Diet Watch: Documents and People

This is an online portal with information on diet changes and the discussion of personal and ethical questions surrounding diet, including animal welfare, environmentalism, and personal health. The repository with code and data is available on GitHub. Current data is preliminary and has not been completely vetted and normalized; if sharing a link to this site or any page on this site, please include the caveat that the data is preliminary (if you want to share without including caveats, please check with Vipul Naik).

Table of contents

Documents (47 in number)

Title (URL linked)Publication dateAuthorPublisherOther participants and mentioned peopleTagsAnimal typesPeople clustersNotes
Why did you go vegan? Quora Personal journey Case against animal consumption This canonical Quora question has over 100 answers describing the personal journeys and articulated rationales for people switching to veganism.
Logic of the Larder 1914-01-01 Henry S. Salt The Humanities of Diet Logic of the larder Salt argues against the "logic of the larder" argument, that claims that it is preferable for animals to exist and then be used for meat than to not exist at all
Why Meat is Moral, and Veggies are Immoral 2002-07-10 Robin Hanson Logic of the larder Hanson Robin Hanson argues that buying meat is more moral than buying vegetables, because it causes more animals to come into existence. This utilitarian calculus is based on the assumption that the animals have net positive lives. Hanson argues that paying for more humane meat might be better but buying any meat at all is more moral than not buying any at all. This restates the historical "logic of the larder" argument, that was critiqued as far back as 1914 by Henry S. Salt at http://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-c/salt02.htm
How Much Direct Suffering Is Caused by Various Animal Foods? 2007-01-01 Brian Tomasik Reducing Suffering Animal harm per unit food consumption Fish Poultry Cattle Pig Tomasik Negative utilitarian Effective altruist In this lengthy essay, Brian Tomasik compares the amount of direct animal suffering caused by various animal foods. He notes that the animal suffering caused per kg varies wildly, with an estimate that farmed catfish may cause 20,000 times as much direct suffering per kg as milk.
How Does Vegetarianism Impact Wild-Animal Suffering? 2008-01-01 Brian Tomasik Animal harm per unit food consumption Logic of the larder Substitution between farmed and wild animals Pig Cattle Poultry Fish Tomasik Negative utilitarian Effective altruist Brian Tomasik considers the net impact that factory farming of animals has on wild animal populations, and thus tries to assess the impact of consuming various animal foods. He summarizes his estimate of impact on net suffering for various animal foods in a table, then provides more detail in the rest of the post
Flesh of Your Flesh. Should you eat meat? 2009-11-01 Elizabeth Kolbert New Yorker Jonathan Safran Foer Case against animal consumption Personal journey Pig Cattle Poultry Fish Progressive media The article is a book review of "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. She discusses Foer's personal journey toward vegetarianism, which began when at the age of nine, his babysitter pointed out to him: "You know that chicken is chicken, right?" After going back and forth between vegetarianism and meat-eating, Foer ultimately managed to stick to vegetarianism after marriage to a like-minded person. Foer is also critical of fellow writer Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" whose arguments are considered unconvincing and dangerous by Foer. The reviewer discusses some of her own experience trying out Pollan's method of raising animals in order to cultivate empathy for animals in her children, and her achieving the opposite of success
No Killed Animals, please 2010-04-18 Tom G. Palmer Personal journey Case against animal consumption Bivalve Libertarian On his personal blog, Tom G. Palmer explains that he has become vegetarian for ethical reasons. He discusses the logic of the larder argument (i.e., that many of the factory-farmed animals would not have been bred otherwise) but argues that our obligation not to mistreat animals trumps such calculations. He also notes the free-range meat is less objectionable, and some creatures such as shrimp and oysters may be okay to eat because they lack a central nervous system. He also notes that he does not believe in animal rights analogous to human rights, simply that animals should not be mistreated. He suggests Matthew Scully’s book "Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy" for more insight.
