Can a Moral Person Be a Carnivore?

Can a Moral Person Be a Carnivore? May 11, 2016

synthetic cultured meatMorality changes, and we shake our heads in disbelief at the conditions that Western society tolerated just a century or two ago—slavery, child labor, mental hospitals as warehouses, voting for white men only, and so on. But let’s not pretend that we’ve now got it all figured out. A century in our future, society might look back on our world in disbelief at the moral errors (from their standpoint) that we found acceptable. Raising animals and then killing and eating them may be one of these moral errors.

There is a solution: synthetic meat.

The moral issue

How many of us have heard someone say that they took a tour of a slaughterhouse and became a vegetarian on the spot? Some cows, chickens, or pigs live fairly natural lives before they are killed for meat, but there are millions that won’t.

I eat meat. What’s my moral excuse? If pressed, I’d argue with a combination of “I like to eat meat” and “Yeah, but everyone else is doing it.” There is a small health issue—getting the right amino acid mix is easy from meat, but from plants it requires some thought—but that is easily resolved. By eating meat, I’m taking the easy route, but I don’t have much of a moral defense.

What got me thinking about this was a recent Sam Harris interview with Uma Valeti of Memphis Meats, a new company working on synthetic meat (Valeti prefers the term cultured meat).

The environmental issue

The magnitude of the environmental problem is as shocking as the moral one.

  • Land use. Pastureland (land used for open grazing as well as that used to raise crops for livestock) is one quarter of the earth’s land area (Annenberg). “Only about 20 percent of the planet’s agricultural land is used to produce food that is eaten directly by people, while about four times as much is used to feed livestock.” (Union of Concerned Scientists)
  • Greenhouse gases. Cows produce a lot of methane. The agriculture contribution to worldwide greenhouse gases is 15% (UN FAO).
  • Deforestation. The need for pastureland is a major driver of deforestation (Union of Concerned Scientists).
  • Water use. “The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity.” Source
  • The environmental impact of beef is especially large: “Nearly 60% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef accounts for less than 2% of the calories that are consumed throughout the world. Beef makes up 24% of the world’s meat consumption, yet requires 30 million square kilometres of land to produce. In contrast, poultry accounts for 34% of global meat consumption and pork accounts for 40%. Poultry and pork production each use less than two million square kilometres of land.” Source

These problems also touch on political tensions caused by scarce fresh water and climate change. There’s also the energy used and the pollution caused by raising livestock.

Can cultured meat be the answer?

A 2013 article titled, “A quarter-million pounder and fries” documented the taste test of a €250,000 hamburger, the first made from synthetic beef. We have a long way to go, but, as Sam Harris noted, the cost to sequence a human genome is now around $1000, while the first one, sequenced in 2003, cost $3 billion. Technology predictions often disappoint, but there is room for optimism.

Valeti of Memphis Meats cites the problems with the status quo, both moral and environmental, as the motivation for cultured meat. There are other benefits.

  • No antibiotics would be needed (70% of antibiotics used in the U.S. are for livestock).
  • The amount and kind of fat in the meat can be tuned.
  • There are 4 million illnesses every year from eating meat in the U.S., and most of these are due to unsterile meat from the store.
  • Eliminating animal breeders might also eliminate influenza pandemics.
  • There would be no risk of prion disease such as BSE.
  • The cultured process is more efficient. It now takes 23 calories to make 1 calorie of beef, while Valeti’s process should require just 3 calories.

The public responds

Harris said that his own informal Twitter poll reported that, while most people would switch if the cost and taste were identical to conventional meat, the creepiness factor was a problem to some. I suppose they imagine peaceful grazing cows monitored by hay-chewing cowboys replaced by bubbling vats of chemicals monitored by white-coated technicians. So they’re grossed out by vats but okay with a slaughterhouse?

“Natural” as a trait of food is in vogue today, and there will be pushback against cultured meat. But how natural are the animals we’re growing for meat? Valeti said, “The chickens that we eat now grow 6 to 7 times faster than they would in the natural environment. The cows give about 10 times more milk than what they would naturally give. Turkeys are so top-heavy that they can’t even stand up to breed.”

We’re not there yet

We should hold off celebrations. Hamburgers and sausage may happen quickly (Memphis Meats hopes to release their first product in five years), but complex structures like steak will take longer. A technology maxim that we often forget is that you can’t schedule a breakthrough. The politically powerful ranching industry will fight for the status quo.

Nevertheless, I find it encouraging that a startup like Memphis Meats quickly found funding.

The switch to a diet with meat has been credited with changing our genus and permitting our large human brain. Maybe we’ll soon be able to eat that diet with a clear conscience.

In 50 years, I personally believe that
the thought of slaughtering animals for meat
will be laughable.
— Uma Valeti of Memphis Meats

Image credit: IQRemix, flickr, CC


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  • Uzza

    Sadly, most people find eating meat from a vat more “creepy” than meat from an animal that’s been tortured its whole life.

  • epicurus

    I grew up on a farm and have killed animals, either for food, or because they were sick and were not going to recover. While It was always unpleasant, I’m not sure I’m in principle against killing an animal for food; however the rise of the factory farm has thrown a wrench into that, as from what I’ve read in books like “Fast Food Nation” the vast majority of meat does not come from family farms (and even that meat eventually gets sent to a feed lot on trucks) Instead it comes from vast complexes where animals live short painful, uncomfortable lives, continually put through worse and worse conditions to squeeze out more and more profits. Things like how calves are treated for veal, hens in battery cages, pigs that never get to see the light of day, that maim and kill each other from the stress of being crammed into small pens.
    The days of walking up to a contented grazing cow and putting a quick bullet through the brain are long gone if we are going to feed a meat loving world of billions.

  • Herald Newman

    Bob, thanks for providing sources for the stats! I was aware of the numbers, but had trouble finding good sources for them.

    One more stat, that may be worth looking into, is the amount of fossil energy that goes into our food supply, for transportation, fertilization, pesticides, etc.

    I’ve heard a range of estimates, from 10-100, calories of fossil fuels go into making 1 edible calorie. Assuming that many of these additional calories are going into animal feed, how much of our fossil energy are we using just to eat meat? The whole thing seems very wasteful!

    • There’s a quote above about 23 calories going to make 1 calorie of beef, but some of those calories are from the sun (which helps make the corn, for example). But yes, the fossil fuel component of the ranching industry would be interesting.

      • Pofarmer

        Just the transportation budget is interesting. The average Steak travels 1000 miles from the feedlot to the consumers plate. There is a guy around here right now doing organic Chickens and selling them to “White Tablecloth” resturants in a largish college town about 40 miles from his door. But they have to be federally inspected at slaughter, so they go to a slaughter plant 40 miles the OTHER way, and then 80 miles to the largish college town. That’s hauling pickup loads of chicken 120 miles.

        • Kinda crazy. But it’s nice he can jump on the locavore bandwagon.

  • Michael Neville

    Soylent Yellow.

  • This seems to be one more problem caused by human overpopulation. Of the methods of acquiring meat that have been tried by humans so far, it’s hard to think of one that’s ethically much better than allowing animals a life consisting of several years or decades of life in the wild, with a fairly small chance that it will be ended by somebody throwing something pointy at them. Unfortunately that method is no longer practical for a world of 7 billion humans.

    • Cygnus

      “This seems to be one more problem caused by human overpopulation.”
      ===
      Nope, this seems to be a problem caused by “Be fruit fly and multiply”. See Genesis (or Book of Generous as Archie Bunker would say) 9:7.

      • Same thing isn’t it? Population size is pretty closely related to the amount of multiplying people do.

        • Cygnus

          Yup, but how to approach to the subject is different 🙂

  • OhNotAnotherOne

    Ooooo I would be a happy individual if this became a thing.

    • Cygnus

      Bob already said: “There is a solution: synthetic meat.”, in other words, make it be a thing and be happy!

  • The problem is, the same people that most oppose killing animals to eat meat also usually have a fetish for “natural” things. I would have no problem eating synthetic meat, all things being equal. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that us killing animals to eat meat is wrong. Still, considerations like land use and others you laid out must be taken into account, which this could resolve.

    • MNb

      Cyanide is totally natural. Still those people usually don’t have a fetish for that one.

      • They seem very selective in what’s described as “natural”.

        • Myna A.

          They seem very selective in what’s described as “natural”.

          It’s not so much “selective”, it’s that cyanide, like hemlock, is a known poison. The media hype and consumer demand for “natural” products that often, if used indiscriminately, can be just as deadly is not something the corporate profit machine takes much into account. Natural is not a synonym for safe, and to a largely uneducated public the misconception that it is synonymous is a very serious issue.

