still serious and that’s how I’ll remain.  It’s no laughing matter that trillions of land and sea animals – non-human individuals who think, feel and have the same basic right as any human animal to live life freely and autonomously – are killed every year for human pleasure, entertainment and convenience.  It’s the shame of our species that the majority of us continue to support, condone, promote and actively engage in such horrific and barbaric practices.  Living vegan is the very least we can do for the animals and, secondarily, for ourselves and this small planet we all share.

Veganism should be our global society’s moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species and fortunately, for many of us and more every day, it already is.  Is it yours?  If not, why not?

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Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
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Cultured Meat Club (Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?)

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A friend recently suggested I might like a Facebook page devoted to an organization whose goal is to create lab-grown, or cultured, meat.  That friend was wrong.

Because I do not support this idea, I won’t link to that page lest anyone think I’m in favor of it (there are several players in that market – my opposition is not to any specific organization but to the idea itself as I will make clear in this essay).  However, I would like to share my thoughts on lab-grown/cultured/“clean” meat and welcome comments and conversation on the subject.  For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to this product throughout as “cultured meat”.

I see the cultured meat endeavor as problematic in several ways (this is not a comprehensive list by any means).

  1. The current process for creating cultured meat involves the use of fetal calf serum, a product obtained by sticking a needle in the still-beating heart of calf fetuses removed from cows who were pregnant at slaughter (though one potential manufacturer says they’re seeking plant-based alternatives to this gruesomeness).  Therefore, this is just another by-product of the exploitative dairy industry and not something I would remotely support.  Also, if some companies eventually use plant-based sources but others continue using fetal calf serum, there’s really no telling which cultured meat is ending up on the consumer’s plate.
  2. While it’s true that cultured meat could become an available alternative to the traditional consumption of animal corpses (once it passes the point of being a mere novelty item, if that even happens), this a) does nothing to educate the public that meat and all other animal flesh and secretions are an unnecessary inclusion in human diets and b) helps maintain the status quo and reinforces the paradigm that sees non-human individuals as “things” (objectification) and demands they be enslaved and used as human resources for their bodies and secretions.
  3. The availability of cultured meat does not mean that people will automatically choose to consume it and eschew traditionally-obtained meat just because it’s there.  Non-vegans already look askance at vegan food – fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes – and think what we eat is weird even though it’s the most natural stuff in the world.  Do we really think these same people who handle tofu like they’re trying to defuse a bomb are going to embrace “meat” made in a laboratory or some other industrial setting?  As far back as 2013, the animal agriculture industry was already coming up with propaganda designed to shame “real men” into continuing to eat yummy slaughtered animals and not something grown in a Petri dish (the linked article contains the first use I’ve ever seen of the euphemism “live beef animal”.  They could’ve saved keystrokes and some of my brain cells by simply saying “cow”.  Talk about the language of denial…).
  4. For those non-vegan consumers who do decide they enjoy cultured meat because its texture and taste are similar to traditional meat, what happens when they go shopping or out to eat and the establishments are fresh out of cultured meat, as is bound to frequently happen?  Do you think they’re going to order a nice vegan entree instead… or will they opt for a traditional hamburger, steak, pork chop or chicken breast since this is what they’re used to?  Because no one educated them about veganism since organizations were too busy trying to make the unacceptable acceptable by creating meat-that-isn’t-meat-but-is-really-meat-but-sorta-isn’t-really-meat-but-is-just-like-meat-but-oh-I-give-up, these consumers will continue purchasing someone’s slaughtered remains and again create demand for the continued exploitation and execution of vulnerable individuals of other species.

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The image above illustrates two problems with cultured meat.  One is that without a change in the public mindset and attitude toward the use of non-human individuals as “things” to satisfy their desires (said change can be achieved through vegan education), cultured meat will often be passed up in favor of society’s traditional consumption of animal flesh.  Another is evident in the “How It Works” diagram in which we see that “Tissue is taken from animal’s muscle”, reinforcing the idea yet again that it is morally acceptable to take that which does not belong to us, in this case a part (size notwithstanding) of a nonconsenting individual’s body to serve our own purposes.  Even young children understand intuitively that when something of theirs is taken without their consent, something unfair has happened.  It is a sad indictment of our society that when the majority of these children become adults, they will not only accept larger injustices but promote, condone and profit from them despite intuitively knowing that such actions are morally unjustifiable.

In a sense, cultured meat is to traditional meat what methadone is to heroin – a healthier-seeming (on the surface, anyway) alternative promoted as a harm-reduction solution while in reality just creating its own new set of problems.  As anyone who’s detoxed from both heroin and methadone will attest, methadone is harder to kick by far (with nearly 40 known withdrawal symptoms that last… and last… and last…) and just another substance on which to form a dependency.  Doesn’t it seem logical to avoid the potential negative consequences of both by not using either when there’s absolutely no reason to have them in one’s body in the first place?