Why being vegetarian can kill more animals than eating meat 2011-06-22 Julia Galef Measure of Doubt Animal harm per unit food consumption Fish Poultry Cattle Pig Effective altruist Rationalist Julia Galef compares the animal harm caused by the various kinds of food in the standard American diet. She makes the point that although considered vegetarian, eggs cause more animal lives lost per calorie than beef. Although she only does a lives-to-calories calculation rather than a suffering-to-calories calculation, she expects similar results in those cases. She acknowledges that the environmental impact (in terms of greenhouse gases) goes the other way, with cattle causing more greenhouse gas emissions. The post attracts 171 comments, with many of them in discussion threads, and with Galef replying to many comments. The post is also shared by Louie Helm at https://rockstarresearch.com/are-beef-products-more-humane-than-chicken/ which features comments from Evan Gaesbauer and Jacy Reese, and a link to Tomasik's work https://reducing-suffering.org/how-much-direct-suffering-is-caused-by-various-animal-foods/
Any libertarian vegetarians/vegans around here? 2012-01-24 Reddit Personal journey Case against animal consumption Libertarian This Reddit discussion thread in the Libertarian subreddit includes responses from a number of people who identify as being libertarian and as being or aspiring toward vegetarianism or veganism.
Raising A Visionary: Christopher Olah 2012-06-28 Frances Zomer CNBC Christopher Olah Personal journey Fish Frances Zomer, the mother of Christopher Olah, describes how her son became vegetarian at age 4 after thinking about the impact that eating animal products has on the animals. At the time of the article, Olah had grown up to be a Thiel Fellow. He would later go into AI research at OpenAI
Pay other people to go vegetarian for you? 2013-04-11 Jeff Kaufman Brian Tomasik Ethics offsets Effective altruist Kaufman discusses whether it makes sense for effective altruists to go vegetarian. He says he would need about $500/year to go vegetarian and $2,000/year to go vegan. Then, he looks at existing estimates of how much it would cost to convince others to go vegetarian, and finds estimates much lower than that. An update includes an estimate https://reducing-suffering.org/donating-toward-efficient-online-veg-ads/ from Brian Tomasik. However, in an update to the post, Kaufman notes that he has revised upward his estimate of this cost.
The ethical case for eating oysters and mussels 2013-05-20 Diana Fleischman Sentientist Personal journey Animal consciousness Animal harm per unit food consumption Bivalve Effective altruist Diana Fleischman reveals that for the last five years, she has been "ostrovegan": she has plant-based foods and bivalves (oysters and mussels). She argues that people who are vegan for ethical reasons should feel free to expand their diets to include bivalves. Her three arguments for oysters and mussels lacking sentience are: (1) they are not motile, (2) they have rudimentary nervous systems and do not seem to use endogenous opiates or opiate receptors to inhibit pain. Separately, she also claims that eating cultivated oysters and mussels doesn’t doesn’t kill other (sentient) animals at a rate greater than agriculture. She has a sequel post at https://sentientist.org/2013/06/15/oystersmusselspt2/ arguing for a broader cultural acceptance of bivalve consumption by vegans.
Why Eat Less Meat? 2013-06-06 Peter Hurford Personal journey Case against animal consumption Effective altruist Peter Hurford, in this post on his own blog, writes about his ethical motive for going completely vegetarian as of the previous Thanksgiving (November 2012). His chain of reasoning is: animals can suffer, factory farming causes considerable suffering, vegetarianism can make a difference, and vegetarianism is easier than you think. He concludes with a challenge to people to try being vegetarian for a while, or least try to be reducetarian (eat less meat) or eat meat from bigger animals, resulting in less suffering per unit food consumed.
The Ethical Case for Eating Oysters and Mussels- Part 2 2013-06-15 Diana Fleischman Sentientist Animal consciousness Case for relaxation of veganism Bivalve Effective altruist Diana Fleischman writes a sequel to her earlier post https://sentientist.org/2013/05/20/the-ethical-case-for-eating-oysters-and-mussels/ where she revealed she was vegan except that she consumed bivalves (oysters and mussels). In the previous post, she gives reasons for believing that bivalves are not sentient, and that bivalve production does not cause more animal harm than agriculture. In the new post, she argues for encouraging wider acceptance of bivalve consumption among vegans. She notes that this undermines the case that vegans are motivated purely by disgust. She also expects and hopes that this will reduce vegans from lapsing into full-blown meat consumption. Finally, she lists some nutritional benefits that bivalves provide in an otherwise plant-based diet, include B12, heme iron, omega 3 fatty acids, and zinc.
