, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 405-417
Date: 18 Jan 2011

Veganism and Living Well

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Abstract

I argue that many philosophical arguments for veganism underestimate what is at stake for humans who give up eating animal products. By saying all that’s at stake for humans is taste and characterizing taste in simplistic terms, they underestimate the reasonable resistance that arguments for veganism will meet. Taste, they believe, is trivial. Omnivores, particular those that I label “meaningful omnivores,” disagree. They believe that eating meat provides a more meaningful meal, though just how this works proves elusive. Meaningful omnivores could find little in the philosophical literature to help them clarify and support their position until recently. A few philosophers have argued that our culinary practices involve something more significant than taste. I categorize these arguments into three kinds. They either argue that culinary practices are a form of artistic achievement, that our diet forms part of our identity, or that a specific diet facilitates honest engagement with the world. Each of these arguments connects some aspect of our culinary practices to living a meaningful life. I examine each argument to see if it can defend the meaningful omnivore’s position. In the end, I conclude that it cannot. Nonetheless, this argument has significant implications for the animal welfare movement. Given the intense suffering caused by contemporary animal agriculture, concern for meaning is not sufficient to justify eating meat and often dairy. Concern for meaning does, however, require that we look for ways to preserve and extend culinary traditions while making them more humane.