Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (3):368 - 383 (2012)

John R. Harris
Texas Christian University
Richard Galvin
Texas Christian University
It appears that utilitarian arguments in favor of moral vegetarianism cannot justify a complete prohibition of eating meat. This is because, in certain circumstances, forgoing meat will prevent no pain, and so, on utilitarian grounds, we should be opportunistic carnivores rather than moral vegetarians. In his paper, ‘Puppies, pigs, and people: Eating meat and marginal cases,’ Alastair Norcross argues that causal impotence arguments like these are misguided. First, he presents an analogous situation, the case of chocolate mousse a-la-bama, in order to argue that we, individually, are not causally impotent. Second, Norcross offers a threshold argument in which he argues that while we may individually be causally impotent, when we adopt moral vegetarianism in concert with others, we become causally potent in preventing harms by factory farming. We argue that Norcross's responses ultimately fail to address the causal impotence objection. The former argument fails because it vastly oversimplifies the world in which we find ourselves. Given the size of factory farming, the reasonable conclusion is that we are in fact powerless to prevent harms to animals in factory farms in many or most cases. The latter argument fails because even if collective action will have an impact on factory farming, this does not provide us with an argument against being carnivores in certain circumstances.
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DOI 10.1080/21550085.2012.730258
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Citations of this work BETA

Industrial Farming is Not Cruel to Animals.Timothy Hsiao - 2017 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30 (1):37-54.
Industrial Farm Animal Production: A Comprehensive Moral Critique.John Rossi & Samual A. Garner - 2014 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 27 (3):479-522.
Puppies, Pigs, and Potency: A Response to Galvin and Harris.Alastair Norcross - 2012 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (3):384 - 388.
In Defense of the Basic Argument for Vegetarianism.James Simpson - 2021 - Journal of Animal Ethics 11 (2):53-59.

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