- And it’s not just meat that is a problem; there is no morally significant difference between meat on the one hand, and dairy and eggs on the other. All of these products involve suffering and death. Veganism is not an extreme position; what is extreme is claiming to believe that animals matter morally and then inflicting suffering on them for no reason other than culinary pleasure or convenience. It is also extreme to continue to ignore that, if we adopted a vegan diet, we could substantially reduce, if not end, world hunger, and take the single most significant step we can take as individuals to address the climate crisis.
- Although I am sure that many readers will have various objections to what I have said here, I want to anticipate the one that I think will be the most prevalent: where do we draw the line? What about insects? What about plants? Are they all sentient? The answer is that lines in ethics are almost always hard to draw but, in this case, we can say with confidence that just about all of the animals we exploit as a matter of institutionalised practice – the mammals, the birds, the fish, the lobsters, the crabs, the octopi , etc – are sentient. We can start there and worry about refining the line later on.
- As for plants, there is absolutely no evidence to date that they have any sort of minds that prefer, want or desire anything. Yes, they have certainly evolved biological processes that seek to assure their flourishing but no, they are not subjectively aware. If it turns out that plants are sentient, given that it takes many more units of plants to produce one unit of an animal product, we would still be obligated to choose to consume the plants directly if we did not conclude that we have an obligation to starve.
- Gary L Francione is Board of Governors Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law in New Jersey, US; visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Lincoln, UK; and honorary professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia, UK. His most recent book is Why Veganism Matters: The Moral Value of Animals (2021).
- This is a very important paper that deserves careful consideration, which I intend to supply shortly!
- It is – like many papers on Aeon – something of a plug for the author’s latest book, but it is very clearly argued.
- I agree with much of what the author has the say, but don’t believe the implications have been sufficiently thought through (maybe they are in the books).
- The author disagrees with both Peter Singer (utilitarian) and Tom Regan (rights theorist) in arguing that while it is a moral advance to consider the suffering of other sentient beings in our dealings with them, the key issue is with us treating them as property with no interest in their own survival because they have ‘no plans for the future’.
- He also argues that almost all our use of animals is ‘frivolous’ – in that it is unnecessary and arises merely for economic reasons because we consider animals as property.
- I agree with the author that animals – while they may not have ‘plans’ like we do – do have an interest in their own survival and suffer loss when deprived of life. I also agree that they should not be treated like inanimate ‘property’.
- However, I don’t agree that we should count them as Persons on that account. The author’s intuition is diametrically opposed to that of Lynne Rudder Baker, which is also mistaken, in my opinion.
- There is an interesting and challenging discussion of humans with dementia and normal non-human mammals that asks the question why the former have absolute moral priority and the latter don’t.
- Also, the author doesn’t really seem to take into account the fact that human and non-human animals are in competition for resources. Even were we to all to become vegans, we’d have to protect our food-sources from predation by rodents, insects, birds, ruminants, … and ourselves from large predators.
- The author seems to think there is objectivity in ethics. While an ethical position can be clearly argued, if it’s not accepted things seem to degenerate into shouting.
- Finally, I don’t like the current fad to link red-meat eating to climate-change. While the production of methane by ruminants does lead to climate change, this would be the case whether they were bred for human use or were wild. Should they not exist?
- I note that the comments are worth reading as the author has made cogent replies to objections. I’ve saved them for future reference.
- That’s all I’ve time for at the moment.
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