New Directions in Plant Ethics

Date: 13th June 2018

Time: 3:30-5:30 pm

Venue: Banquet Hall (Kleines Sitzungszimmer), University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna


Angela Kallhoff (Vienna)

Maria Schorgenhumer (Vienna)

Marcello Di Paola (Vienna/Rome)

Gianfranco Pellegrino (LUISS University Rome)

Corresponding Organizers:

Maria Schörgenhumer (maria.schoergenhumer(at)

Marcello Di Paola (marcellodipaola80(at)

Context and Aims:

Plant Ethics is an emerging field in environmental ethics whose ramifications extend to numerous other fields including bioethics, agricultural, food, professional and business ethics, and the philosophy of technology. This workshop presents and explores plant ethics as a focal field of inquiry that is developing its own argumentative resources at both a theoretical and an applied level. 

The ethics of plants focuses on the value of plants, the duties we may have towards and regarding plants, and the ways in which we should relate to plants in different contexts. When it comes to applied plant ethics, the challenge is that of constructing a coherent set of analytical tools that might help us navigate the many different domains in which plant manipulation and cultivation are of relevance. These domains include forestry, agriculture, health, genetic research, biodiversity conservation, diet and consumption, climate adaptation, and the design of resilient cities – among others.

The research project “New Directions in Plant Ethics”, based at the Philosophy Department at the University of Vienna and led by Prof. Angela Kallhoff, has been engaged for the past three years in the exploration of the ethics of plants and their manipulation. The result has been the publication of the volume Plant Ethics: Concepts and Applications (Routledge 2018), edited by the Project team and showcasing a wide variety of approaches to the philosophy of plants from distinguished international scholars.


This EURSAFE workshop is meant to present this work and to explore in some detail issues relating to the production and consumption of plant foods. The book will be briefly presented as a way into the intricacies of plant ethics, while most of the workshop will be devoted to the search of a joint framework for plant and food ethics that may open to a new research agenda where these fields can be mutually informative. The workshop will therefore soon take the form of a dialogue whose main aim is to outline a shared platform for further debate on plants and food production and consumption within the EURSAFE community and society at large.  

Key Questions:

Particular themes and questions that may be addressed are the following:

  • Is plant ethics capable of shedding new lights on central themes in agriculture and food ethics, and of guiding responsible innovation in the food and agricultural sectors?
  • What are the most promising strategies for integrating plant and agriculture and food ethics? 
  • What is the moral status of plants, and what are the implications of different views on this topic on the ethics of plant cultivation and consumption?
  • What makes for ecologically and socially sustainable, and for ethically virtuous plant cultivation?
  • How can a plant ethics framework be applied in the assessment of agricultural practices that involve deforestation or radical transformations of landscapes?  
  • How can a plant ethics framework be applied in the assessment of agricultural practices that involve emerging food technologies, including genetic modification?
  • How can ethical reflection on plants be applied to improve animal welfare?
  • Considering the major impacts that animal farming and animal foods consumption has on local and global environments, the welfare of animals themselves, and the livelihoods of millions of humans, should we all be vegetarians? And is eating plants not morally problematic as well?
  • What are the moral and political peculiarities of emerging technologies devoted to edible plants production - including gene-editing, diffused computing and robotic farming?

Target Group:

Philosophers, practitioners, policy makers, business, innovators, general public

Key Words: 

Plants, Moral Status, Food, Agriculture, Climate Change, Cities, Gardens


Please join us in reflecting on these and other issues from various perspectives (e.g. technology assessment, animal welfare, agricultural and food ethics, environmental ethics etc.) There will be no individual presentations in the workshop because our aim is to have a reflective dialogue together. We ask you to prepare the workshop by bringing your own thoughts and materials concerning plants and their connection to your field of expertise or interest. This is an open workshop but we encourage you to reach out to us for reading materials and other sources that may help make the discussion more informed and lively. 


If you are planning to join us, please contact Marcello Di Paola (marcellodipaola80(at) and Maria Schörgenhumer (maria.schoergenhumer(at)