Lab Flesh And Anti-Speciesism – guest blog by Dan Kelly

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The following post about why “lab flesh” is non-Vegan was post by Dan Kelly on his Facebook timeline. It’s one of the best posts on this subject that I’ve seen:

“ ‘Clean meat’ is a speciesist term meaning flesh made from animal cells, blood products taken from fetal calves, hormones, antibiotics and additives to keep the cells growing. I’ll call it “lab flesh,” but it can be called biotech flesh, bioengineered flesh, clean flesh or any other indication that it’s not directly from a slaughtered innocent.

As most of you likely know, lab flesh is being developed for benefits related to the environment, health, and animal welfare. Industrial animal agriculture 1) is the worst polluter on the planet, especially when you combine air and water pollution; 2) damages ecosystems; 3) is a leading cause of deforestation; 4) generates salmonella, listeria, E. coli and other contamination of flesh and downstream vegetables, causing severe illness and death to humans; 5) is a major cause of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, and 6) is a life of torture, terror and hell to 65 billion innocent land animals and hundreds of billions of water animals, annually. If there were an Ig Nobel Prize for Stupidity, animal agriculture and its customers and supporters should win it annually. The developers of lab flesh seek to significantly reduce the six problems, even if they can’t eliminate them.

Antispeciesist vegans oppose lab flesh for the same reason most people would oppose creating human flesh for consumption (aside from cannibal diseases): flesh isn’t food. Lab flesh is a speciesist “solution” to the six problems.

Antispeciesist vegans are well-aware that there’s no stopping lab flesh from coming to market in the next 10 to 20 years, except possibly for difficulties in mass production. It will be one choice of many kinds of flesh available on the market, from traditional flesh from slaughtered or “hunted” innocents to lab flesh from various species: cows, chickens, pigs, dogs and others. It will amount to more speciesist choices of thousands of speciesist choices in a global, capitalist system. There are plenty of bioengineers and others who would love to get wealthy on the idea, and several billionaires and the giant corporations of animal agriculture are eager to invest in it, so it needs no encouragement from speciesist vegans. (Yes, some behavioral vegans can be quite speciesist in attitudes and beliefs.) Lab flesh will happen.

Lab flesh won’t put a dent in speciesism, though. People will still stalk and kill millions of free roaming innocents annually; still hook and net billions of water animals annually; still breed, confine and slaughter tens of billions of innocents annually; still go to zoos and rodeos; still wear skin and fur coats; still experiment on millions of dogs, mice and other innocents annually; still own and torture “pets”; and still bash vegan and antispeciesist advocates. Lab flesh will, at best, keep traditional animal agriculture at its present levels, instead of doubling over the next 30 years, and that’s if people actually choose it over traditional flesh. There will be marketing pushback against lab flesh, and it’s likely that many nonvegans won’t choose lab flesh over traditional flesh.

Lab flesh is what speciesists do, even if those speciesist are behavioral vegans and otherwise avoid using or consuming animal products. Being vegan and doing vegan and antispeciesist advocacy is what antispeciesist, abolitionist vegan advocates do. They are two different paradigms.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the best known books in the philosophy of science. In the book, Thomas Kuhn popularized the phrase “paradigm shift” and explained that there is usually a lot of resistance to new scientific paradigms, and it often takes older generations of scientists dying off before new scientific paradigms are accepted, no matter how powerful the new paradigms are or how much evidence supports them.

Although there are significant differences between scientific paradigms and moral paradigms, including differences in the reasons for resisting new paradigms, resistance to new paradigms that are eventually accepted is at least as common for moral, social and cultural paradigm shifts as it is for scientific ones.

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The strong similarity between scientific and moral paradigm shifts is that proponents of each paradigm generally talk past each other when arguing for their paradigm, sticking to the logic internal to the paradigm they’re defending, logic which makes little or no sense outside of their paradigm. It’s like looking at the duck and rabbit photo and defending one without seeing the other. This doesn’t imply the paradigms are equally sound, or even close. Unlike the duck and rabbit photo in which both views are equally sound, in scientific and moral paradigms, one paradigm is usually far better at describing reality (in science) or far more coherent with generally accepted underlying values, such as objectivity and fairness (in morality).

As superior as a new paradigm may be, the new paradigm requires strong advocates if it is to ever replace the old paradigm. Without strong advocacy from start to finish, the old paradigm, with its own internal logic, will stay in place indefinitely.

