The Instigator
Con (against)
5 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
3 Points

Does "morality" actually play a role in the question of whether or not humans should eat animals?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/27/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 952 times Debate No: 43028
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (2)




A common justification or defense for veganism is that it is "morally incorrect" to ingest another living creature. Whether one chooses to consume animals or not, should morals actually be the basis of that decision? Do morals have a place in such decisions at all? And if so, why?

The question of "right and wrong", when it comes to the act of consuming animals, ultimately has empty meaning, not only because the concept of right and wrong is highly subjective to begin with, but because the question adds or subtracts little to the human's basic and instinctive methods of survival and what humans are going to do to achieve that survival.

To support my position, I will present the definitions of "morals/morality", explore those definitions within the context of animal consumption, and analyze whether those definitions are actually relevant to the basic human need for survival.


Moral- concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character

It is true that humans rely on animals (for ingestion) in order to maintain a fit body. However, that does not mean this question shouldn't be carefully considered through the concept of morality. For example, if a man was about to be eaten by a lion, would people try to help? Of course they would (or at least I hope). But why is this? It is in a lion's instinct to devour weaker creatures in order to survive, right?

Many people can agree that morals definitely have to do with human killings. If this is the case, why is it different for animals? Because they have a lower IQ level they us? Because they have not yet develop civilization? Because they are not part of the homo genus?

The best answer I can give is this: We should all cherish life and avoid unnecessary deaths. Instead of killing animals and devouring them, we could eat fruits (which are products of a living thing, not a living thing itself). Then we could plant the seeds to grow trees that produce those fruits. In the future, we could extract nutrients and directly feed it into our bodies. This way, no living thing would be killed, and life would be fully cherished.
Debate Round No. 1


To be clear, by saying "human's basic need for survival" I simply meant that eating animals is or at least was at some point a part of humans' instincts to survive--not necessarily to achieve fitness, although I would argue as well that having a balanced diet which includes meat results in health and fitness.

I'd also like to point out that I am specifically referring to Vegans' viewpoint towards consumption of animals as opposed to Vegetarians', who are willing to consume eggs and dairy products.

To specify, "The vegan point of view is that animals are not here to be exploited by man, and that commercialization of animals necessarily involves a fundamental, inhumane component and lack of respect for basic life. From a nutrition standpoint, the only difference is that vegans need to take a B12 and amino acid supplement, since they have no dietary source of these nutrients. You can get all the nutrients you need on a lacto-ovo (eggs and milk) vegetarian diet without supplements."

source: ( -"Vegan vs. Vegetarian"

From this quote, it is suggested that the Vegan lifestyle in of itself is not necessarily conducive for completely fulfilling the body's nutritional needs, which supports the idea that eating meat is a part of humans' bodily needs due to the proteins and other nutrients it contains. Keep in mind that in the times where supplements weren't readily available, consumption of meat was necessary.

So to bring this back into perspective, given the definition of morals that you provided, how and why does something that is a part of humans' instincts--something that is needed--become construed as right vs. wrong or good vs. bad? If it is a basic need, morality should not be the arbiter as to whether that need is acted upon or not. The analogy of the lion you used serves as a good example. It, as humans do, acts on instinct when it eats its weaker prey. The thing that separates humans from animals is humans' ability to reason. This is our strength as well as our weakness, because it is the ability to reason that leads to our assumption that it's morally incorrect to eat other animals. No other animal possesses this type of moral guilt. Therefore, the concept that eating animals is wrong is a concept fabricated by us and us alone. There is no universal rule that supports that idea.

It is perhaps even wrong to say that it's "morally incorrect" to eat other humans. After all, what do we say to the cultures separate from our own who do in fact believe it's acceptable, even correct to eat other humans? Are they wrong? How do we know? The fact is, it's not about wrong or right. The rational argument against cannibalism is that humans are hardwired to preserve its species. So for one human to eat another is almost counterintuitive to our sense of self preservation. And perhaps even the cultures that do delve in cannibalism recognize that, for some will only eat human flesh after that human has died.