          It’s all become very complex. Even organic isn’t as nutritious as food at the neighborhood Piggly Wiggly was 60 years ago. Eating local and in season, becoming educated, is the best action. I don’t know much about the meat and poultry industry, but from what I’ve managed to learn, it is a layered nightmare.

          I found this article on in vitro meat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_meat

        • Well that’s what I mean: “natural” is often used a synonym of “safe”, which as you is ridiculous. In fact it can sometimes be worse, as “natural” products are frequently subject to less regulation and testing. People also seem to support them because there is apparently an impression that they’re an alternative to “artificial” products corporations provide, but they make these too.

          Organic seems to be defined in an arbitrary was as well, and also often sold by large corporations. When there is a market for something, they will provide, especially when it means being able to charge more. It’s much too easy to green wash something. As you say, actually finding things out is harder than just going for a “natural” or organic label, whatever that may actually mean.

    • Susan

      The problem is, the same people that most oppose killing animals to eat meat also usually have a fetish for “natural” things.

      I understand your concern but I don’t think it’s relevant to the question. The “natural” argument is a silly one but that doesn’t discount the moral problems with factory farming, habitat destruction, species extinction, etc.

      Sentience, bonding, suffering and fear are not unique to humans. We are part of a continuum.

      As our moral arguments seem to rely on those intuitive concepts, I don’t see how they don’t lead to moral concerns for sentient non-humans.

      These are fundamental issues that don’t require having a “natural” fetish.

      • This was addressing synthetic meat only. I don’t claim none of the things you mention have no merit. Of course I may be wrong about killing animals in general as well, I’m just not convinced.

        • Susan

          This was addressing synthetic meat only.

          I see what you mean. Hard to sell synthetic meat to people who argue against meat based on “nature”.

          I’m not sure that people who argue against eating meat are arguing based on “nature”. I’d need statistics. I’m not stating that you are wrong, just that you haven’t provided evidence that most arguments against eating meat are “natural” arguments. If so, then yes. We have a logistical problem.

          I may be wrong about killing animals in general as well

          .

          It’s a complicated problem on a planet like ours. If I were a deer, I’d rather have a clean shot that would kill me quickly than be taken down by coyotes because I broke my foot running away from coyotes the day before. An argument for hunting as a moral position. Most hunting doesn’t worry a bit about that.

          We are animals. On what basis do we argue for morality and for what morality do we argue?

          It’s complicated. We’re earthlings. It’s a terrible planet with no perfect solutions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to be consistent when it comes to any morality that proceeds from our moral intuitions.

        • I don’t know that they are either. The issue of synthetic meat may not even yet be on their radar. So far the only one I’ve seen make a statement either way is Peter Singer, who stated there is nothing wrong with meat in itself, only harming animals to get it, and thus he has no problem with synthetic meat. Of course, I’ve never seen him condemn anything based on it being “unnatural”. I’m thinking more of those who say those things about stuff like GMOs and pesticides. Not that products couldn’t be dangerous, mind you, but “unnaturalness” seems like an illogical objection.

          Yeah, it’s difficult. It seems like you have the same issue, when I see people who oppose eating meat also support indigenous peoples that do. Are they unaware of that? Is their eating meat so different somehow? They still harm and kill animals to get it. Where does the difference lie? As for moral arguments, that’s a quite complicated topic in itself.

        • Weird question of the day: if eating synthetic meat is not immoral, what about eating synthetic human meat?

        • Pofarmer

          That is weird.

        • epicurus

          When I’m at a barbecue I occasionally hear someone say “I don’t know why some people want to be vegetarians, meat tastes sooooo good.” One of these days I’m going to stand up and say “well then, if human meat, or lets say human baby meat tasted great, you would eat that?, No? but you make it sound like taste is all that matters!”

        • “If God wanted us to be vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat?”

        • I’ve heard that human tastes a lot like pork.

        • It’s called “long pig” in some cultures, I hear.

        • I’ve heard the same. Can’t verify, though.

        • Good one. I’d say no, unless somehow it made us start thinking about killing real people to eat them. However… yuck. I won’t be eating any.

        • Pofarmer

          “Most hunting doesn’t worry a bit about that.”

          Actually we do. Quite a bit of hunting is based on population control to prevent the scenario you describe.

        • Susan

          Actually we do.

          You’re right, of course. I actually consider a skilled hunter who respects the land they hunt on and the life cycles of the species there to cause much less harm and suffering than standard off-the-shelf supermarket shoppers.

        • So is hunting like that moral, or simply less immoral?

        • Susan

          I’d say it’s less immoral than factory farming.

          Whether or not it’s moral is complicated.

        • Okay, thank you.

  • Pofarmer

    I am, and I’m a moral person, so there.

    • Cygnus

      But you live in a natural world. Morality is a synthetic idea 🙂
      Without synthetic ideas, we will act naturally. Isn’t that wonderful?
      Opps! “wonderful” is a synthetic idea 🙂

    • How would the ranching industry respond to synthetic meat? It seems obvious that they would try to slow it as much as possible (nuisance regulations, etc.), but perhaps I’m missing something.

      • Pofarmer

        I imagine by a bunch of us going broke.

        • Sure, I get it. Every new technology change risks making broke those attached to the previous wave. The buggy whip makers went out of business with the car, etc. And, of course, you’ve got cases like Detroit where the technology in question is still going strong … just not the kind that Detroit was known for.

          Is it unreasonable to hope that the transition can be anticipated and smoothed so that farmers and ranchers can either find work in the new field or at least in some other field?

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunately, capitalism is messy. right now, for instance, farmers have responded to record high beef prices, by, of course, raising more beef, and cattle prices are plummeting, whether you will see it at the store or not. If you add the ability to make basically unlimited supplies of synthetic meat in a factory somewhere, probably anywhere, basically, then you just changed the entire demand curve. You just drastically lowered the value of a specific land class and there will be people depending on the value of that for their balance sheets, retirements, etc, etc. You put more burger on the market, and you are going to affect the price of everything up and down stream with the extra supply. I can anticipate it, but I’m not sure what I can do about it other than do something else with that land. What will the technology cost? Could I start a burger plant for $500,000, 2 million, 50 million? What if the new product doesn’t take off? Remember the whole red slime deal?

        • You mean the pink slime? Wasn’t that the extra meat steam-blasted off chicken carcasses?

          I thought it was a great idea. More meat removed from each chicken means fewer chickens needed.

          I assume your point is that consumers don’t like icky things. And synthetic meat could be seen as pretty icky.

        • Pofarmer

          Pink slime was a hamburger additive, but I think much the same thing. Yes, I think synthetic meat could have image issues.

        • Is it unreasonable to hope that the transition can be anticipated and smoothed so that farmers and ranchers can either find work in the new field or at least in some other field?

          Yes. Any plan that relies on successfully training all ranchers in cutting-edge bioengineering is a bad plan.

          I suspect there’s no good solution to this problem, and in the long term we’re all screwed. The optimistic answer of “technology will create new jobs to replace the old ones” doesn’t look too good when you realize that there’s not much overlap of skills between coal mining and solar panel construction, or truck driving and programming, or ranching and artificial muscle synthesis.

          What’s more plausible to me is that the guys who lose their jobs due to technological change, and the guys who get new and better jobs due to that change, won’t be the same people or live in the same areas.

          (Eventually at some point in the future there’ll probably just be one really rich guy whose job is “robot manufacturing company CEO”, plus a large government bureaucracy devoted to taxing and distributing that guy’s money on behalf of the unemployed masses.)

        • TheNuszAbides

          that’s definitely one of the trajectories in cyberpunk dystopia literature.

  • Pofarmer

    I promise to deal with the actual post at some point.

    anyway. This just came through from the school board at my kids Catholic School.

    Parents of students must be registered in the parish and actively
    practicing the Catholic faith. The parents/gaurdians make a commitment
    to the parish to be a good steward through participating at
    Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
    (bold theirs), through example and actions in the home,
    workplace, and civic life, through contribution of time and talent, and
    though support of the ministries of the Catholic Church by tithing
    sacrificially to the parish(with a goal of at least 5% of the family
    income to the parish.” In doubt, the Pastor will determine the active
    participation.

    This used to be an inclusive school. It makes me sad to see it become a Catholic Brainwashing institution. And, apparently, they are going to watch your “donations” to make sure you are giving appropriately. Nice bunch.

    • epicurus

      Some people don’t like the idea of Islamic schools here (North America) teaching kids, yet we have our own version in the Catholic School system.

      • Pofarmer

        It’s not just Catholic, to be fair. There are Lutheran schools and general Christian schools as well. I’m not sure about any other schools particular policies.

        • epicurus

          True enough

    • RichardSRussell

      Of the 2 great evil, corrupt, misogynistic, domineering organizations that have spread their tentacles from Italy over the rest of civilization, why is it that only the less obnoxious one, the Mafia, has the bad reputation?

