PETA calls proposal to ban cultivated meat in Florida “boneheaded”

The Florida Legislature may soon become the first state in the nation to ban cultivated meat, and the head of the People for the Treatment of Animals (PETA) thinks that’s a terrible idea.

Ingrid Newkirk, the head of PETA, has penned letters blasting the proposal to the GOP lawmakers who are sponsoring the bills in the Legislature: Hillsborough County Rep. Danny Alvarez in the House (HB 1071) and Hillsborough’s Jay Collins in the Senate (SB 1084).

“It’s come to our attention that you have introduced SB 1084 to bar anyone in the state from what should be their right to obtain in vitro meat, if it should ever become available,” Newkirk writes in her letter sent to Sen. Collins. “In the interests of transparency, we suggest that you rename your bill the ‘Special Interests’ Dirty Habits Retention Act of 2024’—because that’s truly what it is.”

Newkirk goes on to write:  “Or better yet, scrap this boneheaded bill and redirect your efforts to ensuring that every Floridian knows exactly how filthy and cruel factory farming is and how they can enjoy fresh, delicious vegan foods right now, no wait, and without supporting, as your bill does, cruelty to animals. Despite your fears, cell-cultured meat may never materialize, but we need to give meat the boot right now.”

The bills moving in both chambers of the Legislature would make it unlawful for anyone to sell, manufacture for sale, hold or offer for sale cultivated meat in Florida. A violator could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

Additionally, the proposals would subject any restaurant, store, or other business to having their license suspended for offering the product.

Collins told a Senate committee last week that his motivation is to protect Florida consumers.

“There are many concerns right here and, until we have those studies and there’s proof positive that this process is going to work, we want to ban this in the state of Florida because it’s just not there quite yet,” he said.

The agriculture establishment in Florida is strongly behind the bill, including the Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Poultry Federation, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. Sen. Collins has acknowledged working closely with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in crafting the legislation.

Newkirk also sent letters to Florida Republicans Clay Yarborough in the Senate and Tyler Sirois in the House. They filed similar bills going after cultivated meat, but neither of those bills have advanced in the session.

Since its founding in 1980, PETA claims to be the largest animal rights group in the world, and they say they have more than 9 million members and supporters around the world.

Proponents of cultivated meat like Newkirk say that it’s better for the climate than conventional beef production, though a study from MIT published last summer say that’s unclear at this time.

“Animal agriculture is wreaking havoc on the environment—including the increasing intensity of storms and hurricanes ravaging Florida’s coasts,” Newkirk writes. “The meat industry is one of the world’s largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, and I hope our suggestion to name this bill inspires you to think hard about the favoritism being afforded to special interests that aren’t in the best interests of Floridians and other humans around the planet.”

The Phoenix reached out to both Sen. Collins and Rep. Alvarez for comment but neither immediately responded. Both of their bills have one more committee stop to get through before reaching the floor of their respective chambers for final approval.

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