The Diner’s Defence: Producers, Consumers, and the Benefits of Existence

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One popular defence of moral omnivorism appeals to facts about the indirectness of the diner’s causal relationship to the suffering of farmed animals. Another appeals to the claim that farmed animals would not exist but for our farming practices. The import of these claims, I argue, has been misunderstood, and the standard arguments grounded in them fail. In this paper, I develop a better argument in defence of eating meat which combines resources from both of these strategies, together with principles of population ethics, and discuss its implications for which sorts of meat it is permissible to eat. According to the diner’s defence, there is an asymmetry between producers and consumers of meat. Producers can prevent the suffering of animals without preventing their existence, but consumers cannot. This asymmetry grounds a defence against harm-based objections to eating meat which is available to the consumer alone, and which avoids the controversial commitments about moral status or the interests of nonhuman animals endemic to existing attempts to justify omnivorism.
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Archival date: 2019-03-03
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