      • Pofarmer

        I’d wager the mafia has done a better job protecting children.

        • The Mafia certainly has higher standards…

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Well one is a corrupt group of criminals that is hell bent on making money mostly from a protection racket, and the other is the Mafia.

  • Cygnus

    There is a solution: synthetic meat.
    ===

    We already have synthetic ideas 🙂

  • Someone who insists that there is no such thing as objective morality shouldn’t waste his time asking how things can be justified.

    • MNb

      Someone who insists that there is no such thing as objective morality should spend time asking how things can be justified over and over again, exactly because they can change with time circumstances. Someone who insists he/she gets his/morality from an imaginary sky daddy won’t ask how things can be justified – and becomes morally braindead.

      • I don’t get morality from “an imaginary sky daddy,” and I don’t need that in order for it to be objective. It comes from facts about the world.

        • Susan

          It comes from facts about the world.

          Which facts are those?

          How do they lead to morality?

        • Rudy R

          Wanna bet that you get a subjective response?

        • To begin with, facts about what kills you or keeps you alive, what causes pain and pleasure, and so on. Those are objective facts; if you push a knife through your throat, you will die. That is not subjective.
          Facts about what human beings typically want, e.g. to stay alive. The fact that most human beings want to stay alive is an objectively true fact about the world. If you say that most people want to die, you will have said something false.
          Those facts imply that given what you want, you should do certain things, or you will fail to get what you want. That is morality, although I am simplifying it for the sake of this blog.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Yet people have said and convinced large groups of people for example that in order for humanity to live Jewish people, LGBT+ people, Hutsi/Tutsi, religious heretics, etc must be opposed up to the point of genocide. That is why I oppose authoritarianism because of the greater subjectivity in wholly relying on another subjective set of viewpoints in which nothing has to be justified if not supported by the flimsiest “conclusions (that is what “objective morality “sounds like to me, authoritarianism).

        • Facts about what human beings typically want…

          If you’re going to use that as a premise, couldn’t you save a lot of steps by just starting with “humans typically want to behave morally”?

        • TheNuszAbides

          yeah, but then they wouldn’t have as much padding with which to adorn their sweeping statements before patting themselves on the back for being oh, so perceptive while we sillies are all oh, so blinkered …

        • MNb

          “facts about what kills you or keeps you alive, what causes pain and pleasure”
          Saying that getting killed, causing pain and causing pleasure are good/bad is still subjective. So you can’t get objective morality from facts about them.

          “if you push a knife through your throat, you will die. That is not subjective.”
          No. Saying that doing so is good/bad is.

          “If you say that most people want to die, you will have said something false.”
          Sure. The step to “hence killing people is bad” is still the is/ought fallacy. You confirm this with

          “Those facts imply that given what you want, you should do certain things,”
          Attila the Hun, Dzhengis Khan, Stalin and Hitler all wanted something and thus did certain things. You did not even try to make clear how this made their deeds good or bad.

        • TheNuszAbides

          you appear to be unaware that there is an art to pushing a knife through one’s throat in a non-fatal way. try not to be too fond of the depth and breadth of your enlightened grasp of the human condition.

        • MNb

          Two possibilities:

          1) You think an imaginary sky daddy is a fact about the world, in which case my remark still applies to you.
          2) Even worse, you’re guilty of the is-ought fallacy.

          http://www.txstate.edu/philosophy/resources/fallacy-definitions/Is-ought.html

        • MNb

          Ie the is-ought fallacy put in a word salad.

        • “Word salad” is a way of insulting yourself here, namely saying that you did not understand the argument. That is your loss.

        • Greg G.

          Your argument fell apart when you accept Aristotle’s claim:

          “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”

          Aristotle committed the Is-Ought Fallacy at that point. Your argument, therefore, accepts the fallacy you are trying to prove, making your argument a circular bowl of word salad.

          Besides that, all things aim at entropy so the only good would be to do nothing which leads to nihilism.

          Hume is right and Aristotle is wrong.

        • Aristotle does not say “ought” in that quotation, and so he does not commit any supposed is-ought fallacy there.

        • Greg G.

          You don’t fix a fallacy by rewording it. The word “ought” didn’t exist in Aristotle’s time because the English language was centuries in his future. His “is” in his claim is that some things aim at good so that what everything aims at “ought” to be considered good.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Since when is saying that I don’t understand something a way to insult myself? Or do you understand everything in science and philosophy?
          If it’s a loss that I don’t understand the word salad you produced I totally can live with it – likely are even better off.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          How exactly did every animal (or at least just humans) get the same interpretation of facts of the world? In a world where multiple subjective moralities exist, hoping that people see the evidence and arguments one uses to back up a moral position the same way is the best one can do.

        • Maybe you should define “objective” to see if we agree.

        • TheNuszAbides

          but then it would be over too soon!

    • Dys

      It doesn’t follow that the absence of objective morality somehow magically eliminates the necessity to justify one’s actions.

      • The “necessity to justify one’s actions” does not get magically eliminated. I am saying that such a necessity is not magically present for no reason.

        • Pofarmer

          You’re gonna have to de babble that comment.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I am saying that such a necessity is not magically present for no reason.

          just to go out on a limb, i’ll guess ‘useless would be happy to say “is [magically, or a slightly-less-transparently-goofy way of saying magically] present for a [shoehorn-able] reason”.

    • Rudy R

      I don’t see the conflict with BobS’ article and his position on morality. If humans stop eating natural meat in the future based on moral grounds, than where is the objectivity? I suppose you could take the position that humans did not get the message from the Magic Man that eating meat is moral.

      • If humans stop eating meat in the future because they think eating meat is evil, but in reality there is no objective good or evil, then I do not care what they think or do, and neither should anyone else.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “neither should anyone else.”

          Why? We still have moralities even if they don’t have magical objectivity.

        • Rudy R

          So if I understand you correctly, you would care what people think or do if morality is objective, but don’t if morality is subjective? Why?

        • Greg G.

          The same could be said about cannibalism.

        • MNb

          “Someone who insists that there is no such thing as objective morality shouldn’t waste his time asking how things can be justified”

          because

          “If humans stop eating meat in the future because they think eating meat is evil, but in reality there is no objective good or evil, then I do not care what they think or do, and neither should anyone else.”

          How subjective. You’ve announced yourself as the ultimate source of your objective morality.

    • I insist that there is no objective morality, but I also insist that there is ordinary morality.

  • MNb

    Of course a moral person can be a carnivore. It’s just that the carnivore has morals different from vegetarians. And yes, those morals might very well be outdated within a couple of decades. Genocides are not as popular either as 2000 years ago.

  • Cygnus

    Have you ever felt sorry for those poor vegetables? Well then, join the ranks of the few and proud – be a carnivore.

    • Susan

      That’s silly. Raising animals requires greater vegetable consumption.

      If you really felt sorry for those poor vegetables, you wouldn’t raise livestock for slaughter.

      • Cygnus

        The question was intended as a joke. How can you feel sorry for vegetables? Surely, vegetables have life, but that life is not as important as human livestock.

        • Susan

          The question was intended as a joke.

          Sorry. It’s a joke I’ve heard too often. Like the “Where’s this global warming?” uttered by people on a cold January day in Toronto.

          You’re entitled to make a joke.

        • Cygnus

          Thank you.

      • Martha Arenas

        actually they are fed the leftovers of the crops raised for human, or the leftover of the milling processes of grains as they are turned into flours, granola etc…

        • Susan

          actually they are fed the leftovers of the crops raised for human

          That is at least partly true.

          Are you saying that all or most of livestock feed is composed of that?

          Please provide links. Links with citations would be even better.

          http://www.sustainabletable.org/260/animal-feed

        • epicurus

          On the farm I grew up on in Western Canada we bought grain to feed the cattle and pigs from my uncle who was a grain farmer. The grain he sold us was not second rate or left overs, it was grain that he couldn’t sell because there were quotas and grain farmers could only send so much to market, so any more got sold to cattle and pig farmers. We ground up the grain as chop to feed the pigs, but for the cattle we only fed the grain to the steers to fatten them up before shipping them (Bull meat isn’t good, so all male calves are castrated, same with pigs).
          But since most meat consumed today is from factory farms, maybe they buy specially made second rate grain? I don’t know.

        • Lots of crops are grown solely to be fed to animals.

        • In fact, the post above cites the statistics of the crops grown just for livestock.

  • WallofSleep

    I suppose a person, moral, immoral, or amoral, could try to be a carnivore, but I think they’d likely suffer from scurvy at some point. Or perhaps a fatal case of IBS.

    Carnivorous humans only exist in fiction. They’re called zombies.

