Lowering the consumption of animal products without sacrificing consumer freedom – a pragmatic proposal

Ethics, Policy and Environment (1):34-52 (2021)
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It is well-established that policy aiming to change individual consumption patterns for environmental or other ethical reasons faces a trade-off between effectiveness and public acceptance. The more ambitious a policy intervention is, the higher the likelihood of reactionary backlash; the higher the intervention’s public acceptance, the less bite it is likely to have. This paper proposes a package of interventions aiming for a substantial reduction of animal product consumption while circumventing the diagnosed trade-off. It couples stringent industry regulation, which lowers output and raises prices, with a targeted universal income at a level which would allow typical households to maintain their animal product consumption even at the post-regulation price level. The change of opportunity costs of animal products, however, would induce a shift of consumption away from animal products while enhancing – rather than diminishing – consumer freedom and welfare. The policy package, which is further designed to cohere with traditional value orderings rather than relying exclusively on progressive concerns, is politically ambitious, but psychologically pragmatic. It constitutes an attempt to socialize the endeavour of bringing consumption patterns in line with ethical demands by empowering, rather than sanctioning, individuals, and relevant groups.

Author Profiles

Matthias Kiesselbach
DFG - German Research Foundation


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