Vegan advocacy and pessimism about wild animal welfare 2013-07-30 Carl Shulman Logic of the larder Substitution between farmed and wild animals Shulman Effective altruist Rationalist Carl Shulman discusses the paper http://www.qalys.org/animal-welfare.pdf by Gaverick Matheny, which argues that the additional agricultural land needed to support farmed animals displaces land that would support natural ecosystems with wild animals. Matheny sees this as destroying the logic of the larder argument, which says that meat is good because it causes more farmed animals to exist, and therefore rescues the case against meat. But Shulman adds another twist: if one is pessimistic about wild animal welfare, this resuscitates the logic of the larder. Shulman's post includes many other nuances and proposes further questions for animal advocates to resarch and grapple with
How Much Suffering is in the Standard American Diet? 2014-05-31 Peter Hurford Timothy Telleen-Lawton Animal harm per unit food consumption Poultry Pig Cattle Fish Effective altruist Peter Hurford, in this post on his own blog, attempts to quantify how much animal suffering is caused by the average United States diet, using the USDA Profiling Food Consumption in America report, combined with Brian Tomasik's essay quantifying the amount of direct suffering caused by various animal foods http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-per-kg.html The post also includes some calculations accounting for elasticity.
A Debate on Animal Consciousness 2014-07-22 Eliezer Yudkowsky Facebook Tyrrell McAllister Luke Muehlhauser David Pearce Jai Dhyani Brent Dill Mason Hartman William Eden David Brin Rob Bensinger Kaj Sotala Michael Vassar Eric Schmidt Brian Tomasik Buck Shlegeris Andres Gomez Emilsson Francisco Boni Neto Daniel Powell Carl Shulman Robert Wiblin Animal consciousness Dealing with moral uncertainty Pig Cattle Poultry Fish Effective altruist Rationalist This is a copy of a post originally made by Yudkowsky on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10152588738904228 with some edits. The discussion includes Yudkowsky's interpretation of consciousness, and why he considers it unlikely that pigs have sufficient reflective self-awareness to have the "inner listener" necessary for moral worth, i.e., it's not that they have simpler qualia, it's that they don't have qualia at all. He also discusses the mind projection fallacy, linking to https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/ZTRiSNmeGQK8AkdN2/mind-projection-fallacy The comments include pushback from a number of directions. Topics discussed include the mirror test, how to deal with a reasonable probability of being wrong, the distinction between pain and suffering, and the work of others who have written about consciousness, including Gary Drescher. Brian Tomasik is inspired to edit one of his existing articles based on the discussion: http://reducing-suffering.org/which-computations-do-i-care-about/#disagreements David Pearce calls Eliezer's argument an example of an ethically catastrophic error.
Aim high, even if you fall short 2014-10-08 Julia Wise Personal journey Effective altruist On her personal blog, Julia Wise talks about how it is important to be true about one's moral beliefs and strive to make one's actions consistent with them, but accept that one may not be able to meet the standards perfectly. She talks about this in the context of eating meat, where she thinks meat-eaters often ignore animal suffering in order to feel comfortable about eating meat. She describes her own past experiment of going vegan except for ice cream, which was not perfect but reduced her amount of animal product consumption by quite a bit compared to not trying the experiment at all.
Two Kinds of Vegan 2014-10-26 Jeff Kaufman Buck Shlegeris Skepticism of case for vegetarianism Effective altruist Jeff Kaufman argues that vegan advocates often engage in a motte-and-bailey argument, where the motte is that the cheapest nutritionally complete diets are vegan (which is true, because vegan diets can get protein from cheap sources such as lentils, peanut butter, and beans) and the bailey is that veganism is cheaper (which he argues is not true, because getting protein through tasty and diverse vegan foods is expensive). Cross-posted to Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jefftk/posts/693958798882 and the comments from Facebook show up in the original post.
When should an Effective Altruist be vegetarian? 2014-11-21 Katja Grace David Pearce Brian Tomasik Boris Yakubchik Eric Herboso Magnus Vinding Wolf Bullman Skepticism of case for vegetarianism Animal harm per unit food consumption Poultry Effective altruist Katja Grace describes her thoughts on why trying to be vegetarian may not be a good idea for most effective altruists. In particular, she argues that the relevant comparison is not whether the personal cost of forgoing meat is exceeded by the benefits of being vegetarian (in terms of reduced animal suffering or reduced animal deaths). Rather, the relevant comparison is between the maximum benefit that can be achieved for the same cost. For instance, in many cases, eating more frugally and donating the savings to a suitable charity may generate more value for the same personal cost. The post attracts 44 comments, many of which push back against the claims in the post. Commenters include David Pearce, Brian Tomasik, Boris Yakubchik, and Magnus Vinding. Some of the points of pushback include: the relative value of human and animal suffering, the probability that animals are conscious, the health effects of vegetarianism, and the value of vegetarians as early adopters who help create a market for vegetarian products.