Ultimately, with or without reason, humans are animals and it is our basic function to eat other animals. So when you insert morals into the equation, therefore, it creates an extra dynamic that is unnecessary because it bears little on our original instincts. And if some individuals do allow their morals to hinder them from acting on their instinct, that becomes their prerogative, but it does not become an objective moral that everyone will follow, since by essence, morality is completely subjective within itself.

This is why some people will simply eat trees and berries, while taking supplements, while others choose not to. It's not because one is making the right choice and one is making the wrong choice. Rather, it's simply one choosing to let their perception of morality to interfere with their natural behavior, while the other is not considering morality as a factor at all and is doing what comes natural.


It's true that it is, or was, in a human's instinct to devour other animals. I also agree that the reason we find cannibalism and human murder immoral because of our want to thrive as a species. This is also probably why we would find a fried body of a human creepy, but not a fried chicken.

But here is where I would argue. Why thrive as a species? Why not thrive as something bigger, such as life itself? Perhaps our instincts has not traveled that far yet. But some of our reasoning sure has. Us humans have indeed been given the unique gift of reasoning. And personally, I think we should trust reasoning more than instincts. What our instincts is telling is this: "Survive! Survive! Survive!". This is what our reasoning is telling us: "Why is this? Why is that? Go and find out".

As you can see from the example above, reasoning seems to be a more reliable source, rather than the close-minded instincts. We should use this gift of reasoning to reach out and build a better world for all of life.

P.S. -I think you are a good debater :)
Debate Round No. 2


Hello again, I am very sorry to have kept you waiting. The weekend has been pretty hectic for me. Thanks for your patience, and good luck in the final round. :)

To continue, I agree that our ability to reason does give us a unique edge in terms of how other species live on this planet. But I find it interesting that you feel that this ability is separate from instincts. Would you not argue that from our instincts reasoning is derived? What about the automatic reactions that our body has, such as "flight or flight" or, for the sake of this debate, eating? Perhaps reasoning is a human instinct within itself. Therefore, I do not think it is completely accurate to say that one is better than the other, rather, it seems that reason and instinct are connected and intertwine, which affects how humans function on a daily basis.

With this in mind, both do have their issues. As I mentioned before, reasoning leads to certain assumptions about morality that may or may not be objectively correct in the first place. Again, morality in itself is a construct that's highly subjective depending on the person. At the same time, instincts, as you pointed out, are limited to human survival, meaning that some people may feel that we are not always be making the "right choices" if that choice is made solely for the sake of surviving.

My argument, however, is that "right or wrong choices" do not exist when it comes to basic instinct. If it comes down to survival, one will do it, without thinking whether it's moral or not. In this day and age, many people have many different choices. Some will reason that it is morally incorrect to eat animals. Others will reason that it's been a part of human survival from the beginning, and it's one of the most practical methods of getting the nutrition needed for living.

To answer the initial question, from what I've learned by reading your points, morality will always come into question for some people on this matter. But for others, it does not play a factor at all. Every human has every right to make those decisions and come to their own conclusions.

However, I will continue to disagree with the belief that eating animals is wrong simply because it is a sign that humans do not cherish life as itself. The biggest flaw that I find with that belief is that eating, whether meat is involved or not, will always have the direct effect of taking life away. Plants have life. Grains have life. Vegetation has life. The supplements within a vitamin or pill are taken and extracted from something that once had life. Consumption in itself is a result of killing, and whether one is Vegan or not, that cannot and will never be avoided as long as humans wish to survive.

This is why I feel the argument of preservation of life based on morals is flawed. Of course all life should be appreciated, for without other species, humans would not be here. But ultimately, the question of morality within the decisions of whether eating meat or not is "right or wrong" makes little to no difference to what humans must and will do in terms of survival.

That is my concluding argument. I'd like to take this time to thank my opponent for participating in this debate with me. I look forward to reading your final arguments. Take care, and best of luck.


