A new report says that within two decades, most of the world’s meat will NOT come from slaughtered animals.

Earlier this week, I posted about my experience returning to Burger King for the first time in 24 years because of the launch of a new plant-based whopper. Earlier this year, I wrote about my experience going to Red Robin for the first time ever, when it did the same. In both those posts, I noted the number of restaurants adding plant-based products to their menus, such as Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, White Castle, Bare Burger, Shake Shack, and in other countries, McDonald’s, Subway, and A&W Rootbeer. This week, KFC also announced the launch of vegan chicken in the U.K. and two industry behemoths — Tyson and Nestle — announced a new plant-based lineup that will launch imminently.

And here’s more good news for animals: a global food industry research firm is predicting that in the next 20 years, 60% of the world’s meat will NOT come from slaughtered animals. Instead, it will come from plant-based meat analogues and meat grown in labs from cultured cells.* That will spare tens, if not hundreds, of billions of animals every year from a brutal life and untimely death. It will save the lives of millions of people due to lifestyle disease states from consuming animal products. And it will dramatically curtail a leading contributor to climate change.

From steaks to seafood, a full spectrum of options is emerging to replace traditional animal protein products with plant-based and cell-based meat technologies.

The shift to more sustainable patterns of protein consumption is already under way, driven by consumers, investors and entrepreneurs, and even pulling in the world’s biggest meat companies. If anything, predictions that 60% of the world’s ‘meat’ will not come from slaughtered animals in 20 years’ time may be an underestimation.

The impact of these developments on animal welfare cannot be understated, as the raising and killing of animals for food is the greatest cause of human-induced suffering on the planet. Eliminating the killing upon which a meat-based diet is now predicated will also have a profound effect on the welfare of animals exploited, abused, and killed in other contexts.

When people no longer have to justify harming animals because of their own choices, they will be less likely to put up with justifications others make to harm animals They will insist we stop doing so. The sea change in terms of our relationship with animals will extend far beyond “food” animals and could very well revolutionize every aspect of our current exploitation: from killing animals in pounds to torturing them in laboratories. We may even see a move towards legal personhood.

The report, “How Will Cultured Meat and Meat Alternatives Disrupt the Agricultural and Food Industry?,” is here.

A Guardian review about the report which summarizes its main findings is here.

* Cultured meat is made from a one time draw of stem cells. The stem cells are then replicated in a laboratory to produce real meat from animals without killing. By some accounts, we may see it introduced in various markets, including restaurants, as early as next year. Although current, older meat-eaters tend to be uneasy about cultured meat, the firm says that “will not be a barrier” for two primary reasons. First, they will comprise a smaller and smaller portion of the population over time. Second, surveys reveal that such uneasiness is transitory. As such, “Cultured meat will win in the long run. However, novel vegan meat replacements will be essential in the transition phase.”

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