Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ethical eating, part 2

So, my sister and others pretty much convinced me that animal cruelty in the meat industry is more like a good ol' collective action (or prisoner's dilemma) problem than I originally thought. With this new perspective come my revised thoughts (basically rephrasing what others have said or pointed out to me):
1) Becoming a vegetarian is a somewhat empty gesture in the absence of at least bringing it to other people's attention in an effort to create a social environment ripe for change. Otherwise, it's like limiting your efforts to combat climate change to turning off the lights when you leave a room: in the absence of urging other people to do the same, it amounts to less than a drop in a bucket.
2) Collective action problems require collective solutions, and that means political action. So should I give money to PETA? The Humane Society? I don't really know, but I intend to find out.
3) Political action would ideally be at the federal level, because state mandates start a "race to the bottom" where those adversely affected by any new regulations relocate to less regulated states. For instance, according to some disputed estimates, 95% of California's egg industry will move by the time Proposition 2 takes effect in 2015, and obviously not too many chickens will actually be better off. What are the odds that this actually becomes an issue of significance any time soon? Sigh......


  1. Well, I should mention that if you are vegetarian, your peers/colleagues tend to find out about it (even if you're not aggressively vocal, but just because it inevitably comes up when you eat together).

  2. ALSO, you should definitely read this article, because it addresses all of these issues much more coherently and intelligently than (no offense) either of us ever could: http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/consider_the_lobster?printable=true