  • Rudy R

    A moral person can be a carnivore. All animals eat other life forms. If it’s not immoral for a lion to eat a cow, than it would not be immoral for a human to eat a cow. Morality is not the issue of what what we eat, but is the issue in our behavior and actions towards what we eat. Lions only kill what is necessary for survival; humans do not. Lions do not confine other animals and inflict pain and suffering: humans do.
    Humans will need to change their eating habits, not because of morality, but because the Earth will not be able to sustain the meat-raising trajectory we are on now. Increased greenhouse gases and water shortage will eventually make the Earth inhabitable for human life if we don’t find an alternative meat harvesting method, like cultured meat.

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      I have read that plenty of animals do kill for non-food purposes even when an animal is part of their food source.

      • RichardSRussell

        True. In fact, that’s probably where the phrase “cat-and-mouse game” came from.

      • Gotta teach the kittens, you know?

    • A lion has no choice. Humans do and, with cultured meat, they would have an easy choice.

      • Rudy R

        Is it immoral for humans to eat meat when they live in a hunter/gatherer society? Is it immoral for humans who live a subsistence lifestyle? These two lifestyles usually treat animals with respect and kill when necessary, without malice. Morality should be framed in terms of how animals are treated. I contend that treating animals inhumanely is the equivalency of acting immorally.

        • I contend that treating animals inhumanely is the equivalency of acting immorally.

          But that’s the problem. What fraction of the meat that’s available to me in local stores had a natural life and a painless death? If that fraction is small, then doesn’t that make it hard for us to eat meat with a clear conscience?

          I eat meat … it’s just that my conscience isn’t that clear.

        • RichardSRussell

          In general, fish get to live relatively unmolested lives until they meet their relatively quick demise. (Not that I’d recommend gasping suffocation as a completely painless way to go, but I did say “relatively”.) Have you considered piscatorianism as a middle ground?

        • adam

          ” Have you considered piscatorianism as a middle ground?”

          You filthy pervert….

          There could be women and children reading your post.

        • Martha Arenas

          Don’t buy meat form the grocery stores, buy it form a butcher, raise your own, or hunt your own… If we merger to a closer source for our foods, then the industry will have to adjust to our demands, we have already done that with the high fructose corn syrup

  • Pofarmer

    Land use.
    Much of the land used directly for grazing livestock isn’t suitable for other crop production or would be extremely expensive to use as such.

    Greenhouse gases
    I dunno, how much do termites contribute? A bunch.

    Deforestation
    I think this is legit, but how much deforestation is for human habitation? Is it always 100% bad? Here’s another fer instance. Because of fencing for livestock, it’s estimated that there are many more trees in large parts of the U.S. than before settlement.

    Water Use
    This is a concern for crop production as well. We need a lot of water. Ethanol production is very water intensive.

    Beef vs pork and poultry.
    I doubt that most would want to argue that pork and poultry production is actually less objectionable than beef production. In fact, the close confinement that allows those use numbers are a frequent objection. And, once again, Beef animals, especially Cow/Calf are often run on ground that really isn’t suitable for direct food or crop production.

    • TheNuszAbides

      Greenhouse gases

      I dunno, how much do termites contribute? A bunch.

      is that hinting at an important argument?

      Deforestation

      I think this is legit, but how much deforestation is for human habitation?

      inspires me to find out more about synthetic ‘wood’. (decomp in particular)

      • Greg G.

        From what I have recently become aware of is that when plant material is broken down in low oxygen, like the gut of an insect or a large grazing animal, more methane is produced than if broken down by an oxygen-rich chemistry so they reduce the amount of CO2 produced by a rotting tree but increase the methane produced, which is said to be worse.

        But termites have been producing this for 150 million years to produce the climate our ancestors evolved for. It is the extra carbon dioxide humans put back into the atmosphere after it was sequestered that causes climate change.

  • Cygnus

    Bob, while I commend your idea that synthetic or in vitro meat (babies can also be made in vitro, you know), may appease those painful kicking in our ordinary morals, we forget that humans are still naturally evolving to be apex predator.

    Synthetic meat is just a way to assure ourselves that we are not at the top of food chain because we were morally bankrupt by eating meat we found naturally, but now we can act morally by growing meat in vitro, so we can sleep better at night 🙂

    I think that the problem with humanity doesn’t come from those people who want to keep carnivorous natural link, but from where we are now on evolutionary stage in reaching the top of food chain. We are at such evolutionary “high” that we still destroy everything in our path to the top of the pyramid yet *thinking* that we are able to reach the top of the pyramid using “moral” in vitro methods.

    In our “moral” way to make synthetic meat, we forget the collateral damage that is still done in nature. We need land to build our synthetic meat factories, we need to dig and destroy our natural environment for metals and pollute it with byproducts.. and so on and so forth. But at least we are appeasing our irked morals 🙂

    • RichardSRussell

      I remember a stage performance once in which the actor portraying a vampire smirked “So, you think that you humans are the top of the food chain, eh? How amusing!”

      • Cygnus

        No problem, humans are getting at the top of food chain by evolving into vampires, we already thought into evolving as zombies, see Jesus resurrection.

    • Argus

      Perhaps we could take the synthetic meat…attach them to robots and flying drones and let humans “hunt them” on meat ranges..to satisfy the neat to be a predator. Charge $19.95 for a hunting day pass at Uncle Syntho’s Meat Adventure Land and Paintball Emporium.

      • Cygnus

        Good idea!
        Synthetic meat is just meat made in vitro, like some babies. So, I guess taking the in vitro babies and giving it to abortionists to put on their table and say: “Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us to thy service, and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen”
        Ooops ! Abortionists don’t pray, they get straight in.

        • You can start babies in vitro, but you need a living incubator for most of the job.

        • Argus

          I can’t tell if you’re being facetious or not. If you are serious….umm bringing abortion to a discussion about meat is like bringing a banana to a gunfight.

        • Cygnus

          Actually I brought “in vitro” subject, a process, through synthetic meat and babies are produced. Then I was thinking that we may eat meat produced in vitro and abortionist babies made in witro. Read on about abortionists that eat babies. WND EXCLUSIVE ABORTIONIST ACCUSED OF EATING FETUSES – Kansas City clinic closed as grisly house of horrors.

          In the context of in vitro-synthetic meat, I thought that abortion as a way to feed abortionists can be stopped, because now abortionists can eat synthetic meat and stop eating “natural” babies.

          Yes, it’s a mix of The Onion humor and “got to make some people think”

  • busterggi

    Land use – too many people, not too many cows.

    Greenhouse gasses – used to be lots more grazing animals, probably % is actually down.

    Deforestation – so has deforestation for human use other than grazing been considered because there are no cattle w/i at least a ten mile radius of my house yest almost no forest due to human use.

    Water use – see above.

    BBQ sauce – the best reason for meat.

    • Greg G.

      The greenhouse gas argument doesn’t work for me because cow farts don’t count. Plants grow, die, and decay by bacterial action into the same compounds outside of a cow as inside. The CO2 is the same as what the plant absorbed during its growth cycle so it is carbon neutral.

      • I don’t think it works that way. CO2 goes into plants and is turned into carbohydrates. Then the cow eats the plants, and bacteria turn some of it into methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas. Yes, it’s carbon neutral, but not all carbon gases are equivalent.

        If the cow hadn’t been involved, yes, anaerobic bacteria could’ve also turned the carbon into methane, but there are other paths by which the carbon is just trapped in the soil.

        • Cygnus

          It’s science: “Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence. Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day (or about 26 gallons to about 53 gallons), while others say it’s up to 500 liters (about 132 gallons) a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.”

          But I’ve been looking in more depth about what is “synthetic meat”. While the beginning of the meat growth is in vitro, exactly how some babies are done, the meat is not grown as an organism but part of the organism i.e. muscles.

          The problem is still there, it is MEAT. As a vegetarian I still hate you (just kidding)

        • The problem is still there, it is MEAT.

          I don’t think so. The problems are (1) the environmental impact and the inefficiency in production and (2) the moral problem. Those problems are addressed.

        • Cygnus

          Do you think that building factories, producing myriads of tools, equipment and consuming energy to produce synthetic meat, has no impact on environment?

          “Moral problem?” Why is it created in the first place? I mean, the human race consumed meat for at least a couple of millions of years so it could evolve to what we are now, scratching our heads about newly fabricated “moral problem”. To those who fabricate a “moral problem” in eating meat, I’d say: “Get over it, focus on real moral problems. Eating meat ain’t one of them”

        • Do you think that building factories, producing myriads of tools, equipment and energy to produce synthetic meat, has no impact on environment?

          ?? Building any site will have an impact on the environment. That is the smaller problem compared to the ongoing environmental impact. That for synthetic meat appears to be much less than conventionally grown meat.

          the human race consumed meat for at least a couple of millions of years so it could evolve to what we are now, scratching our heads about “moral problem”.

