The whole question of vegetarian or omnivorous diet needs to be looked at in the light of modern technological advances. This weeks edition of Click on BBC showed the reporter testing whether he could tell the difference between factory produced chicken grown from cells, and the dead carcass of the bird grown under other conditions. He declared he could not tell it at all. He was thoroughly convinced by the flavour and texture of the thing, soaked in a hot sauce.
Well whoopdedoo. This is being heralded as the next great advance in modern farming and culinary arts. We all know that the agricultural industry is destructive to life on Earth. Crushing the life out of the soil, destroying the mycorrhizal mesh, compacting the mineral particles together, and replacing it with manufactured chemicals, completely ignoring the quality of the soil in which food is grown. Never mind the ethical argument of breeding sentient beings for fodder.
So lets look at the arguments around diet and specifically vegetarianism.
Spiritual teachers throughout the ages have advised a vegetarian diet to their followers. When the aim is to increase sentience in the recipient this is a very different stance to the sentimental approach that non-vegetarians appear to assume is the reason for ‘not eating animals’.
Why should a vegetarian diet increase sentience? There are good physiological reasons behind this. Vegetables in their various forms take sunlight and raw chemicals and build up more complex proteins, and other molecules, which are then broken down in the digestive tracts of those that consume them. Some animals have developed psuedo stomachs to allow for the eating of the fodder which can later be regurgitated and chewed as cud. This allows the gut to begin the break down process while it is stored and then for the teeth to pulverise the softened cellulose before swallowing it a second time and absorbing more nutrient from it.
This is the basic process for most fodder animals, sheep, goats, cattle, antelopes all do this. Rabbits, another herbivore commonly eaten, and its close relative the Horse also follow a similar process, though their stomach arrangements are somewhat different from that outlined above.
Humans cannot do this, and so do not eat grass as a staple, although the seeds of the gramminae form the basis of most diets world wide.
When food follows this path it is a relatively easy process to breakdown these complex molecules to their essential constituents, and use those to build the body. The process of breaking down complex cellular structures that have been built through the consumption of secondary bodies – the carcasses of animals, birds and fish – is a very different process and is much more energy consuming. When a lion kills it gorges and dozes, and may not eat again for several days. The faeces of such a creature, and all carnivores exhibit this, are extremely smelly. Some carnivores go so far as to bury their turds.
In eating meat, instead of the energy going to build the body and activate the mind, a great deal is expended breaking down the complex tissues, then bulding them up into other complex molecules, leaving little for other activities of the being.
We need not look further to find the answer to the question is it ethical to eat artificially grown tissue since we are not dealing with the ethics of raising sentient beings for food. It is a simple matter of physiology and its impact on awareness (sentience).
Many people do not realise what they are saying when they declare proudly that they could never be vegetarian. They are declaring that they are such slaves to their taste buds, and to the taste of blood, that they could not envisage living without this on their tongues. But that is hardly surprising and we should not blame them for it, for the very thing which drives the sperm to fertilise the egg is the taste of blood it follows.
For me the argument is a simple one. I prefer not to eat consciousness. Eggs are filled with consciousness. The albumen of an egg is a pool of consciousness which the fertilised egg draws upon to build the body of the creature within it. All living things that move independently are born from eggs. Whether they are insects, birds or mammals. But lets not get into the argument surrounding the manufacture of food from insects. That has been dealt with elsewhere.
To answer the question simply and concisely about the effect of eating food manufactured from animal cells. Since the cells themselves are formed of the same complex molecules as the creature itself, the effect on the digestive system will be the same. Breaking down complex molecules takes energy away from the simple celebration that life was always intended to be. It remains tamasic.