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The least harm principle may require that humans consume a diet containing large herbivores, not a vegan diet

By S. L. Davis

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Abstract

Based on his theory of animal rights, Regan concludes that humans are morally obligated to consume a vegetarian or vegan diet. When it was pointed out to him that even a vegan diet results in the loss of many animals of the field, he said that while that may be true, we are still obligated to consume a vegetarian/vegan diet because in total it would cause the least harm to animals (Least Harm Principle, or LHP) as compared to current agriculture. But is that conclusion valid? Is it possible that some other agricultural production alternatives may result in least harm to animals? An examination of this question shows that the LHP may actually be better served using food production systems that include both plant-based agriculture and a forage-ruminant-based agriculture as compared to a strict plant-based (vegan) system. Perhaps we are morally obligated to consume a diet containing both plants and ruminant (particularly cattle) animal products.

Date 2003
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 16
Issue 4
Pages 387-394
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1023/A:1025638030686
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Sciences, Oregon State University, 112 Withycombe Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-6702, USA. Steven.L.Davis@orst.edu
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Tags
  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Diets
  5. Ethics
  6. Food consumption
  7. Food economics
  8. Food intake
  9. Food production
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Social psychology and social anthropology
  12. Theories
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  1. peer-reviewed