A question was posed on a Facebook page I follow:
"If we could successfully grow meat in a nutrient vat (which tasted exactly the same as normal meat and was the same price), would you eat it? Would you also stop eating normal meat?"
Let's say I did. Let's say we all did. Demand for meat from living animals would decline until the industry went under entirely. With such an option available, arguments to ban the production and eating of meat from animals would not seem so unreasonable, and would probably gain enough traction in some places to become law. Barns would be torn down, pastures would be paved over. Breeds of livestock would go extinct. Entire species of livestock might become endangered.
So now we're committed. Not only are the animal farms gone, but nobody's growing feed for these now non-existent livestock. Those vast acres of prairies are now growing biofuels, or perhaps they've been paved over and turned into strip malls and housing subdivisions. Food now comes from high-tech laboratories. They use a lot of highly specialized chemicals that are manufactured specifically for that process. The conditions for growth are monitored and maintained by computers. The whole process consumes massive amounts of energy. There's demand for biotech engineers, but common farm workers are displaced.
And then, maybe generations later, something happens. Maybe bad weather causes a disruption in the supply chain. Maybe political turmoil causes a spike in energy costs, forcing food prices through the roof. Maybe someone hacks the software. Maybe a rare mineral used in the equipment becomes unavailable. The more complex the system, the more opportunities there are for failure.
The people can't rely on the factories to feed them anymore, so they decide to turn back to animals for meat...only they can't now. In this future, nobody knows how to hunt anymore. Nobody has any livestock. Even if they could obtain it, they'd have forgotten how to care for it, how to breed it, and how to butcher it. And even if all that knowledge was all archived in libraries or the Internet, nobody would have the stomach for it anymore. By then, every aspect of it would have been outlawed. The entire populace would be suffering such an extreme case of acorn tree syndrome that the very thought of killing an animal and cutting it into pieces for food would seem like cannibalism. Even if people got desperate enough to overcome their squeamishness, all the land for grazing the animals or growing their feed will have been reassigned to other purposes, and nobody's going to volunteer their house to get torn down to make pasture.
Earlier this evening, from a second-story window, I used a bow to shoot a groundhog that was going for my vegetable garden. I want to become proficient at making such weapons from materials that grow wild on my land, and teach my children to do the same. Those are skills we can count on to feed us. We can take them with us anywhere we have to go, no matter what happens in the Middle East or Washington or in the stock market.