Consumer Choice and Collective Impact

In Mark Budolfson, Tyler Doggett & Anne Barnhill (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 267-286 (2018)
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Taken collectively, consumer food choices have a major impact on animal lives, human lives, and the environment. But it is far from clear how to move from facts about the power of collective consumer demand to conclusions about what one ought to do as an individual consumer. In particular, even if a large-scale shift in demand away from a certain product (e.g., factory-farmed meat) would prevent grave harms or injustices, it typically does not seem that it will make a difference whether one refrains from purchasing that product oneself. Most present-day food companies operate at too large a scale for a single purchase to make a difference to production decisions. If that is true, then it is not clear what point there is in refraining. This is “the problem of collective impact.” This chapter explores a range of proposals for how to solve this problem.
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