Once again I appreciate the response and you brought up a lot of good points that quickly get to central issues in animal ethics and utilitarianism.

My best response is just thinking in terms of the counterfactuals. If I do decide to eat meat than my consumption leads to the existence of some animal andit still seems straightforwardly better if I do what I can to reduce the suffering of the animals involved.

But in the other scenario in which I am trying to decide whether to eat meat or be vegan then I can be faced with the issue you brought up of whether my consumption creates good since it creates some life that wouldn’t otherwise have existed. The issue is that this counterfactual is absurd. Being vegan and not creating demand for the birth of more farm animals to support my consumption does not hurt anything and creating demand for the birth of farm animals does not clearly create good because before birth there is nothing. Creating life doesn’t clearly create good because it doesn’t help any agent. Because of this I am not sure whether any meat consumption creates good through birth alone.

But this is a really difficult question that is most ethicists don’t agree with. If you’re interested in more reading about this problem I recommend reading this paper by Seanna Shiffrin about anti-natalism. It dives deeper into this issue of whether birth creates good.

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Math Teacher writing on Philosophy and Policy and Science and Education and Other Things. coreykeyser@gmail.com

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