Review: Surprisingly Vegan Waffle Mix 2014-12-26 Elizabeth Van Nostrand Practical vegan and vegetarian food advice Effective altruist Elizabeth Van Nostrand gives her personal experience trying out a vegan gluten-free waffle mix http://smile.amazon.com/Surprisingly-Vegan-Original-Recipe-Waffle/dp/B007EH80HM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418380092&sr=8-1&keywords=surprisingly+vegan that works for her given her dietary restrictions which disallow eggs, dairy, and gluten
Ethics offsets 2015-01-04 Scott Alexander Slate Star Codex Ethics offsets Poultry Effective altruist Rationalist On his widely read blog, Scott Alexander discusses the concept of ethics offsets: donating enough to offset the ethical damage of one's actions. He discusses as an example being a meat-eater who donates enough to convert multiple people to vegetarianism, and explains a few ways he feels weird about this: a sense of duping others and a concern about universalizability (if everybody did it, it wouldn't make sense). He discusses possible responses to both.
Ethical diets 2015-01-08 Peter McCluskey Personal journey Case against animal consumption Logic of the larder Health effects Bivalve Fish Poultry Cattle Effective altruist Peter McCluskey argues for the importance of taking animal welfare seriously: "Establishing ethical (and maybe legal) rules that protect less powerful agents may influence how AGIs treat humans or how high-speed ems treat low-speed ems and biological humans. A one in a billion chance that I can alter this would be worth some of my attention. There are probably other similar ways that an expanding circle of ethical concern can benefit future people." Due both to concerns about health effects and the logic of the larder, Hurford is reluctant to adopt full veganism. However, he tries to avoid factory-farmed animals except factory-farmed invertebrates, the exception being because confinement is less of an issue for animals that small. His dietary decision: "So my diet will consist of vegan food plus shellfish, insects, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised birds/mammals (and their eggs/whey/butter). I will assume vertebrate animals are raised in cruel conditions unless they’re clearly marked as wild-caught, grass-fed, or pasture-raised." McCluskey expects to be able to stick to this diet while at home, but expects to not be able to adhere to these constraints in large social gatherings. He plans to cap calorie consumption of food outside these constraints to 120 calories per month
Animal Rights Deep Dive Pre-Check 2015-01-28 Elizabeth Van Nostrand John Salvatier Personal journey Skepticism of case for vegetarianism Health effects Pig Effective altruist Elizabeth Van Nostrand is about to start a deep dive into animal rights and welfare with John Salvatier and others. Before starting, she writes a blog post describing her current beliefs. She states that: (1) Animal death for the purpose of food is okay, animal suffering is not. (2) Modern factory farming produces unacceptable levels of suffering. (3) Animal death or suffering for the purpose of clothing is not okay. (4) Her position that animal death for the purpose of food is morally okay is dependent on my belief that eating animals is essential to human health. (5) Not all meats have equal moral density. (6) Lessening the amount of suffering in meat production (the Mercy for Animals approach) is preferable to convincing people to go veg*n (The Humane League's approach). (7) Leafleting is unlikely to work, and colleges are probably the only place where it is likely to work, but it will be hard to get conclusive data. She also describes her own personal disgust at meat, which led her to not consume meat between the ages of 4 and 28, and how her first meat after age 28 was pigs, but she has now stopped eating pigs because of their greater sentience and moral worth
Should I be vegan? 2015-05-17 Jess Whittlestone Effective Altruism Forum Paul Christiano Brian Tomasik Peter Hurford Pablo Stafforini Carl Shulman Rob Wiblin Tom Ash Michael Dickens Personal journey Health effects of veganism Cattle Poultry Effective altruist Jess Whittlestone, who is vegetarian and consumes dairy and eggs, grapples with the question of whether to go fully vegan. She offers the following reasons for going vegan: (1) Impact of her diet on animal suffering, (2) Not wanting to be part of the factory farming enterprise, (3) Signalling and encouraging others. She offers the following arguments against: (1) Inconvenience, enjoyment, willpower, (2) Health, (3) No need to be all-or-nothing. She then asks the commenters if there are other considerations she is missing. In the comments, Paul Christiano, Brian Tomasik, Peter Hurford, and others argue against lumping together milk and eggs, and suggest a focus on cutting out eggs (i.e., becoming a lacto-vegetarian). Rob Wiblin also notes that he switched from veganism to lacto-vegetarianism + having mussels. Tom Ash notes in the comments that he is in a similar situation as Jess. Michael Dickens argues that being vegan for a few months will make it easier to be vegan in the long term.
