What’s Love Got to Do with it? An Ecofeminist Approach to Inter-Animal and Intra-Cultural Conflicts of Interest

  • Karen S. EmmermanEmail author


Many familial and cultural traditions rely on animals for their fulfillment - think of Christmas ham, Rosh Hashannah chicken soup, Fourth of July barbeques, and so forth. Though philosophers writing in animal ethics often dismiss interests in certain foods as trivial, these food-based traditions pose a significant moral problem for those who take animals’ lives and interests seriously. One must either turn one’s back on one’s community or on the animals. In this paper, I consider the under-theorized area of intra-cultural critique. My focus is how we should think about and seek to resolve inter-animal conflicts of interest that arise within our own communities and cultural or religious groups. How should a theory that takes animals seriously approach a conflict between animals’ interests and culturally important human interests in the context of one’s own cultural, ethnic, or religious group? How, for example, should we think about the person staring down at a bowl of her grandmother’s chicken soup while recognizing the moral impermissibility of slaughtering chickens for human consumption? In contrast to traditional approaches that fail to take these robust, food-based, interests into account, I offer an ecofeminist approach that highlights the importance of respecting animals’ interests while also undertaking the work of moral repair to address damage done to relationships of love and care in the process.


Animals Ecofeminism Veganism Foodways Basic interests Nonbasic interests Conflicts of interest Moral repair, culture, gender, intersectional veganism, Jewish vegetarianism 



I thank numerous friends and colleagues at the University of Washington who have thought along with me about this topic over time. I am grateful to the organizers and participants of the April 2018 Kline Workshop at the University of Missouri for thoughtful discussion of this paper in its earlier iteration, particularly Asia Ferrin and Bob Fischer. I also thank two anonymous reviewers for Ethical Theory and Moral Practice for their helpful feedback.


