Corrupting the Youth: Should Parents Feed their Children Meat?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (4):981-997 (2021)
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This article is concerned with choices that parents or guardians make about the food they give to their children. Those with primary responsibility for the care of young children determine the set of foods that their children eat and have a significant impact on children’s subsequent dietary choices, both in later childhood and in adulthood. I argue that parents have a morally significant reason not to feed meat to their children, which stems from their fiduciary responsibility for the child’s moral development. This should, at a minimum, be factored into parental decisions about their children’s diet. In the absence of compelling countervailing reasons, it will mean that parents should not, in an all-things-considered sense, feed meat to their children. This claim does not rely upon the obviously contentious claim that it is morally wrong to eat meat. Instead, the fact that children, when adults, may reasonably themselves come to believe that consuming meat is wrong gives parents morally compelling reasons to avoid acting in ways which may have the predictable consequence of corrupting the moral character of those for whom they are responsible.

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Daniel Butt
Oxford University


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