preference accommodation problems 2015-08-09 Kelsey Piper Politics of group food consumption Effective altruist Kelsey Piper critiques the last-minute decision to serve meat at the EA Global San Francisco conference. She articulates a framework of three principles guiding her position: secularism (in the sense of respect for preferences one does not share), anti-outrage (not using outrage to measure the strengths of people's preferences), and official sanction (there shouldn't be official sanction for actions that violate the beliefs of a large subset of the group). Piper argues that many people passionate about animal welfare were deeply unhappy about meat being served at the conference, but did not express outrage, partly because of the general culture against outrage in the EA community. Piper appreciates this (she does not like the outrage culture in some social justice circles) but highlights the need for alternative ways to understand and accommodate the strength of people's preferences and beliefs
Doing good through our food choices at EA Global in years to come 2015-08-09 Jacy Reese Effective Altruism Facebook group Kelsey Piper Michael Dickens Buck Shlegeris Alyssa Vance Eric Herboso Eva Vivalt Jeff Kaufman Daniel Filan Tyler John Alexander Gordon-Brown Elizabeth Van Nostrand Jesse Galef Brit Gardner Zach Groff Carl Shulman Wolf Bullmann Julia Wise Scott Fowler Linchuan Zhang Kerry Vaughan David Pearce Oliver Habryka Jeffrey Lins Bernadette Young Nicole Ross Politics of group food consumption Effective altruist Jacy Reese shares and agrees with Kelsey Piper's post https://theunitofcaring.tumblr.com/post/126310876481/preference-accommodation-problems critical of the last-minute decision to serve meat at the EA Global San Francisco conference. The post attracts 86 likes and 163 comments, including spirited discussion from people for serving meat, against serving meat, and neutral on the issue. Some comments discuss Piper's piece, but most are about the general issue of whether meat should be served at the conference, and the underlying principles that would guide the decision
Food Choices at EA Global 2015-08-10 Elizabeth Van Nostrand Kelsey Piper Julia Wise Jeff Kaufman Politics of group food consumption Fake meat Effective altruist Elizabeth Van Nostrand, in response to the controversy https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/914246908631667 around the serving of meat at EA Global, suggests an opt-in possibility where people who would like to but don't need to eat meat be given food that could be either real or fake meat, and they will know only afterward whether the meat was real or fake. She think this might help the cause of veganism by allowing people to try out meat substitutes and find out that they are adequate. She shares the post on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/li.van.nostrand/posts/10102521759141265 and gets comments from Kelsey Piper, Julia Wise, and Jeff Kaufman
Meat at EA Global 2015-08-10 Jeff Kaufman Kelsey Piper Daniel Filan Jay Shooster Julia Wise Politics of group food consumption Effective altruist Building on comments written on the post https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/914246908631667/ by Jacy Reese about the post https://theunitofcaring.tumblr.com/post/126310876481/preference-accommodation-problems by Kelsey Piper against serving meat at EA Global, Jeff Kaufman responds to Piper's arguments by drawing on his own intuitions. He thinks that the compromise achieved by the EA Global organizers was reasonable. The post is shared at https://www.facebook.com/jefftk/posts/742874576272 and some of the comments from Facebook also show up on the original post (this is determined by the Facebook settings of the commenters)
The Case for Vegans Eating Oysters, Mussels, & Other Invertebrates? Nope, Here’s Some Science. 2015-09-02 Vegans for Reason Diana Fleischman Animal consciousness Bivalve The lengthy blog post is a critical response to arguments by Diana Fleischman made at https://sentientist.org/2013/05/20/the-ethical-case-for-eating-oysters-and-mussels/ that bivalves (oysters and mussels) are not sentient, and vegans should feel free to expand their diets to include bivalves. The response argues that bivalves are animals with a nervous system, even though they do not have a centralized brain, and thus are very different from plants, that do not have any kind of nervous system. Diana Fleischman posts about the blog post, saying "There are some good points in here but they are mostly obscured by vitriol or arguments that don't really matter to the central issue." Her Facebook post attracts several comments.
