This is a very common question, but I've always been torn about how I can give a rational moral justification for being a non-vegetarian. Is it not hypocritical for me to condemn other acts of animal cruelty (like the animal skin clothing) if I myself eat animals that have been killed for that specific purpose? What are some philosophical schools of thought on this subject, and what does this debate in moral philosophy generally turn on?

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    See SEP Moral Vegetarianism and Moral Status of Animals.
    – Conifold
    Oct 14, 2019 at 8:22
  • From an evolutionary point of view, being domesticated by humans is often the best thing that can happen to a species. It pretty much guarantees that it will not go extinct until we do, and most species are not that lucky, we are ending their lines in droves. The moral guilt of eating an animal is just anthropomorphism and sentimentality. Animals don't have it. If your cats get hungry enough, they will happily eat you. Kant has suggested that what matters is not the act that matters in this case, but whether it challenges sentiments in a way that coarsens empathy. Factory farming does.
    – user9166
    Nov 14, 2019 at 1:10

1 Answer 1


Many people tend to conflate all human/animal interactions into a single idea, and that makes it easy to see other people (or even oneself) as being inconsistent or wrong.

It helps to separate the issues into independent questions, such as:

  • Purposeless cruelty (kick the dog, because you can).
  • Useful cruelty (force an ox to pull a plow).
  • Humane killing for clothing.
  • Humane killing for food.

This list is hardly collectively exhaustive and mutually exclusive, and your list might very well be different.

You can assign a justification for your feelings about each individual item.

You can then order the list, and "draw a line" between what practices you personally feel comfortable or uncomfortable with.

Note that even if two people have the same list, they might order it differently. For instance, I find forcing an ox to work all day long to be more objectionable than letting it graze and then one day killing and eating it. But a vegetarian would object to the killing and eating, but find forcing an ox to plow a rice field perfectly acceptable.

Unless it is handed down from a god, morality is subjective. It is what you believe to be right or wrong, and that won't necessarily be what I believe.

As long as you consistently follow your own justifications, you aren't hypocritical. It's only when you apply your morality to someone else's actions (or their morality to yours) that such problems arise.

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    There is a topic in philosophy called normative ethics. It doesn't suggest or imply subjectivity is included. Morality would not be a topic if any thing goes and any opinion was valued. Do you co sider the field of normative ethics subjective? Perhaps distinguishing the differences in types of ethics would help if you mentioned many. What o find is people confuse ethics with morality and DESCRIPTIVE ETHICS and NORMATIVE ETHICS. Descriptive ethic is closer to Psychology and characterized by people thinking all is subjective.
    – Logikal
    Oct 14, 2019 at 16:10

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