Students Eat Less Meat After Studying Meat Ethics

Eric Schwitzgebel, Bradford Cokelet, and Peter Singer

Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2021:

In the first controlled, non-self-report studies to show an influence of university-level ethical instruction on everyday behavior, Schwitzgebel et al. (2020) and Jalil et al. (2020) found that students purchase less meat after exposure to material on the ethics of eating meat. We sought to extend and conceptually replicate this research. Seven hundred thirty students in three large philosophy classes read James Rachels’ (2004) “Basic Argument for Vegetarianism”, followed by 50-min small-group discussions. Half also viewed a vegetarianism advocacy video containing factory farm footage. A few days after instruction, 54% of students agreed that “eating the meat of factory farmed animals is unethical”, compared to 37% before instruction, with no difference between the film and non-film conditions. Also, 39% of students anonymously pledged to avoid eating factory farmed meat for 24 h, again with no statistically detectable difference between conditions. Finally, we obtained 2828 campus food purchase receipts for 113 of the enrolled students who used their Student ID cards for purchases on campus, which we compared with 5033 purchases from a group of 226 students who did not receive the instruction. Meat purchases remained constant in the comparison group and declined among the students exposed to the material, falling from 30% to 23% of purchases overall and from 51% to 42% of purchases of $4.99 or more, with the effect possibly larger in the film condition.

Open access published version

By following any of the links below, you are requesting a copy for personal use only, in accord with "fair use" laws.

Click here to view as a PDF file: Students Eat less Meat After Studying Meat Ethics (pdf, November 6, 2021)

Or email eschwitz at domain: for a copy of this paper.

Return to Eric Schwitzgebel's homepage.