lauantai 29. maaliskuuta 2014

Liberating the animals. Without the help of plants.

I'm starting to realize that I don't necessarily get along with other ambitious animal activists.

It's tragically funny. The great speciesist world around me has its irrational idiocies, and apparently, the little anti-speciesist world has its irrational idiocies, too. Makes you feel sort of special, y'know.

I came across this vegan blog on tumblr. I clicked on the FAQ, and I noticed the following question:
Anonymous: "why are you so shortsighted? you oppose to lab-grown meat because it requires some animal testing. so, basically, you just casually decided that the few hundred/thousand lives needed for the testing is far more valuable than the hundreds of billions of deaths that could be avoided in the future if lab meat would come to existence? if deaths cannot be avoided, I would sure as hell pick 100 needless deaths to avoid 100 billion other ones."
pukexskywalker's response: "lol no. i oppose lab grown meat because it’s fucking stupid.

eating lab grown meat to save lives is vegetarian-logic. if you actually cared for the lives obliterated by the industries of death you’d be vegan instead of arguing for a new industrialized, anthropocentric “alternative” to conventional, industrialized murder that doesn’t change or improve anything at all.

that’s welfarism at best, and as usual, leaves the root of the problem namely speciesism, the unjust otherisation and subjugation of nonhumans, completely untouched.

all of these deaths are needless. they can be avoided with an alternative thats been available to western world for years if not decades and doesn’t require testing of any kind, it’s called a vegan diet. i hear it’s great.

now, define “shortsighted” or go bother someone else with your half assed utilitarian insolence, like the actual author of that post you obviously got the mads from."

Personally, I see this ^ attitude as ultimately one of the most destructive things that could happen to the animal rights movement, so I sent this message:
Me: "There is absolutely no reason to be against lab-grown animal products. As far as I know, veganism is not about eating plants, but about boycotting violence towards animals. Here's a fact: the world is never going to go vegan (in the 'traditional' way). There are too many cultural, religion-like ideas linked to the act of eating meat. Even if that happened, it would take centuries and centuries, and I don't see any point waiting for so long if there's a much quicker alternative.
Most people already care about animals. When they see animals abused, most of them react strongly as fuck. Meat simply has too much cultural importance. The reason for speciesism is the fact that most people are economically involved in industries that abuse animals. -> In order to be able to keep using animals for food, people have to come up with psychological justifications. One of the most important effects of in vitro technology will be the psychological one:

When people will be able to keep eating animal products without eating ANIMALS, they’ll lose the psychological need to come up with bullshit to understate other animals’ cognition and their need for rights. -> It will be possible to be strongly for animal rights and keep eating meat (etc.) at the same time. -> The fight for animal rights will become 5000 times easier, in terms of everything.

In vitro technology is the only realistic way to create a world that doesn’t abuse animals. If that revolution is going to happen in the first place, this is the only way. Eventually, we’ll live in a world where people don’t even associate ‘meat’ and other (synthetic) animal products with animals. The idea of eating ‘murdered animals’ will be considered sick and weird. Virtually, people _will_ be vegan, without having to eat plant-based diets.

One of the things that made abolishing slavery possible was that people developed technology to replace slaves. Technological development makes moral development easier. The animals need us; it would be fucking crazy if activists opposed lab-grown animal products, as they could actually help to make animal rights reality before this century reaches its end. Instead of just letting the animal industry run its scare campaigns against in vitro products, we should be awake and seize the opportunity."
pukexskywalker: "yeah no, there are plenty of reasons to oppose in-vitro meat.
your whole 5 part message reeks of carnist logic and human entitlement.

lab meat is, by definition (and execution) not vegan. eating it will not make the fight for animal rights ANY easier (i would argue that this is the wrong fight anyway but that’s another story) because it challenges NONE of the layered mechanisms that enable animal oppression in the first place and, again, harms animals directly.

animals don’t need us.

what they need is emancipation, liberation. and your lab meat gimmick does jack shit to destroy the animal-human dichotomy, human privilege, anthropocentrism, carnism, speciesism or the othering of animals at all.

the people who care about animals and react “strongly as fuck” to animal abuse are already vegan. everybody else you put in that category is just easing their own conscience with deliberate cognitive dissonance by artificially separating their actions, and their consequences for others, from their perception of self, which is royally fucked up.

the umbrella terms “culture” and “tradition” can not be used to shield oppression, otherwise you could defend just about every atrocity “man” has ever committed.

the reason for speciesism, as well as every other form of oppression, is hierarchy. 

now, let me just take out the trash real quick:

"It will be possible to be strongly for animal rights and keep eating meat (etc.)" (finally, THE ULTIMATE VALIDATION of the non-vegan welfarist!!!)

