The Ethical Basis for Veganism

In Anne Barnhill, Mark Budolfson & Tyler Doggett (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics. New York, USA: Oxford University Press (2018)
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This chapter examines the ethical case that can be mounted for veganism. Because there has been comparatively little discussion in ethics focused directly on veganism, the central aim of this chapter is threefold: to orient readers to (some of) the most important philosophical literature relevant to the topic, to provide a clear explanation of the current state of the ethical case for veganism, and to focus attention on the most important outstanding or underexplored questions in this domain. The chapter examines the range of positions that deserve to be called ethical veganism, and some of the types of reasons that philosophers can potentially appeal to in arguing for veganism. It then spells out the core of the most promising case for veganism, which argues directly for the wrongness of making animals suffer and die. The chapter then considers three ways of arguing from this conclusion to an ethical defense of the vegan lifestyle, which appeal respectively to the ethical significance of the effects of individual use of animal products, of group efficacy, and of complicity with wrongdoing. The chapter concludes by examining several neglected complications facing the ethical case for veganism.

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Tristram McPherson
Ohio State University


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