We need more meat-eating animal-rights advocates 2015-09-02 Brian Kateman Quartz Case for moderation in advocacy Brian Kateman of the Reducetarian Foundation explains his reasons for advocating reducetarianism rather than strict veganism.
Vegetarianism for meat-eaters 2015-09-23 Scott Alexander Slate Star Codex Animal harm per unit food consumption Ethics offsets Poultry Cattle Effective altruist Rationalist Scott Alexander suggests two ways for meat eaters to grapple with their impact on animal suffering: (1) Eat meat from larger animals, which causes less suffering per calorie (in slogan form: "eat beef, not chicken"), (2) Use ethics offsets by donating to animal charities.
At what cost, carnivory? 2015-10-29 Gregory Lewis Effective Altruism Forum Carl Shulman Stefan Schubert Alexander Gordon-Brown Skepticism of case for vegetarianism Animal harm per unit food consumption Fish Poultry Cattle Pig Effective altruist Lewis argues that, according to Animal Charity Evaluators cost-effectiveness estimates, an amount in the range of $2 to $5 per year, donated to an effective animal charity, is sufficient to offset the extent to which the typical American diet is worse for animals than veganism. He then explores various ways of reconciling this with the interest of many in the effective altruism community in promoting animal-free diets in the community.
The team would like to announce that the food served will be vegan and vegetarian. 2016-06-04 Julia Wise EA Global News and Events Facebook group Michael Dickens Jacy Reese Matt Pat Claire Zabel Ajeya Cotra Roxanne Heston Politics of group good consumption Bivalve Cattle Effective altruist Julia Wise announces that EA Global 2016 will be vegetarian. This is in response to controversy that erupted due to EA Global 2015 San Francisco decidign to serve meat at the last minute. The post from 2015 with the most discussion related to the controversy is https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/914246908631667 The comments include expressions of appreciation and congratulation from a number of people, many of whom strongly believe in animal rights. There is also discussion of whether vegan + bivalves might be a better option for the conference than vegetarian
Thoughts: Any libertarian vegetarians/vegans around here? 2016-06-07 Vipul Naik Facebook Personal journey Case against animal consumption Libertarian The Facebook post links to a Reddit thread https://www.reddit.com/r/Libertarian/comments/ouiyd/any_libertarian_vegetariansvegans_around_here/ Comments on the Facebook post are primarily from people who identify as libertarian or libertarian-leaning; they describe where they stand with respect to vegetarianism and veganism.
Bugs 2016-10-03 Bryan Caplan EconLog Buck Shlegeris Peter Singer Eliezer Yudkowsky Brian Tomasik David Peace Hypocrisy argument Insect Caplan Libertarian Bryan Caplan argues that "bugs" (insects) are, to him, the most compelling objection to animal rights. He argues that even morally scrupulous animal rights advocates directly and indirectly kill bugs, which suggests that they don't really believe in animal rights. He discusses what PETA and the Animal Rights FAQ say on the subject. The comments include responses from Buck Shlegeris and Eliezer Yudkowsky. Shlegeris and others link to the work of Brian Tomasik. Another commenter links to the work of David Pearce
Huemer on Ethical Treatment of Animals (Including Bugs) 2016-10-04 Michael Huemer EconLog Bryan Caplan Hypocrisy argument Insect Caplan Libertarian Michael Huemer replies on Facebook to Bryan Caplan's Bugs post https://www.econlib.org/archives/2016/10/bugs.html and the reply is reprinted by Caplan on EconLog
Reply to Huemer on Ethical Treatment of Animals (including Bugs) 2016-10-11 Bryan Caplan EconLog Michael Huemer Buck Shlegeris Hypocrisy argument Insect Caplan Libertarian Bryan Caplan replies to Michael Huemer's reply https://www.econlib.org/archives/2016/10/huemer_on_ethic.html to Bryan Caplan's post http://www.econlib.org/archives/2016/10/bugs.html Caplan addresses Huemer's points one by one, concluding: "You could protest, of course, that bugs don’t feel pain. That seems unlikely to me, for reasons well-explained by the pro-bug rights people I discussed. But suppose we grant that bugs don’t feel pain. Your position still implies that if bugs did feel pain, it would be morally impermissible to build a house. After all, you could just live in a tent and leave the bugs in peace. Is that really plausible to you?"
