Instigator / Pro

Governments should subsidize animal product alternatives (e.g., plant-based meat)


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics

After 2 votes and with the same amount of points on both sides...

It's a tie!
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Three days
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One week
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Contender / Con

This debate is for round 1 of Lunatic’s February Debate Tournament (, between me and DeprecatoryLogistician.

Thanks for the debate, DeprecatoryLogistician. Let me know if the rules and definitions work in the comments.

== Definitions ==

“subsidize” = support financially (for example, paying part of the cost of producing something to reduce prices for the buyer)

“animal product alternatives” = alternatives to meat, eggs, and/or dairy products that are not made from living animals (such as plant-based meat)

== Rules ==

(1) The first round is not for acceptance. We can start arguing in round 1.

(2) No new arguments in the final round (including new responses, except for new responses to the immediate previous round of your opponent’s).

(3) BOP is shared. Pro needs to show that governments (not necessarily all of them) should subsidize animal product alternatives, while Con needs to show that governments should not subsidize animal product alternatives.

(4) No kritiks (including “pre-fiat” kritiks, like asking judges to vote someone down based on the language they used, and “post-fiat” kritiks, like moral skepticism).

(5) Judges should vote based on what happened in the debate, not their personal views on this topic. Since this is a “winner selection” voting system, you should vote based on who won the debate (rather than voting based on the categories in the four-point system).

Round 1
The truth is, I’m still kinda sick -- I tested positive for COVID-19. I recovered from my fever, but am still feeling somewhat fatigued; I anticipate that I'll be fine in a couple of days. 

But since I’m exhausted and have only got about an hour to write this, I’m gonna keep this pretty short. I also won’t be writing a traditional debate case; I’ll just be writing down some thoughts, as if in a forum post, because I’m honestly a bit too sick to write a tight and rigorous debate case. I'll be much more detailed in the coming rounds. 

Before anything else, I just want to clarify what I stand for. I think governments of developed countries should (1) fund R&D that aims to develop alternative proteins (such as plant-based meat and cell-based meat), which either finds ways to manufacture it at scale cheaply or makes it taste/look/feel more like actual meat and (2) subsidize animal product alternatives that enter the market (e.g., through a subsidy, governments might make meat produced by Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat cheaper). Where this money comes from depends on the country, and I’m happy to debate where it’s likely to come from. 

I think this is a good idea because it offers a potential path to significantly reduce the consumption of meat and eggs. 

Why is reducing the consumption of “real” meat and eggs a good thing?

Most meat and eggs are produced through animal farming, which results in significant harm to animal welfare. In short, if you’re a large meat producer -- or, in many cases, a small farmer contracted by a large meat producer facing substantial amounts of debt -- trying to maximize profits, the conditions you will raise animals under are unlikely to be good.

It costs money to meet some of the basic needs of animals, like giving egg-laying hens perches, or ensuring they have dust to dust bathe in – heck, even ensuring animals have the space to move around a bit is a signal that you’re not using your resources as efficiently as you can. It also costs money to set up systems that reduce the pain animals experience, like ensuring harvested fish are stunned by paying for a costly stunning system (when it’s easier to allow them to slowly asphyxiate or be crushed to death). In many cases, it’s actively profitable to make animals suffer – for example, broilers are selectively bred to grow really fast, until “26–30% of broiler chickens suffer from gait defects severe enough to impair walking ability,” so “birds at this level of lameness are in [chronic] pain.” (HSUS (2009))

We should extend moral consideration to animals. This doesn’t have to be equal to humans. It just has to be enough to acknowledge that large amounts of gratuitous suffering inflicted on animals is a bad thing. Morality comes from people’s intuitions; most people share the intuition that, say, kicking a puppy on a street is wrong. There’s no morally relevant distinction between a puppy and a pig struggling in a gestation crate in a factory farm. Heck, there’s arguably little moral distinction between animals and some humans, such as infants, or people with cognitive disabilities severe enough that they don’t possess the “intellectual faculties” that are unique to humans.

On top of this, though, widespread (and increasing) consumption of animal products is bad for people. It’s bad for food security; you feed animals with crops (that you need land and resources to cultivate), and you need additional land and resources to rear and maintain the animals themselves. It’s bad for the environment. Poore and Nemecek (2018), in a meta-analysis, find that, over “five environmental indicators,” harmful environmental “impacts of the lowest-impact animal products typically exceed those of vegetable substitutes.” Santo et al (2020), in a systematic review of the literature, acknowledge uncertainty about how animal product alternatives might be produced in the future, but observe that “[p]roduction of plant-based substitutes, however, may involve smaller environmental impacts compared to the production of farmed meats.” Finally, it’s bad for disease. Animal farms regularly use high amounts of antibiotics, to avoid the risk of bacterial infection that comes from animals being tightly packed in close quarters. This causes bacteria to evolve resistance to antibiotics. When meat with antibiotic-resistant bacteria ends up on people’s plates, that increases the risk of bacterial pathogens resistant to widely-used antibiotics becoming threats to humans by reducing the efficacy of one of our most important tools -- consider, for example, resistant E. coli from poultry meat causing human UTIs (Liu et al (2018)).

A lot of these problems can’t simply be solved by regulation. Meat is an important part of many people’s lives, so there’s public opposition to regulation that might make meat more expensive. What’s more, the meat industry carries a lot of political sway that allows it to lobby governments against regulation (Corkery, Yaffe-Bellany, and Swanson (2020)). It’s no wonder that global meat consumption is increasing – it’s also increasing in developed countries, specifically. 

