10 March 2016
Animal Ethics Profiling of Vegetarians, Vegans and Meat-Eaters
By T.B. Lund, D.E.F. McKeegan, C. Cribbin, & P. Sandøe (2016)
The aims of this study were to identify the animal ethical profile of vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters. Using questionnaire data collected in 2013 (n = 356), we measured propensity to subscribe to five different po- sitions within animal ethics based on a novel measure of animal ethical stance (adopted from the “Animal Ethics Dilemma” learning tool). We found clear relationships between diet choice and ethical profile. The responses of meat-eaters indicated that they were relying on a mixture of ethical positions (relational, respect for nature, contractarian, and animal rights), but predominantly the utilitarian position. Propensity to hold animal rights and relational views increased with the number of meat products not consumed by meat-eaters. Vegans and vegetarians revealed more consistent animal ethics viewpoints, especially the vegan group which had a very high propensity to hold an animal rights position. Vegetarians were also inclined to hold the animal rights position, but additionally had a tendency to draw on utilitarian reasoning. Subscription to animal rights views was a defining characteristic of vegans regardless of the number of years they had followed the diet, while this was not the case for vegetarians. Contrary to expectations, the number of years a vegetarian diet had been followed was not positively associated with animal rights views. This study should be followed up in a larger and more representative population, but it is the first to attempt to quantitatively profile vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters across a range of animal ethics frameworks. We argue that the novel approach used in this study to assess animal ethics stances could be applied to a wide range of animal-related activities.