Date: 19 February 2020
Jeff McMahan is White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford University, a distinguished research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and a fellow of Corpus Christi College.
Leslie Stephen once wrote that “The pig has a stronger interest than anyone in the demand for bacon. If all the world were Jewish, there would be no pigs at all.” In recent debates about the ethics of eating animals, some have advanced the related claim that if people cause animals to exist and give them good lives in order to be able to eat them, then even if the animals are killed prematurely, the practice is permissible because it is good for the animals overall, as well as being good for the human beings who eat them. I find this argument intuitively implausible but it is difficult to say precisely what is wrong with it. It raises deep issues in ethical theory – issues about rights, issues in population ethics, and so on – that I will explore in detail in the talk.
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