DxE Should Push For Cultivated-Meat Research

Protests organized by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), the animal-rights group, make me uncomfortable. I don’t mean uncomfortable in the sense that I have moral qualms about them. I mean just watching recordings of their demonstrations give me a vicarious feeling of stage fright.

When I was in college, I’d begin every class by looking through the syllabus for public-speaking requirements. If there was one, I’d approach the professor privately and explain I was the person from that Jerry Seinfeld joke, who would rather be in a coffin at a funeral than giving a eulogy. Usually, the teacher would allow me some other way of making up the grade, but if not, I’d drop the class.

Still, when I moved to Connecticut some years ago, I participated in a few actions with the local chapter of the then upstart group. This mostly involved causing a scene inside Whole Foods and Chipotle, generally leaving customers and staff confused and angry. The strategy of targeting these two specific corporations in this particular way was lost on me and eventually I stopped going.

Over the years, though, my admiration for DxE has grown. Of course, I have my disagreements about how they have handled various things. But their move toward political engagement, while retaining their grassroots nature, has made them one of the more dynamic animal groups operating today.

My understanding is they played a significant role in California banning the sale and manufacture of fur products, which was a historic victory. While their interventions in recent presidential election cycles often made me cringe, for reasons outlined at the beginning of this piece, I believe they were valuable on the whole.

DxE’s “Forty Year Road-Map to Animal Liberation” and more recent “Roadmap to an Animal Bill of Rights” demonstrate an ambition which I don’t necessarily see in other groups. Are their goals plausible in the time frame they’re suggesting? Probably not. But I appreciate their vision and confidence.

For these reasons and more, I think DxE should be pushing for more federal funding for cultivated-meat research. In case readers aren’t aware, cultivated meat is grown from animal cells, without slaughter. When this new protein is cheaper to produce and superior in taste to slaughtered meat, we will have achieved the conditions under which animal liberation starts to become possible.

DxE claims Berkeley, California, as its home base. I’d like to see their activist core focus on getting their representative, Barbara Lee, and their two senators, Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, to champion more funding for cellular-agriculture development. This would be in addition to the $10 million the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently provided.

Of course, I wish DxE’s various chapters would push for the same thing with their representatives and senators. In the next presidential election cycle, I’d hope the group would force this topic into the public debate by disrupting candidate events as they have previously. Throughout all this, we need to be demanding billions of dollars for research, not millions.

I don’t think there is a better group to lead this campaign in the United States than DxE. I wish they’d consider it. If they did, and the Connecticut chapter was revived, I’d be there with them, yelling inside and outside politicians’ offices. Some things are worth overcoming anxiety for. I’d just need to find a babysitter for my kids.

Jon Hochschartner is the author of a number of books about animal-rights history, including The Animals’ Freedom Fighter, Ingrid Newkirk, and Puppy Killer, Leave Town.