It has been widely reported that 84% of vegetarians and vegans relapse to eating meat within a few months. And nearly all going back to eating meat within a year. The animal welfare community predictability either hid it’s head in the sand or refuted the findings outright. There are multi-million dollar animal welfare organizations that are founded on veg-eating and these findings were treated as heresy.
By any standard the number of vegetarians (3.2 percent of U.S. adults) and vegans (0.5 percent of US adults) is an abject failure for the advocacy for animals. In 1971, 1% percent of the United States adults identified as vegetarian, in 2008 that number had risen to a measly 3.2%. Over the span of three decades, millions of dollars spent, volunteer hours and vegetarian “influencers” has only amounted to 2 percent increase of American vegetarians. And yet animal advocates trudge on undeterred by the facts that lay out the truth; practically no one sticks with vegetarianism for the long haul.
Animal advocates will stubbornly refute these facts stating that “every animal not eaten is a victory” or that they themselves are a vegetarian/vegan for 20 years or they know numerous vegetarians, but the fact still remains that these are and never will be statistically significant numbers. 56 billion farm animals are killed every year worldwide and that number is increasing each year as China surpasses the U.S. as the world’s largest economy.
So, for those that care about the welfare of animals or the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, what can be done? First, remove vegetarianism as a pillar of animal advocacy. Too much time, effort and money has been spent with abysmal results. No one is buying. The return on investment is less than nothing. It is a liability to the cause of animal welfare and only serves to alienate those that can’t make the transition (which is close to no one). Secondly, divert funds that had been earmarked for vegetarianism outreach to promising new lab meat technology. The public has chosen Soya and Almond milk as a tasty low-fat, healthy alternative to cow’s milk.
In the past five years, sales of almond milk have grown 250% to more than $894.6 million in 2015, according to the Nielsen Company. During the same period, Nielsen adds, the total milk market shrunk by more than $1 billion.
The same can be done for meat. Lab grown meat could potentially be engineered to have no saturated fat, fewer calories, no growth hormones and no anti-bionics. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids could be added as a health bonus. Once you factor in the conservation of water, land and greenhouse gasses advantage over traditional livestock agriculture, lab meat reveals itself as a remarkable triple threat. It solves the question of animal welfare, health and environmental concerns of meat.
But a future of lab meat in grocery stores is still years in the future. Professor Mark Post who unveiled the first laboratory grow patty in 2013, thinks that a consumer priced product is 7 years away. The most promising new development is Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in the United States, created a venture-capital fund to explore laboratory developed meat. Tyson supplies meat products to fast food chains KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell. If and when lab meat burgers in fast food chains become the first point of entry for consumers (and the product is accepted), this will be a tipping point for consumers and sea change in the meat industry.
Vegetarianism will not have a tipping point. It has been attempted and has failed. I say this as a long term vegetarian and vegan. Technology is the answer. We must pivot to options that show possibility instead of clinging to failed idealism. Vegetarianism is dead and we can’t continue to perpetuate the fiction that it is the answer to relieve animal suffering.
Photo by Dano