Home » Letters » Is Cultured Meat Considered Vegetarian Or Vegan?

Question: A documentary describes how chicken nuggets can be cultured from chicken feathers. Is such food considered vegetarian or vegan?

Answer: The starter product as feather cells is vegetarian, as it is not meat, but the end product is meat. Throughout, it is not vegan as it comes from imprisonment and exploitation of chickens for their body parts. (To summarise, cultured meat is neither vegetarian nor vegan.)

Encouragement by the Buddha to go vegan is in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra《楞严经》, where he said to the effect that those who exploit sentient beings will forge negative karmic affinity with them. It is thus better to go for directly vegan foods, as plant-based foods are healthier for humans, animals and the environment:

「若诸比丘,不服东方丝绵绢帛,及是此土靴履裘毳、乳酪醍醐,如是比丘,于世真脱。酬还宿债,不游三界。何以故?服其身分,皆为彼缘,如人食其地中百谷,足不离地。必使身心,于诸众生,若身、身分,身心二途,不服不食,我说是人,真解脱者。

‘If all Bhikṣus, do not wear eastern [fine and coarse] silk clothings and waddings, and this land’s boots and shoes [of leather], fur and down [garments, or eat and drink animal] milk, cheese, [curd], cream, [butter], ghee [and all other such products], such Bhikṣus, of this world will truly be liberated. Having repaid past lives’ karmic debts, they will no longer wander through the three realms [of desire, form and formlessness]. Why is this so? Wearing their body parts, they are all by those karmic conditions bound, just as humans who eat this ground’s hundred grains, [vegetables and fruits] within, whose feet do not leave the ground. Those who resolutely cause their bodies and minds, of all sentient beings, of their bodies [as meat], or of their body parts [as products, if with] both paths of body [in deed] and mind [in thought], not wearing and not eating them, I say these persons, will truly be liberated ones.

Question: Why will cultured meat perpetuate imprisonment and exploitation of animals’ lives?

Answer: In the competitive and lucrative meat industry, there will always be experimenting for better chicken DNA and such — to get the illusory ‘better’ or ‘perfect’ chicken taste. Thus, the breeding, imprisonment, exploitation, though hopefully less in volume, will surely continue. Unfortunately, this is the nature of human greed for so-called ‘progress’.

In the West, there are many kinds of vegan ‘meats’ in the blooming industry now, though in the East, the Chinese community and others have them for generations already, without need to pluck a single feather from a suffering chicken.

Related Articles:

上求佛道者应当如何饮食?
How Should All Aspiring For Buddhahood Eat And Drink?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/10/how-should-all-aspiring-for-buddhahood-eat-and-drink

Is Lab-Grown Meat Ethical?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2018/10/is-lab-grown-meat-ethical

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