Can veganism be defended against moral relativist beliefs, assuming moral relativism is correct? I might be missing something here but it seems like veganism almost always requires a non-relativist framework.

  • Do you mean "forcing other people to be vegan"? Because it seems to me positions like "other people do what they want, I personally won't eat animal products" thrive in a relativist framework.
    – armand
    Mar 9 at 0:05
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    It depends on how radical the relativism is. If one declares that all of morality is a matter of personal preference there would be no fulcrum point from which such a case could be made if veganism is not preferred. For cultural or partial personal relativism (that leaves only some of morality up to personal choice, so-called gray areas) such a case could be made sometimes, but it would depend on specifics of what is taken as cultural/shared norms, see e.g. Grillo.
    – Conifold
    Mar 9 at 0:10
  • What does disagreement imply? Mar 9 at 0:54
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    @armand I mean enforcing veganism Mar 9 at 0:56
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    Can we impose veganism on lion via morality? If no why human is indifferent?
    – Ha'Penny
    Mar 15 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


Can a case for veganism be made from a moral relativist perspective?

Absolutely. A vegan can simply recognize that their arguments for veganism apply to some people and not others. This is a vegan who embraces philosophical pluralism. Many fine, kind vegans say, it's right for me, and if bacon is right for you, then so be it.

Now, there are MILITANT vegans who think in absolutist terms who believe there is one correct way to think and one correct conclusion, so on. In such case, they may brandish and wag a finger. "Eating animals is killing the planet". "To kill conscious animals is murder". "If you are not part of the solution regarding animal rights, you are part of the problem." Such a vegan does NOT embrace moral relativism. If you recognize veganism as being consistent with militant veganism, it may be the availability bias at work since militant folk tend to create a stronger impression.

So, the lesson to be learned is that one's beliefs about veganism and one's beliefs about morality are two different matters, and that in some sense, whether or not one is a vegan may be independent of whether or not one is a moral absolutist or a moral relativist. The difference in the latter positions obtains not just to the morality of killing and eating animals, but to morality more generally. Hence, religious folk can be morally absolutist (My God is the one, true God!) or moral relativist (Let's be ecumenical. Surely God or gods or whatever superpower would want us to get along and build bridges rather than wage crusades).

  • You can be a moral relativist, & still say veganism is generally better in terms of generating a desirable future, like arbitrarily murdering & enslaving humans seems generally to cause problems even if you think some people can make a personal or local case for those.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 15 at 21:32
  • @CriglCragl Which expresses implicitly the premise that most of us are much more complicated and wield a very complex notion of morality such that anyone being, strictly speaking, a moral relativist is sort of silly. :D Singer has spent his life trying to hone his arguments, and saying "Moral relativism - nay! Veganism - yay!" might be omitting some of the articulation to capture a metaphysical argument with sufficient persuasive force to a honed intellect. ; )
    – J D
    Apr 15 at 22:19
  • I mean, 'moral relativist' is a pejorative rather than anyone's self-description, generally by theists of non-theists. Singer's utilitarianism is consequentialist..?
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 16 at 10:37

Many vegans argue from a relativist perspective, relying upon a person's attitudes towards animal cruelty to reach an absolute claim about how a person opposed to animal cruelty should behave.

For example:

  1. If you believe that we shouldn’t be cruel to animals, i.e. we shouldn’t harm animals unnecessarily, and

  2. If you believe the consumption of animal products harms animals, then

  3. Animal products should not be consumed when doing so is unnecessary.

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