“Virtually, people _will_ be vegan, without having to eat plant-based diets.” (yay, another way to label yourself as something you wish to be, without the commitment! from the brilliant minds that also brought you “ethical omnivorism”, “locavorism”, “pescetarianism”, “flexitarianism” and “part-time vegan” diets)

“When people will be able to keep eating animal products without eating ANIMALS(…)” (caught in a loop there buddy?)

“One of the things that made abolishing slavery possible was that people developed technology to replace slaves.” (there is ABSOLUTELY no way you aren’t white. also that “technology” you’re talking about was mostly just plain old animal exploitation.)

lab meat remains carnist window dressing. and that’s that.

all in all 2/10. you got me to respond.

i will now excercise part of my personal freedom by ignoring the implications of this absolutely outstanding amalgamation of ridiculous bullshit and resume being fully indifferent to your uneducated, vapid opinions and existence in general.



I'm not a true vegan and I don't genuinely believe in animal rights, because I see in vitro technology as a valuable opportunity. Apparently, I'm also kind of racist.

All I can say is: I stand behind everything I wrote. The arguments in the response don't invalidate anything I said. What's valid is the point that initially, in vitro technology will require some animal use. Initially, it won't be vegan. However, I don't see this as a significant problem because 1) "if deaths cannot be avoided, I would sure as hell pick 100 needless deaths to avoid 100 billion other ones", 2) eventually, we should be able to get to a point where in vitro technology will require virtually no animal use at all.

I'm having real trouble understanding the reasoning of the animal rights people who oppose lab-grown meat. It doesn't seem to serve animal liberation at all. The arguments seem abstract and dogmatic. It's like fighting for an ideology for the ideology's sake and forgetting the animals in the process.

If ideological perfection is leading to more animal suffering, then that ideological perfection is not serving the movement. The animals must come before the ideology. The animals don't give a shit about the ideology. They just want the pain to stop. Let's make it stop.

6 things that I'd like to point out:


"The people who care about animals and react 'strongly as fuck' to animal abuse are already vegan."
This is simply not true. Vegans are the ones reacting consistently, but it's just erroneous to say that other people don't care about animals. They do. Most do. Quite a lot. When a giraffe gets killed in a Danish zoo, or somebody kicks a dog in the face, or Chinese vendors sell live fish and turtles as keychains, people react very, very strongly. The fact that the behaviour of most people is morally inconsistent does not change the fact that the great majority of people have an instinctive tendency to care about animals and condemn animal cruelty when they see it take place.

Refusing to believe that most people care about animals is only harmful to the cause. If you start thinking that people won't care, you're throwing away an important tool for change.

So, what are the tools for change?


I think that all animal activism should be based on calculations of which action will be as effective as possible in terms of social change and eliminating suffering. It's not about being right; it's about the animals.

Therefore, the most powerful tool an animal activist can have is a realistic understanding of how the human psyche works. How it reacts and responds. How people change their minds. Because when people change their minds, things change for the animals.

Here's the second problem that I have with some activists. I believe that too often, one of the biggest obstacles to animal liberation are the animal activists themselves. You must have the psychological eye, and from a psychological perspective, people such as PETA and the radical side of the movement seem to be doing a lot of things wrong.

Activism shouldn't be autistic. By this I mean the types who attack instead of informing and encouraging. The people who talk about carnists as "rapists" and "murderers". (Or, alternatively: dance around naked with a sign that informatively announces that "Veganism is sexy!")

In these cases, I'd just like to say:

Seriously, what the hell is going through your head when you behave like this? Remember the animals? Do you think that coming across as an aggressive fanatic will change the way people behave? In reality, you may not be an aggressive fanatic, but if you seem like one, you are keeping the animal-abusing culture alive.

Factually, you may be right, but practically, you are generating negative images of veganism and activism. Therefore you are one of the reasons why we're not moving forward. Instead of showing the public why they should hate the animal industry, you are making the public hate you. You are one of the things keeping the animal industry in existence.

Always remember the psychological aspects. In terms of progress, they are the key.

So, back to the subject of in vitro meat.

A more or less relevant picture.


The main argument here seems to be that lab-grown meat is, well, fucking stupid. Of course it's fucking stupid. After all, it is ridiculous to start producing synthetic 'animal' products, when we could just simply and immediately stop eating animal products altogether.

But: like I said, this is probably not going to happen. We have to accept the way people function, and work within this reality.

If you don't live surrounded by a vegan community, and even if you do, it is pretty damn clear how culturally important meat is. Meat is everywhere. People project great meanings into it. Even if a seitan product tasted and looked exactly like meat, it would still lack the social/cultural meanings of meat. When you're eating meat, it is psychologically important to know that you are Eating Meat. It is irrational, but an important part of being psychologically effective is understanding and accepting the fact that humans are irrational and lazy animals but with a genuine urge to be good. This is the reality and we'll never be able to change it; let's work with what we've got.

