The moral footprint of animal products

Agriculture and Human Values 30 (2):193–202 (2013)
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Most ethical discussions about diet are focused on the justification of specific kinds of products rather than an individual assessment of the moral footprint of eating products of certain animal species. This way of thinking is represented in the typical division of four dietary attitudes. There are vegans, vegetarians, welfarists and ordinary meat -eaters. However, the common “all or nothing” discussions between meat -eaters, vegans and vegetarians bypass very important factors in assessing dietary habits. I argue that if we want to discover a properly assessed moral footprint of animal products, we should take into consideration not only life quality of animals during farming or violation of their rights—as is typically done—but, most of all, their body weight, life time in farms and time efficiency in animal products acquisition. Without these factors, an assessment of animal products is much too simplified. If we assume some easily accepted premises, we can justify a thesis that, regardless of the treatment of animals during farming and slaughtering, for example, eating chicken can be 163 times morally worse than eating beef, drinking milk can be 58 times morally better than eating eggs, and eating some types of fish can be even 501 times worse than eating beef. In order to justify such a thesis there is no need to reform common morality by, for example, criticizing its speciesism. The thesis that some animal products are much worse than others can be justified on common moral grounds
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