Animals, Freedom, and the Ethics of Veganism

In Bernice Bovenkerk & Jozef Keulartz (eds.), Animal Ethics in the Age of Humans: Blurring Boundaries in Human-Animal Relationships. Springer. pp. 265-277 (2016)
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Abstract

While moral arguments for vegetarianism have been explored in great depth, the arguments for veganism seem less clear. Although many animals used for milk and eggs are forced to live miserable lives on factory farms, it’s possible to raise animals as food resources on farms where the animals are treated more humanely and never slaughtered. Under more humane conditions, do we harm animals to use them for food? I argue that, even under humane conditions, using animals for food typically harms animals by restricting their freedom. My argument raises an important question about the extent to which animals are harmed when their freedom is restricted. On one view, it is possible to restrict animals’ freedom without harming them so long as we don’t make them suffer. This view underestimates the value of freedom for animals. Even if animals aren’t made to suffer, restricting their freedom can harm them insofar as it deprives them of freely pursuing their enjoyments in life. My argument has implications for not only the ethics of using animals as food resources but also the ethics of using animals in zoos and circuses. I examine these implications and also consider what we should do with farm animals if we cease using them for food.

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Aaron Simmons
Marywood University

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