People are eating animal products because it is considered healthy, manly, necessary, important and the social norm. For most people, vegetarianism, let alone veganism, is "impossible" for social reasons: when you refuse to eat animal products, you are considered more or less weird and "different" and often attacked, and therefore the percentage of plant-eaters among the general population remains low. It will probably remain low. Most people want to be like their friends, and this is not going to change any time soon.

Conducting a vegan revolution is significantly more difficult than conducting, say, an LGBT revolution, because unlike the LGBT revolution, the vegan revolution requires fundamental change in action, instead of just change in thought.

The current reality: the world is probably never going to stop eating meat. It's just not going to happen.

Okay; of course it could happen, but the cultural change would take centuries. For the animals, that would suck. At the moment, the developing world is quickly adopting the Western meat-loving culture, while here in the West, information about the ethical, environmental and health-related reasons to go veg*n has become widely available. Still, the percentage of veg*ns remains low as hell, maybe 5% at best, usually less. Now that we see that all this information isn't really increasing the number of plant-eaters, it starts to seem pretty clear that nothing is going to. Eating meat is culturally too important.

So please, let's accept this. People are not going to adopt plant-based diets. And this is okay. They don't have to. It's not something that's going to stop animal liberation from happening. Let's accept the reality and do what we can with it.

So: is there a second best solution? Any other way to liberate the animals?

In vitro technology.

A tomato.


As far as I know, the point of ethical veganism is not the Act of Eating Plants, but boycotting violence towards animals. The reason that ethical vegans eat plants instead of sausages is not the plants themselves, but the fact that in 2014, sausages inevitably mean violence towards animals.

In vitro meat and other potential in vitro products will not be animals. Eating in vitro 'animal' products will not mean that you're eating animals. Eventually, they won't have anything to do with animals any more than tomatoes do. If they become the norm, people won't even associate them with animals. To eat meat, you won't need to objectify animals. 'Meat' won't mean animals.

"Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose."

If this is the definition of veganism, then ideally, a lab-grown burger will be vegan; it won't require any violence, practical or ideological, towards any animal. It will be like a tomato.

This could be vegan.


What pukexskywalker's calling for is emancipation. Here's the thing: so am I. The difference is that I see in vitro technology as the thing that will actually make the emancipation possible.

"[In vitro meat] challenges NONE of the layered mechanisms that enable animal oppression in the first place."

Perhaps. Perhaps in vitro technology in itself isn't challenging layered mechanisms. But aren't these the fundamental mechanisms of speciesism:
Why are we oppressing animals?
Because we think that it's ok.

--> Why do we think that it's ok?
Because: "They're just animals", "Animals are stupid", "It's natural", "Plants feel pain too!", "What about lions?"
---> Why do we like to think that they're just animals, that animals are stupid, that abusing them is natural, that plants feel pain too, or that we should imitate the behaviour of lions?
Because we have the psychological need for justifications.

---> Why do we have the psychological need for justifications?
Because most of us are economically involved in industries that abuse animals.

So, at this point, to admit that animals are sentient individuals that need rights that in fact, they are cognitively and morally pretty much the same thing as human children would mean that we'd be forced to stop abusing and eating them. And we don't want to do that, simply because we don't want to give up animal products. So we won't admit that animals are sentient individuals that need rights.

To be able to abuse someone, you always have to belittle them.

These psychological justifications are mainly linked to the existence of the meat industry; however, they're not only making the meat industry possible, but also enabling all other forms of animal exploitation.

The combination of believing in animal rights and, at the same time, continuing to support industries that hurt them would be too difficult for the psyches of most non-psychopathic people. Unfortunately, instead of ditching our cherished habits, most of us choose the excuses. Because it's easier.

This is how speciesism is born. Speciesism is the excuses.

So, what if these 'animal products' didn't come from animals at all? What if buying and eating a sausage didn't require coming up with a psychological justification for animal exploitation? What if we could look at a factory farm and call it barbaric torture without trying to justify it in any way? What if most of us could condemn even the mere act of killing animals without having to give up anything in the process? What if the need for excuses disappeared?

Without the animal industry, there's no need for excuses. Without the excuses, there's no animal industry.

Normally liberation has to start happening ideologically before it can start happening in reality. Before women can have rights, people have to start thinking that they need rights. But in this case, liberation will start happening in reality before it can start happening ideologically. Practical liberation creates the space where ideological liberation can happen:

First, we won't 'need' to keep animals in nightmarish cages, farms and enclosures anymore.

So, no more need for this:

Or this:

Or this:

Isn't that fucking great in itself? Even without ideological liberation, simply getting rid of these nightmares would be one of the greatest things that's happened in the history of this planet.