Huemer Replies on the Ethical Treatment of Animals 2016-10-13 Michael Huemer EconLog Bryan Caplan Hypocrisy argument Insect Caplan Libertarian Michael Huemer replies to the post https://www.econlib.org/archives/2016/10/reply_to_huemer.html by Bryan Caplan; this continues an ongoing conversation between them. Huemer argues that if any of these three is false, there is a morally relevant distinction between killing bugs and factory farming: (a) factory farming doesn't cause more pain and suffering than killing bugs, (b) farm animals are not more intelligent than bugs, (c) there are no stronger reasons for killing bugs than there are for factory farming. He discusses further subtleties and possible alternative arguments
Further Reply to Huemer on the Ethical Treatment of Animals 2016-10-14 Bryan Caplan EconLog Michael Huemer Hypocrisy argument Insect Caplan Libertarian Bryan Caplan replies to Michael Huemer's latest reply http://www.econlib.org/archives/2016/10/huemer_replies.html in their ongoing conversation on animal rights and bugs. Caplan says he is trying to extract two major concessions: (1) causing immense pain for minor gain is sometimes morally acceptable, (2) one key factor that makes such pain morally acceptable is low intelligence of the creature that suffers and high intelligence of the suffering’s beneficiary.
I want to revise my publicly-stated diet from “vegan plus bivalves” to “vegan plus bivalves, but not minding occasional accidental consumption of dairy which happens incidentally.” 2016-11-27 Buck Shlegeris Facebook Gina Stuessy Claire Zabel Jacy Reese Personal journey Bivalve Cattle Effective altruist Buck Shlegeris explains that his intended diet is vegan + bivalves (he cites Diana Fleischman's post https://sentientist.org/2013/06/15/oystersmusselspt2/ regarding bivalves). However, he notes that many times, food he orders at work may contain small amounts of dairy that are not explicitly listed in the food description, and he does not put in special effort to avoid such food. He thinks the animal suffering averted through such avoidance is not enough to justify the effort needed to avoid it. Shlegeris expects most vegans to behave the same way in practice, but still thinks it is good to disclose it publicly. In the comments, Gina Stuessy notes that she is much more careful to avoid accidental egg consumption than accidental dairy consumption, because of the huge differences in the level of animal suffering caused by the two. Jacy Reese notes in the comments that the vegan crowd he hangs out with mostly follow the approach outlined by Shlegeris.
Two standard donations and one new one 2016-12-30 Julia Wise Personal journey Effective altruist On her personal blog, Julia Wise describes her donations for 2016, made jointly with her husband Jeff Kaufman. One of these donations is a $300 donation to New Harvest, which works on ways to develop milk, meat, and egg tissue without animals. Wise mentions that she used to be vegetarian for a decade and also lived in a vegan house and cooks vegan food, but is not vegetarian herself for health reasons. She also talks about how it is important even for people who cannot give up meat to be comfortable contributing to animal welfare causes.
Can Bivalves Suffer? 2017-02-06 Brian Tomasik Reducing Suffering Diana Fleischman Animal consciousness Bivalve Tomasik Negative utilitarian Effective altruist In this work-in-progress page, Brian Tomasik responds to arguments made by people such as Diana Fleischman at https://sentientist.org/2013/05/20/the-ethical-case-for-eating-oysters-and-mussels/ that bivalves (oysters and mussels) do not suffer, and vegans should consider expanding their diets to include bivalves. Tomasik agrees that the suffering per creature for bivalves is likely less than for most other creatures, but he thinks that their sensory systems make it possible that they do experience suffering. Moreover, given the huge numbers of bivalves that need to be consumed in a single meal, he is concerned that overall, a diet with bivalves might cause nontrivial levels of animal suffering. However, he agrees with Fleischman that "if eating bivalves significantly helps you avoid backsliding toward eating large numbers of clearly sentient animals like chickens, it's plausibly an acceptable moral risk to take." Fleischman praises the response at https://www.facebook.com/sentientist/posts/10109086644658140 saying "Brian Tomasik is the first person who has used actual evidence to try to refute my position that bivalves don't suffer." She also says "It's going to be more difficult to refute my weaker case- bivalves don't suffer enough to matter morally and eating them might help some people stay (otherwise) vegan."