Lab flesh is a small modification of the old, broken paradigm (speciesism and welfarism) that is incommensurate with the new paradigm (antispeciesism and abolitionism). The old paradigm relied on previous generations’ ignorance of modern nutrition science and other technological advancements. Modern nutrition science and other non-food advancements in technology have made the old paradigm obsolete. We have no need to use nonhuman beings. We must reject speciesism, reject lab flesh, be vegan for life, and strongly advocate that others do the same. You can’t expect new paradigm thinkers to accept old paradigm nonsense.

Antispeciesists are in this for the long haul over decades. We know we’re on the right side of history. We know lab flesh will come and go, eventually replaced by vegan meats as society’s moral paradigm gradually changes.”

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please live Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, cis-sexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

On Morality: Are Human Animals Superior To Nonhuman Animals?

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The most fundamental problem in AR debates right now is the fact that we are not continuously addressing the myth that humans are morally superior to nonhumans. This idea needs to be eradicated before any truly revolutionary thinking about Animal Rights can begin on the part of morally confused and inconsistent humans. This idea is so ingrained in our societal mindset that it’s completely invisible to almost everyone, and it’s the underlying structure for all irrational, harmful moral double-standards regarding human-nonhuman interaction. There is no speciesism without Human Supremacy.

The single most foundational -and at the same time the most overlooked- error in logic whenever anyone tries to justify human animals exploiting nonhuman animals is the irrational idea that human animals, in general, are morally superior to nonhuman animals. This idea can be easily disproved, and yet most people do not even question it. It is assumed to be indisputable when it isn’t even based on objective fact (contrary to what some would have us believe).

Unless we can explain how human animals are morally superior to nonhuman animals, whenever we try to justify humans exploiting nonhumans in the ways that we do, we can’t rule out arguments that would otherwise justify humans exploiting other humans in the exact same ways and for the exact same reasons (our mere pleasure or convenience).

All other forms of moral supremacy -from ethnic, to religious, to gender-based, etc.- stem from this one basic idea: that it’s acceptable to refuse the same moral consideration to another being that we accord ourselves, merely because of morally irrelevant criteria like the color of their skin, which genitalia they have, or their species membership.

The belief that humans are morally superior to nonhumans is not based on instinct. If it was, then why would anyone even question it, and therefore, why would you even be reading this? And yet, it’s the reason why we believe it’s just fine to torture a nonhuman -who is fully capable of desiring to not suffer or die as much as a human- in ways that we wouldn’t torture the worst human criminals.

The myth of human moral supremacy is almost never even examined. But when it is, it’s obvious: just like the arguments we use to try to justify racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, or any other irrational form of oppression, it’s based on nothing more than arbitrary personal opinion (and biased, self-serving opinion at that).

The idea that humans are superior to nonhumans is based on the misconception that all humans have some characteristic or set of characteristics that all nonhumans lack. These criteria are commonly believed to include: “intelligence;” “mind;” “consciousness;” abstract thought; the capability of understanding and following moral codes; creativity; the ability to invent tools, technology, or art; some sort of physical ability or physical adaptation; proliferation; a “soul” or some other form of divine endowment; the capability of surviving in conditions or environments that others can’t; or some other unspecified faculty.

All of these criteria are obviously as arbitrary and as subject to bias as gender, ethnic membership, or religious belief when it comes to moral superiority since we can prove neither that they are possessed by all humans, nor that they are lacked by all nonhumans. Not only that, but whichever faculty is being proclaimed as superior is always one which is possessed by the person arguing on behalf of Human Supremacy.

When most humans talk about how much moral value that they think a nonhuman animal has relative to a human animal, what they talk about is essentially how much value the nonhuman animal has to the human who is making the claim. In other words, Johnny talks about how much moral value Bessie the cow has only due to Bessie’s utility to Johnny. But if we went by that valuation, then any human could claim the same about other humans as well, which would justify every harmful action from human slavery to rape to murder. Every being who can feel pain has moral value not because of their utility value to someone else, but because their life and freedom from suffering has value to the being whose life it is.

Johnny’s life and freedom from suffering has value to Johnny, but Bessie’s life and freedom from suffering have a value -to Bessie- that is not less of a value to Bessie than Johnny’s is to Johnny, which means that the value of Johnny’s life is not higher than the value of Bessie’s. That is the only way to calculate moral value that doesn’t allow for excuses for massive human rights violations and suffering as well as the same for nonhumans. Seen from that perspective, all arguments that try to claim that one sentient being’s life and freedoms have a higher moral value than any other sentient being’s life and freedoms based on species-membership are obviously self-serving, weak and irrational.

