Hello, all! Just a heads up: as I’ve mentioned recently, I’m journeying into the depths of a very demanding period in terms of schoolwork, so please expect (and forgive!) shorter posts for the next month or so. Thank you all for understanding.
Today I want to address a topic that’s certainly not new, but about which my thoughts have so continually morphed that I didn’t feel confident enough to address. My thoughts are still morphing, but – in an ongoing attempt to chip away at my often destructive perfectionist tendencies – I’ve decided to share them with you all anyway, in the hopes that you’ll contribute to their constant transformation.
Ever since the world first heard about lab-grown meat, the media has provocatively asked if in-vitro animal products – most recently like milk and cheese, with their substantially less destructive impact on the planet and the lives of other animals – constitute the “future of food,” with many in more mainstream animal rights circles similarly hailing these products as the “future of veganism.”
My primary concerns with these products, however, are twofold: for one, they don’t challenge the carnist belief that eating animals proves “normal, natural, and necessary”; for another, I wonder about their accessibility – the point on which I’d like to focus today’s post.
Synthesized and cooked in Silicon Valley for a whopping $300,000, the world’ first test-tube hamburger certainly doesn’t jive with the pro-in-vitro animal product rhetoric that lab-grown meat can “feed the world” (unless, of course, the state continues to wreak havoc on poor communities to the point that only those who can shell out thousands of dollars per meal remain…but that’s rather conspiratorial). In more recent news, the in-vitro cheese company Real Vegan Cheese has raised over $37,000 to develop its product, while the animal-free milk startup Muufri has received even more generous amounts of monetary investment.
Please understand that I don’t mean to attack these companies – I think they’re doing wonderful and noble work in prompting individuals to question the viability of continuing to consume animal products. And hey, maybe we will be able to find in-vitro meat, cheese, milk, whatever in conventional supermarkets and heck, perhaps even in gas stations, and maybe it will end up costing mere cents per ounce. But for right now, I’m wondering why we’re so financially invested in developing these rather unnecessary products (I think most of my readers have realized by now that one can thrive on an animal-free diet), and not instead redirecting this money toward the impoverished communities whose only available options for fresh produce often only involves an overripe orange in a basket at the bodega checkout counter, and whose government subsidies become increasingly threatened every day.
Rather than conceptualize lab-grown animal products – no matter how well-intentioned a venture – as the future of veganism, I’d rather see our movement start to really confront the structural inequalities of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism and the like, that leave Black and brown bodies hungry and contribute to the overwhelmingly white, middle- and upper-class constituency of the animal rights and vegan movements. This is not to say that people of color and lower class groups and individuals have not made immensely valuable contributions to the animal rights and vegan movements that should circulate much more widely than they currently do – think of A. Breeze Harper, Animal Liberationists of Color, Angela Davis, Cesar Chavez and more. However, the white and class privileged majority of AR still prevails, often tokenizing these groups and individuals (essentially as I have just done) as evidence that, “But wait! There are people of color in our movement! We’re inclusive!”…all while the most visible activists – those who head up mainstream organizations and speak at events most often – remain largely white and middle/upper-class.
In my view, we – vegans, animal rights activists, the world – don’t need in-vitro animal products. What we do need is an end to the structural subjugation of Black and brown bodies woven into the very fabric of our society, which we as animal rights activists can start to confront in our own movement.
If all this hasn’t heated you up enough, be sure to take a couple sips of this warming, satisfyingly simple tomato soup. Paired with an ooey-gooey vegan grilled (non-in-vitro) cheese sandwich, this smooth and classically flavored soup will give you the energy to start engaging in the difficult and ongoing work I’ve advocated above. Because with a soup and sandwich, we can do anything, right?
Classic Tomato Soup
2 tsp melted coconut or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cups canned tomatoes, low-sodium if possible
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups vegetable broth or 4 cups water + 2 tsp/half a cube vegan bouillon
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I like almond here)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, caraway, and thyme; saute for another minute.
Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable broth or bouillon-ed water, and agave. Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and, either directly in the pot with an immersion blender or in batches in a stand blender, puree the soup until very smooth. Stir in the non-dairy milk and pepper to taste and serve, sprinkling the top of each soup bowl with additional black pepper, if desired.
In solidarity, Ali.