Ways I've changed my mind about effective altruism over the past year 2017-07-21 Buck Shlegeris Skepticism of advocacy Effective altruist The article describes ways Shlegeris has changed his mind about effective altruism. He says: "I wish people would spend less time talking about small scale personal consumption ethics like veganism. I think that these topics encourage a type of thinking which is very different to the type of thinking that is most important for EA. I worry that when new EAs run into these arguments, they think that the types of arguments used there are the most important types of arguments, and so don’t learn the important of getting deep understanding of topics relevant to EA." He also notes: "I am less enthusiastic about hedonic utilitarianism than I used to be. I don’t regret naming my DAF the Hedonium Shockwave Fund, but it’s much more of a joke now. I’m more inclined to care about complex value, and I think I might start thinking that death of humans is terminally bad."
Storeable, convenient veg*n meal options 2017-10-04 Luke Muehlhauser Practical vegan and vegetarian food advice Effective altruist After writing his animal consciousness report http://www.openphilanthropy.org/2017-report-consciousness-and-moral-patienthood Luke Muehlhauser has strived to be more reducetarian, i.e., reduce animal products in his diet. He links to a spreadsheet https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kZ6IVxrCRuMLrJ_dC03fvnCIClBGzDBj0epYWS38bi4/edit#gid=0 of his findings of good options for people seeking vegetarian foods. Muehlhauser is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, so the items in the list may have limited utility in other locations.
An integrated model to evaluate the impact of animal products 2019-01-09 Kyle Bogosian Effective Altruism Forum Animal harm per unit food consumption Substitution between farmed and wild animals Pig Cattle Poultry Fish Effective altruist Kyle Bogosian tries to calculate the impact of consuming various animal products. His model involves a number of inputs, including the degree of moral importance, quality of life, number of animals consumed per human, climate change impact, and elasticity. He explains why he was unable to use Luke Muehlhauser's probability-of-sentience estimates https://www.openphilanthropy.org/2017-report-consciousness-and-moral-patienthood (these only give a probability and no moral weight for degrees of consciousness). He also explains that he did not use Brian Tomasik's quality-of-life estimates because of Tomasik's focus only on suffering and not on happiness. Instead, he integrated Charity Entrepreneurship's ratings http://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/blog/from-humans-in-canada-to-battery-caged-chickens-in-the-united-states-which-animals-have-the-hardest-lives-results with ratings by Bailey Norwood in Compassion, by the Pound. An updated post after correcting some errors is available at https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/YuFD4v7DFBcM57eSA/consequences-of-animal-product-consumption-combined-model His conclusions: milk is essentially unobjectionable, the beef versus chicken comparison is unclear once we account for climate change, and giving up fish is extremely important
Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) 2019-06-15 Kyle Bogosian Effective Altruism Forum Animal harm per unit food consumption Substitution between farmed and wild animals Pig Cattle Poultry Fish Effective altruist In this update to an earlier post https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/bhGReNjGCoJjRCXo9/an-integrated-model-to-evaluate-the-impact-of-animal-1 published 2019-01-09, Kyle Bogosian tries to calculate the impact of consuming various animal products. His model involves a number of inputs, including the degree of moral importance, quality of life, number of animals consumed per human, climate change impact, and elasticity. He explains why he was unable to use Luke Muehlhauser's probability-of-sentience estimates https://www.openphilanthropy.org/2017-report-consciousness-and-moral-patienthood (these only give a probability and no moral weight for degrees of consciousness). He also explains that he did not use Brian Tomasik's quality-of-life estimates because of Tomasik's focus only on suffering and not on happiness. Instead, he integrated Charity Entrepreneurship's ratings http://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/blog/from-humans-in-canada-to-battery-caged-chickens-in-the-united-states-which-animals-have-the-hardest-lives-results with ratings by Bailey Norwood in Compassion, by the Pound. His conclusions: milk is essentially unobjectionable, the beef versus chicken comparison is unclear once we account for climate change, and giving up fish is extremely important

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