Although human animals created a human concept of morality, many humans commonly break the moral codes imposed by our society. This is why we have human slavery, sexual violation, torture, murder, and all the other atrocities that ethical humans abhor. Nonhuman animals, who cannot be proven to understand the concept of human moral codes, almost always follow our moral codes better than we do. They do not enslave us, create concentration camps, weapons of mass destruction, torture chambers, or pollute or otherwise destroy our habitats. Nor do they wage war on humans, or any of the other atrocities that humans are guilty of. They merely wish to be left alone to live and die on their own terms. To claim that they should have to follow our moral codes to benefit from them would be like claiming that we should punish a severely intellectually underdeveloped human for failing to pass the S.A.T.s.

Human animals created individual moral codes for ourselves because most of us believe that enslaving, sexually violating, torturing and unnecessarily killing other humans is wrong. Most adult human animals are moral agents, while nonhuman animals, infant humans, and severely intellectually underdeveloped humans (among others) are moral patients.

In order to be a moral agent, one must be capable of abstract thought in order to have a specific minimum understanding of the meaning of morality. That is to say, moral agents can understand the concept of morality and can, therefore, make moral decisions; meaning that they can make decisions that affect the interests of both moral agents and moral patients. Furthermore, moral agents have moral responsibilities to both other moral agents and moral patients. This means that they are capable of being assigned blame if they intentionally make a moral choice that they know will cause a being who is capable of feeling pain and other sensations to suffer unnecessarily.

A moral agent must be capable of giving informed consent, which means that an explicit meeting of the minds takes place -via spoken or written human language, and no less- where both parties are capable of abstract thought, understand what the nature of the social contract is, and what the general future ramifications of the agreement are.

Moral patients, on the other hand, cannot understand the human concept of morality and are thus incapable of giving informed consent. Moral patients cannot make moral decisions that affect either moral agents nor moral patients. They do not have moral responsibilities; however, in order for there to be moral consistency, moral patients must benefit from our individual moral codes without being able to have moral responsibilities themselves. Moral patients, therefore, cannot be morally blamed for their actions.

This is why, for instance, it’s morally wrong for an adult human to murder a severely intellectually underdeveloped human, and also why it’s wrong for an adult human to have sex with a human child. Because those entities, being moral patients, cannot give consent to being killed nor to sexual activity. This is also why morally conscious people believe that human animals having sex with nonhuman animals -who also cannot give consent to be used for sexual activity- is also wrong. We don’t hold nonhuman animals morally culpable to this code simply because we understand that -like severely intellectually underdeveloped humans and human children- nonhumans are incapable of understanding and abiding by human moral codes (or at least, any truly rational human understands that they are not capable of this) plus the fact that -regarding their interactions with us- they almost always, by default, follow our moral codes better than we do regarding our interactions with other humans (and even more so regarding our interactions with nonhumans).

On the other side of the coin, humans enslave, sexually violate, torture or unnecessarily slaughter nonhumans by the hundreds of billions each year, merely because we enjoy the taste of their dead bodies and secretions and the conveniences that it affords us. And we also are intentionally destroying every wild habitat that we can. We regularly treat nonhumans worse than we would treat the worst human criminals. So who is morally superior to whom again?

The idea that we should be able to do these things because say, a lion eats a zebra is ridiculous in the extreme. A male lion often will kill a rival male and their offspring before copulating -in public no less- with the mother. If a mother lioness gives birth to a severely ill or deformed baby, she will usually cannibalize them. When applied to human contexts, do we think these are morally justifiable ways to behave?

This is where the Human Supremacist says “Either we are morally superior to animals, in which case exploiting them is fine, or we aren’t morally superior to them, in which case we can kill them merely because we want to consume them, just like any other animal does.”

However, this completely fails to recognize that claiming one is “morally superior” means that one adheres to a code of fairness and justice more than the other does, not that one can merely understand human concepts of morality. If a human can understand the concept of the injustice of slavery, sexual violation, torture or unnecessary killing of others -but does not refuse to engage in such behaviors- where is the moral superiority in that?

As I mentioned, we very rarely hold completely to our optimal code of conduct. We claim as a society to believe in The Golden Rule, but we routinely inflict massive unnecessary suffering and death on innocent beings merely for our pleasure, amusement, or convenience. We enslave, sexually violate, torture and unnecessarily slaughter upwards of 1,000,000,000,000 nonhuman animals each year merely so we can unnecessarily consume their flesh and secretions and use their body parts for clothing (among other things), which not only causes massive suffering for them, but massive amounts of chronic disease for us and massive ecological devastation as well.

We should realize that if we don’t follow a 100% egalitarian system of justice regarding every innocent animal, human or nonhuman, then the same arguments we use to attempt to justify inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on them: “that animal isn’t as smart as I am;” “they don’t have souls;” “it’s how I make a living;” “meat/fish/dairy/eggs/honey tastes good” etc., can also be used by other humans to justify inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on us: “that person isn’t as smart as I am;” “I’m one of the chosen people and that person isn’t;” “I wanted their property;” “rape feels good” etc.

