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Jul 20, 2023

In recent years, two important but unrelated events have occurred in ethics. One is the return of moral philosophers to an interest in virtue ethics.1 The other is the interest in ethical veganism. I think that a virtuous approach to morality can be used in support of ethical veganism. One wonders why virtue ethicists seldom have contemplated this prospect. Apart from the already difficult task of articulating virtue ethics, it is also difficult to defend ethical veganism in a way that is satisfactory. Some proponents of veganism suggest that we categorically abolish animal exploitation; they argue that using animals or insects as a source of food,
clothing, and more, is immoral; and even that we should reject all products that have been experimented on animals—unconditionally.

This position, which I call absolute veganism, faces the difficulty of justifying such a totalizing claim in the face, for example, of those who live in parts of the world where scarcity of plant food or other unfavorable factors leave them with no other choice but to use animals to survive. Furthermore, avoiding products obtained from animals or that have been experimented on animals is nearly impossible as almost everything has, including soya beans, even water. In addition, the very People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) state, ‘‘we would not oppose eating eggs from chickens treated as companions if the birds receive excellent care and are not purchased from hatcheries.’’2 The latter, however, may seem to demand too little.

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