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The “logic of the larder” is a common objection to the argument that people concerned with animal welfare should consume fewer or no animal products. The claim is that, by reducing demand for meat, eggs or milk, these people actually cause fewer animals to come into existence (Hanson 2002).

A number of responses have been given to this objection. First, many of the animals raised in factory farms have net negative welfare. Causing fewer of these animals to exist, therefore, reduces overall animal suffering. Second, rearing domesticated animals reduces the number of wild animals that exist by an even greater number, so the assumption that veganism causes fewer animals to exist may be false. Finally, even if increasing demand for animal products was positive on the whole, there are other, more cost-effective ways to help animals, and to improve the world (Matheny & Chan 2005).

However, Carl Schulman (2013) has pointed out the tension involved in promoting dietary change as a way to reduce farm animal suffering and expressing concern for wild animal suffering. If wild animals tend not to lead net-positive lives, and a vegan diet increases the number of animals in the world, a vegan diet will increase, rather than decrease, the number of beings living net-negative lives. Partly for these reasons, some animal advocates in the effective altruism community favor methods of reducing animal suffering that do not involve dietary change, such as humane slaughter methods (Tomasik 2016).

Further reading

Hanson, Robin. 2002. The morality of meat: why eating your vegetables is cruel to animals.

Matheny, Gaverick & Kai Chan. 2005. Human diets and animal welfare: the illogic of the larder. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 18(6): 579-594.

Shulman, Carl. 2013. Vegan advocacy and pessimism about wild animal welfare.

Tomasik, Brian. 2016. How does vegetarianism impact wild-animal suffering?