In Defense of Eating Meat

  • Timothy Hsiao


Some arguments for moral vegetarianism proceed by appealing to widely held beliefs about the immorality of causing unjustified pain. Combined with the claim that meat is not needed for our nourishment and that killing animals for this reason causes them unjustified pain, they yield the conclusion that eating meat is immoral. However, what counts as a good enough reason for causing pain will depend largely on what we think about the moral status of animals. Implicit in these arguments is the claim that sentience is sufficient for having moral status. These arguments, however, fail to specify the conceptual connection between the two. I argue in this paper that sentience is not sufficient for moral status. Thus, although animals experience pain as it is physically bad, their experience of it is not in itself morally bad. They are harmed in feeling pain, but this harm is not of a moral kind. This distinction parallels the more familiar distinction between moral and non-moral goods. When considered, this significantly mitigates the force of sentience-based arguments for moral vegetarianism. Since animals lack moral status, it is not wrong to eat meat, even if this is not essential to nutrition.


Animal ethics Vegetarianism Moral status Sentience 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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