          Primitive humans had no option. We sort of do now with vegetarian diets. We will have a trivially easy option in 10-20 years if synthetic meat meets its goals.

          To those who fabricate a “moral problem” in eating meat, I’d say: “Get over it, focus on real moral problems. Eating meat ain’t one of them”

          Talk to someone who is well educated about the supposed moral problem in the meat industry and have them recommend several sites for you to work at for a month or so—a slaughterhouse for beef, a place where chickens or pigs are kept in confined places, say. Come back and tell how there is no greater moral issue there than in a carrot patch.

        • Martha Arenas

          See, but the problem is that in order to get a balanced vagan diet, most people have to resort to foods grown VERY far away, that have very real counter impacts in the local communities that grow those foods so that we can eat them (see the. most known, problem with quinoa), not to mention the transportation costs, and all the fossil fuels used to do so, again agriculture if biocleansing, meaning the whole ecosystem is wiped when (where) we plant large scale crops.

        • Sounds like arguments in favor of synthetic meat–it’ll be locally made.

        • Greg G.

          I think I will invent the Home Meat Synthesizer. Just add tofu, magic beans, and water. A week later, you have a lean, boneless steak hamburger patty. Do you know how to reprogram an automatic bread maker?

        • Cygnus

          Building anything by humans has an impact on environment. Making it bigger or smaller impact is irrelevant when humanity has already made an irreparable dent in the natural environment (unless you call human destruction of their natural environment as a part of nature)

          Apparently “someone who is well educated about the supposed moral problem” by eating animals, don’t see the small “moral problems” of eating plants. I don’t have to be “well educated” to see there’s a difference between a squealing pig and sound of crunching a salad. Maybe we need to add another “moral problem” bullshit when eating plants, added to the “moral problem” bullshit of eating animals, and not separate “morals” by the tone of squealing.

          What if vegans eat plants because they hate plants, and not because they love animals? :000

        • No, I see no moral problem with eating plants.

          The point, which you ignored, is that synthetic meat will have a small environmental impact. Respond to it if you disagree.

        • Cygnus

          “No, I see no moral problem with eating plants.”
          ===
          Did I say otherwise?

          The point, which you ignored, is that synthetic meat will have the same or even bigger environmental impact. The factories that produces synthetic meat should have the capacity to produce meat as it is present in farms. Maybe the area occupied by factories will be a little bit smaller than the area of farms, but it doesn’t reduce considerably the environmental impact.

          The farms use a fraction of construction materials that’s used to make the synthetic meat factories, and factories equipment, material that is extracted form nature (mining, oil extraction, etc).

          The quantity of water and food is the same for both, farm and factories, to produce the same quantity of meat. But wile farms can use natural food, synthetic meat factories must use a lot of special processed chemicals, you don’t take some grass an throw it in vitro where are some cow embryos separated to make only T-bone.

          Farms use a reduced number of employees, a synthetic meat factory must have a large number of employees that should be very intelligent vegans appeasing their troubled morals, and trying to convince human “carnivores” that their synthetic meat is delicious.

          Do you still think that synthetic meat fabrication has less environmental impact? Do you think that all that trouble is necessary just because some “moral” vegan problems are illustrated by “someone who is well educated about the supposed moral problem in the meat industry”?

        • Did I say otherwise?

          You said, “Scientific researches has shown that plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world. The plats can suffer too.”

          The point, which you ignored, is that synthetic meat will have the same or even bigger environmental impact.

          I must confess that you have a powerful argument when you ignore everything I’ve said. But this was all addressed in the post.

        • Cygnus

          “”No, I see no moral problem with eating plants.”
          ===
          “Did I say otherwise?” Meaning that I don’t say that you see a problem with eating plants. I don’t any moral problem eating plants, too, but I tried to make a point that morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.

          I spoke my mind, I am sorry if you think that I ignored “everything” you’ve said. Maybe I still think that I am addressing some issues raised by you in the post, and I am trying to assure you that if there is “ignoring” is not willingly, maybe I have some skewed views.

          However, I totally appreciate your blog, you don’t ban people just for not rigidly sticking to “all addressed in the post” as some other blog keepers are doing.

          “Now I am expecting some inane questions like: “What blogs have you been banned from?”, as if it is not “obvious” that if I mention banning it means that I was banned, but anyway let them ask inane questions, they are free to. But before I give the answer they “obviously” expect, I like to know why am I asked that inane question.

        • Greg G.

          A person can be a vegetarian as a dietary choice, for moral issues due to the suffering caused by the production of meat, or both. Synthetic meat makes the second reason irrelevant.

        • Cygnus

          Scientific researches has shown that plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world. The plats can suffer too.

          I think it’s the time to fabricate another “moral problem” in eating plants, just to kick the moral asses of vegans 🙂

        • When you’re in a more serious mood, do you still maintain that eviscerating a pig is no more morally questionable than picking an ear of corn?

        • Cygnus

          Well, trying to pick between the levels of organisms complexity to construct stronger or weaker “moral problem”, doesn’t relieve my “moral problem” I got when I found out that plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world, and that he plants can suffer too, even if they don’t squeal when you cut them for consumption.

          When I said “The problem is still there, it is MEAT”, the problem was that natural meat as well as synthetic meat are supposed to look and taste the same. A vegan looking at me eating meat, doesn’t know the difference, but I won’t get out of the restaurants running after vegans trying to calm their “morals”, telling them that the pork meat I consume didn’t squeak.

          How many people who buy pork, hear the pig squealing? How many vegans read about plant reaction when they are cut? Of course it is easier to take pictures of abattoirs and ignore scientific researches on plant suffering, just to get over the “moral problem” of suffering because a plant suffering is not the same as noble pig squealing.

        • The problem is trying to justify your eating synthetic meat to vegans? And you’re worried about the moral consequences of eating carrots?

          When you want to deal with science and reality, let me know.

        • Greg G.

          The Jainism extremists are already there. They walk around naked, they sweep the walk in front of them so as not to step on a bug, and eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, and such only after being assured that it fell to the ground and was not picked.

        • Cygnus

          That’s OK, as long as they are not trying to push their “morals” in my face.

        • So… maybe we should find a way to collect and use that methane?

        • Cygnus

          It is already done, but vegans add it to animal cruelty. See below :Scientists have developed ‘fartpacks’ that extract 300 litres of methane.
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4d5af8c9799d56101c518b383a9ffd0890b194858f56c53e7d402213c237ee18.jpg

        • It’s a freakin’ backpack that collects methane — how is that “cruel”? (This is why we can’t have nice things…)

  • Aram

    I’m all for synthetic meat, but at least here in Germany there’s already many brilliant vegetarian ‘meat’ options on offer; made of soy, etc. So damn close to eating meat it’s uncanny. The main reason I’m for synthetic meat/vegetarian meat (not an oxymoron anymore) is because of the way we treat animals in the meat industry. Yes, all the other stuff is legit (deforestation, methane, etc), but at the end of the day you look into the eyes of a cow or a pig and how can you not feel like a bastard. Chickens on the other hand, delicious 😉 But still, their lives are also completely terrible. Anyone still believing Descartes’ idea that animals are just ‘robots’ might want to check their lack of empathy and/or sociopathic tendencies.

  • Kathleen

    The environmental impact and the health impact (at least of the factory farmed meat) is why we either buy the really expensive organic or get meat from the farmer’s market from local farms. My kids aren’t big meat eaters anyway but every once in awhile I want a steak. If synthetic meat came along, tasted the same, and had little of the health issues that come from having a very meat heavy diet (along with the problems with antibiotics, E. coli, etc.) than I’d be all for it. Perhaps my kids will laugh at how ‘old-fashioned’ we were and be horrified by eating animals.

  • Argus

    I am an omnivore. I enjoy meat. We have evolved as humans to efficiently process the fat and protein in meat. Of course, we also evolved some rather violent tendencies to fight that may have also had survival value. So, just because it is an evolved trait does not automatically make it moral.

    Here’s my take: Livestock can and do create some environmental issues. Fixing that will take long-term solutions. I do think that vat grown meat is the best solution long term to providing us with our meat fix and fixing the other issues.

    Having said that .. we are probably a few decades from that as a feasible solution. Until then, meat eating will remain in my moral framework with the caveat that I seek to obtain meat from the most humane methods as possible while also recognizing the pragmatism of my income.

    My justification:

    1. Livestock animals exist (ie cow, chicken, pig, etc.) in great numbers.

    2. If we set them free tomorrow and stopped giving them medical care etc (meat packers must protect their investment), then these suddenly free animals would quickly suffer much more horrible deaths than they currently due..given the slaughter process is normally quick.

