Fishy Reasoning and the Ethics of Eating

Ethical vegetarians believe that it is morally wrong to eat meat. And yet, many of these so-called ethical “vegetarians” continue to eat fish. The question my paper addresses is this: Can one coherently maintain that it is morally wrong to eat meat, but morally permissible to eat fish? I argue that it is morally inconsistent for ethical vegetarians to eat fish, not on the obvious yet superficial ground that fish flesh is meat, but on the morally substantive ground that fish are sentient intelligent beings capable of experiencing morally significant pain and thus deserve moral consideration equal to that owed birds and mammals.

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