Animal Rights and Food

Beyond Regan, beyond vegan

Authored by: Josh Milburn

The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138809130
eBook ISBN: 9781315745503
Adobe ISBN: 9781317595502


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Ethical questions about the status of nonhuman animals (NHAs) entered mainstream philosophical dialogue in the latter half of the 20th century with the publication of works such as the edited collection Animals, Men, and Morals (1972) and especially Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975). Animal rights (AR) philosophy, though there were earlier proponents, gained prominence after the publication of Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights in 1983. This work offered a deontological alternative to Singer’s utilitarian account of the moral status of NHAs, and, excluding Animal Liberation, is probably the most important 20th-century work of animal ethics. As it is through food (including meat, eggs, and milk) that many people primarily “interact” with NHAs, animal ethics has long engaged with issues related to food, especially food ethics and food policy. Today, if we accept AR, it should be uncontroversial to say that we have a duty to adopt a vegan diet. However, it is my contention that this is not, or should not be, all that an AR approach to food will say. As the philosophy of food becomes more developed, so must AR approaches to food.

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