1st Edition

Dialogues on Ethical Vegetarianism

By Michael Huemer Copyright 2019
    136 Pages
    by Routledge

    136 Pages
    by Routledge

    After lives filled with deep suffering, 74 billion animals are slaughtered worldwide every year on factory farms. Is it wrong to buy the products of this industry?

    In this book, two college students – a meat-eater and an ethical vegetarian – discuss this question in a series of dialogues conducted over four days. The issues they cover include: how intelligence affects the badness of pain, whether consumers are responsible for the practices of an industry, how individual choices affect an industry, whether farm animals are better off living on factory farms than not existing at all, whether meat-eating is natural, whether morality protects those who cannot understand morality, whether morality protects those who are not members of society, whether humans alone possess souls, whether different creatures have different degrees of consciousness, why extreme animal welfare positions "sound crazy," and the role of empathy in moral judgment.

    The two students go on to discuss the vegan life, why people who accept the arguments in favor of veganism often fail to change their behavior, and how vegans should interact with non-vegans.

    A foreword, by Peter Singer, introduces and provides context for the dialogues, and a final annotated bibliography offers a list of sources related to the discussion. It offers abstracts of the most important books and articles related to the ethics of vegetarianism and veganism. 

    Key Features:

    • Thoroughly reviews the common arguments on both sides of the debate.
    • Dialogue format provides the most engaging way of introducing the issues.
    • Written in clear, conversational prose for a popular audience.
    • Offers new insights into the psychology of our dietary choices and our responsibility for influencing others.


    Foreword by Peter Singer



    Day 1: Suffering, intelligence, and the risk argument *

    a) The ethical vegetarian position

    b) For vegetarianism: the argument from pain and suffering

    c) For meat-eating: the argument from intelligence

    d) The total amount of pain caused by factory farming

    e) Biases of vegetarians and meat-eaters

    f) Intelligence and the badness of pain

    g) The case of mentally disabled humans

    h) The argument from moral uncertainty

    i) Valuing animal vs. human lives

    Day 2: Other defenses of meat consumption *

    a) Recap of the previous day's arguments

    b) The possibility of humane meat

    c) Are consumers responsible for meat industry practices?

    d) Can one person affect the meat industry?

    e) How industries respond to reduced demand

    f) Farm animals only exist because of meat consumption

    g) Utilitarian & non-utilitarian reasons against eating meat

    h) Do animals feel pain?

    i) Animals eat each other, so why can't we eat them?

    j) Free will and moral agency

    k) Should we stop animals from killing each other?

    l) Do rights imply obligations?

    m) Does morality protect those who cannot understand morality?

    n) The social contract theory of ethics

    o) Is meat natural?

    p) Are animals missing souls?

    q) Does the Bible support meat-eating?

    r) Judging meat eaters

    Day 3: Consciousness and rational belief *

    a) The theory of degrees of consciousness

    b) Erring on the side of caution

    c) The use of "torture"

    d) Why prioritize the animal welfare cause?

    e) Is factory farming the world's worst problem?

    f) On rejecting positions that "sound crazy"

    g) How ethics differs from mathematics and science

    h) Where does the "craziness" of extreme animal welfare positions come from?

    i) Questioning the vegetarian's empirical premises

    j) Questioning the vegetarian's moral premises

    k) Biases in favor of meat eating

    l) Status quo bias

    m) Speciesism

    n) Social proof

    o) Self-interest bias

    p) Empathy and the affect heuristic

    q) Problems with intuitions concerning large numbers

    r) Empathy and psychopathy

    s) Avoiding dogmatism

    t) Erring on the side of caution

    Day 4: The vegan life, abstract theory, and moral motivation*

    a) Finding good vegan meals

    b) Avoiding eggs and dairy

    c) Eating bivalves

    d) The value of life

    e) Why can we eat plants?

    f) Killing insects

    g) Are vegetarians hypocrites?

    h) Unconscious speciesism

    i) Are insects sentient?

    j) Free-range and humane certified meat

    k) Animal rights

    l) Debating the correct ethical theory

    m) Are there objective values?

    n) Moral skepticism

    o) Why philosophers should not serve on juries

    p) Is giving up meat "too difficult"?

    q) Are we too selfish to give up meat?

    r) Social conformity and the enforcement of morality

    s) Are vegans too moralistic?

    t) How meat eaters react to vegans

    u) Why promote veganism to others?

    v) How wrong is meat-eating?

    w) Comparing meat-eaters to Nazis

    Annotated Bibliography


    Michael Huemer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of more than 70 academic articles in ethics, metaphysics, political philosophy, and epistemology, as well as five other books: Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (2001), Ethical Intuitionism (2005), The Problem of Political Authority (2012), Approaching Infinity (2016), and Paradox Lost (2018).

    "In the future, when people ask me why I don’t eat meat, I will tell them to read this book."

    --Peter Singer, Princeton University and University of Melbourne