    3. Since these animals are currently in a better situation vis a vis lifespan and ease of death than they would be in the wild, I find no moral reason not to eat them until we can produce synthetic meat. in short, better I eat them after they have been quickly slaughtered than be slowly killed by a wolf. I realize that my eating them creates a demand, but since I try to choose local, free range options, I am providing a living to my neighbors as well.

    4. So short term…..I eat livestock meat. Long term– I fully support the emergence of “non animal meat.”

    • Pofarmer

      This seems rather close to a “tragedy of the commons” argument. “Heh, everyone else is doing it!”

      • Argus

        I’m happy to live in such a hypocritical state for now.

  • Chris J

    If synthetic meat became widely available, cheap, and delicious, people would get used to it. Honestly, though, I think one of the reasons the things you mentioned (like land and water use) are such a problem is because some countries (like the US) consume waaayyyy more meat than necessary. Factory farming started because demand was so high, but the trade-off is treating living organisms like factory products.

    You don’t need to have meat for every meal, and a meal doesn’t have to be a 12 oz steak with a couple bulbs of broccoli on the side. You also don’t have to forgo meat forever to make a substantial impact on the meat-producing industry.

  • Highlander

    Billions of creatures exist solely because people like to eat them. I’m all for responsible, humane and sustainable animal agriculture, but to decide that no more of those animals should exist seems about as immoral as industrial meat production practices. Vertebrate meat (more insects!) consumption should be brought down to a more reasonable level in the west (~200 grams a week or less) to reduce the environmental and health impacts to a sustainable level, while also eliminating the inhumane conditions of industrial farming. Adding in cultured meat could be a way to supplement the natural production.

  • Sheila Warner

    I tried vegan & found it very difficult to pull off. I’d love to have cultured meat if it tasted the same & was affordable.

  • dagobarbz

    The moral issue should be about overpopulating the planet to where everything becomes a problem, like this one.

    • Martha Arenas

      Thank you!

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Considering all the fear mongering BS that surrounds GMO crops, I expect even worse to come from people against this idea. I have already read people talking about ‘frankenburgers’ and the evils of ‘unatural voilations of gods laws’ (whatever that mean). Not to mention all the $ the meat industry would spend to stop it. OTOH, it would certainly help in colonizing other worlds. So i would hope Elon Musk would get behind this (:

    • Consumers will fret about natural, and the Memphis Meats guy addressed that. The animals on farms are already, to some extent, Frankenstein monsters. They’ve been bred to better suit the industry (more meat for fewer dollars). Add the unnatural conditions they’re kept in, and the “unnatural” charge can already be made.

      • TheNuszAbides

        and once we’ve stamped out human artifice, we’ve got to put a stop to those abominable beavers and their diabolical engineering!

        • Greg G.

          Dam those beavers.

  • Martha Arenas

    First, using the term carnivore is flawed. Second, veganism would not save the planet. The most destructive thing that we have done to the planet is agriculture as it is bio-cleansing (ever heard of the dust bowl or the fertile crescent that is no more)

    Second, we adapted to a meat-including diet millions of years ago .During and after the ice age when there were few plants that we could have eaten – and the result. A large brain and a small gut, scientifically proven.

    Since the dawn of agriculture we have been shifting away from the food that we are best suited. Since 1980, and the advent of industrial food. we have made a dramatic shift away from fat and meat. And so have set up the epidemic that confronts us, type II diabetes, obesity, etc.

    Lastly, if one ones to be ethical, the best way to do it is by knowing exactly where your food comes from, getting it from small scale farms, and not wasting ANY of it.

    • I use carnivore here as synonymous with omnivore–someone who eats meat, though not exclusively. And i realize that humans evolved to be omnivores.

      Your comment about our diet since 1980 makes little sense. You’re saying that meat consumption in the US has decreased? That’s not what I’ve heard.
      http://www.brightergreen.org/files/meatconsumptiongraph.jpg

      I still don’t see any argument against synthetic meat in your comment.

      • Martha Arenas

        As individuals, we have been eating less meats and fats. However, the populations keep growing, therefore…

        As far as in-vitro meat. Cell culture is one of the most expensive and resource-intensive techniques in modern biology. Even beyond this mechanical engineering issue, when we consider the other raw materials, the nutrients that will feed and sustain these stem cells as they grow into meat can be called into question. In fact, of all the claims of lab-grown meat, the most far-fetched given current technology is that in-vitro meat will be cruelty-free, as they need fetal serum to make the process work, no to mention consume acceptance. Sometimes the answer is to simplify, and return to a natural balance in our lives. Go back to small, sustainable, and seasonable farming rather than try to create food in laboratories.

        • You’re ignoring the point. The chart show per capita meat consumption going up in the US.

          Your second paragraph is incomprehensible. If your point is that we won’t know until we’re there that it’s economically competitive, more efficient, and so on, you’re right. If you want to respond to the specific claims made, that would be helpful.

        • Martha Arenas

          My bad, I was referring to beef, since most of the arguments are talking about cows, etc… the consumption of poultry IS growing …

          Apparently to people found my second paragraph coherent enough to vote me up, however, here it is:

          Cell culture is one of the most expensive and resource-intensive techniques in modern biology. Keeping the cells warm, healthy, well-fed, and free of contamination takes incredible labor and energy, even when scaled to the 10,000-liter vats that biotech companies use. In addition, even in those sophisticated vats, the three-dimensional techniques that would be required to grow actual steaks with a mix of muscle and fat have not been invented yet, though not for lack of trying. (This technology would primarily benefit our ability to make artificial organ replacements.) Add on top of that the fact that these three-dimensional wads of meat would have to be exercised regularly with stretching machinery, essentially elaborate meat gyms, and you can begin to understand the incredible challenge of scaling in vitro meat. Not to mention the enormous amount if energy and resources needed that would harm the environment,

          In vitro meat proposals imagine a “donor herd” of cows that will give some cells to make meat without having to be slaughtered. But the donor cells aren’t the only animal product needed to grow in vitro hamburgers; the growth medium that provides nutrients, vitamins, and growth hormones to the cells is currently made with a mixture of sugars and amino acids supplemented with fetal bovine serum—literally the blood of unborn cows.

        • You are apparently saying (1) that there are unsolved problems and (2) the results may not meet the goals of these manufacturers. I agree. I’m not sure where to go from there except to state the obvious that if this is just a bust then I guess we won’t be eating synthetic meat.

          As for your cruelty concerns, I believe the assumption is that once a culture gets started, no more cells or animal-sourced nutrients will be necessary.

        • TheNuszAbides

          synth-meat would have something in common with sourdough?

      • Martha Arenas

        BTW… I didn’t see an argument on my point about agriculture being more destructive.

        • We seem to have more sustainable practices in agriculture today, but whatever. How is this relevant?

      • Martha Arenas

        “I use carnivore here as synonymous with omnivore” it is NOT

      • Martha Arenas

        Also I just noticed that your chart ends in 2009 (along with the downshifting beginning just there), in the past decade alone more and more are eating less meat, so much that 400 million less animals were killed last year 😉

    • TheNuszAbides

      First, using the term carnivore is flawed.

      well, if we’re going to get pedantic about common usages …

      A large brain and a small gut, scientifically proven.

      nothing is scientifically “proven” …

  • Ranasp

    As others have mentioned, it’s not “carnivore”, it’s “omnivore”. It’s an important distinction, since “carnivore” seems to be used as an artificial means of exaggerating the difference from a vegetarian from your average human’s diet. Omnivorous humans are the norm in the “wild”, and in fact eat a lot more than just fruits, veggies, and the red meat of your western culture raised human.(insects come to mind).

    As also mentioned by others, human population growth is the biggest cause of deforestation and the decimation of wild animal populations. Farms take up a hell of a lot of space, but at least they have buffers of hedges and trees most of the time. No, what’s wiping out all natural areas are urban landscapes, take a look at old maps of cities, urban sprawl has eaten up the countryside and will continue to do so as long as people keep breeding as if it has no consequence.

    As for the artificial meat, just how much energy goes into producing each pound of “meat”? Artificial temperatures, electricity, buildings to contain the apparatus, raw materials, people to monitor it, how many resources are being used to make “ethical” meat? Kind of reminds me of all the other health fads like palm oil, where forests are being clear cut to plant a monoculture of palm trees to satisfy the masses on their “ethical” oil source.

    Who knows, maybe it would work out to have artificial meat, but I’d rather support local farms that raise their animals right, hunt from wild herds, and just eat a bit less meat every day, and most importantly not breed another human that will suck up resources than encourage yet more buildings to be built.

    • Greg G.

      As others have mentioned, it’s not “carnivore”, it’s “omnivore”.

      A title is always better when Jimmy Buffett lyrics are used. It should be:

      Can a Moral Person Have Carnivorous Habits?

