Comment: “A new lab-grown meat startup may have overcome a key barrier to making meat without slaughter”

It is hoped that lab-grown meat will help reduce the significant animal abuse and environmental damage that are inherent to our meat addiction. Lab-grown meat will need to solve several fiqh challenges before Muslims consider it lawful for consumption (halal). One of those challenges is that the source cells need to be grown without using blood-serum since blood is impure (najas), for Allah Most High says, “Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood…” [Q5:3].

Business Insider article reports that the company Meatable has developed a method that addresses this challenge. The article mentions:

Rather than relying on cells that can’t grow without a serum-like food source, Meatable’s founders use pluripotent stem cells, which possess the unique ability to turn into any type of cell — from muscle to fat — without serum.

Another challenge is obtaining source cells from an animal that was slaughtered in a manner that renders the animal lawful for human consumption. This excludes cells taken from a living animal, since whatever is severed from a living animal is the same as something from an animal that was not [properly] slaughtered, since the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whatever is cut from a living creature is dead.”1 It also excludes cells taken from an animal that was not slaughtered, since an unslaughtered animal is a carrion, and carrion is not lawful for human consumption since Allah Most High says, “Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood…” [Q5:3].

Concerning this challenge, the article mentions:

Many cell-based meat companies get the stem cells for their products from a small piece of tissue taken from a live animal.

Meatable claims it avoids this procedure entirely by sourcing stem cells from animals’ umbilical cords.

If Meatable would like to offer a product that Muslims consider it lawful for consumption, they will need to source the cells from the umbilical cord of animals that Muslims consider it lawful for consumption – and this rules out animals that are alive or parts of living animals. An easy solution would be to slaughter a pregnant animal and then obtain the cells from her unborn baby. According to the Shafii and Hanbali schools of law, an unborn animal is slaughtered by slaughtering its mother, so an unborn animal does not need to be slaughtered separately. This position is supported by the Prophet ﷺ saying, “Slaughtering an unborn animal occurs by slaughtering its mother.”2 Even if other schools require that the unborn animal also is slaughtered, there is still an overall reduction in animal abuse and environmental harm.

(n.b. Please be sure to read my thoughts on Islamic vegetarianism before jumping to any conclusions.)

  1.  Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī: Ḥākim, 7151, 7598. Another version reads, “Whatever is cut from a creature while it is alive is dead.” [Abū Dāwūd, 2858; Tirmidhī, 1480, Dāraquṭnī, 4792–3; Ḥākim, 7150, 7152, 7597; Bayhaqī, 77, 78, 18924. And another, “Whatever is cut from a creature while it is alive: what is cut is dead.” [Ibn Mājah, 3216.] 
  2. Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī: Tirmidhī, 1476 – ḥasan; Ibn Mājah, 3199; Ibn Ḥibbān, 5889; Dāraquṭnī, 4737, 4740; Ḥākim, 7110–12; Bayhaqī, 19492. 

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