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The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat$
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Ben Bramble and Bob Fischer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199353903

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199353903.001.0001

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The Environmental Omnivore’s Dilemma

The Environmental Omnivore’s Dilemma

(p.48) 3 The Environmental Omnivore’s Dilemma
The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat

J. Baird Callicott

Oxford University Press

For most of the twentieth century, academic ethical theory has been confined within two complementary paradigms: utilitarianism and deontology. Utilitarian animal ethics is called “animal liberation,” classically theorized by Peter Singer, and deontological animal ethics is called “animal rights,” classically theorized by Tom Regan. Neither individualistic animal liberation nor animal rights addresses distinctly holistic environmental concerns: extinction of species, degradation of biotic communities, loss of wildlands. The holistic land ethic sketched by Aldo Leopold is traceable to the communitarian paradigm of ethics classically articulated by David Hume. Mary Midgley extended this paradigm to “mixed” human-domestic-animal communities, yielding an animal ethic more nuanced than either animal liberation or animal rights. From the perspective of communitarian animal ethics, omnivory is permissible under certain constraints. From the perspective of animal rights omnivory is impermissible. Surprisingly, from the perspective of animal liberation, omnivory is obligatory.

Keywords:   animal liberation, animal rights, communitarianism, utilitarianism, deontology

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