Moral Reasons for Individuals in High-Income Countries to Limit Beef Consumption

Food Ethics 7 (2):1-27 (2022)
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This paper argues that individuals in many high-income countries typically have moral reasons to limit their beef consumption and consume plant-based protein instead, given the negative effects of beef production and consumption. Beef production is a significant source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts, high levels of beef consumption are associated with health risks, and some cattle production systems raise animal welfare concerns. These negative effects matter, from a variety of moral perspectives, and give us collective moral reasons to reduce beef production and consumption. But, as some ethicists have argued, we cannot draw a straight line from the ethics of production to the ethics of consumption: even if a production system is morally impermissible, this does not mean that any given individual has moral reasons to stop consuming the products of that system, given how miniscule one individual’s contributions are. This paper considers how to connect those dots. We consider three distinct lines of argument in support of the conclusion that individuals have moral reasons to limit their beef consumption and shift to plant-based protein, and we consider objections to each argument. This argument applies to individuals in high beef-consuming and high greenhouse gas-emitting high-income countries, though we make this argument with a specific focus on the United States.



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Author Profiles

Travis Rieder
Johns Hopkins University
Justin Bernstein
VU University Amsterdam

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The case for animal rights.Tom Regan - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Noûs. Oxford University Press. pp. 425-434.

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