    • I’d rather support local farms that raise their animals right, hunt from wild herds, and just eat a bit less meat every day

      Sounds like a big step in the right direction, but wouldn’t synthetic meat be a bigger one?

      • Susan

        Sounds like a big step in the right direction

        It’s a huge step in the right direction. Seven billion humans and counting, most of whom discount non-humans as morally relevant.

        Wouldn’t synthetic meat be a bigger one?

        How many years until synthetic meat is available to a large percentage of humans? In the meantime, seven billion humans and counting.

        What moral choices make a difference in the meantime? Day after day? Hour after hour?

      • Ranasp

        Depends on what you think the “right” direction is. I have questions about just how efficient that synthetic meat actually is. It mentions how many calories it uses up to make a pound of the meat, but how much clean water does it take? How much space? How many chemicals are used to make a sterile environment? What temperature does the synthetic meat need to be kept at to keep it good?

        I doubt that for me all of that would ever be morally “better” than a cow that’s lived its entire life in comfort to get bopped on the head and processed before it dies of illness or, if it were in the wild, getting literally eaten alive by predators. There’s far worst things for an animal than to be tended and fed its entire life by humans, even if it means it won’t reach old age.

        • If the hopes for synthetic meat are never reached then, sure, it’ll be a bust. We’re talking about the hypothetical future–would that technology be an important step forward?

          The moral argument doesn’t focus on a cow that is pastured each day and then gets painlessly “bopped on the head” in the prime of life. We’re talking about millions of animals living in poor conditions that would never have been born (and would’ve suffered zero) if not for our meat demands. One source says 56 billion animals worldwide per year. Not all of them were housed in poor conditions, of course, but that’s a lot of animals. If there were no conventional meat industry, that 56B would go down to zero.

  • *shrug* Life feeds on Death, I see no problem whatsoever with eating meat per se.

    Now, the treatment of our food animals is a whole other matter. I want my meat to be *at least* treated humanely and with some dignity. Is that too much to ask?

    • I want my meat to be *at least* treated humanely and with some dignity. Is that too much to ask?

      Are all livestock treated humanely? If not, then it is indeed too much to ask.

      • That made no sense at all.

        • You say you want animals treated humanely. Are they? If not, then I guess the current system isn’t doing a good job.

        • Then we work to change the system.

        • And we’ve sidestepped the issue at hand. You have no opinion on synthetic meat?

        • Synthetic meat isn’t meat, Bob. It’s sludge.

        • You’re not playing along. The thought experiment is to imagine that synthetic meat is indistinguishable from the conventional kind.

        • It’ll never happen due to the texture of meat being directly related to use of that muscle group in the animal.

  • Explorer

    I read the title, and I read the post, but I must have missed where “moral” was defined, and then the reasoning behind the question of whether the meat part of an omnivorous diet being on the wrong side of that definition.

    I know that it might be obvious to some that the Inuits are immoral because they eat flesh, and even know about the killing of animals for food from an early age without being repulsed, but could someone spell it out unmistakably? Otherwise, it just seems like anyone of a firm belief without evidence, which is an interesting position in this kind of blog.

    I have had pretty long conversations with friends who were vegan and vegetarian, and most of the reasoning came down to them saying, “I know it’s true, and besides, I don’t want to kill something with a face, but I have no problem killing a carrot’s future because it doesn’t make any noise when I steam it.”

    That’s why I want to know what precise definition of “morality” is being used, and if the negatives being attributed to violations of that claimed morality are actually arising due to other factors (like huge populations) which don’t affect, say, the Inuit.

    —-

    Incidentally, integrated farms which incorporate animals and plants in a sustainable system have a better yield and more sustainable results, with less environmental impact, than a monoculture farm of, say, beef or soybeans.

    • I must have missed where “moral” was defined, and then the reasoning behind the question of whether the meat part of an omnivorous diet being on the wrong side of that definition.

      I thought it was rather obvious that many people think that killing things that have faces or that feel pain is a moral issue. If you’ve talked with vegetarians, then we could probably use their reasoning as an answer to this question. If that wasn’t your starting point, then I can see why you got left behind.

      I know that it might be obvious to some that the Inuits are immoral because they eat flesh

      I wouldn’t say so. In their traditional culture, they had no option.

      • Susan

        In their traditional culture, they had no option.

        I think it would be very hard to be a vegetarian in highly isolated communities in Northern Ontario. The same case could be made today.

        As with most moral issues, it’s about well-informed calibration of the choices you have. None of them are perfect.

        I can be a vegetarian easily. There are hindus and buddhists I know who have never eaten meat. Nor did their parents, nor their grandparents, etc.

        Humans don’t need it if they have other sources. If they don’t, it’s a different story.

        It’s a shitty planet. There are no perfect moral choices.

        The harder one tries to think about this stuff, the more absurd the claim that a perfectly moral being invented the rules becomes.

        In a culture where two-dollar chicken sandwiches and all-you-can-eat-ribs are standard, we need to question how we do everything. The moral consequences are real. Overpopulation, habitat destruction and factory farming are HUGE moral issues unless we assume that we are the only living beings who are worthy of empathy and compassion. Isolated northern communities have more limited survival and well-being choices.

        I’m glad you brought the whole subject up.

        It’s always been the elephant in the living room for me.

        • I’m glad you brought the whole subject up.

          It’s always been the elephant in the living room for me.

          I’m glad it was interesting. For me, this is the moral question that I don’t have an easy answer to. I’m not particularly happy about my moral situation, but I’m too lazy to do much about it (besides be more deliberate about my meat eating and dial it back). Synthetic meat would resolve the problem for me.

        • Susan

          besides be more deliberate about my meat eating and dial it back

          If everyone did that, it would make a HUGE difference.

          Synthetic meat would resolve the problem for me.

          It might make things better. In the mean time, it’s not a huge sacrifice to know where your meat comes from, to consume less of it and to invest your consumption in methods that are more humane.

          The first two go specifically to humans who have those choices (as does the third), and the third goes to humans who don’t have the first two choices but can at least improve the third.

        • TheNuszAbides

          It’s a shitty planet.

          ah, sweet optimism … got a better one in mind? 😉

        • Susan

          got a better one in mind?

          Yep.

          😉

        • TheNuszAbides

          that’s the spirit! (figuratively speaking, of course.)

      • Explorer

        In other words, your defense of the Inuits is that morality is relative, whether it be eathing animals or keeping other humans as property.

        I’m just pointing out that once one starts making claims about morality, those claims have conclusions and consequences cascading out, like requiring capital punishment for women who voluntarily have abortions.

        Also, if one is arguing that it is a moral violation to eat an omnivorous diet as humans have evolved to do, one also opens the door to claims of moral violation in the case of those pesky homosexuals. “Sure, there are species which have homosexual activity as part of the spectrum of natural behavior, but *they* aren’t conscious of the higher possibilities!”

        Given the role of culture in this, it seems like one of thosee cases where humans continue through their lives as they were raised in their formative years. If someone was raised knowing that humans eat animals, then they recognize that without horror, the same way humans who are raised being exposed to death in a commonplace way, instead of in hushed tones, have a healthier relationship with mortality without trying to shield themselves from it.

        As much as this current claim of morality might cover ground which is beloved to some as a group of closely held values, I’m not inclined to give it any more weight than th claims of religious moraity (and violations thereof) in the cases of reproductive rights and LGBT issues.

        That’s why I was looking for the clear shining line which distinguishes this from those other claims of morality.

        Yes, I do know people (vegetarians, vegans, Christians, social conservatives) who have given me a context for claims of morality. That context has shown me that people are driven by what their feelings (or their feelings as confirmed by their deity) state to be bad things. That’s why I was hoping for better in this discussion when I challenged a similar claim.

        It’s not that I’m not sympathetic. It’s that I hesitate to make claims based upon undefined morality, in the same way I try to point out that people are using slippery or indefinite meanings for words like “god.” That is what I’m hoping to point out, because there’s no way to point to that as a problem in theistic apologetics while embracing the practice ourselves.

        • In other words, your defense of the Inuits is that morality is relative, whether it be eathing animals or keeping other humans as property.

          Yes, morality is relative, but that’s not the point. There’s a simple rule: if it’s straightforward to live a cruelty-free life, then do so. It’s not straightforward for the Inuit. It would be for any society that had synthetic meat. We live in the middle area where it’s inconvenient though doable to do so in the West today.

          I’m just pointing out that once one starts making claims about morality, those claims have conclusions and consequences cascading out, like requiring capital punishment for women who voluntarily have abortions.

          I’ve written recently about the consequences of conservatives’ position on abortion that touches on that:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2016/04/pro-life-advocates-running-from-the-consequences-of-their-actions/

          Also, if one is arguing that it is a moral violation to eat an omnivorous diet as humans have evolved to do, one also opens the door to claims of moral violation in the case of those pesky homosexuals. “Sure, there are species which have homosexual activity as part of the spectrum of natural behavior, but *they* aren’t conscious of the higher possibilities!”