There is no way to morally justify the intentional, unnecessary exploitation of nonhumans by humans without also morally justifying the intentional, unnecessary exploitation of humans by other humans. This means that if we are personally in favor of violating nonhumans’ right to be completely safe from being forced into existence against their will, enslaved, slaughtered -or in any way used merely as replaceable resources for unnecessary human interests- then we have no rationally consistent claim that we ourselves should be safe from having those same things done to us by other humans. Any argument we try to use to justify harming nonhumans can also be used successfully by other humans to justify harming us in those same ways. This also means that until we as a species evolve past our irrational belief that intentionally exploiting nonhumans merely for our trivial interests is morally justifiable, we will continue to endure racism, sexism, cissexism, homophobia, ableism, tyranny, mass murder, and all the other human systemic rights atrocities we commonly abhor.

Furthermore, claiming that because we can’t be perfect -and not cause harm to any living being whatsoever- is a valid reason to intentionally cause easily avoidable harms to the nonhumans we exploit for our pleasure or convenience is like saying that just because we know that some humans will die in traffic accidents it justifies us murdering them by intentionally running them over with our cars. The fact that we can’t prevent all homicides does not justify us intentionally committing mass-murder, just as the fact that we can’t survive without unintentionally killing a lesser number of animals or plants does not justify intentionally breeding nonhuman animals and feeding them a much larger number of plants, merely to slaughter and consume them or their secretions, when we can thrive perfectly well on a plants-only diet. Nor does it justify exploiting nonhumans for clothing, research, or entertainment. The only reasonable, morally justifiable thing would be to work to decrease the number of all living beings we harm in all cases, not to try to justify intentionally harming them in some cases while claiming to decrease harm in others.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

Is Veganism A Diet Or A Health Plan?

On Veganism as a diet/using the health aspects of a plant-based diet to educate people about Veganism:

Veganism is a moral stance against human animals intentionally using nonhuman animals for our interests, not a diet. although there are powerful health-related and environmental incidental benefits to consuming a plants-only diet, that is exactly what they are: incidental benefits. Not the basis for Veganism. I don’t agree with telling people that Veganism is a diet or a health plan, because it not only confuses people as to the truth about what Veganism actually is, but it shoves the nonhuman victims of our exploitative actions once again to the back or the line in regards to who we have moral consideration for.

I don’t agree with trying to use human health or the environment as the driving forced behind decreasing the exploitation of animals by arguing that Veganism is based on anthropocentric concerns. I do agree with using the moral aspect of Veganism as the driver behind decreasing animal exploitation. I don’t agree with volunteering information about a plants-only diet to pre-Vegans when discussing Veganism. I do agree with telling people about the health aspects of Veganism if they bring that subject up and we explicitly tie that into the conversation about the moral aspects of Veganism. I don’t agree with telling them that a plants-only diet is more healthy than a non-Vegan diet unless they make the opposite claim. I do agree with telling them that there is nothing at all unhealthy about a plants-only diet and showing them that the scientific evidence is unanimous on this. Basically I am in favor of waiting until any claim is made by the pre-Vegan about diets to then reservedly discuss the evidence for plants and health.

When we educate on Veganism and Animal Rights we have an obligation to be precise and clear with our advocacy. We need to make the distinction whenever and wherever it’s needed that Veganism is about animal rights, health is about health, and environmentalism is about the environment, but when we educate on any aspect of diet or the environment we can also tie it to whatever aspect of animal rights it relates to, without muddying the waters of educating about Veganism, by giving an explicit explanation of the issue in question which makes all the relevant distinctions.

I don’t agree with engaging in SICs (Single Issue Campaigns) but using the idea that people can start by eliminating animal substances from their diet as a way to transition to Veganism is not an SIC. 99.99% or more of animal exploitation is for “food.” Once you learn why it’s morally wrong to consume an animal’s flesh and secretions in your diet, you begin to understand why you can’t then keep exploiting them in all the other ways that we do.

I don’t agree with Vegans telling pre-Vegans that they should go vegetarian, engage in “Meatless Mondays”, baby steps or any other half-measures. I don’t agree with praising people for promoting those things. I do agree with praising people for reducing the amount of animal substances in their diet and other decreases in consumption, but I also believe we should never fail to take the opportunity to gently explain to them why a mere decrease in consumption is not the end goal, and thus why they need to go all the way immediately.

For some more clear thinking on this issue please read Professor Gary Francione’s essay here:

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/veganism-morality-health-and-the-environment

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.