24Joined Nov 2019


I agree with Tejas' comment, particularly the second point. As a social psychologist, cognitive dissonance is exactly what I would cite too. Reducing the disparity between attitudes and behaviour by any means (such as increasing plant-based eating for health reasons) leaves the mental space to either learn about moral reasons without the same degree of defensiveness OR -- even better and fairly likely in my opinion -- start adopting moral reasons without even any external influence. At least in western societies, the moral reasons for going vegan are pretty well-known, so motivated reasoning may work in our favour over time. Reducetarians may look at their behaviour and "decide" subconsciously that it was partially motivated by moral reasons because that makes them feel like a good person... which then encourages them to make further changes on moral grounds. 

Correct, thanks -- that's the most likely explanation. We addressed potential food issues by looking at participants' difficulties with cravings. In this sample we found that it wasn't a strong barrier on average, but I wouldn't generalize the null effects to the population at large. I would hazard a guess that the barriers we found to be impactful would generalize to others samples as well, but wouldn't necessarily assume that no association here = no association for other groups. 

The three barriers listed above are particularly problematic in that they predict quitting even for people who are in the best position to go veg*n, with their high commitment and few barriers.

Thanks for sharing your piece and for citing our new study. There are many existing courses and programs to support people going veg*n so my feeling is that there isn't much additional mileage to be gained there by creating another one, but I don't know of any testing about paying people. It's a nice parallel to pay-per-view and pay-per-read advocacy. Worth testing, in my opinion, but I agree with the point about people who need it most not being the ones who would sign up. Another approach could be to focus specifically on the people who in our study had ability barriers (lack of access), where individual strategies weren't helpful. If you provided money for them to get veg food delivery, that would address some of those systemic barriers.

I think a lot of this makes sense for the general public, but I agree with other commenters that a lot of vegans do think insects are worthy of care or at least use the precautionary principle to avoid honey and silk. 

I'm one of those people and I do think insects suffer but I still have less interest in putting a lot of resources in this direction. My perception of lower tractability is part of it, but it's also that even for those who do think they suffer, we are just barely sure of that. I would guess that the experience/scope of suffering for such a simple organism is qualitatively different from vertebrates, so the scale arguments don't hold as much weight to me. 

To take one aspect of suffering, there's a qualitative difference between suffering in the moment and having any concept of the fact that you have been suffering for however long, and another layer of qualitative difference between that and realizing you're likely to continue suffering in the future. Most adult humans can do both, and I would guess that insects can do neither, while other vertebrates fall somewhere in between. Add to that all the other dimensions on which suffering likely differs and to me it becomes almost meaningless to compare the scale. As an analogy to qualitatively different types of human suffering, I don't have the slightest idea how one would weight quadrillions of bullying experiences against millions of murders. 

I'm hardly an expert, but that's my sticking point.

Thanks Karolina, this is great! It's nice to see a balanced perspective considering the pros and cons of RCTs. It can be very frustrating seeing RCTs treated as either a silver bullet or a useless piece of trash. They're a tool in a toolbox like every other kind of research, and in my opinion, best used in conjunction with  broader foundational research approaches like qualitative data collection, case studies, descriptive or correlational studies, and so on. I'll definitely be bookmarking this to refer back to. 

That's a good idea and actually not too hard to implement in the grand scheme of things. It's not something that will get done right away, but I can add it to the list! And if anyone reading would like to collaborate to  produce that, please get in touch!

I think you're right, that one does seem to be a bit misleading... thank you for calling my attention to that. It looks like an eccentricity in the NHANES data. While it has things like cakes and pies with eggs in them as one type of food respondents could report, it also allowed them to report foods in terms of their constituent ingredients. So you could report a ham and cheese sandwich as a ham and cheese sandwich OR as sliced ham, sliced cheese, mayo, and bread. Because we restricted our analysis to just the primary animal product in each report, raw eggs are a bit of an odd case...the specific foods in that category are "Egg, yolk only, raw",  "Egg, white only, raw",  and "Egg drop soup." It's actually the soup that's the problem, because the ingredient list has it categorized as its own sole ingredient (egg drop soup, made up 100% of egg drop soup!). That's definitely a problem since it ended up assigning the entire weight of a serving of soup to the egg. I think the best option is probably just to remove raw egg as a category entirely, but I'll double-check and consult the rest of the team first.

Thanks for the feedback!



Thanks for your comment. If you want to use the objective term, "days of life" is most accurate -- we used the number of animals affected,  and  multiplied by their lifespans, accounting for different causes of mortality. You could certainly argue we editorialized a bit by referring to any day of life for a farmed animal as a day of suffering. I agree that there are differences in the extent of that suffering between species and circumstances, but in the interest of keeping the degrees of uncertainty as low as possible (see my comment to sawyer), we chose to say a day is a day is a day. Given that the numbers are massively dominated by factory farmed chickens and aquacultured fish, I feel pretty comfortable referring to it as days of suffering.  

Thanks, sawyer! We haven't done that ourselves for exactly the reasons you mentioned--there were already many degrees of uncertainty in the analysis just based on spotty data availability, so we felt that adding something with that amount of subjectivity would reduce the overall utility of the analysis because some people would agree with our decisions and some wouldn't. But the lists within species may work as a simple proxy, and the data and code are available to anyone with more investment who would like to make that adjustment themselves. If you're thinking about doing it and would like to chat, feel free to reach out! It's my first name @



For those interested, Faunalytics now has some data to speak to some of these points. Our report ( covers public understanding of the animal origins of COVID-19, reaction to an argument presenting the connection between disease and animal farming, and support for legislative measures banning or restricting types of animal farming that are linked to zoonotic disease.

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