Eat them all! – the speaker

When you are not a vegetarian, it is your duty to eat farm animals. This is the thesis of philosopher Nick Zangwill, who believes that these modified human species cannot live without it. Their destiny is to end up on our plates.


Do we have the right to kill and eat animals? By asking this question, one can expect to be buried under an avalanche, not only because of the fiercely negative answers, but also because of the hateful criticisms that I dared to ask. Because, despite the fact that the vast majority of human beings are still carnivores, the media landscape is occupied by ideologues whose steak swallowing constitutes a vice that is part of a set of cardinal sins committed by carnivores: cruelty to animals, destruction to the planet, Promoting neoliberal capitalism and maintaining patriarchy.

A British philosopher, Nick Zangwill, caused a stir by publishing two articles arguing that we should eat meat. Note that this question is not from permission but who Should : We have an obligation to eat certain animals. The reception these publications received was not the warmest.

Well-behaved animals

University College London researcher Zangwill presents his argument in two articles published in 2021, one in an academic journal and the other in Timea cultural magazine enjoying great success in the English-speaking world[1]. His thesis is that humans inherit an obligation imposed on them by the fact that their ancestors spent thousands of years raising certain animal species for explicit consumption. We must perpetuate this system because if cows, pigs, sheep and chickens exist today in great numbers, it is only thanks to man. Admittedly, the original motive was selfish, as it was a matter of feeding on them, but there is a counterpart: humans have protected them from the dangers of wildlife and, for the most part, ensured them a relatively comfortable life. Today, these animals cannot survive if released into the wild. Hence our duty to prolong this symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties.

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The first objection is that industrial agriculture imposes suffering on animals that violate this implicit agreement between man and animal. Moreover, Zangwill criticizes industrial agriculture, which does not absolve us of our obligation to these species, nor forbids us to eat them, but forces us to improve their living conditions. He cites the example of millions of sheep in New Zealand grazing peacefully in a veritable haven from the stress and slaughter of deer in Africa. Watch one of these animal life TV channels for a few hours and you will see a real massacre of beasts that were killed, torn to shreds and devoured by lions. Cinema Gore will learn some lessons from it.

Another objection is that killing animals cannot justify their reproduction even in conditions of relative comfort. Sure, it is our duty to slaughter our animals in the most painless way possible, but those who speak only of animal suffering ignore the fact that they can also experience pleasure. Humans know both pain and happiness, but their lives don’t seem meaningless because they have suffered. The animal, although destined for slaughter one day, can have a satisfying life in the meantime.

vegan doxa

If animals can know happiness, don’t they love us and should we not give them the same rights that we give humans? A vegetarian doxa doxa, such as Emeric Caron or Hugo Clement, does not hesitate to assign the same status to all living things, while remaining somewhat ambiguous as to the distinctions to be made between them. For Zangwill, the apparent continuity in organisms, from bacteria to humans, in no way prevents us from seeing different categories according to species’ capacities to feel, think, and reason. These differences impose variable obligations on us. Domesticated animals are sensitive enough to value their quality of life, but they lack the human ability to think about their fate and we can frustrate them. On the other hand, great apes can think and we will have to let them live. For Zangwill, there is a question mark about pigs, which only scientific research can solve. Probably too bad for an English breakfast.

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It is precisely this effort to discriminate that offends animal rights fanatics like Karon, who considers it a form of “discrimination.” In his 2016 book, AntispecistHe is angry at the discrepancy between the treatment we have for cows, which we devour with pleasure, and dogs that Westerners will not put in a vase. Zangwill has an answer. Humans bred dogs to serve other jobs, including pets. So there is not the same tacit contract between us and them. According to other objections, if one can raise animals to eat, one can do the same to human slaves or the mentally handicapped, but Zangwill replies that all humans have rights that not all animals have.

Australian philosopher Peter Singer © Alain Le BOT / Opale.photo

The scathing rhetoric of vegetarians feeds on two sources. The first is Australian philosopher Peter Singer, a moralist respected for the consistency of his reasoning and his lack of fanaticism. This is his 1975 book. animal liberation, traduit en français en 1993, qui a vulgarisé le terme « spécisme », inventé cinq ans auparavant par un psychologue, Richard Ryder, sur le modèle de « racism » et de « sexisme », afin de désigner le refutes de les traites top In the same way. But Singer, who was an influence on Zangwill, made a distinction between living things and, despite being a vegetarian, occasionally eats some seafood and dairy.

The other source is Carol J. Adams, American, pioneered environmental feminist and animal rights activist. In 1990, she published a critically acclaimed book, which was translated into French in 2016 under the title, The sexual policy of meat. According to her, there is a consistency between the way men depict women for sexual exploitation and the way they classify animals for their consumption. Meat embodies male dominance. One revolution must end animal consumption, sexism and the rape of nature by capitalism. Adams is largely responsible for equating the meat struggle with these other struggles and for confusing their justifications today. In this anthill, Zangwill kicked a lot of hell.

Oh man, be rational sometimes

The first comments posted on the siteTimeIn response to Zangwill’s publication, he flatly rejected the philosopher’s arguments and expressed concern and anger at the publication of such a text. A large number of posts are censored by the site, and the authors’ sentimentality undoubtedly goes beyond decency. Some describe Zangwill as a dwarf who acts out of pure hatred. Others think it’s a hilarious parody or satire in the style of Swift, author humble suggestion in 1729 who cynically suggested alleviating the misery of Irish families by encouraging them to eat their children.

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When objections are raised, they are based on the typical ecofeminist confusing the legality of meat consumption per se with the environmental consequences of its production. Zangwill asserts that we have a moral obligation to eat animals while accepting that we must compensate for the environmental impacts of animal husbandry. If advances in cellular farming will one day allow everyone to eat lab-grown meat, our duty to these animals – to raise and eat them – will remain unchanged.

Unlike ideologists, the philosopher seeks reason in terms of rights and duties. Thus, unlike Roger Scruton – another important influence – he sees hunting as a problem, because we don’t share the same co-historical development with game as we do with cows and sheep. Is Zangwill as intolerant as his vegetarian opponents? No, because we are not all forced to eat meat: it is enough for a minority to do this heavy duty. This is the reason that distinguishes us from the majority of monsters, but humans are rarely rational.


[1] “Our moral duty to eat meat”, Journal of the American Philosophical Association ; Why should you eat meat? Time.

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