Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 909–929 | Cite as

Virtues and Animals: A Minimally Decent Ethic for Practical Living in a Non-ideal World

  • Cheryl AbbateEmail author


Traditional approaches to animal ethics commonly emerge from one of two influential ethical theories: Regan’s deontology (The case for animal rights. University of California, Berkeley, 1983) and Singer’s preference utilitarianism (Animal liberation. Avon Books, New York, 1975). I argue that both of the theories are unsuccessful at providing adequate protection for animals because they are unable to satisfy the three conditions of a minimally decent theory of animal protection. While Singer’s theory is overly permissive, Regan’s theory is too restrictive. I argue that a minimally decent animal ethic requires a framework that allows for context-dependent considerations of our complex human–animal relationship in a non-ideal world. A plausible theory which exemplifies this new ethic is virtue ethics.


Philosophy Animal ethics Virtue ethics 



This will be complete if accepted for publication.The author would like to thank both Franco Trivigno and Susanne Foster for their careful feedback on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marquette UniversityWauwatosaUSA

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