Eat cultured meat without killing. Part Three: Hindus? Jains?

Eat cultured meat without killing.

Part Three: Hindus? Jains?

Hindu food. Will meat grown without killing be attractive to Hindus? Jains?

In this series of Patheos articles on public theology, we began by asking ourselves in part one: should we eat cultured meat without killing? Then, in part two, we asked Jewish studies scholar Sam Shonkoff: Is cultured meat kosher? We continue a discussion started by our friends in Kerela, India, who recently addressed the “Global Food Crisis and Food Justice” in the magazine Peace Lumina.

A priori, the widespread consumption of cultured meat – also called cultured meat, in vitro, lab-grown artificial meat – could make a substantial contribution to human and planetary flourishing. Cultured meat could provide affordable protein for the many victims of the current global food crisis. Cultured meat could reduce or even eliminate animal slaughter. Finally, cultured meat could indirectly contribute to restoring our planet’s fertility by reducing pasture and reducing methane gas emissions. The science of meat culture has its detractors, of course. Still, it’s time to prepare for the future.

What we need at this stage of the game is to solicit theological and ethical responses from religious traditions. What exactly do the various religious traditions hold about the relationship between humans and animals? What food practices have developed? What theological reasoning led to these practices? And could the notion of meat grown without killing stimulate new theological thinking and perhaps a change in practice?

Could cultured meat appeal to vegetarians?

In the first article in this series on meat grown without killing, we asked about vegetarianism in India. We noted how the Pew Research Center reports that the vast majority of Indian adults (81%) follow certain restrictions on meat in their diet, including abstaining from certain meats, not eating meat on certain days, or of them. However, most Indians do not completely abstain from meat – only 39% of Indian adults describe themselves as “vegetarian”, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. Although there are many ways to define ‘vegetarian’ in India, the survey left the definition up to the respondent.

Let’s specifically ask about Hindus and Jains. We’ll ask Rita Sherma.

Global food crisis and food justice

Meet Rita Sherma

Rita Sherma is Associate Professor of Dharma Studies and Director of the Center for Dharma Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Professor Sherma is co-founder of the Hinduism Program Unit at the American Academy of Religion. She is also the founding vice-president of DANAM (Dharma Academy of North America) – a learned society for research in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious and interfaith studies – and is vice-president of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

Professor Rita D. Sherma, Director of Dharma Studies, Graduate Theological Union

Quite relevant to the issue of cultured meat is Professor Sherma’s ongoing scholarship in the name of restoring the fruitful health of planet Earth. She is an ecotheologian. She recently co-edited an important book, Religion and sustainability: interreligious resources, interdisciplinary responses. She is the ideal person to provide succinct and precise answers to our questions.

Question 1. What do you think would be the response of a Hindu vegetarian to the prospect of eating cultured meat?

Rita Sherma. Hindus and Jains would not eat cultured meat for two reasons. First, there is the problem of the desire for meat from other sentient beings which is not considered conducive to spiritual advancement. Second, there is no need. Indeed, Indian cuisine – with its variety of delicious dishes created from protein sources derived from various vegetable sources such as various lentils, legumes, milk solids (paneer), etc. – offers flavor and satisfaction to those who love savory Indian cuisine. .

Question 2. What is your own theologically thoughtful answer?

Jain food

Rita Sherma. The food chain has grown and evolved through a natural process. It is therefore not intrinsically immoral. However, from the perspective of various religious ethics, we can hurt ourselves morally by indulging in the slaughter and consumption of other sentient beings. This is being researched by studies that examine brutality towards animals and chart the trajectory to more serious crimes – to crimes against other humans. Some Hindu traditions do not allow eating meat. But others allow it. Jainism absolutely forbids it.

And after?

This is where we have been.

Eat cultured meat without killing. part one

Eat cultured meat without killing. Part Two: Is It Kosher?

Eating Cultured Meat Without Killing, Part Three: Hindus? Jains?

And after? Ask LDS theologian Lincoln Cannon to report on the place of animals in Mormon theology.


Brian Brozovic is a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Ted Peters is Professor Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, USA. Visit Professor Peters’ website:

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