Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

2019 Edition
| Editors: David M. Kaplan

Food and the Moral Status of Animals

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1179-9_606


Introduction: Why Diverse Views on the Moral Status of Animals Have Ethical Significance

The fact that people have a range of personal attitudes toward eating is a social fact of little theoretical interest in itself. However, the fact that this diversity of attitudes toward food is often backed up by diverse ethical attitudes is of great theoretical import. This entry focuses on ethical attitudes toward animals as possible food. (Henceforth, by “animals” I refer to nonhuman sentient animals.)

People’s moral attitudes toward food, and in particular animals as food, are usually summarized in a tripartite way: omnivorism, vegetarianism, and veganism. This division is sensible because it tells us the practical outcome of the basic moral commitment: whether a person eats anything, or they eat only animal products but not animals, or they eat neither animals nor animal products. It bears specifying that this...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Callicott, J. B. (1989). In defense of the land ethic. Essays in environmental philosophy. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  2. Cochrane, A. (2012). Animal rights without liberation. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cuneo, T. (2016). Conscientious Omnivorism. In A. Chignell, T. Cuneo, & M. T. Halteman (Eds.), Philosophy comes to dinner. Arguments about the ethics of eating (pp. 21–38). New York/London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Donovan, J. (2006). Feminism and the treatment of animals: From care to dialogue. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 31, 305–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Francione, G. L. (2008). Animals as persons. Essays on the abolition of animal exploitation. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Herzog, H. (2011). Some we love, some we hate, some we eat. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  7. Kant, I. (1997). In P. Heath & J. B. Schneewind (Eds.), Lectures on ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Regan, T. (1983). The case for animal rights. London: Routledge/Kegan.Google Scholar
  11. Scruton, R. (2000). Animal rights and wrongs. London: Metro.Google Scholar
  12. Singer, P. (1993). Practical ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Waldau, P., & Patton, K. (Eds.). (2006). A communion of subjects: Animals in religion, science and ethics. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Zuolo, F. (2016). What’s the point of self-consciousness? A critique of Singer’s argument against killing (human or non-human) self-conscious animals. Utilitas, 28, 465–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Classics, Philosophy and HistoryUniversity of GenovaGenovaItaly