I like beef. I also eat chicken, fried or grilled: when it happens, I also eat a hamburger, or a sausage. I am ashamed, I have reduced my consumption a lot but I still eat it. It's the truth, I can't hide it.
Another truth? Animal husbandry is a barbaric and morally horrible practice. Pigs are confined to tiny stalls for life. They are forced to stand in their own feces, malnourished and force-fed with hormones and tortured. Live chickens are sucked into giant machines or chopped alive when young (if male). Dairy cows regularly abused, castrated cattle without painkillers. And all this waiting to be slaughtered, massacred.
The agricultural industry is the type of industrialized and mass nightmare of torture and cruelty that, when done to humans, acquires the status of totemic evil. However, since we do this to animals instead of humans, we don't think twice about it.
We tell ourselves that animals are not human.
Although (fortunately) there are a large number of people who are convinced that "animals should have the same rights as people“, In practice only a still marginal number of more committed activists would rearrange society in order to put the happiness of a pig on a par with that of a human being. On this too I am sincere: I would not do it. But I'm not the only one. That's what happens to all carnivores by choice. To support and justify the nightmare of our farms it is necessary that our brains completely "forget" the burden of happiness of pigs, cows and other animals. Because it is evident that to attach even the slightest moral importance to the life experience of a pig, it is necessary to admit that our society is based on a monstrous and systematized horror.
After cats and dogs, the flood
If you look at the direction of the advanced nations, however, it is clear that the concern for the animal welfare Is increasing. Governments and associations are fighting hard to reduce abuse and protect animals as much as possible. How much do we do it, though? And apart from cats and dogs, who do we do it for?
It seems a bit of a guilt complex: to morally support the practice of intensive farming, we are "forced" to tell ourselves that the welfare of a pig is infinitely less important than that of a dog or cat. We draw bright lines between the animals we care for and protect and transform into members of our family and the other animals we systematically brutalize and torture to devour their flesh.
Intensive farming: out of sight, out of mind
Of course, making that kind of arbitrary and absolute distinction is very difficult, so we make it easier on ourselves by simply not thinking about it. We keep the animals we torture away from ourselves, cared for by a special class of dedicated workers. In this way, only very occasionally, in the face of reality we are forced to come up with our inconsistent rationalizations ("These animals wouldn't even be alive if we didn't raise them to eat them", "Even if I stopped eating meat, the demand for agriculture would not decrease by much ", and so on).
We do this because it is psychologically necessary for us to do it. Most human beings, the vast majority, do not give up meat. There is a lack of official global data, but here and there there are very clear statistics. In Italy about 8% of the population is vegetarian, in second place in Europe with Germany (8%) and below Austria (9%). In China, 4,5%. This is an increase compared to previous decades.
To the moral monstrosity of intensive animal breeding is added the ecological one. Intensive livestock farming is also a gigantic source of carbon emissions. Livestock farming, in particular, gives rise to huge amounts of greenhouse gases, many of which are due to clearing of forests for grazing.
Yet we will not quit that easily.
Yet I am optimistic for the future
Why am I optimistic about the possibility of abolishing intensive animal husbandry? Because, as with climate change and many other problems, technological progress is changing the trade-offs we face. Over the course of my life, it may be possible for humanity to relegate animal husbandry to the history books without changing our selfish lifestyles. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.
The key word? Artificial meat. And when I say "artificial meat", I don't mean plant-based substitutes likeImpossible Burger (I don't expect these to affect meat consumption much). I mean meat that is grown directly using chemical processes, instead of growing an entire animal and cutting its muscles. I mean what they call "lab grown meat," even though it won't eventually be grown in a lab.
Tissue-cultured meat, grown in a factory instead of intensive farming.
Unlike farmed meat, tissue culture meat can be obtained in a few weeks (or even less in the future). Tissue culture meat is far less likely to be infected with bacteria, parasites, and so on, and is much better for the environment. And theoretically, the cost of producing muscle tissue directly, without having to also produce bones and skin and brains and everything in between (not to mention the savings in terms of land use) could be lower than that of animal husbandry.
Above all, tissue culture meat is real meat. They are animal muscle cells, without the animal. Sure, reproducing the position of the fat like that found in a steak is a challenge, but not insurmountable.
This was also the case for solar energy. Before it was prohibitive, today it is competitive with fossil fuels.
Goodbye to intensive farming? Funds are needed
Clearly, both private and public investments are needed. Governments must also take the field and finance the sector to make it emerge. One of the reasons, of course, is climate change: but there is also the moral aspect of the question. only once acceptable substitutes become price competitive will humanity abandon the barbaric practice of animal husbandry.
We reason cynically: this was also the case for forced labor. As long as we needed it and where it is needed, we pretend that it does not exist, we look elsewhere. When a process can be mechanized, society can finally afford to "anathemize" forced labor. Bad to say, but if humans can maintain their lifestyle without eating animals, then and only then will they do so en masse and no longer need to exploit and slaughter them.
Humans (or at least, most humans) are monstrous, but not indefinitely.
I eat meat, and can't wait to switch to the 'cultivated' variety. When artificial meat becomes cheaper than farmed meat, there will certainly also be resistance. I don't know, like the ones that today push people to still pollute the environment with diesel, or to deny climate change. But these resistances will be increasingly ostracized and their number will decrease over time. Eventually there will also be a change in our moral standards. A return to intensive farming will be considered impossible.
Morality is a coordination game: once a critical number of people accept that animal husbandry is barbaric and wrong, animal rights activists will have won. There will be a cascade effect where in a short space of time, animal farms will go from being widely accepted to being fought and marginalized. In the resulting equilibrium, only iconoclasts and eternal opposing bastians will insist on eating meat cut from the bones of real animals. And eventually, animal husbandry will be banned in most areas of the world. End.
This future must be our goal.
There is nothing dystopian or unnatural about this prediction: it's just another step in the centuries-old process of a monstrous species using its intelligence and ingenuity to allow itself to be a little less monstrous. Since we are too horrible to do the right thing and abandon animal farming today, we must do the best thing: work to replace it with something cheaper and more delicious.
As soon as possible.