There is one particular organization promoting cultured meat (again, I refuse to post a link here and risk even inadvertently promoting such a thing, but feel free to contact me for details if you’d like) co-founded by silver-tongued, supposedly “vegan” hucksters whose combined resumes offer a road map through the very heart of Animal Welfareland, if such organizations even have hearts.  These individuals are standing on the ground floor of what may end up being a very lucrative venture, one that will at best do absolutely nothing to further the cause of justice for non-human animals and at worst set the cause back immeasurably.  Where it will be productive  is in lining their pockets, as they seem to have found a way to become rich(er) at the expense of the animals they purport to want to help.  Here’s what one of the co-founders had to say on the subject:

“…we don’t necessarily need to convince people to make decisions based on ethics if we can simply make products that taste as good, cost less, and are equally convenient.”

Uh… I’m sorry… what???  Are you saying we need to put ethics last behind trivial desires like palate pleasure, personal finances and convenience?  Why, that sounds a lot like the reasons people choose to consume products of animal exploitation in the first place!  And if you believe that people are going to start living vegan simply because you provide them with great tasting alternatives, you’re in denial so deep you’re drowning in it.  So, where do the animals figure into this agenda of yours?

“…making a positive difference for the environment, their own health, and animals.” “…a big win for consumers, for our planet, and for animals.” “…people who are devoting their entire lives to alleviating global poverty or saving the world from the effects of climate change or helping animals.”

Ah, I see – the animals come last, as I would expect from someone whose behavior has reeked of speciesism for as long as I can remember.  Tell me – since you’ve spent decades working for organizations that are supposedly devoted to animal rights, wouldn’t you agree that the animals’ need for justice is of paramount importance and the rewards we receive by abstaining from animal exploitation are simply positive side effects of finally doing the right thing and not a goal in and of themselves?

“…if we don’t eat animals, we’re likely to live longer and better lives…” “…not eating animals, which is good for their health, will have an immediate and positive effect on our health, too.”

Hmm, guess not. That’s an amazing piece of understatement, by the way, that “…not eating animals… is good for their health”.  If anything ever went without saying, it would be that.  Alright then, what exactly is your focus?

“The [organization] is focused on using markets and technology to compete with animal-based meat, dairy, and eggs.”
“Perhaps most critically, I believe that compassion for other animals, which is perhaps best exhibited by refusing to consume them, will lead to a deeper spiritual health and a clearer conscience, which will also improve our mental and emotional health.”

“Perhaps” twice in the same sentence?  That’s equivocation followed by equivocation.  If you were on trial and refused to take a stand twice, I believe you’d be held in contempt of court.  As for the “clearer conscience”, I have to wonder how clear one’s conscience could be when one purposely chooses personal profit over ethics.  I do understand how you, as a career speciesist, would mistake injustice for a lack of compassion and how that would leave you confused as to what a refusal to consume animals (and their secretions, which you seem to have overlooked) signifies.  The welfarist statement you’ve made that “compassion for other animals… is perhaps best exhibited by refusing to consume them” would indicate that you believe there is a spectrum of other, not-quite-best-but-still-acceptable methods of showing “compassion”, such as increasing the size of cages in which non-human individuals are confined against their wills, more “humane” slaughter techniques and other “improvements” (alterations, really) in animal slavery that simultaneously help maximize profits for suppliers and maximize donations for animal welfare groups.  Not unexpectedly, these are the types of campaigns in which the groups for whom you’ve worked specialize.  Statements like this clearly identify the problem with focusing on compassion” and animal abuse rather than justice and animal use, and equivocation naturally follows.  What also naturally follows is that individuals with such attitudes would gravitate toward, work for and create organizations that reflect a similar misunderstanding of the problem and its solution.  After all, water seeks its own level and like attracts like.

It’s well past time we stopped looking for every way in the world to get people to stop exploiting non-human animals a little bit at a time (a position and strategy that would rightly be seen as completely unacceptable if the exploited victims were human) and discounting the one that’s actually most effective – clear, consistent, non-violent vegan education.  It works.

The simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression and exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – is to start living vegan.  There are no valid reasons not to; there are only morally unjustifiable excuses to hide behind.

Here are links to a two-part podcast (approximate duration 23 minutes) and one other from Vegan Trove that delves deeper into the problems with this idea:

 Clean Meat” Part 1: Some Ethical Considerations

Clean Meat” Part 2: Some Practical Implications and Unforeseen Outcomes

The Science of “SuperMeat” : If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is | Vegan Trove

Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how:

HowToGoVegan.org