Social Theory and Practice


published on January 23, 2018

Dan Demetriou, Bob Fischer

Dignitarian Hunting
A Rights-based Defense

Faced with the choice between supporting industrial plant agriculture and hunting, Tom Regan’s rights view can be plausibly developed in a way that permits a form of hunting we call “dignitarian.” To motivate this claim, we begin by showing how the empirical literature on animal deaths in plant agriculture suggests that a non-trivial amount of hunting would not add to animal harm. We discuss how Tom Regan’s miniride principle appears to morally permit hunting in that case, and we address recent objections by Jason Hanna to environmentally-based culling that may be seen to speak against this conclusion. We then turn to dignity, which is especially salient in scenarios where harm is necessary or justifiable. We situate “dignitarian” hunting within a larger framework of adversarial ethics, and argue that dignitarian hunting gives animals a more dignified death than the alternatives endemic to large-scale plant agriculture, and so is permissible based on the kinds of principles that Regan endorses. Indeed, dignitarian hunting may actually fit better with Regan’s widely endorsed animal rights framework than the practice of many vegans, and should only be rejected if we’re just as willing to condemn supporting conventional plant agriculture.