Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

pp 1-7

Date: Latest Version

The Replaceability Argument in the Ethics of Animal Husbandry

  • Nicolas DelonAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Studies, New York University Email author 


Conscientious omnivorism; Happy meat; Sustainable meat production


Most people agree that inflicting unnecessary suffering upon animals is wrong. Many fewer people, including among ethicists, agree that painlessly killing animals is necessarily wrong. The most commonly cited reason is that death (without pain, fear, distress) is not bad for them in a way that matters morally or not as significantly as it does for persons, who are self-conscious, make long-term plans, and have preferences about their own future. Animals, at least those that are not persons, lack a morally significant interest in continuing to live. At the same time, some argue that existence itself can be good, insofar as one’s life is worth living. For animals, a good life can offset a quick, if early, death. So, it seems to follow that breeding happy animals that will be (prematurely) killed can be a good thing overall. Insofar as slaughter and sale makes it economically sustainable to raise new ones ...

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