Does Going Vegan Save Lives?

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Zane
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Does Going Vegan Save Lives?

Post by Zane » Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:25 pm

brimstoneSalad and have been debating, among other things, whether or not a vegan diet actually saves lives. See: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4669

Basically, I think sites like this http://thevegancalculator.com/ are bullshit. Granted, it aligns with what most people will intuit, but I think most people will realize it's misguided if they gave the issue five minutes of thought.

In terms of diet only, a meat-eater who chooses to go vegan saves approximately zero animal lives because one person's consumption is not enough to tell farmers to produce fewer cows, pigs, and chickens. Markets are not that precise.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Sun Mar 03, 2019 12:59 am

Zane wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:09 pm
most voters have a zero percent chance of altering the outcome of a presidential election.
True, but this has nothing to with the impact a vegan can have at saving lives. A vote, as you write, often has a close to zero probability of making a difference. However, this is not the case when deciding whether or not to eat an animal.

Let''s say Bob eats a chicken every day but for 2019 he decides to go on a plant based diet for one year.. Of course, it is extremely unlikely that Bob will save exactly 365 chicken lives. It is possible that Bob will save 0 chicken lives but it is also possible that he will save 730 lives.

The decimal odds on the betting markets for Bob saving over 365 chickens would/should be 2.0.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

Zane
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Post by Zane » Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:23 pm

Jebus wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 12:59 am
[voting]
There's a reason I chose not to import that tangential argument... it was similar to the misguided claims of another poster, but it would just confuse rather than clarify the discussion here.
Let''s say Bob eats a chicken every day...
While Bob may eat "a" chicken every day, the vast majority of consumers eat body parts. In the case of chicken, they'll eat the same parts of different animals. I only make this distinction in case your example is purposefully eccentric rather than casual.
Of course, it is extremely unlikely that Bob will save exactly 365 chicken lives. It is possible that Bob will save 0 chicken lives but it is also possible that he will save 730 lives.
How do you figure? More specifically, how do you figure Bob's decision could save zero lives, and how do you figure it could save hundreds?
The decimal odds on the betting markets for Bob saving over 365 chickens would/should be 2.0.
If ever offered to you, please do not take those odds.

Jamie in Chile
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Post by Jamie in Chile » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:17 am

Zane wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:25 pm

In terms of diet only, a meat-eater who chooses to go vegan saves approximately zero animal lives because one person's consumption is not enough to tell farmers to produce fewer cows, pigs, and chickens. Markets are not that precise.
Not eating 1 animal will cause approximately 1 less animal to be bred. No markets are not that precise, and you could argue that the reality is 0.8 or 1.2 because of some supply-demand analysis, but it's close to 1.

You could also argue that there's a 99% chance it will make no difference at all, and a 1% chance that might be the 1 animal that causes them to breed 100 animals less, if they think in batches of 100, but on average that's the same result.

Anyway do you really "save" a life by stopping someone being born in the first place. You save someone from having a bad life, but only by having no life at all. Is that really a win? So actually zero is probably right after all.

I think the farm animals are screwed either way. The real beneficiaries of veganism are humans and wild animals since the farm animals don't consume as much resources.

I'd like to see vegans/activists stop using the word save.

And calculating the precise number of animals "saved" by a vegan is just nonsense. As I have said before, you may as well get a website to compute that 247 rainbows have shone brighter and 63 children have smiled as a result of your veganism. It is complete nonsense.

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Post by Zane » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:58 am

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:17 am
Not eating 1 animal will cause approximately 1 less animal to be bred. No markets are not that precise, and you could argue that the reality is 0.8 or 1.2 because of some supply-demand analysis, but it's close to 1.

You could also argue that there's a 99% chance it will make no difference at all, and a 1% chance that might be the 1 animal that causes them to breed 100 animals less, if they think in batches of 100, but on average that's the same result.
The notion of thresholds was raised in the other thread, but it's taken a dozen posts to explicitly connect it to this calculus (and maybe we're not even there yet). It seems people want to argue the expected net benefit is equivalent to the number of animals an individual is not consuming. Of course the number of animals one eats is problematic because we don't stuff whole chickens into buckets; they're dismembered. Without question, the percentage chance of achieving some kind of threshold effect is going to be much, much, much smaller than 1%. The quantity changed depends on the type of animal/operation.

The way you've framed it reminds me of John Allen Paulos' book A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market. He talks about how Wall Street would love to privatize Social Security, and one of their arguments is the stock market historically has a much higher rate of return (around 10%). So, Paulos says, let's imagine we have $10,000, and we'll play the market for two weeks. This particular market can either go up 80% in a given week or down 60%.

So what are the possible scenarios?

$10,000 X 1.8 X 1.8 = $32,400
$10,000 X 1.8 X 0.4 = $7,200
$10,000 X 0.4 X 1.8 = $7,200
$10,000 X 0.4 X 0.4 = $1,600

So what is the result? It looks like three out of four people lost money. On average, however, they made $12,100, which is equivalent to a 10% return ($10,000 X 1.1 X 1.1).

