Better to be a Pig Dissatisfied than a Plant Satisfied

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 37 (4):1-17 (2024)
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Abstract

In the last two decades, there has been a blossoming literature aiming to counter the neglect of plant capacities. In their recent paper, Miguel Segundo-Ortin and Paco Calvo begin by providing an overview of the literature to then question the mistaken assumptions that led to plants being immediately rejected as candidates for sentience. However, it appears that many responses to their arguments are based on the implicit conviction that because animals have far more sophisticated cognition and agency than plants, and that plants should not have the same moral status as animals, plants should not have any moral status. Put in simpler terms: it is not as bad to eat plants than to eat, say, pigs. While there are still uncertainties around comparative moral and policy implications between animals and plants, given a gradualist account of quasi-sentience and partial moral status, both of which we claim are a matter of degree, we may not have to abolish our convictions by declaring that plants have no sentience or moral status at all. Indeed, we can hold two things at the same time: that animals and plants have moral status, but animals have prima facie more moral status than plants.

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Author Profiles

Walter Veit
University of Reading
Ethan Terrill
Northern Virginia Community College

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References found in this work

The sentience shift in animal research.Heather Browning & Walter Veit - 2022 - The New Bioethics 28 (4):299-314.
Animal Sentience.Heather Browning & Jonathan Birch - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (5):e12822.
The Grounds of Moral Status.Julie Tannenbaum & Agnieszka Jaworska - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:0-0.

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