Volume 38, Issue 2, Summer 2016
The Ethics of the Meat Paradox
The meat paradox—to like eating meat, but dislike killing and harming animals—confronts omnivores with a powerful contradiction between eating and caring for animals. The paradox, however, trades on a conflation of the illegitimacy of harming and killing animals. While harming animals is morally wrong, killing animals can be legitimate if done with minimal suffering and respect for the moral status of the animal. This moral status demands the acknowledgement of a certain justification for killing animals that makes modesty a virtue of the omnivore. The psychological problem with regard to killing animals can persist even if the moral tension is weakened, but only to a certain degree, since emotions and principles are interdependent in moral reasoning. Virtuous meat consumption demands a willingness to face the conflicting feelings involved in killing animals and to tolerate the resulting tension.