Veganism and Living Well

  • Christopher CiocchettiEmail author


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.


(4–6) Veganism Vegetarianism Fine arts Aesthetics Identity Nature 



I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful comments.


  1. Appiah, K. (2005). The ethics of identity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Belasco, W. (2008). Food: The key concepts. New York: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Cahoone, L. (2009). Hunting as a moral good. Environmental Values, 18(1), 67–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dancy, A., & Patrick, H. (2008). Vegetarian meat: Could technology save animals and satisfy meat eaters? Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 21, 579–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Davis, S. (2003). The least harm principle may require that humans consume a diet containing large herbivores, not a vegan diet. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 16, 387–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeGrazia, D. (2009). Moral vegetarianism from a very broad basis. Journal of Moral Philosophy, 6, 143–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Harris, J. (2007) African American foodways. In J. T. Edge (Ed.), The new encyclopedia of southern culture: Foodways (pp. 15–18). Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kazez, J. (2007). The weight of things: Philosophy and the good life. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Keuhn, G. (2004). Dining on Fido. In E. McKenna & A. Light (Eds.), Animal pragmatism (pp. 228–247). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Kierkegaard, S. (1988). “In Vino Veritas”. A recollection related by William Afham. In H. Hong & E. Hong (Eds.), Stages on life’s way (pp. 7–86). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Korsmeyer, C. (2002). Making sense of taste: Food and philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lamey, A. (2007). Food fight! Davis versus Regan on the ethics of eating beef. Journal of Social Philosophy, 38(2), 331–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Leone, L.E. (2008) There will be chicken blood. Slate. Accessed August 1 2010.
  14. Pollan, M. (2002) “An animal’s place”. New York Times Magazine.Google Scholar
  15. Pollan, M. (2006). Omnivore’s Dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  16. Schiavocampo, M. (2010) Cook defends fried chicken choice for black history month menu. The Grio. Accessed August 1 2010.
  17. Telfer, E. (1996). Food for thought. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Terry, B. (2009). Vegan Soul Kitchen. Philadelphia: De Capo Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentCentenary College of LouisianaShreveportUSA

Personalised recommendations