Skip to content
Are we allowed to kill animals

Are we allowed to kill animals? The difference between morality and law

Are we allowed to kill animals to eat them? A legitimate question! After all, every German eats around 150 animals a year.₁ 74 billion animals are killed worldwide every year for our consumption.₂ And this despite the fact that a balanced plant-based diet, according to American Dietetic Association is possible.₃ In addition, the consumption of animal-based foods is one of the main drivers of the largest Environmental problems of our time is. There is simply no need to kill the animals. This is another reason why meat consumption is often reflexively justified with arguments such as "eating meat is legal". But is something really automatically moral just because it is legal? Does that mean we are allowed to kill animals?

In this article, I would like to answer these questions and explain the difference between morality and law. Let's go!

Feeling angry about the cover picture? Then your moral compass is probably talking to you. Because it just shows the normal everyday life in a slaughterhouse. If you pay for animal products, you also pay for the actions they require.

Why the difference between morality and law is so important to me

Even if animals are no longer considered things, they do not have actual rights and obligationsthat are legally enforceable. They don't even speak our language so that they could sue for their rights. That is why it is so important that we make ourselves aware of the difference between morally justifiable and legal decisions.

Here are some "Excuses" from meat eatersthat refer directly or indirectly to the inferior rights of animals, which I myself used to haywire, but no longer consider to be correct:

  • "The life of animals is more important than the life of an animal": I also think the life of a human being is more important than the life of an animal. But that doesn't mean that the life of an animal is worth NOTHING. And precisely because it is worth something, the life of animals must also be protected. That's what my moral compass tells me.
  • "Animals are different from us": We humans are also animals from a biological point of view. Nevertheless, we naturally differ in many ways. But there are also an incredible number of similarities, such as consciousness, social life and intelligence, Emotions or sensation of pain.
  • "Animals eat animals too": Animals don't have a moral compass like we humans do. And when a lion hunts and eats a gazelle, it does so for reasons of survival. We, on the other hand, have the choice to eat a plant-based diet and can also survive on a vegan diet.

We should not ask ourselves whether we are allowed to kill animals. But whether we animals are worth enough that we don't kill them. Of course they are. We should not make our moral values dependent on the behavior or "lower value" of animals. Or do we want to sniff each other on the backside in future, like lions do? 😉

The concepts of morality, law & morality defined

Is it allowed to kill animals like baby calves?

In order to answer the question "Are we allowed to kill animals?", we should first clearly define the terms morality, law (or legality) and morality. I have compiled the relevant definitions for you here.

Morality defined: Morality refers to all customs, standards and values that a society has imposed on itself and which are generally recognized by it. Morality is intended to enable people to live well together and claims to be universally applicable to all people without exceptions. If someone violates the moral standards of a society, feelings of guilt should generally arise.₄

Law/legality defined: Individual or state action is legal if it complies with applicable law and legislation.₅

Morality defined: The totality of the moral views valid in a particular society.₆

Morality and law are therefore different by definition alone. Society sets itself a moral compass for acceptable behavior - but neither the state nor a code of law does. It is simply a matter of our personal values. Law and legality, on the other hand, are things that the state defines (also on the basis of our values) and adapts if necessary.

Is the killing of animals permitted?

It is forbidden to kill another person - and it is severely punished. We have learned that it is not right to take the lives of others. But it is different with animals, at least from a legal perspective. Our legal system does not provide general protection of life for animals. That is why they can be killed even if there is no logical reason to do so. According to the Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG), however not agonizing and wanton pass. Animals may only be killed under professional anesthesia or otherwise, as far as reasonable under the circumstances, only under avoidance of pain.

If these regulations are complied with, the killing of animals is legal. However, the "unjustified" killing of animals and the crude and torturous killing of animals are punishable. Animal mistreatment. This also includes the Cruelty to animals by omission.

The killing of animals is therefore permitted per se. But is it also humane and morally justifiable just because it is legal?

Tip: Often, the justification of meat consumption is also based on the "humane battles". In the linked article you can find out whether you can really take the life of a living being in a humane way.

Is something automatically moral if it is legal?

Slavery was allowed - that does not make it morally acceptable

We now know that the killing of animals is generally permitted - but are our actions morally justifiable just because they are legal? The answer is a resounding NO. Morality and legality are two completely different things. Our moral standards are set by ourselves and can be adjusted by ourselves from one second to the next. The laws and the law itself are defined by the state and possibly changed over time through social debate and negotiation.

Slavery was also allowed. It was only in the course of the 19th century that a change in thinking set in. Until then, the southern states of America, for example, were allowed to buy African slaves to use on their cotton plantations. The slaves had no rights and received no pay for their labor. Just because slavery was allowed doesn't make it morally justifiable, right?

And should it also be allowed to eat dogs? Most people in Germany would probably answer this question with a frowning "OF COURSE NOT". But in countries like China, eating dogs is commonplace - and legal. Is that why you think it is morally justifiable?

Let us be clear: just because something is legal does not automatically make it morally justifiable. And just because something is morally justifiable does not automatically make it legal. Morality and legality are two completely different things.

Are we allowed to kill animals? Raising awareness of the difference between morality and law

I think it is incredibly important that we realize that the law does not dictate what is morally acceptable and what is not. Instead, we need to question existing structures and, when in doubt, ensure that something changes.

But if you still believe that we can simply kill animals as we please, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What characteristic of an animal gives us the right to take animals' lives?
  • And why do we pet dogs and cats but slaughter cows and pigs?

At the end of the day, eating meat is not a personal decision - because this decision always has a victim. And just because it is not illegal does not automatically make it moral. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether it would be better to make the killing of animals illegal in order to benefit from the positive psychological effects on our coexistence.

Finally, I would like to give you a few further contributions to the hand:

Do you have questions or suggestions about morality and law in animal welfare? Then feel free to write me a comment!

Stay animal-friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Look you with pleasure further in the Vegan Blog um. Lene for example, why Veganism also human rights and does not stand up exclusively for the rights of animals!


₁ Albert Schweitzer Stiftung für unsere Mitwelt: Germans eat over 12 billion animals per year (as of 29.09.2010), [29.03.2021].

₂ Dinge erklärt - Kurzgesagt: Fleisch - Das leckerste Übel der Welt, YouTube, 24.01.2019, Web, 16.03.2021 at 08:50, in:

₃ American Dietetic Association; W. J. Craig; A. R. Mangels: Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets (as of July 2009), [24.07.2020].

₄ Andreas Suchanek: Moral, available at [29.03.2021].

₅ Federal Agency for Civic Education: Legality/legality principle, [29.03.2021].

₆ Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities: Morality, [29.03.2021].

Coffee box Suggestions for improvement Newsletter

* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *