The GuardianThe Guardian

My body resists veganism. What’s the most ethical alternative?

By Peter Godfrey-Smith

28 Feb 2023 · 13 min read

Editor's Note

In this Guardian article, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a professor at the University of Sydney, carefully weighs our various dietary options from an ethical standpoint.

Suppose a person is very concerned about the ethical issues around food and farming, especially animal welfare, but for whatever reason finds that a wholly plant-based diet does not work for them. What is the most defensible step away from veganism – the best compromise to make, if it is a compromise at all?

About a year ago, this question became vivid to me soon after I set out on an experiment: a near-vegan diet for a month. For some time, I have tried to eat in a way mindful of ethical issues, avoiding, albeit imperfectly, the products of inhumane factory farming. But I have eaten animal products, including meat and fish, regularly. After I spent a lot of time in recent years working on questions about animal minds (initially trying to understand octopuses and other cephalopods, and then moving on from there), the ethical questions around food began to feel quite pressing. So I wanted to find out how I felt on a diet with almost no animal products.

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