Emerging profiles for cultured meat; ethics through and as design (Animals, 2013)

This publication by Cor Van Der Weele and Clemens Driessen was summarized by Daisy Joo, with edits by Mark Middleton. The full, original paper can be accessed here.

According to the authors, supporters of cultured meat can be distinguished as those who see the future of cultured meat as a way to decrease animal cruelty (the “vegetarian” profile) and those who see it as as a solution to environmental sustainability and affordability (the “sustainable” profile). The authors explore a third moral profile, “Pig in the backyard”, which suggests that it could be possible to have a pig in the backyard that provides the stem cells to be used to grow the owner’s meat for consumption. The idea was formulated at a workshop, where participants expressed an interest in cultured meat but also a hesitancy towards technologizing food. The authors also suggest possibilities for additional moral perspectives on cultured meat.

The need to explore other ways to understand cultured meat stems from the authors historical argument that, in the past, the adoption of new and “better” technologies is a dynamic process with cultural ramifications, and not simply shifting consumer preferences. What is “better” is a question of ethics, and therefore, understanding a future with cultured meat, a new technology, should require philosophical analyses as much it requires data presenting probable environmental gains. The article presents one such philosophical means to analyzing ways in which we may move towards a future with cultured meat, based on the concept of “ethics through and as design,” and more radically suggests that simply exploring and discussing the concept of cultured meat can drive imaginative thought about other solutions to the meat problem.