Top columnist George Monbiot has claimed advances in creating lab meat will signal the end of livestock in his latest article for The Guardian newspaper.
Describing the way we treat farmed animals as a ‘monstrosity’, the writer adds that calling the UK a ‘nation of animal lovers’ because of the the kindness we lavish on cats and dogs is rank hypocrisy because of how badly we treat farmed animals.
He writes: “What will future generations, looking back on our age, see as its monstrosities?
“We think of slavery, the subjugation of women, judicial torture, the murder of heretics, imperial conquest and genocide, the first world war and the rise of fascism, and ask ourselves how people could have failed to see the horror of what they did.
“What madness of our times will revolt our descendants?
“There are plenty to choose from. But one of them, I believe, will be the mass incarceration of animals, to enable us to eat their flesh or eggs or drink their milk.”
Monbiot believes the advent of lab meat will be the catalyst for the end of livestock farming.
Some vegans find lab (also known as bio, cultured or clean) meat controversial, as animals are still slaughtered to provide ‘starter cells’ to grow the product. Others see it as positive as it will reduce animal suffering as well as lessen the environmental impact of rearing animals to eat them.
Monbiot writes: “Technological change has often helped to catalyse ethical change. The $300m deal China signed last month to buy lab-grown meat marks the beginning of the end of livestock farming.
“But it won’t happen quickly: the great suffering is likely to continue for many years.”
Describing the wastefulness of rearing animals for food (‘sheep supply around one percent of our diet in terms of calories. Yet they occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands), Monbiot claims now is the time for a revolution ‘almost as profound as those other great shifts: the switch to a plant-based diet’.
He acknowledges the shift won’t be easy, saying: “Understandably, those who keep animals have pushed back against such facts, using an ingenious argument.
“Livestock grazing, they claim, can suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil, reducing or even reversing global warming.
“In a TED talk watched by 4 million people, the rancher Allan Savory claims that his “holistic” grazing could absorb enough carbon to return the world’s atmosphere to pre-industrial levels.
“His inability, when I interviewed him, to substantiate his claims has done nothing to dent their popularity.”
But, the journalist writes, humans are a resilient and adaptable species – one which has survived many significant changes.
And now it is time for another.
He says: “The technology is – depending on how close an approximation to meat you demand (Quorn seems almost indistinguishable from chicken or mince to me) – either here or just around the corner.
“The ethical switch is happening already: even today, there are half a million vegans in the land of roast beef.
“It’s time to abandon the excuses, the fake facts and false comforts. It is time to see our moral choices as our descendants will.”