Practical Veganism- FAQs

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece called “Practical Veganism”.

I didn’t choose the title. I don’t think anyone likes “the v word” but it was a bit of a tongue in cheek title from the editors. It has led to many assumptions about the case I make- that I was simply advocating veganism, when I was not. I was advocating a quantified suffering approach to eating animal products. A couple of people have made a similar case: Julia Galef wrote an article saying that if you want to reduce suffering you should eat fewer eggs and this Slate Star Codex blog “vegetarianism for meat eaters” also discusses offsetting.

In summary, Practical Veganism was about what animal foods cause more and less suffering- information that people very rarely consider when they’re deciding what to eat. The “suffering footprint” is a way of quantifying the amount of suffering caused when you buy animal products. 53% of people in a nationally representative US survey said they were trying to consumer fewer animal based foods (and 63% thought everyone else should consume fewer animal based foods!). But when people reduce their consumption of animal products they usually shift from eating pigs and cows to eating fish, chicken and eggs. The claim I make in the piece is that this shift actually increases the suffering footprint relative to something like a diet of only red meat. This is because chickens and fish are much smaller than pigs and cows, which means there is more suffering per calorie and chickens and fish have worse lives on average than cows and maybe pigs. There were some criticisms of the piece that I’ll unpack further here. See for example some interesting critique on Reddit and on Twitter.

Read below to see my answers to questions about the environment, fish sentience, whether domesticated animals actually have it really good, and whether aliens are going to farm us for food.

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