          I’m missing the parallel. Killing animals causes harm. Being homosexual doesn’t.

          If someone was raised knowing that humans eat animals, then they recognize that without horror, the same way humans who are raised being exposed to death in a commonplace way, instead of in hushed tones, have a healthier relationship with mortality without trying to shield themselves from it.

          But we’re not. We use funeral homes now instead of having a wake in the parlor. We buy our meat from the grocery store, not from the butcher shop (with vaguely animal-like parts hanging up), and we certainly don’t slaughter our animals ourselves. Death is very much at a distance.

          That’s why I was looking for the clear shining line which distinguishes this from those other claims of morality.

          Talk to someone who visited a slaughter house as a teenager and became a vegetarian on the spot. That’s not me, but I find that testimony compelling.

          It’s that I hesitate to make claims based upon undefined morality

          This is visceral morality. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree. This isn’t a moral issue made up of definitions; it’s one made of looking at a calf through the bars in a pen and feeling its pain.

        • Ignorant Amos

          As a part of training I’ve had to dispatch and butcher the meat I was eating and relied on for survival. It certainly gives one a different perspective than previously held when the meat I’d eaten had no face or heartbeat.

        • Explorer

          “It’s that I hesitate to make claims based upon undefined morality.”
          “This is visceral morality. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree. This isn’t a moral issue made up of definitions; it’s one made of looking at a calf through the bars in a pen and feeling its pain.”

          And some people don’t feel that pain. This definition of morality relies on someone’s subjective feelings over those of another person.

          I do know what you’re talking about, but I don’t think you want to recognize how that justification for using feelings as a basis for morality requires special pleading for it to be acceptable for just this issue, without it being just as applicable for other situations which have generated an “ick!” factor, including those who feel a visceral morality about LGBT individuals or abortion. Thy do have a strong idea what you’re talking about in that regard, and engage in the same “You obviously don’t understand” rhetoric.

          I’m also going to suggest that you are engaging in a form of ad hominem attack. You seem to be making the case that I don’t have sympathy for animals. I haven’t revealed my diet, since that has nothing to do with my disagreeing with staking out “moral” territory. Don’t make it about my personal choices or feelings.

          Ironically, if the conversation is about breeding living beings which will die for the convnience of humans, one quickly gets embroiled in a conversation of “out of sight, out of mind” I engage in when certain friends get into the topic of bee slavery, in that they reject honey as a consumable, but will accept thei bees’ labor and deaths in fertilizing the industrial crops without which veganism couldn’t exist in its current US form.

          I have nothing against people making their own choices, but when people make a claim of moral superiority and use it for judgment, I feel “icky,” whether those claims come from the religious or not.

        • And some people don’t feel that pain.

          Yes, apparently. I might’ve thought it more universal than it actually is.

          I don’t think you want to recognize how that justification for using feelings as a basis for morality requires special pleading for it to be acceptable for just this issue, without it being just as applicable for other situations which have generated an “ick!” factor, including those who feel a visceral morality about LGBT individuals or abortion.

          The issue is harm. Does it harm calves or chickens to be penned in confined spaces for their entire lives? I say yes, and you apparently say Meh. Then focus on the environmental problems. Perhaps you’ll agree with me then.

          To someone who finds gay sex icky, I respond that sex itself is icky. (Test this by sharing your sexual preferences with a stranger at a cocktail party.) But the point is: does icky sex cause harm?

          “You obviously don’t understand” rhetoric.

          But I do. Sex is icky.

          You seem to be making the case that I don’t have sympathy for animals.

          Didn’t you say that you don’t much care about the lives of livestock? Or were you talking about other people?

          when certain friends get into the topic of bee slavery

          And the harm is … ?

        • Explorer

          Speaking specifically about the harm to the hive members who die in service to human agriculture, you might want to look up stories on colony collapse disorder.

          I know that bees aren’t sexy as poster beings, and their deaths don’t create a visceral reaction and opposition, but how many bees die proportionally to beeves in service to human agriculture?

          And, of course, there are the other insects which are killed because they are competition, even in production of plant crops.

          —-

          Having worked with food issues over the years, I try to point out that often one should focus on issues which unite. It’s like having a family dinner, with the occasional uncomfortable silences around the table

          If one wants to talk about eliminating unnecessary suffering in the food supply, that’s one issue. Claiming morality regarding one creature eating or just killing another is quite another, especially if one then starts with claiming that killing one kind of being is bad and another is just peachy.

          The point is, food systems and food chains, both natural and artificial, work better if they follow the way things interlock in the natural world. If one wants to argue that it’s better to not have animals in the farm systems at all because of the deaths of creatures which could be cute to some, while being okay with the deaths of others, that’s drawing the line in an arbitrary place. “Well, bees don’t scream, so f— ’em!”

          Yes, bees in hives might have an easier time finding resources, so it’s justifiable that some of them die in service to humans through nerve agents.

          Just as pigs on farms might have an easier time finding resources, so it’s justifiable that some of them die in service to humans through usage of a bolt gun.

        • Speaking specifically about the harm to the hive members who die in service to human agriculture, you might want to look up stories on colony collapse disorder.

          I’m aware of the disorder. That’s like an epidemic that sweeps through a herd. There’s no cruelty going on as the rancher tries to keep the herd healthy.

          how many bees die proportionally to beeves in service to human agriculture?

          I don’t see the cruelty that is required to make a parallel.

          “Well, bees don’t scream, so f— ’em!”

          You’ve shown no parallel between bees kept in manmade hives and chickens kept in too-tight quarters.

        • Explorer

          Hmm.

          To be more explicit, those bees are being deliberately released in close proximity to nerve agents which are known to affect such bees. That affects and kills the healthy bees, which makes it a strange reach for you to invoke ranchers putting down ill cattle.

          I’d instead call it the price of doing business, which as long as no one really cares or thinks about it, like the Draize test into rabbits eyes for cosmetics, the businesses don’t either.

          You can continue to hold that those creatures have to die in a situation which is unnatural, as a necessary evil, in order to service our current food chain, but that requires special pleading as to why these creatures don’t deserve the same protections as the more charismatic fauna used as examples in the post.

        • More with the bees?

          The bees dying suits no one. Chickens kept in too-close quarters is by design. Unintentional vs. deliberate–see the difference?

          Your final paragraph seemed to be getting on to something interesting but I didn’t understand it. Please expand.

  • Greg G.

    Can a moral person be a marshmallowvore? They are fattened up only to be slaughtered into smaller bits. Some are impaled on sticks and roasted alive over a woodfire. Anybody want S’mores?

    • The legendary Marshmallow Farm!!

      I’ve heard that that’s where they came from, but I’d never seen a picture.

  • Greg G.

    If Meat-Eaters Acted Like Vegans

    https://youtu.be/z0O_VYcsIk8

  • TheNuszAbides

    Technology predictions often disappoint, but there is room for optimism.

    this was the tipping factor in my vote against I 522.

  • guerillasurgeon

    “Technology predictions often disappoint,”
    Actually one technology prediction that just about always comes true is that stuff usually gets cheaper.

  • guerillasurgeon

    One thing that annoys me about vegetarians is that when they come round to your place for dinner, you have to prepare special stuff for them. When you go around to their place the courtesy is not reciprocated.

    • Justin Johnson

      Unless you hold some moral objection to eating plants, that’s a profoundly enormous false equivalency.

      • guerillasurgeon

        I have a moral objection to eating plants alone. And/or taking supplemental pills of some sort.

        • Justin Johnson

          I understand that you may have an objection to those things. But how is it based in morality? One can certainly make a health argument against excluding meat from an overall diet, but one dinner? Much less on moral grounds?

        • guerillasurgeon

          I have a moral obligation to keep my body as healthy as possible. And to keep my kids as healthy as possible as well. But I’ve got no great objection to eating vegetarian occasionally. So why can’t vegetarians eat meat occasionally when they come round to my place? They don’t ever think about this. And they are just so precious about it.

  • Hey, Bob, check out a manga called BioMeat. And then read the sequel, where the Americans “improve” on the original BM. I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say things went Horribly Wrong.

    You probably won’t be so keen on “synthetic meat” after that…

  • I certainly hope so. Great article Bob – have always loved following you. Still super honoured that you followed me.

    Regardless of one’s theological views (I myself am a humanist), it should be recognised that animals feel pain as we do. I wrote on this topic from a critical biblical perspective a few weeks ago, arguing that Christians are morally obliged to strive towards vegetarianism. 🙂

    https://thebookofamos.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/better-is-a-dinner-of-vegetables-where-love-is/