Julian Baggini in Aeon:
The idea that IVM might have a part to play in a cleaner, fairer food system runs counter to a central idea put forward by many critics of industrial agriculture: that farming needs to be based more on traditional, natural, biological and ecological systems not artificial mono-cultures. Surely in vitro meat would be the most artificial mono-culture of them all.
Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University presents his 'cultured beef' burger. Photo by David Parry/PA
The belief that we have to choose between a food system that is over-dependent on technology and one that is more in harmony with nature rests on the assumption that there is a neat moral and conceptual contrast between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, and that this lines up neatly with the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. If IVM is the greenest, most animal-friendly meat, yet it is even more artificial than a pitiful, intensively reared broiler chicken, then no one can maintain the fantasy that bucolic nature has a monopoly on good, ethical food.
For those who have campaigned for a more ethical and sustainable food system, IVM is a good test of where their values really lie: with hard-nosed ethics or soft-focus sentiment. After all, it is hard for anyone concerned about the environment or animal welfare to disagree with Post’s claim that ‘from an ethical view [IVM] can have only benefits’. Cultured meat has the potential to replace lame, belching, farting, grain-guzzling, confined beasts with clean, safe, sustainable meat, direct from the factory floor.
Faced with this unsettling truth, how have greens and animal rights campaigners responded to Post’s synthetic burger?