Hello Con!

Your argument really did get me thinking on that 'instinct=reasoning' issue. However, I still think that instincts and reasoning are two separate things, as they tend to contradict each other. For example, instincts would tell a strong man to force a weak man to get food for him (since this is good for the strong man's survival). But his reasoning would ask him why he thinks he is more important than the weak man and tell him to stop, which is the opposite of what his instinct is saying.

I can very much see why you argue that right or wrong choices do not exist when it comes to basic instincts. But why do you trust your instincts? What if your instincts is wrong? Since instincts just wants us to survive, isn't it being selfish?

The way I see this is like Great Britain and the colonies. GB represents nature (which includes instincts) and America represents reasoning (which leads to morality). GB created the colonies, but the colonies rebelled against GB and created their own nation. Now, America is a country full of opportunities and freedom, where all are welcome.

Luckily, morality and basic needs are not complete opposites, meaning there is a way to satisfy both. In order to respect both sides' opinion and conclusion, I will (hopefully) find that way.

Concluding Paragraph: Both morality and basic needs are very important to humans. As they are not complete opposites, the best solution would be to satisfy both. Therefore, morality should play a role in whether or not it is right for humans to eat animals.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Bakatakume 5 years ago
Life- the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death
Posted by ZebramZee 5 years ago
What exactly is life? What differentiates a plant from a rock?
Posted by brains 5 years ago
"while the other is not considering morality as a factor at all and is doing what comes natural." It is also natural for vegans/vegetarians to not want to eat meat. or at least a natural in the sence of conditioning and behavior. for whatever more reason like ego: thinking that you are too holy to eat meat. but this all comes back to morals and thinking that death is a bad thing.
Posted by ZebramZee 5 years ago
From an evolutionary point of view, whatever moral designation one assigns eating other humans must apply to eating animals. There is no fundamental difference between the two. Therefore, if there is some quality belonging to humans that renders them immoral to kill and eat, the same quality exists in animals. Some relevant and uniquely human quality must be demonstrated before any distinction is made between the two groups with regards to the moralty of killing and eating them.
Posted by Bakatakume 5 years ago
I just meant that, under the assumption that humans really DO need animals to be fit, it still is not comfortable for animals to be killed for food.
Posted by Bakatakume 5 years ago
You're right. Humans don't necessarily need animals to be fit.
Posted by kbub 5 years ago
Sorry I mean being fit
Posted by kbub 5 years ago
Are you sure humans rely on eating animals to survive? I'm doing just fine as a vegetarian.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: So this was an interesting round, but I think Pro misses the most important point: if morality is subjective, as Con suggests, then how can it play a role in whether humans as a whole should eat animals? Pro's arguments about reasoning actually supercharge this argument - the more we reason, the more we become uncertain about whether the moral qualms of lost life are balanced by the benefits of the lives they sustain. So if we focus on reasoning, it only injures your argument. I wouldn't say the decision is straightforward, and though Con did sway my opinion slightly, I don't end up fully agreeing with her. If anything, her arguments simply remove any certainty I have of how we should evaluate such a topic. But since the topic is what it is, and rather than having to prove an absolute, Con simply has to prove that morality is so vague that it shouldn't play a role in this particular decision, I end up voting for her. She also has the only source, and it goes uncontested.
Vote Placed by Cermank 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: An interesting debate. Kudos to the debators. I found Cons dichotomy between instinct and morality an interesting defence. But then it got a little confusing- because he argued that even though morals shouldn't matter, technically, since instincts overrode morality in certain situations ( which I personally found questionable, and not an axiomatic statement, per say), he later argued against constructing a dichotomy between them. I understood this to mean that he was arguing for subjective morality ( something he mentioned in the first round). But given that he was contending his belief in subjective morality, technically- the question of morality does enter the picture of dietary choices. Con effectively rebutted the dichotomy point with the strong man-weak man example. Pros first round was pretty great, the subsequent rounds however went more and more away from the topic. An interesting discussion nevertheless.