Cultivated meat will Inevitably be Drawn into the Culture War

Last month, the fascist Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was trending on Twitter. I try to stay off Twitter as much as I can for the sake of mental health, but it’s often hard to avoid when following the news. I was surprised to see Greene was trending for comments she made about cultivated meat, something I’ve tried to advance in recent activism.

“You have to accept the fact that the government totally wants to provide surveillance on every part of your life,” she said. “They want to know if you’re eating a cheeseburger, which is very bad because Bill Gates wants you to eat his fake meat that grows in a peach tree dish [sic].” The fascist went on, saying the government would punish those who didn’t comply.

“So you’ll probably get a little zap inside your body that’s saying, ‘No no don’t eat a real cheeseburger; you need to eat the fake burger,’ the fake meat from Bill Gates,” she said, in characteristically bizarre fashion. “They probably also want to know when you go to the bathroom and if your bowel movements are on time or consistent.”

This reminded me of comradely criticism I’ve received from some in the cultivated-meat space. In short, they worry that my activism, which you can learn about at SlaughterFreeAmerica.Substack.com, will draw this new protein into the culture war. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I believe that — if cultivated meat truly threatens animal agriculture — this is inevitable.

You can’t hope for significant change without expecting resistance. Surely, we should do what we can so as not to needlessly inflame resistance, but resistance will come. The professionalized animal movement generally prides itself on being nonpartisan, however this isn’t a symptom of general agreement on the movements’ goals. Rather, it’s a symptom of the movement being a complete non-factor.

I believe ideological sorting into opposing camps is a necessary prerequisite of making change. I was reminded of this by Matt Sitman in a recent episode of the fabulous Know Your Enemy podcast, which I’m a late arriver to, about the formation of the anti-choice movement. The change these activists sought was undesirable from a leftist perspective, but I think we can learn some lessons here.

“It was less a matter of corralling a true majority of the American people than reshuffling the coalitions and having all the pro-life voters, anti-abortion voters in the Republican Party,” he said. “There were some similar dynamics among Democrats in becoming the party of feminists and women’s rights. It was not as if the only agent in this scenario was the anti-abortion activist. There’s a lot going on, but we can say that by 1988 the Republican Party had become the anti-abortion party.”

All of this is to say is that while I have deep respect for those in the cultivated-meat space who want to keep this new protein out of the culture war, I think this is an impossible dream. We shouldn’t go out of our way to invite backlash or alienate potential allies, but you can’t make the kind of change we’re hoping for without political conflict. You just can’t.

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.

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