How the World Will Become Predominantly Vegan in 40 Years
Full disclosure: I am not vegan, but some of my best friends are. I've had some great conversations with my vegan friends over the years about the ethics of becoming vegan, why the world hasn't already adopted the mentality, and whether or not vegan pizza can ever be decent. The focus here is going to be why I think the time is soon going to be ripe for the world to embrace a vegan mentality, and it's not because of purely ethical reasons, although the world is taking a far more clear look at its habits now than ever before. I'm going to talk about how technology and economics are going to be the two driving forces to worldwide veganism (or very close to it) over the next four decades.
Mmmmm.... stem cell burger....
Biotech and the Stem Cell Burger
As Ray Kurzweil puts it, biology is fast becoming an "information technology", subject to his famous "law of accelerating returns." This has obvious ramifications for the medical industry, as disease after disease falls prey to the onward march of science. This is an obvious good thing.
What's maybe not so obviously good is the ability we now have to manipulate our food. This is nowhere more apparent than with the anti-GMO movement that has caught Facebook by hysterical storm. Now, I'm no fan of Monsanto's bullying tactics, but it's important to separate the corporation's tactics from what GMO itself is: genetically modified organism, or - more to the context of what's upsetting folks on the web and in real life- genetically modified food. In spite of the fact that "there is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food", people are extremely concerned about the long term health benefits of food whose genetic code has been modified. Thing is, food manipulation (more properly called "food biotechnology") dates back to ancient Sumer, and perhaps nearly as far back as agriculture itself. Human beings started the agricultural revolution, and that enabled us to stop chasing animals around the continents in order to eat (and gathering various wild berries and crap like that). By manipulating the foods that nature produced, human beings won.
Enter the "stem cell burger" concept.
Awesome vegan burgers
Disgusting? Maybe. But this could be the key to ending animal suffering in very short order. Assuming that "stem cell burgers" (man, they have got to come up with a better marketing campaign!) take off, ultimately they'll become cheaper to produce than the "real thing" (although these are just as real in the important sense). They'll ultimately require no animals whatsoever to suffer, which would be the end game for vegans (eating meat isn't bad just because the word is "meat", after all; part of the concerns vegans share are certainly health related, and that's another debate for another day, but the ethical portion here is the crucial one for most vegans). And many vegan friends I've approached with this idea would be happy to see these on the market, much to my surprise.
Cruelty-Free Options Everyone Can Enjoy?
I've been eating with my vegan friends for 20 years now. I've had literally hundreds of different dishes, from vegan chili (made with TVP), to "gluten roast" (not as gross as it sounds), to seitan sandwiches. All of the various dishes I've eaten have one thing in common: the texture and taste is nothing whatsoever like meat (or eggs, if applicable). This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're already vegetarian, but if you are one of those depraved folks who constitute the overwhelming majority of the world, tofu in any fashion just doesn't cut have anything on an actual chicken breast.
If you're interested in making a difference in the world, you don't want to "preach to the choir." You want something with mass appeal to people who eat meat. Here's where science comes back in once again: we will soon be able to manipulate particles with nanotechnology innovations to such an extent that the content will be identical to meat, but without an animal having actually suffered or died at any point in the process. Atoms come together to form molecules that make up living beings, and those same atoms can be put together without the life attached to them.
If it seems gross to you as a vegan, that's because you're vegan. You are not going to convince the world that meat is gross for ethical or disgusting reasons within a decade or two, but you can help dramatically reduce the number of animals slaughtered every day by encouraging development into these emerging technologies, especially biotech and nanotech.
Uniting with Common Objectives
Getting rid of animals from our diet is only a very small part of the puzzle, but it's a very significant one. As long as we view animals as "food", we're going to view them as commodities. We, as a species, will continue to test products on animals, use their skin for clothing, and, of course, eat their flesh. However, with such a fundamental paradigm shift in worldwide diet away from animals who once lived and breathed, to a truly cruelty-free option, we will have taken the first major step in the direction away from using animals as products.
I know this concept won't sit well with many of my friends, but it's important to unite with high tech companies under common objectives. Consider how much vegan clothing options have changed (pleather, anyone?) over the past 20 years, and how much more affordable these alternatives are to leather and other animal-derived products. These options arose because they were commercially viable alternatives to animal products. If your fake leather coat cost 5 times as much as a real leather coat and you are morally lazy, there is simply no way you're going to purchase the fake leather option. It is economics- not ethics- that drives many of these changes. And it's economics that will ultimately drive the enormous paradigm shift away from a global meat culture to a vegetarian- and ultimately vegan- one. As the creation of synthetic meat becomes many times cheaper per ounce than raising and slaughtering animals, our decision will be a no-brainer.
Make these ideas more acceptable by having open, challenging conversations about how technology is affecting our diets on a daily basis. Have the conversation today so that change can be accepted more widely tomorrow.
Weird Al, Cause Celebre Vegan
Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on August 03, 2016:
Agreed, and the way that is going to change is via convenience (for better or worse), not a spontaneous moral awakening (as many of my vegan friends stubbornly insist).
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on August 02, 2016:
Your last point was very accurate. As long as we consider animals as food, we're going to treat them as a commodity. It's really sad because there is so much cruelty in the way they are slaughtered in many cases.
Laura on November 24, 2015:
If you're interested in going vegan, check out reddit.com/r/vegan. It's an awesome community full of information on making the transition!
Joshua on May 31, 2015:
Yes, animals consume more vegetables. But what happens is that they are much more effective doing it then we are. I would like to see a vegan effectivly digesting grass as a cow does...
True answer is indeed technology, not simply veganism.
dobermanmacleod from Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 23, 2015:
I strongly suggest you watch the movie Forks Over Knives. A month ago I would have made fun of a vegan diet, and after watching that movie it changed my life - I am now vegan as well as staying on the severe CRdiet (1200 calories/day) I was on for years. Within the next couple of decades there will be radical longevity treatments emerging, so do anything reasonable to live that long. The improvement in health and longevity through dietary improvements are amazing - this is proven scientifically, not just anecdotal. It isn't even close, so if you have the discipline it really pays off (some simply can't do it due to psychological factors).
Thomas A. Anderson on January 22, 2015:
@cderoose: "Plant and vegetation is life to and more than one animal."
sure, but the animals that humans eat are fed plants, lots of plants. in fact, it takes about 5 to 10 times as much plant food to produce meat and animal products, than to produce vegan food. that means that non-vegans not only kill 5 to 10 times as many plants as vegans do, plus the animals of course, but non-vegans also cause 5 to 10 times as much agriculture and all the ecological damage caused by it.
Thomas A. Anderson on January 22, 2015:
honestly, we don't need any of that artificial meat stuff... people just need to buy 1 or 2 good vegan cook books for a few bucks, and they can go vegan NOW, without feeling like they're missing out on anything... check out some of the food my girlfriend and i prepared lately... anyone who tells me that they need some artificial meat, when they can have food like this and 1000 times more of it, is an idiot :P
cderoose on January 22, 2015:
Plant and vegetation is life to and more than one animal.