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Meat Eating and Moral Responsibility: Exploring the Moral Distinctions between Meat Eaters and Puppy Torturers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2020

C. E. Abbate*
Department of Philosophy, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


In his influential article on the ethics of eating animals, Alastair Norcross argues that consumers of factory raised meat and puppy torturers are equally condemnable because both knowingly cause serious harm to sentient creatures just for trivial pleasures. Against this claim, I argue that those who buy and consume factory raised meat, even those who do so knowing that they cause harm, have a partial excuse for their wrongdoings. Meat eaters act under social duress, which causes volitional impairment, and they often act from deeply ingrained habits, which causes epistemic impairment. But puppy torturers act against cultural norms and habits, consciously choosing to perform wrongful acts. Consequently, the average consumer of factory raised meat has, while puppy torturers lack, a cultural excuse. But although consumers of factory raised meat aren't blameworthy, they are partially morally responsible for their harmful behavior – and for this, they should feel regret, remorse, and shame.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020

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