Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 2002
Against Rolston’s Defense of Eating Animals
Reckoning with the Nutritional Factor in the Argument for Vegetarianism
In his critique of a common argument in favor of vegetarianism, Holmes Rolston III does not sufficiently address the nutritional factor. The nutritional factor is the important fact that the eating of animals is not nutritionally required to sustain human life. Also, although Rolston’s criterion for distinguishing when to model human conduct on animal conduct is defensible, he applies it inconsistently. One reason for this inconsistency is that Rolston misplaces the line he attempts to draw between culture and nature. Although he himself makes a distinction between culture and nature Rolston fails to recognize that the nutritional “need” to eat meat is a cultural creation, not a natural event. For these reasons, Rolston’s defense of eating animals as a purported way of respected ecology is severely impaired.