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.