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Pay other people to go vegetarian for you?

April 11th, 2013
veg, giving  [html]

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. But I'm not sure it's a good balance.

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 [Update 2014-06-13: I no longer think it's anywhere near this cheap.] 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.

Update 2013-05-12: I now think $11 is an underestimate, but don't have a good idea about what the real number is. I want to run an experiment to find out.

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.)

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