Monday, 2 September 2019

On Meat Consumption & Climate Alarmism

I’ve been reading a few of the silly scare stories, like this one, that insist we should stop eating meat or else the planet is going to hell in a handcart. Articles like that get just about everything wrong, mostly by failing to measure benefits as well as costs (the perennial sin), but also by paying zero regard to future technological developments that will revolutionise solutions to the problems we currently think we are trying to solve.

But quite apart from that, I had another tangential thought. As a meat eater, I wonder if future generations will look back on our meat-eating habits in the same way that we look back on the human history of slavery and racism, and be utterly disgusted by it. I wonder if, before our very eyes, we are slowly seeing the death of a meat-eating industry that kills billions of chickens, pigs, sheep and cattle each year, towards a point in the next few generations where nobody eats meat.

Think about how things have changed even in the past four or five decades: there are increasing numbers of vegetarians and vegans, and more campaigners against animal cruelty and for animal rights – perhaps that trend will continue with every new generation until no one eats meat anymore. With more vegetarians, there will be a greater demand for vegetarian dishes, and more competition to provide them, which should improve the quality and diversity of vegetarian cuisines (as has happened already in the past couple of decades – I mean, think how many frustrated carnivores have been rescued from the circumscribed veggie-wife/husband’s preferred dining outlet with the wonderful but solely viable option that is halloumi).

What I suspect will also happen is that meat will start to come from the lab rather than the animal, where synthetic meat is grown from stem cells, and will reach a point where the process is cheap enough for us to buy it in supermarkets as part of our weekly shop. In other words, technological innovation will sort out the meat problem, bring cessation to the killing of animals, and have future generations looking back on our meat-eating practices as barbaric.

It's strange how morality evolves in different directions, where some things in the UK that were once seen as acceptable become abhorrent (like slavery), and some things that were once seen as abhorrent become acceptable (like homosexuality). Meat-eating will probably be an example of the former - but when we can grow synthetic meat in the lab and mass-produce it for widespread consumption without killing any animals, our descendants will probably look back on us rather like how we look back on the child labour practiced by our progenitors – that it’s unfortunate, but that back then we didn’t know how much better we could do.