January 22, 2023

VIRGINIA POSTREL WRITES ABOUT THE NEGATIVE REACTION TO “SYNTHETIC MEAT.”

This is a story about market-driven progress! Abundance is good!! The anti-Promethean backlash is bad! “Cruelty-free” is tendentious and the Center for Food Safety is the bad guy. Those are all right-of-center tells.

Or they used to be. I was naively stuck in the 20th century.

Back then, when I hung out with ideologues more than I do today, people on the American right liked technological innovation and market competition. They celebrated ingenuity and entrepreneurship. They might predict that a given product would fail or choose not to buy it—that’s the system, after all—but they weren’t affronted by the mere existence of for-profit approaches to social or environmental issues. They weren’t insulted by the idea that technology might alter attitudes by changing costs.

Now, everything is personal and I, who write as a meat eater who likes human ingenuity and technological progress, am read as a woke propagandist.

Well, I too am a meat eater who likes human ingenuity and technological progress. But I can see a couple of problems. One is that “synthetic meat” is a confusing term. It means real meat, grown in a vat instead of in a cow, but it sounds like it might be the non-nutritious “Beyond Meat/Impossible” slop marketed to vegans.

Second, the technocracy is pushing this stuff, and the technocracy is currently in bad odor. There’s a real lack of trust, and once people start to think that the technocracy will do things to them that they don’t like — and often lie about it in the process — the lack of trust spreads from specific subjects to more general matters. Plus, given that most opposition to meat-eating is essentially religious in nature, rejecting it is not exactly a matter of irrationality.

In an ideal world, where we could talk about this sort of thing on its own merits and in a generally good-faith manner — like the world we at least thought we lived in back in the ’90s — things would be different. But we don’t live in that world now.

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