Now, even better:

In a world where meat doesn't come from animals, eating meat won't mean eating animals; in a world where this is the norm, the idea of hurting and killing actual animals for food will begin to seem unnecessary, cruel and perverse. If we lose the need to justify these nightmares, we'll lose the need to belittle the moral value of other animals. If we lose the justifications for abuse, we'll lose the abuse. And this is the key to animal rights. The only realistic way to culturally destroy speciesism.

What is not going to happen: people realize that animal exploitation is wrong, and therefore stop eating animals.
What could very well happen: people stop eating animals, and therefore realize that animal exploitation is wrong.


In vitro technology is not ideal.

Yet, it seems to be the only real opportunity that our generation will get to turn things around. If we don't seize the only opportunity, we will lose, because, well, it is the only opportunity.

The fact is: the cultural change I've described here is not inevitable. It probably won't happen without the participation of people who believe in animal rights.

For now, this is a fact:
  • "Lab-grown meat has been and continues to be developed through animal testing and animal use: 'Although the number of animals affected would be greatly reduced, laboratory-grown meat would still require the use of animals. When scientists created the first laboratory-grown meat, they started with muscle cells from a live pig. However, cell cultures and tissue cultures typically do not live and reproduce forever. To mass-produce laboratory-grown meat on an ongoing basis, scientists would need a constant supply of live pigs, cows, chickens and other animals from which to take cells.'”
There are several other problems, too. For example:
  • So far, we've been talking about lab-grown steaks, nuggets and burgers and mentioned lab-grown fish meat. But as everybody knows, the industries producing flesh are virtually the same industries that produce egg and dairy products (etc.). So, in order for these industries to disappear, synthetic meat is not enough. We'll have to learn to create synthetic 'egg', 'dairy' and 'leather' products, and so on. I don't see why this wouldn't be possible. (These products don't necessarily have to be 'in vitro'; in these cases, healthy and convincing plant-based products might be good enough, as there's not as much cultural importance given to the act of eating dairy and eggs as there is to the act of eating meat.)
  • We have to create a culture where synthetic meat isn't psychologically associated with animals. If people continue thinking that they're eating animals when they're eating meat, they'll continue coming up with psychological justifications. --> The ideological basis of speciesism will remain. Therefore, eventually, we may have to stop referring to these products as "animal products". (This shouldn't be too difficult, in case people are already starting to find the idea of eating actual animals weird.)

  • The scare campaigns. The meat/dairy/fishing industries are naturally not going to like this sort of cultural change. Firstly because this is where their money comes from, and secondly because nobody wants to begin to be seen as the Villain on the wrong side of history. There will be huge industries trying to keep animals in cages and stop in vitro from happening. There'll be campaigns, lobbying and propaganda, and it may be powerful.

And this is why we need the activists to be there. The good guys need to open their mouths: there has to be voices talking about the ethical (as well as the ecological and humanitarian) side. We need to create a society that wants things to change for the animals. We have to create a society where people know how animals are treated in these industries; a society where there's political pressure to replace animal exploitation with in vitro technology.

With in vitro technology, there may be situations where 'slight' animal exploitation could be easier and more profitable than the more ethical option. Without us, the companies adopting the technology might take the easier road. Somebody needs to be there to make people call for total liberation.

If the animal rights movement refuses to participate in this change, and instead decides to irrationally sulk over the fact that people didn't adopt plant-based diets, we're throwing away what is possibly the most valuable chance for animal liberation, ever.

So, this is my plan. If you disagree with it, I'd like to see some damn good arguments. I'm open for useful criticism. We share the same dream, after all.

So far, I've heard thousands of people talk about liberation, but nobody has given me a concrete plan for how this liberation is actually going to be conducted. At the moment, the animal liberation movement is intelligent people moaning and theorizing, when in fact, what we need, what the animals need, is a solid, realistic, viable plan.

This is my plan.

What's yours?

4 kommenttia:

  1. How can I contact you? I am the Director of New Harvest, the non-profit organization advancing cultured meat. I loved your point of view (obviously). Let me know how I can get a hold of you. I can be reached at

    1. Hey! I'm really bad at using email (and communicating in general), but I guess I'll send you an email.

  2. I completely agree with your point of view! As a scientist, my logical brain fails to see any other opportunity available to end the huge suffering of animals. Yes I am vegan, but I also have a brain trained in the sciences, so there are animal activists who support your view!

    We just need to educate the rest a little bit more :)

    Excellent article! and your responses were really good!

    1. Thanks! It's extremely important to make the animal rights movement as a whole understand that in vitro technology is the only realistic chance we'll get.

      You and I have already understood that. So yeah, now we have to educate the rest.