Via Critical Animal, here’s an article looking at whether animal welfare reforms (e.g., banning battery cages or veal crates) reduce meat consumption. Some animal-rights activists, notably those associated with or sympathetic to Gary Francione’s “abolitionist” approach, have argued that such reforms only encourage people to eat more meat, because they make people feel better about consuming animal products. But according to this article, the data point in the other direction.
As scu notes, however, this doesn’t refute all of the abolitionist’s arguments. One that they make is that people who reduce or give up eating meat will compensate by eating more dairy or eggs, resulting in little or no net reduction in animal suffering. In the abolitionist view, mere vegetarianism is not even a step in the right direction, much less an acceptable alternative to full-blown veganism.
I obviously have no data to back this up, but the argument that people who give up meat for ethical reasons will compensate by substituting eggs and dairy strikes me as implausible on its face. As an ovo-lacto vegetarian myself, I have some experience to draw on here, and I can confidently say that, far from increasing my intake of eggs and dairy, I’ve significantly reduced it–to the point where probably about two-thirds of my meals are vegan. And this makes sense when you think about it: dairy and eggs are not, in general, substitutes for meat. It’s not like instead of eating a steak you’re going to eat a big slab of cheese or even an omelet in most cases. When I gave up meat, the alternatives I generally substituted were veggies, legumes, nuts, and in some cases prepared meat substitutes like veggie burgers.
This doesn’t show, of course, that the abolitionists are wrong in upholding veganism as the non-negotiable moral baseline (they may or may not be) or that their approach is less effective than an incrementalist reform approach. But I’d like to see more evidence for the specific claim that giving up meat increases consumption of other animal products.