Pay other people to go vegetarian for you?

by jkaufman 1 min read12th Apr 201392 comments

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I notice that a large fraction of Effective Altruism people are vegetarian. This makes sense: in general Effective Altruists take moral issues seriously, even when that means changing your lifestyle. I'm not sure it's a good balance, though.

One way to think about this is to convert it into money. How much would I need to be paid to give up eating meat? All animal products? How much money would I need to spend on myself to be about as happy as I would be with less money but continuing to eat animals? I'd probably be willing to go vegetarian for about $500/year, vegan for maybe $2000/year.

It turns out you can probably pay to convince other people to be vegetarian much more cheaply than that. I estimate the cost of a vegetarian-year at $4.29 to $536 while Brian Tomasik estimates $11 with better methodology (which I looked at). This is by placing ads on facebook for a site where people can watch an animial cruelty video and ideally become vegetarian or vegan.

If you would get more than $11/year worth of enjoyment out of continuing to eat meat, why not give $11/year to convince someone else to not eat meat for you? Or give $50/year and be on the safe side?

(While you're giving money, you should probably give it to the organization that you think will do the most good with it, which I think is probably one of GiveWell's top charities. The nice thing about money as opposed to actions is that it's easy to redirect.)

I also posted this on my blog.