Is Synthetarianism Compatible With Veganism?

Lab grown meat is nearly here.

BBC News article about lab-grown chicken meat being approved in Singapore.

To be fair, it has been "nearly" here for a long long long long long time.

But with the imminent arrival of lab-grown meat, it is time to investigate Synthetarianism. A diet of Synthetic food.

I haven't eaten meat for... oh... 20 years now. I live with a carnivore but, despite her amazing cooking, I've no real desire to eat animal flesh. I'm sure it tastes nice to you, but my (smug) morals just don't allow it.

But is it morally OK to eat synthetic meat? I don't mean the mycoprotein based sausages and burgers that are ubiquitous nowadays. I mean steaks grown from animal cells.

One of the perils of the modern individualistic world, is that we don't have many moral leaders telling us what is and isn't acceptable. There is no High Priest of Veganism. So we're left to our own devices to determine what's acceptable to us.

It seems obvious to me that Synthetarianism is compatible with Vegetarianism. Taking milk from a cow or an egg from a chicken seems equivalent to taking a cell culture from a creature. Yes, it's nicer if the chicken is free-range, and the cow lives on a pleasant farm. But the animal probably still gets slaughtered at some point. Vegetarians (like me) are hypocrites.

But is it vegan?

There was a schism in veganism about whether honey is vegan. You should read the history - but I think it comes down to whether you feel the bees are exploited by the humans. Personally, I don't. I think we're in a symbiotic relationship with them, which is complicated. And we should probably stop colony collapse. But I don't think I have a problem with taking their honey.

A non-sentient animal can't make a choice about whether to donate cells. But suppose we could clone a chicken breast from, say, a discarded feather? That doesn't seem like much of a problem. Does it?

Which, of course, brings me on to cannibalism.

Would you eat human flesh grown this way? Someone inevitably will, once the tech gets cheap enough. Tweenage girls will clamour for a spare rib of their latest celebrity crush. Then the fad will go mainstream, as it always does. Curse you tweenage girls!

If it's consensual, where's the harm?

I suppose because it is hard to know whether it is truly consensual. Selling your body is often seen as problematic. It's also hard to determine provenance. Someone could be selling "Premium Blackpink Mince" when really it's offcuts of Nickelback. Poor old Nickelback, forced to sell their cloned flesh in order to pay back a dodgy record contract which has left them impoverished.

What if someone picks up one of your discarded snotty handkerchiefs, clones your body, and then eats "your" flesh? That doesn't sound consensual at all. So why should it be any different if it is an animal who is being cloned from discards?

You can't ever really know the reason whether someone else has freely entered into a contract.

Therefore, the only way Synthetarianism is compatible with Veganism, is via Autocannibalism.

4 thoughts on “Is Synthetarianism Compatible With Veganism?

  1. Tis a good question. Amongst my vegan friends, there would be disagreement. Some do it for ethical/moral reason's I think they'd go for it, the ones that have and unresolved issue with meat, probably not. This omnivore, can't wait for all the new food possibilities to come. #2021

  2. i feel like it's compatible with veganism, but only because veganism itself relies on a materialist paradigm. if, eg, your priority is symbiotic relationships with plants and animals, then resources sunk into lab-grown meat are better used elsewhere. (sincerely, an ostrovegan)

  3. says:

    A delicious blogpost. Amazingly I'd not considered this before. If eating synthetic chicken flesh is morally different to eating a formerly-living chicken's flesh,... then eating synthetic human flesh is morally different to cannibalism. Does that make it morally okay?

  4. Re lab grown: a few years ago I accidentally took a bite out of a pizza with chicken on it (darkly lit meetup). I immediately tasted the metallic flavour. It was repulsive. I think it'll take me a lot to get over that and eat lab grown now.

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