In the first episode of series 9, Unveiling Vegan Culture we engaged in a stirring conversation with Dr. Maurice Hamington, a professor of philosophy at Portland State University. The focus was on the fascinating concept of care ethics, and how it could potentially guide people towards adopting veganism.
The Basis of Care Ethics
In the podcast, Hamington describes care ethics as relational morality. Defined in the 1980s from feminist thought, care ethics primarily anchors morality around relationships. This form of morality is highly contextual and leaves a generous space for emotion and imagination. Its primary focus is relationships, making it broader compared to most moral approaches. According to Hamington, the essence of good care is formed by humble inquiry, inclusive connection, responsive action, and has a strong correlation to knowledge. By diving into relationships with someone or something else - human or animal, we advance these skills and develop empathy. Relationships take up space and time, and the more time and space we share, the richer the relationship becomes.
Exploring Veganism via Care Ethics
Some argue that those committed to care should not keep companion animals as it can be unethical. Yet, Hamington suggested that companion animals likely enhance our capability of caring, making us better at it. In applying the concept of care ethics to veganism, Hamington pointed out that we first need to understand the difference between being a non-meat eater (vegan) and being healthy. You can be a non-meat eater but may not necessarily be healthy. Also, to commit to care – health, the environment, animals, and so on, we must continually strive to improve and evolve. However, promoting veganism based solely on care ethics has its challenges. Fresh food or vegetables are expensive and may not be affordable for many, and commercial options while available, may not always be the healthiest choice.
Enhancing Care Ethics Through Companion Animals
The place of companion animals in our lives attracts polarizing viewpoints. Some people argue that keeping animals as companions could be seen as unethical exploitation. Yet, others argue, much like Hamington, that companion animals enhance our ability to care and make us better at it. This idea anchors on the belief that the more we interact with animals, understanding their needs, and emoting with them, the better our empathy and caring abilities can become.
In this conversation, it becomes clear that care ethics plays a pivotal role in our daily lives, especially in our interactions with animals. This ethical thought process encourages us not just to contemplate our diet but also to evaluate our approach towards animals and the environment. It provides a different lens to view typical moral questions and ultimately nudges us towards a more compassionate, caring, and empathetic lifestyle. As we extend our care and empathy to animals through the humble inquiry, inclusive connection, and responsive action, we could potentially find ourselves naturally becoming part of the vegan community, thereby promoting a kinder and more sustainable world.
"We don't share a lot of things. We don't really share much language with animals. We don't really understand all the instincts of animals, but, we do share embodiment with them. And so that becomes a basis for imagining what their perspective is like, just like it becomes the basis for understanding what's going on with other people."
- Dr. Maurice Hamington
This episode is an exploration of the intersection of animal ethics, veganism, and care theory.
Guest: Maurice has authored or edited twelve books including Care Ethics and Poetry (Palgrave MacMillan 2019) authored with Ce Rosenow, Care Ethics and Political Theory, with Daniel Engster (Oxford University Press 2015). Maurice is a Member of the International Consultants for The Melete Center of Philosophy for Care. University of Verona and a Steering Committee Member of the international Care Ethics Research Consortium, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
He and his partner Stephanie love living and hiking in the Pacific Northwest as well as enjoying the local vegan cuisine. Maurice's Website
Book Recommendations: Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education by Nel Noddings and Revolutionary Care: Commitment and Ethos by Maurice Hamington PhD
(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)