There are a number of other factors that make all of this hopelessly more complicated, but no, treating a friend to a vegan lunch (when he was going to eat chicken burger) will not change anything.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Thu Mar 07, 2019 3:26 pm

There isn’t a high probability that merely going vegan will “save” any animals, but I agree with @brimstoneSalad. Uncertainty of a desirable outcome doesn’t invalidate ethics. Despite the low probability of any particular individual’s vegan diet having any meaningful affect down the production line, it doesn’t negate the fact that there is a statistical chance that going vegan could have a substantial impact on demand (and thus a reduction in the number of farm animals being bred into existence).

wiki/index.php/Individual_Responsibilit ... Difference
Philosophical Vegan Wiki wrote: For example, if a store orders one case of 1,000 sausages every week, and half of them are purchased and half thrown out, then one more person buying a sausage, or even a hundred sausages, makes no difference to the number ordered and the number of animals killed.

However, due to the same issue, there's a chance of one person (the one order that causes the store to order an entire extra case) making a much larger difference.

If that same store were buying one case of 1,000 sausages and selling 1,000 sausages every week, and you bought even one extra sausage, the store might buy two cases the next week and because of your purchase of one sausage 999 extra sausages were ordered and wasted.

The question of effect comes down to how close the existing demand is to the threshold of increasing or decreasing the highly granular order quantity, and this is a virtually unknowable number (even people working at the store may not know this).

The same kind of granularity travels all the way down the production line, with the number of animals scaled up or down in the thousands or even millions based on national and international demand.

It could come to pass that 999 vegans do nothing, but then ONE vegan saves millions of animals.
The same logic applies also to the rest of the demand chain. At some point, a significant number of fewer sausages being ordered by restaurants will cause food suppliers to purchase fewer sausages from farms, and that reduced demand from farms will, at some point, reduce the production & breeding of pigs.

If there is any statistical chance that eating a vegan lunch would make a significant difference between a restaurant not ordering x sausages, burgers, etc. thus sending a strong enough market signal to farmers to breed less pigs, then I would argue that’s a pretty good wager (unless said wager brings risks that offset the potential benefits).

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Post by Lay Vegan » Thu Mar 07, 2019 5:44 pm

Zane wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:58 am
There are a number of other factors that make all of this hopelessly more complicated, but no, treating a friend to a vegan lunch (when he was going to eat chicken burger) will not change anything.
Mathematicians would disagree with you.

Suppose that a restaurant orders 3 cases of factory-farmed chicken wings per month (each containing 40 chicken wings). Even a small surplus of chicken wings at the end of the month could be enough to prompt the restaurant to oder 3 more cases (120 more chicken wings) for the following month. Hypothetically, if 40 customers decide not to order chicken in February, there is a good chance that the manager will only order 2 cases for March (containing 80 chicken wings).

Avoiding purchasing chicken at the threshold point could be the difference between having 120 and 80 wings from being ordered. The chance of having your order being at that threshold is 1/40, or .025%. No, markets are not precise. Yes, restaurants purchasing decisions fluctuate, but the point is that there is indeed small chance that avoiding animal products will reach that threshold which sets up the chain of events to lower demand. The likelihood of you making a difference will become infinitesimally small as you scale up, but a chance does exist that your purchase makes the difference between more or less animals being requested for breeding/slaughter.

There is a small chance of making a big difference either way. That is why rational consequentialists would rather take take the chance of avoiding the product altogether (potentially saving thousands), rather than risking the chance of purchasing the threshold product (and potentially harming thousands). A mathematician or statistician could explain this much better than I could.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:35 am

@Zane You would probably agree that if there were 10 people on the planet, one of them going vegan would make a difference in the demand chain. You would also probably agree that it would make a difference if the world population were 20 or 30. In your opinion, what is the magic number where the probability becomes zero?
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

Jamie in Chile
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Post by Jamie in Chile » Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:58 pm

I agree with the arguments by Lay Vegan and the comments in the Philosophical Vegan entry. I think about it in a similar way.

Zane
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Post by Zane » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:27 pm

Lay Vegan wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 3:26 pm
There isn’t a high probability that merely going vegan will “save” any animals, but I agree with @brimstoneSalad. Uncertainty of a desirable outcome doesn’t invalidate ethics.
You're just importing brimstone's weak straw man: Nobody is charging that uncertainty invalidates ethics.
If there is any statistical chance that eating a vegan lunch would make a significant difference between a restaurant not ordering x sausages, burgers, etc. thus sending a strong enough market signal to farmers to breed less pigs, then I would argue that’s a pretty good wager (unless said wager brings risks that offset the potential benefits).
This seems carelessly written (the word "significant" is unnecessarily inserted); you should just leave it at "if there's any difference." Apart from that, the problem is that it's just not a compelling argument. We've gone from vegan calculators, which could be very compelling if true, to lotto veganism, which only appeals to people who suck at math.

I think this argument is also essentially made in bad faith. As militant meat-eaters gleefully observe, a vegan diet also kills animals. Do you restrict your calories to the bare minimum in order to decrease the "statistical chance" of animals suffering? This should be done on a meal-to-meal basis, as it could "potentially save thousands." Hell, as an individual, you should aspire to grow your own food. Now, it's true that if everyone were to grow their own food the result would be grossly inefficient, but you, individually/statistically can make a difference. So that's what you should do. Instead you're posting here (in effect killing animals). Statistical murderer.
Mathematicians would disagree with you.
Again, more precisely this is a matter of economics (which certainly incorporates mathematics).

Example snipped.

Even if the chicken wing restaurant adjusts its purchases based on your lack of participation, there's virtually no chance this affects their suppliers (and their supplier's supplier). Even if it did, there's slack in these markets. Remaining animals are converted into pet food. This is the cost of doing business. As I pointed out ages ago, restaurants throw away food. An awful lot of it.

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