Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four-part series on the philosophical defenses of eating animals. The arguments presented here are arguments made within the utilitarian framework. Naturally, many philosophers and animal advocates reject utilitarianism in favor of a rights-based (or other) framework. Accordingly, the second column in this series will explore how philosophers have challenged animal rights arguments in a way that might clear room for eating animals ethically.
[Johnson makes his case against eating animals through Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. This seminal book articulated an argument for which Johnson couldn’t “muster a defense for meat eating.” Philosophically, Singer is a utilitarian. Utilitarians believe that the moral choice is the one that produces “the greatest good for the greatest number” of sentient beings. Within this framework, it certainly seems irrefutable that, as Singer argues, whatever pleasure a meat eater derives from eating meat is outweighed by that animal’s suffering. Calculate the suffering involved when an animal is raised and slaughtered for food, as well as the harmful ecological consequences of animal agriculture, and then measure it against your little burst of gustatory pleasure, and, no matter how tasty the meat, it’s difficult to see how the vegans, or Singer, could be wrong on this one….]