(Draft) Cows, crickets and clams: On the alleged 'vegan' obligation to eat different kinds of meat

Abstract

Vegans do not eat meat. This statement seems so obvious that one might be tempted to claim that it is analytically true. Yet several authors argue that the underlying logic of veganism warrants – perhaps even demands – eating meat. I begin by considering an important principle that has been important in motivating vegan meat-eating, related to an obligation to reduce or minimise harm. I offer an alternative, rights-based view, and suggest that while this might support an obligation to eat meat in some cases, it fundamentally changes how we should view the arguments on offer. I consider such arguments with respect to three categories of animals: cows, crickets and clams. Rather than assigning importance to the particular choice of animal, readers should take each of these to stand for particular categorisations of non-human animals: animals who certainly have some capacities that we regard as morally relevant in humans, such as sentience, or the capacity for desires (‘cows’); animals who might have one or more of these capacities, but where current research is inconclusive (‘crickets’); and animals that are, according to our current knowledge, extremely unlikely to have any of these capacities (‘clams’).

Author's Profile

Ben Davies
Oxford University

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2020-08-12

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