  1. Abrell E (2018) Defining posthumanism. ASI’s Defining human-animal studies 18. Accessed 7 September 2018
  2. Adams CJ (2009) Living among meat eaters: the vegetarians survival handbook. In: 2nd end. Lantern Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams CJ (2010) The sexual politics of meat: a feminist-vegetarian critical theory. In: 20th anniversary edn. Continuum, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey C (2007) We are what we eat: feminist vegetarianism and the reproduction of racial identity. Hypatia 22:39–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baur G (2008) Farm sanctuary: changing hearts and minds about animals and food. Touchstone, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Bishop S (1987) Connections and guilt. Hypatia 2:7–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ciochetti C (2012) Veganism and living well. J Agric Environ Ethics 25:405–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Curtin D (1991) Toward an ecological ethic of care. Hypatia 6:60–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curtin D (1992) Recipes for values. In: Curtin D, Heldke LM (eds) Cooking, eating, thinking: transformative philosophies of food. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, pp 123–144Google Scholar
  10. Davis K (2012) The mental life of chickens as observed through their social relationships. In: Smith JA, Mitchell RW (eds) Experiencing animal minds: an anthology of animal-human encounters. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 13–29Google Scholar
  11. Deckha M (2012) Towards a postcolonial, posthumanist feminist theory: centralizing race and culture in feminist work on nonhuman animals. Hypatia 22:527–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Donovan J (1993) Animal rights and feminist theory. In: Gaard G (ed) Ecofeminism: women, animals, nature. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, pp 167–194Google Scholar
  13. Donovan J (2007) Attention to suffering: sympathy as a basis for ethical treatment of animals. In Donovan J, Adams CJ (eds) The feminist care tradition in animal ethics. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 174–197. First published in Journal of Social Philosophy 27, no. 1 (1996)Google Scholar
  14. Donovan J, Adams CJ (2007) Introduction. In: Donovan J, Adams CJ (eds) The feminist care tradition in animal ethics. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 1–15Google Scholar
  15. Emmerman K (2012) Beyond the basic/nonbasic interests distinction: a feminist approach to inter-species moral conflict and moral repair. Phd Diss. In: University of WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher L (2011) Freeing feathered spirits. In: Kemmerer L (ed) Sister species: women, animals, and social justice. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, pp 110–116Google Scholar
  17. Foer JS (2009) Eating animals. Little. Brown and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Freedman SG (2007) Rabbi’s campaign for kosher standards expands to include call for social justice. The New York Times. Accessed 14 February 2018
  19. Friedman M (1989) The impracticality of impartiality. J Philos 86:645–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaard G (2001) Tools for a cross-cultural feminist ethics: ethical context and contents in the Makah whale hunt. Hypatia 16:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaard G (2002) Vegetarian ecofeminism: a review essay. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23:117–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilligan C (1982) In a difference voice: psychological theory and women’s development. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Grant J, MacKenzie-Dale B (2016) Lisa Simpson and Darlene Connor: television’s favourite killjoys in Castricano J and Simonsen RR (eds) critical perspectives on veganism. Palgrave Macmillan, Switzerland, pp 307–328Google Scholar
  24. Gruen L (1991) Animals. In: Singer P (ed) A companion to ethics, 2nd edn. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, pp 343–353Google Scholar
  25. Gruen L (1993) Dismantling oppression: an analysis of the connection between women and animals. In: Gaard G (ed) Ecofeminism: women, animals, nature. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, pp 60–90Google Scholar
  26. Gruen L (1999) Must utilitarians be impartial? In: Jamieson D (ed) Singer and his critics. Blackwell Publishers, Malden, MA, pp 129–149Google Scholar
  27. Gruen L (2004) Empathy and vegetarian commitments. In: Sapontzis F (ed) Food for thought. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, pp 284–292Google Scholar
  28. Hawkins R (2001) Cultural whaling, commodification, and culture change. Environ Ethics 23:287–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Held V (1995) Feminist moral inquiry and the feminist future. In: Held V (ed) Justice and care: essential readings in feminist ethics. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp 153–178Google Scholar
  30. Hogan L (1996) Silencing tribal grandmothers: traditions, old values at heart of Makah’s class over whaling. The Seattle Times. Accessed 21 November 2018
  31. Horiuchi M (2017) Decolonizing veganism: a Japanese perspective. Unpublished senior thesis. In: University of WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  32. Jones P (2004) Crossing the mammalian-avian line. Satya. Accessed 6 September 2018
  33. Kheel M (1985) The liberation of nature: a circular affair. Environ Ethics 7:135–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kheel M (1993) From heroic to holistic ethics: the ecofeminist challenge. In: Gaard G (ed) Ecofeminism: women, animals, nature. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, pp 243–271Google Scholar
  35. Kheel M (2004) Vegetarianism and ecofeminism: toppling patriarchy with a fork. In: Sapontzis SF (ed) Food for thought: the debate over eating meat. Prometheus Books, New York, pp 327–341Google Scholar
  36. Kim CJ (2015) Dangerous crossings: race, species, and nature in a multicultural age. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lugones MC, Spelman EV (1983) Have we got a theory for you! Feminist theory, cultural imperialism and the demand for the ‘woman’s voice. Women's Stud Int Forum 6:573–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Luke B (1995) Taming ourselves or going feral? Toward a nonpatriarchal metaethic of animal liberation. In: Adams CJ, Donovan J (eds) Animals and women: feminist theoretical explorations, 3rd edn. Duke University Press, Durham, NC, pp 290–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Luke B (2007) Justice, caring, and animal liberation. In: Donovan J, Adams CJ (eds) The feminist care tradition in animal ethics. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 125–152Google Scholar
  40. Marino L (2017) Thinking chickens: a review of cognition, emotion, and behavior in the domestic chicken. Anim Cogn 20:127–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Masson JM (2003) The pig who sang to the moon: the emotional world of farm animals. Ballantine Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Preston J (2008) Kosher plant is accused of inhumane slaughter. The New York Times. Accessed 14 February 2018
  43. Regan T (1983) The case for animal rights. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  44. Robinson M (2013) Veganism and Mi’Kmaq legends. Can J Nativ Stud 33:189–196Google Scholar
  45. Safran Foer J (2007) Eating animals. Little Brown and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  46. Sameth M (2011) “I’ll have what she’s having” Jewish ethical eating. In: Zamore ML (ed) The sacred table: creating a jewish food ethic. CCAR Press, New York, pp 225–234Google Scholar
  47. Shafran A (2012) When tzedek isn’t: the conservative movement finds a cause. Cross Currents. Accessed 15 February 2018
  48. Shapiro SM (2008) Kosher wars. The New York Times. Accessed 14 February 2018
  49. Singer P (1972) Famine, affluence, and morality. Philos Public Aff 1:229–243Google Scholar
  50. Singer P (1979) Practical ethics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  51. Singer P (1989) All animals are equal. In: Regan T, Singer P (eds) Animal rights and human obligations, 2nd edn. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, pp 73–86Google Scholar
  52. Singer P (1990) Animal liberation, revised edn. Avon Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Singer P, Mason J (eds) (2006) The ethics of what we eat: why our food choices matter. Rodale, United StatesGoogle Scholar
  54. Slicer S (1991) Your daughter or your dog: a feminist assessment of the animal research issue. Hypatia 6:108–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Taylor PW (1986) Respect for nature. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  56. Twine R (2014) Vegan killjoys at the table – contesting happiness and negotiating relationships with food practices. Societies 4:623–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Twine R (2016) Negotiating social relationships in the transition to vegan eating practices. In: Potts A (ed) Meat Culture. Brill, Boston, pp 243–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. VanDeVeer D (1979) Interspecific justice. Inquiry 22:55–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Varner G (2012) Personhood, ethics, and animal cognition: situating animals in Hare’s two-level utilitarianism. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vitello P (2008) Label says kosher: ethics suggest otherwise. The New York Times. Accessed 14 February 2018
  61. Walker MU (1989) What does the different voice say?: Gilligan’s women and moral philosophy. J Value Inq 23:123–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Walker MU (1995) Moral understandings: alternative ‘epistemology’ for a feminist ethics. In Held V (ed) justice and care: essential readings in feminist ethics. Westview press, Boulder, CO, pp 139-152. First published in Hypatia 4, no 2(1989):15–28Google Scholar
  63. Walker MU (2006) Moral repair: reconstructing moral relations after wrongdoing. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Warren KJ (1990) The power and the promise of ecological feminism. Environ Ethics 12:125–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations