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Jacob Barrett Sarah Zoe Raskoff

Abstract

The animal agriculture industry causes animals a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. Many ethical vegans argue that we therefore have an obligation to abstain from animal products in order to reduce this suffering. But this argument faces a challenge: thanks to the size and structure of the animal agriculture industry, any individual’s dietary choices are overwhelmingly unlikely to make a difference. In this paper, we criticize common replies to this challenge and develop an alternative argument for ethical veganism. Specifically, we argue that individuals should abstain from animal products because vegans, as a group, successfully reduce animal suffering, and individuals are obligated to participate in, rather than free ride on, this collective endeavor. Or, at the very least, individuals have strong reasons to purchase fewer inhumanely raised animal products—even if they are not obligated to go vegan per se.

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