A Moral Argument for Veganism

In Andrew Chignell, Matthew Halteman & Terence Cuneo (eds.), Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments on the Ethics of Eating (2016)
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Abstract
We offer a relatively simple and straightforward argument that each of us ought to be vegan. We don’t defend this position by appealing to ‘animal rights’ or the view that animals and humans are ‘moral equals’. Rather, we argue that animal agriculture causes serious harms to other animals (such as pain, suffering and death) and these harms are morally unjustified or caused for no good reason. This is true for both ‘factory farming’ and smaller, so-called ‘humane’ farms. We argue that attempts to justify these harms don’t succeed, and conclude that raising and killing animals for food is wrong. In the second part of our essay we explain how this argument relates to the choices of individuals to buy and consume animal products. Since most people don’t raise and kill animals themselves, the argument above doesn’t directly address individuals’ daily choices. To address this concern, we offer a plausible, general moral principle that describes when consumers should not purchase or consume a product: most simply, we should not support those who act wrongly by seriously harming others, provided we can safely and easily do so. Since, for most people, it is safe and relatively easy to not support those who do wrong by raising and killing animals so they can be eaten, we should not buy or consume animal food products. After making our case that we ought to be vegan, we respond to some of the more challenging objections to our argument. We argue that these objections don’t succeed and so, given our previous argument, nearly everyone is morally obligated to eat a vegan diet.
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Archival date: 2014-02-10
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