Skip to Content

Ethics of eating meat

« Back to Glossary Index

– Overview of arguments for and against meat eating:
– Pythagoras argued against eating animals due to their possession of souls like humans.
– Plato believed meat consumption led to land conflict and an unsustainable society.
– Xenophon shared concerns about the impact of meat consumption on land use.
– Some argue for meat consumption based on cultural traditions and religious beliefs.
– Scientific arguments supporting meat consumption include nutritional needs and human evolution.

– Reasons for promoting meat consumption:
– Health benefits are often cited as a reason for consuming meat.
– Cultural traditions play a significant role in promoting meat consumption.
– Religious beliefs may dictate the consumption of meat in certain contexts.
– Scientific arguments supporting meat consumption are based on nutritional needs.
– Some argue that meat consumption is essential for human adaptability.

– Reasons for abstaining from eating meat:
– Vegetarians avoid meat due to taste preferences and animal welfare concerns.
– Environmental vegetarians consider the impact of meat production on the environment.
– Health considerations are a common reason for abstaining from meat.
– Antimicrobial resistance is a concern for those who avoid meat consumption.
– Vegans extend their abstention to other animal products beyond meat.

– Ethical omnivores and their stance on meat consumption:
– Ethical omnivores object to unethical practices in meat production.
– Concerns include animal welfare, use of antibiotics, and hormones in meat production.
– Some ethical omnivores avoid specific meats and animal products based on production methods.
– Factory farming practices and inhumane treatment of animals are key concerns.
– Ethical omnivores may support meat consumption if produced in ethical ways.

– Public opinion and expert views on the ethics of meat eating:
– A survey of US philosophy professors showed varying opinions on the morality of eating meat.
– In a survey of English-language philosophers, opinions on meat consumption varied.
– The World Scientists Warning to Humanity called for a transition to plant-based diets.
– Experts emphasize the need to combat climate change through dietary changes.
– Public opinion and expert views on meat consumption continue to evolve.

Conversations regarding the ethics of eating meat are focused on whether or not it is moral to eat non-human animals. Ultimately, this is a debate that has been ongoing for millennia, and it remains one of the most prominent topics in food ethics.

Various types of meat

Individuals who promote meat consumption do so for a number of reasons, such as health, cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and scientific arguments that support the practice. Those who support meat consumption typically argue that making a meat-free diet mandatory would be wrong because it fails to consider the individual nutritional needs of humans at various stages of life, fails to account for biological differences between the sexes, ignores the reality of human evolution, ignores various cultural considerations, or because it would limit the adaptability of the human species.

People who abstain from eating meat are generally known as "vegetarians". They avoid meat for various reasons such as taste preferences, religion, animal welfare, the environmental impact of meat production (environmental vegetarianism), health considerations, and antimicrobial resistance. Vegans also abstain from other animal products, such as dairy products, honey and eggs, for similar reasons.

"Ethical omnivores" are individuals who object to the practices underlying the production of meat, as opposed to the act of consuming meat itself. In this respect, many people who abstain from certain kinds of meat eating and animal products do not take issue with meat consumption in general, provided that the meat and animal products are produced in a specific manner. Ethical omnivores may object to rearing animals for meat in factory farms, killing animals in ways that cause pain, and feeding animals unnecessary antibiotics or hormones. To this end, they may avoid meats such as veal, foie gras, meat from animals that were not free range, animals that were fed antibiotics or hormones, etc.

In a 2014 survey of 406 US philosophy professors, approximately 60% of ethicists and 45% of non-ethicist philosophers said it was at least somewhat "morally bad" to eat meat from mammals. A 2020 survey of 1812 published English-language philosophers found that 48% said it was permissible to eat animals in ordinary circumstances, while 45% said it was not. The World Scientists' Warning to Humanity (2017), the most co-signed scientific journal article in history, called (among other things) for a transition to plant-based diets in order to combat climate change.

« Back to Glossary Index