Why is my plan a good way to fight this problem?

Conditional on developing scalable alternative proteins that taste similar to meat, they’re likely to displace a lot of traditional animal products, or, at minimum, improve animal welfare, for two reasons.

First, evidence shows that a lot of people are willing to switch to alternative proteins if they taste similar to meat, because they often have qualms with eating meat and would like a very similar substitute that makes them feel less guilty. 

Second, in the long run, cell-based and plant-based meat may become more efficient to produce. This is because you don’t have to develop equivalents of parts of an animal people generally don’t eat – so you aren’t growing/sustaining protein mass that people are likely not going to demand much (e.g., undesirable parts of a chicken). 

I think subsidies are crucial in this process, because they’ll help break the current price disparity between alternative proteins and meat (Bollard (2020)), and accelerate the innovation process.

1. Weigh humans over animals
Pro says: “We should extend moral consideration to animals. This doesn’t have to be equal to humans. It just has to be enough to acknowledge that large amounts of gratuitous suffering inflicted on animals is a bad thing.” Based on this we can weigh human impacts over impacts to animals. This means we can consider animal suffering, but impacts such as food insecurity on humans should be weighed more. 

2. We should embrace an anthropocentric framework 
Anthropocentrism is the viewing of animals as a resource to humans. This is inevitable, and it is good. Anthropocentrism is the primary driving factor behind environmentalism. “The basis discourse model of philosophical ethics (Habermas 1991) cannot be other than anthropocentric because only humans can participate in discourse and deliberation.” Economic incentives can also be used to motivate people towards environmental goals.[1

3. Using an anthropocentric framework, we must decide what is best for food security and human wellbeing.
In this debate we are talking about food, and we are talking about what is the most efficient/best way to get this done. We must view animals as a resource, so Pro has to prove how meat alternatives are better resources, and we should only give animals secondary consideration for the purposes of elevating people.  In America 1 in 8 are food insecure, and this includes 12 million children. [2] This has a much more substantial impact than animal suffering, and as Pro admits we should not extend equal consideration to animals. This is not overlimitting to Pro, and Pro simply has to prove the plan will not just be good for animal well being, but also for food insecurity. 

Why is reducing the consumption of “real” meat and eggs a good thing?
Animal Welfare
Of course animal welfare is important, but we should be considering the welfare of humans above animals as both teams agree, so this issue should not decide the round, and should only be considered as a secondary impact. 

Pro brings up the point that livestock takes up a lot of land which prevents farming of crops. The first part of this is objectively true because livestock does take up a lot of land, but 2/3rds of the land that livestock takes up is not arable.[3] This means that we can not use the land for farming, and most of the land is best suited to raising livestock. Crops are highly localized, and livestock is not. You can not grow oranges in Wyoming, so why would we try to disincentivize meat farming for the purpose of more land here?

Soley getting rid of animal farming operations such as CAFOs won’t solve the antibiotic crisis. The prescription of antibiotics to people will cause antibiotic resistance anyway, so the link is non unique. Additionally, vaccine development is a way to reduce reliance on antibiotics.[4] We should focus on vaccine development, rather than taking a step to deal with antibiotic resistance that will not solve the issue.

Why subsidies work
People feel less guilty eating meat
Some people may feel guilty, but this number is largely affected by culture, and people have already converted to vegetarianism. We see two examples of culture controlling this with the US and India. In India over 30% of people 

No undesirable parts are produced
This is not really an argument that shows why subsidies work, it may show that the plan is more efficient, but in general “undesirable parts” are used for things such as feeding livestock, and are not generally wasted anyways. 

Subsidies break price disparities and encourage innovation 
Pro makes the claim here that subsidies encourage innovation, but this just is not true. Direct government subsidies harm innovation. [5] This destroys Pro’s solvency because meat substitutes are not yet practical, and the plan directly harms subsidies.

People should not eat alternative meats
Alternative meats, like plant based meats are higher in sodium and cholesterol. [6] Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America (and almost all developed countries), and cholesterol is a key risk factor for this. 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. [7] Meat is a staple food, and Beef specifically is a staple food for most of the world population. [8] This means that we will be drastically increasing the death rate because heart disease kills so many people already, and it will kill even more since the staple food will be higher in cholesterol which causes heart disease. 

Additionally people do not want to eat alternative meats like cell based, or plant based meat because of the taste. There are significant barriers to the scientific development of the taste of fake meat, and taste comes at the price of introducing harmful additives. Additionally it is hard to replicate the conditions that an animal goes through throughout the course of their life in a lab, and the taste of the meat is affected by the animals life. Both of these things make synthetic meat unappealing, and most people are reluctant to eat this meat substitute. [9]

Counter Plan
If the voters do not buy that it is bad to eat meat alternatives, there is still a better way to implement this. Jeff Bezos should give grants to educational institutes to develop cell based meat. By doing this through specifically cell based meat it avoids the health disadvantages. Innovation is not harmed because money is given to universities and educational institutes rather than corporations, and the government is not involved. 

Round 2
I'm still sick with COVID, so I probably can't finish this debate.

That means DeprecatoryLogistician should advance in the tournament. However, I'd appreciate if you could vote a tie on this, since I don't think this loss would be my fault (it was random that I got COVID just now). 

I would love to finsih this debate at a future point outside of the tournament. Hope you feel better soon. 
Round 3
dont vote on this debate