This paper argues for ethical veganism: the thesis that it is typically wrong to consume animal products. The paper first sets out an intuitive case for this thesis that begins with the intuitive claim that it is wrong to set fire to a cat. I then raise a methodological challenge: this is an intuitive argument for a revisionary conclusion. Even if we grant that we cannot both believe that it is permissible to drink milk, and that it is wrong to set fire to cats, this leaves open the question of which of these judgments we should abandon. I consider and reject three strategies for addressing this question: more methodologically naïve moral theorizing, appeal to systematic normative theory, and attacking non-moral presuppositions. I argue that philosophically satisfying the resolution of the conflict requires debunking our grounds for belief in one of the conflicting claims. Finally, I argue that ethical veganism is supported by consideration of the most salient debunking arguments available.
Explicit examples include Baxter (1974) Regan (1983) Korsgaard (2004) Wood (1998) and Rachels (2011). It is more controversial to ascribe implicit appeals to systematic normative frameworks but I think that certain of the arguments in Singer (1977) and Norcross (2004) for example make the most sense if we presuppose the consequentialist framework that the authors of these articles accept.
Harman (1977) uses a similar example for very different purposes.
See my (2009) for a detailed discussion of the use of Moorean arguments in ethics that supports the points made here.
Compare Strawson (1962). In conversation some people have remained committed to their anthropomorphization claiming for example that their dog knew exactly what she was doing when she chewed up dad’s shoes to punish him for being late and that she was blameworthy for doing so.