Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Is Vat-Grown 'Meat' Vegetarian?

We're not there yet, but I keep hearing that within a decade or so, the food conglomerates will be selling lab-grown “meat” that feels, smells, and tastes like “real” meat, but does not involve the slaughter of living animals.

So let me ask: is “meat” raised under such conditions “vegetarian”?

Semantics, semantics. How do you define “vegetarian”? The traditional diet of the Masai consists largely of dairy products and blood drawn from living cattle. For years I've argued that, technically, such a diet is indeed vegetarian. After all, no animals were killed to produce it.

For me, vat-grown “meat” raises serious ethical and religious issues. As a pagan, I feel that it behooves us to eat in as sacred a way as possible. At the heart of sanctity lies relationship. If you raise a steer to slaughter it for food, there's at least some kind of personal relationship there.

(That's why I feel that it's every practicing omnivore's obligation to participate—at least from time to time—in the killing and butchering of the animals that they eat. That's why I'm that paradoxical pagan animal, the pro-sacrifice vegetarian.)

Can you have a personal relationship with food grown in a vat?

In this sense, I would have to say—counter-intuitively, perhaps—that meat from an animal that is hunted, or raised and slaughtered, in a sacred way, is ethically preferable to “meat” raised in a lab.

So says the life-long vegetarian.

To my way of thinking, whether or not frankenmeat is vegetarian comes down to what it's made from. If the components that it's grown from involve killing animals, it isn't. If they don't, then this is indeed meat that could ethically be eaten by vegetarians.

But if such “meat” ever does become commercially available, my reaction will probably be the same as it would to drinking a bowl of blood drawn from a living cow.

Yes, it's vegetarian, but...thanks, I think I'll give this one a pass.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza Sunday, 16 December 2018

    Yeah, as another longtime vegetarian, I'm with you on this one.
    The lab grown meat thing is a response to folks who know that a meat-based diet is too big of an ecological problem and know to eat veggie is a solution -- but deep down they really don't want to give up meat. The funny thing is that it's really expensive to create the labmeat, and certainly wont be satisfy the demand for meat as it stands now.

    I skip meat because it literally makes me.sick, so.i think I'd skip the labmeat too - it may have the same effect.

    I guess it's more on the meatatarians to decide if this is ethical, and why, as opposed to ranching or hunting. Cultural considerations may be at play here, too... attempts to get Westerners to consider eating bugs, which are delicacies in other cultures, have failed miserably. Maybe the lab feels "safer"..

    ..or helps.assuage people's feelings of guilt or disgust at knowing something has to die in order for them to live. Funny..our religion honors that mystery. Others try to ignore it. Something to consider...

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Sunday, 16 December 2018

    I try to say "Goddess, God and Great Spirit thank you and blessings on all the plants and animals that gave their lives to make this meal" before eating. It's a habit I developed from reading the Change series. I think I'll pass on lab meat.

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