J Agric Environ Ethics (2008) 21:579–596
Vegetarian Meat: Could Technology Save Animals
and Satisfy Meat Eaters?
Patrick D. Hopkins Æ Austin Dacey
Accepted: 24 June 2008 / Published online: 11 July 2008
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008
Abstract Between people who unabashedly support eating meat and those who adopt moral vegetarianism, lie a number of people who are uncomfortably carnivorous and vaguely wish they could be vegetarians. Opposing animal suffering in principle, they can ignore it in practice, relying on the visual disconnect between supermarket meat and slaughterhouse practices not to trigger their moral emotions. But what if we could have the best of both worlds in reality—eat meat and not harm animals? The nascent biotechnology of tissue culture, originally researched for medical applications, holds out just such a promise. Meat could be grown in vitro without killing animals. In fact, this technology may not just be an intriguing option, but might be our moral obligation to develop.
Keywords Animal suffering Á Animal welfare Á Artificial meat Á Biotechnology Á Carniculture Á Cultured meat Á Food production Á In vitro meat Á Moral vegetarianism Á Tissue culture
The Problem of Eating Meat and Caring for Animals
Modern American society loves to watch television cooking shows—the creativity, the sensuousness, the clever techniques. But chances are, if a lamb were dragged in and killed at the beginning of the program, most of the viewers would find themselves less interested in the lamb chop recipes. They would be too horrified or disgusted to enjoy the rest of the
P. D. Hopkins (&)
Department of Philosophy, Millsaps College, 1701 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39210, USA
Center for Inquiry, 80 Broad Street, Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10004, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
P. D. Hopkins, A. Dacey
program.1 And yet, if the lamb’s flesh is brought in already killed and sliced, almost all sense of horror and sympathy is muted enough to be nearly unfelt. This is one of the disconnects of modern society. It is a widely commented on oddity that people can spend nearly as much money on their pets as on their children, oppose animal cruelty, and yet casually eat meat from slaughtered animals (Saletan 2006). There is also a widely commented upon explanation for the fact that most people who eat meat in modern societies can do so without triggering enough cognitive dissonance to stop. The way meat is presented to consumers avoids triggering horror or sympathy by being sterile and distancing—it appears in neat and nicely wrapped packages under bright lighting in the supermarket; fresh, clean and detached from its source, sometimes ground or covered in spices, and largely cut in such a way that we cannot even tell by looking which part of the animal the tissue comes from. Except for the tell-tale blood that pools up under the meat which we distastefully discard at home, there is little visual and cognitive connection between the meat before us and the animal from which it came. The oddity of meat-eating animal lovers is therefore easy to understand.
What is not so widely commented upon is the fact that there are people who are uncomfortable carnivores and they know the explanation of this oddity. They do despise animal cruelty; they may belong to some animal welfare and protection organization; they may avoid eating veal in some self-admittedly inconsistent attempt to oppose cruel practices. They know in fact that they rely on the supermarket disconnection between animal and meat in order to continue eating meat, and to greater or lesser degrees and greater or lesser frequencies feel guilty about it all. The problem is that they love eating meat. Given that it is so easy to avoid the horrors of where the meat comes from, and given that vegetarianism seems such a literally and metaphorically...
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