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My mom wants to start eating some amount of meat again but wants to only do it if she can offset the suffering.

Any specific recommendations on charities that would be effective for this/how we'd calculate how much to donate?




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Much of the value of veg*nism may come from influencing cultural norms and those around you, rather than directly reducing demand. Social effects are hard to measure, so  I doubt you'll find reliable offsetting metrics.

For donation recommendations, I'd recommend checking out Animal Charity Evaluators' top charities! But I'd encourage your mother to donate and stay vegetarian (and go vegan!).

A practice of effective donations to animal welfare charities probably influence cultural norms too; hard to say which one has a larger second-order effect though naively I'd guess it's donations.

James Özden
Eh I disagree - most people rarely, if ever, speak to their friends and family about their donations so I think it's unlikely for much to spread via that medium. On the other hand, people very often share meals with friends, family and other folks where the topic of animal welfare is much more likely to come up and be discussed (e.g. "oh you picked the vegan option, how come?". 

Beef consumption directly costs less suffering/kg because of the amount of meat provided per cow. It also plausibly reduces wild-animal suffering by taking up land.

Unfortunately, climate concerns and animal welfare concerns conflict when debating which animal products are least harmful: https://foodimpacts.org/

Would be near impossible to convince my mom to eat beef because she's a devout Hindu/we're in India :(

Timothy Chan
Oh, I see. Do you know if she is ok with eating lamb/mutton/goat? I suspect there are also grazing effects (that might reduce wild-animal suffering overall) but I don't know whether they are as significant. Maybe @Brian_Tomasik knows?
I haven't looked into sheep and goats specifically, but I imagine their wild-animal impacts would be fairly similar as for cattle. Unfortunately they're smaller, so there's more suffering and death per kg than for cattle, but they're still much better than chicken/fish/etc. Dairy is another lower-impact option, and I guess a lot of Hindus are ok with dairy.

This avoids the question but I suspect meat-eating offsets are morally dubious from a standpoint that takes moral uncertainty seriously.

Emitting carbon then donating to offset it is in some sense ex-ante Pareto improvement. It's rather easier to say "nobody was made worse-off".(though it gets much more complicated when you consider the impact on people that are not born yet)

It might be the case that eating meat wrongs the animal being eaten, and that animal is not helped by the donation. So the case for offsetting is weaker here.

The harm that you're doing is by adding demand and thus spurring more meat production and likely animal abuse/killing. This is why purchasing poultry from a store would be harmful whereas eating fried chicken from a dumpster would not be harmful (to chickens).

Funding farmed animal welfare charities could have an offsetting effect or exceed the effect that you have on the demand.

It seems to me very sad where animal advocates discourage offsetting where omnivores are asking about it.

emre kaplan
I'm in favour of everyone donating to effective charities. Even according to deontological theories I think donating and avoiding harm are two different responsibilities and people doing harm still have responsibilities/opportunities to donate. Donating is an amazing thing to do regardless of what other actions a person might be undertaking. Nonetheless, I'm also very much in favour of having true beliefs about things and taking moral uncertainty seriously. If something doesn't seem right to me under a somewhat plausible theory I'm going to say so even if I don't believe in that theory myself. My language in the original comment is also appropriately hedged(I suspect, it might be the case). I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from donating anywhere. But for offsetting I have uncertainties so I'm going to state them. I agree that one of the more important wrongdoings committed by consuming animal products is creating more demand. But I'm not certain that eating meat doesn't wrong the animal eaten at all according to deontological theories.  1. I'm not sure that the right to bodily integrity ends after death. It might be the case desecrating the bodies of dead individuals might be wronging them. I'm aware that claiming that dead people can be wronged brings in a lot of problems in moral theorising, but I can't dismiss this claim entirely.  2. It seems very odd to me that if you hire an individual to kill X and X gets killed, you certainly wrong X; but if someone kills X in advance with the expectation that they will get paid for it and retroactively asks to get paid for killing X, paying them doesn't wrong X. And if eating meat wrongs the animal being eaten then offsetting is not a Pareto improvement so the case for "offsetting" becomes weaker. To be honest you can view these implications as weaknesses of deontological theories, I personally do. None of this weakens the case for donating to effective charities either. Donating money to effective charities is
Brad West
I understand there may be ethical issues on some theories regarding offsetting. But here, we're dealing with two likely alternatives: an omnivore that donates to better farmed animal welfare in light of animal consumption and an omnivore that just consumes animals. Said omnivore has requested resources on how to offset. I think this space would be better to best enable the agent to do the offsetting, which is better than the alternative (not offsetting). If you want to do a separate post about the moral inadequacies of offsetting on different theories, that would be great.
Benny Smith
Note that OP's mom is not an omnivore, but rather a vegetarian considering becoming an omnivore. Specifically, OP said that his mom only wants to start eating meat if she can offset it. Pointing out the flaws and limitations of offsets seems like a reasonable response to this.
Brad West
You're right. I misremembered the initial question. I agree with your point that there is a lot to the signaling value of vegetarianism/veganism as well. Hard to quantify.
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This isn't an answer to your question, but wouldn't a better alternative be to only eat meat that has been verified to be suffering free? It accomplishes the same goal (offsetting suffering).
I personally do this myself; i've found and toured a local farm and verified that the animals are raised and slaughtered with as little suffering as possible.

Replies discourage future meat consumption offsetting, but I'd like an answer to offset past decades of meat consumption

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