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‘CULTURE’ MEAT: Could lab-grown meat ever be Indigenized?

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One of the appeals of meat made in a lab is that it’s possible to grow cell cultures from animals that have great cultural significance to Indigenous groups across North America, including bison, elk and rabbit, as well as salmon.

KAT ESCHNER: Atlanta Grant ate her way around Silicon Valley. The University of British Columbia (UBC) Indigenous master’s student, who is from Huron-Wendat Nation’s Wendake reserve in Quebec and grew up in Sudbury on Robson-Huron treaty territory, spent time in the California startup mecca earlier this year sampling the products of three lab-grown meat and dairy companies…

Indigenous perspectives have been notably absent from the mainstream conversation about lab-grown meat, also known as “cultured meat,” “clean meat” or “in vitro meat.” But the technology may have important implications for Indigenous cultures, Grant says…

Grant stumbled into the world of cultured meat when she got the chance to attend a workshop early this spring. At the three-day conference hosted by the University of the Fraser Valley, Indigenous Peoples and elders came together with startups and NGOs to discuss the potential impacts of the idea.

She was immediately fascinated. Grant has long been interested in the gap between corporatized solutions to the existential crisis of climate change, she says, and the ways in which those proposals disproportionately impact cultures facing its worst consequences. The lab-grown meat field, which promises to produce animal protein without the impacts of factory farming, is just such a technology…

Grant, like others, worries these products could further separate Indigenous Peoples from sacred animals and drive a stake into Indigenous food sovereignty — in the name of addressing climate change…

One of the appeals of meat made in a lab is that it’s possible to grow cell cultures from many types of animals, even those that would be cost-prohibitive or logistically impossible to cultivate by farming. This fact has led companies to experiment with a number of meats that have great cultural significance to Indigenous groups across North America, including bison, elk and rabbit, as well as salmon.

Theoretically, at least, it’s possible that many other culturally important meats may be cultivated in the future. In 2016, Margaret Robinson, a member of Lennox Island First Nation and a Dalhousie University professor in the departments of English and sociology and social anthropology, attempted to figure out how — or if — cultured moose meat could fit into her Mi’kmaq worldview…

She is a longtime vegan who has pursued the ethical stance from a desire to express her Mi’kmaw spirituality and connection with other animals while living in a city. “As I learn more about the history of colonialism, and how the meat and dairy industries motivated land theft and the slaughter of native animals, being vegan has been a way to resist those colonial forces,” she says.

If cultured moose was possible, she wrote, her relationship with living moose could change from one of sacrifice and dependence “and [could] begin to approach something akin to that of relatives who, after a long period of tension, have finally become friends.” However, Robinson says she herself would prefer not to eat the meat. “It’s still a moose body, even if it died long ago,” she says. “I see lab-grown meat as something for meat eaters, not for me as a vegan”…

There are some signs that as the lab-grown meat field matures, it’s starting to think about these issues, says Evan Bowness, a settler postdoc at the University of the Fraser Valley who has collaborated with Grant and was part of the team that set up the workshop this spring. But there’s still a long way to go, he says… Companies that are engaging with the environment need to take on the responsibility of considering the cultural impacts of their work. SOURCE…

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