Monday, June 27, 2022

Veganism and Personal Choice

 I have noticed a number of tweets defending animal eating and exploitation as a matter of personal choice. I wanted to give a response.

I think the error might arise out of a confusion between artistic judgments and moral judgments. For tastes in art, we reasonably defer to individual preferences. If I like the movie Eraserhead and my wife detests it. We just assume that we have different tastes and leave it at that. We might say something like “well, each to their own.”

Many people assume that the same argument applies to moral choice, that morality is somehow simply a matter of individual preference. But a moment’s reflection will show that this cannot be. You can’t, or at least shouldn’t, believe that the morality of murder is a matter of personal choice. 

Morality, by its very nature, is about how we behave towards others in the context of a society. It would be bizarre to say that in a personal relationship only my interests matter. Indeed, the prerequisite for a healthy relationship is attention to the interests of others. Thus, morality is about the totality of relationships and in it we must weigh the interests of others. In artistic judgments we really don’t need to justify our tastes, but in moral judgments we need to have arguments why one course of action is moral and another is not.

Thus, when meat eaters say that their enjoyment of eating animals is sufficient justification, their argument fails to take into account the interests of the sentient animal, that is capable of feeling pain and has value in its own life.

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