Carl_Shulman comments on Why EA events should be (at least) vegetarian - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Carl_Shulman 13 November 2015 09:22:26PM *  5 points [-]

1) the harm to camaraderie in the EA community

Yes, this is the best reason not to do it. But it would also be nice if people could embrace Pareto-improving deals that reduce farm animal demand even more as signs of camaraderie. Would freegan consumption be very different for this?

2) the harm to our ability to reason objectively about decisions affecting nonhuman animals

The study that everyone (including me) cites on that reported a weak effect of thinking about eating animals leading to reduced reported belief in those animals' consciousness possibly to feel better about themselves.

The people I know who make donations to animal charities to offset meat consumption (with extra to spare) and on net reduce demand for factory farming almost all accept animal consciousness, and offsetting makes acknowledging animal consciousness and well-being less personally costly or threatening.

It's hard to imagine there being a particularly strong norm that "at any EA event, those who eat animals must pay $X" while it's easy to imagine a norm taking hold that at any EA event, people do not eat animals

Seems easy to imagine for me.

Lots of events have this setup for carbon emissions, and far more have 'different food options for different prices.' On a dietary preferences form where people can ask for 'no peanuts' or the like, one has an extra box with [+$X] next to it, just like one might have a box for including alcohol, or adding banquet attendance to a conference attendance fee. If someone checks the box and pays the money, then that amount is ordered and accessible with the ticket.

If people can't pay in advance and an organizer is creating food they can make the extra donations and announce the offsets.

For a restaurant get-together the invitations can announce the collection plate will be passed around for $1.

Mechanically these are all pretty manageable for one person or group organizing a dinner to implement.

" even if the donation norm is a better one to spread, it may not be the better one to attempt to spread because it is much harder to spread"

Why think it is so hard to spread when pseudo-'humane meat' has spread so much farther than veg*nism, and carbon offsets have spread so much further than things like air travel boycotts?

Whole Foods asks for charitable contributions every time a customer makes a purchase, and could raise for animal charities or cultured meat research.

Many branded products specify that a certain percentage of sales goes to a certain charity. Ethos at Starbucks, for example:

Every time you buy a bottle of EthosĀ® Water, you contribute $.05US ($.10CN in Canada) to the EthosĀ® Water Fund, part of the Starbucks Foundation.

Imagine Whole Foods having a similar line of animal products funding highly effective interventions.

Comment author: zdgroff 13 November 2015 10:24:12PM 2 points [-]

1) I think freegan consumption actually would be very different. You're not paying for the torture and killing. Knowing that would make it far less salient I would think. Plus, the whole reason it harms camaraderie is that we don't believe it's Pareto-improving since the norm of offsetting seems less sticky.

2) I don't really think belief in animal consciousness shows that people are thinking rationally. It's a pretty low and trivial bar.

Regarding the offsetting norm, do you have evidence that offsets have traveled further than avoiding carbon-intensive technology? I know many people who bike, use public transit, live in an urban area, etc. much of which is to some degree driven by the carbon emissions of cars. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who uses offsets.

It would be great - and far preferable in my view - for Whole Foods to do this offset system instead of 'humane' meat (someone should propose this to them actually), but I would definitely prefer that they stop selling meat entirely. I can't imagine the offsets option would have as strong a normative effect as that.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 13 November 2015 10:35:44PM *  1 point [-]

I was thinking of 'green power' purchase programs and airline offsets as well as things like carbon-neutral data centers using credits. And contrasting that to boycotts rather than marginal reductions. [There's also a huge involuntary credit market, of course, which is more clearly larger than the voluntary responses but isn't directly comparable].

I can't imagine the offsets option would have as strong a normative effect as that.

There is a normative effect of doing offsets in getting others to do offsets. If each player doing offsets has more effect than each player changing its own production/consumption, then that can be a win. And the offset charities presumably have normative effects. Would Whole Foods going back to being vegetarian do more than $20MM or $100MM to the most effective animal charities?

Comment author: zdgroff 13 November 2015 10:49:29PM 2 points [-]

Yes, I can't imagine an effective animal charity doing as much good as Whole Foods going back to being vegetarian.

Regarding the normative effects of offsets charities, I think the cost effectiveness figures are far too optimistic here (the most reasonable ones apply to corporate outreach, which I think has the smallest spillovers). I don't see a case for the effectiveness of a donation outweighing the increased contagiousness of a dietary norm.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 13 November 2015 11:00:09PM *  2 points [-]

I don't see a case for the effectiveness of a donation outweighing the increased contagiousness of a dietary norm.

How much do you think it costs to get 3 people to adopt the dietary norm (with associated follow-on effects)?

And what do you think of the prospects for things like meat substitute R&D, cultured meat/eggs or this chicken-sexing technology?