Learning About Moral Philosophy Reduces Meat Consumption


A taste of a postsecondary level moral philosophy class can turn you off of tasting meat. It’s been debated for thousands of years if learning moral philosophy actually changes how people live. Does knowing about the complexities of ethics actually make you more ethical? Short answer: yes. In a recent study a team of researchers and philosophers tested out if moral education about meat consumption would change their diet.

And it worked! Not only were students in the meat ethics sections likelier to say they thought eating factory-farmed meat is unethical, analysis of their dining cards — basically debit cards issued as part of UC Riverside’s meal plan that students can use to buy meals on campus — suggested that they bought less meat too. Fifty-two percent of dining card purchases for both the control and treatment groups were of meat products before the class. After the class, the treatment group’s percentage fell to 45 percent.

This effect wasn’t driven by a few students becoming vegetarians, but by all students buying slightly less meat. It’s possible this effect was temporary; the authors only had a few weeks of data. But it at least lasted for several weeks.

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Being Lazy Doesn’t Mean Your a Bad Person

Too many of us look at others and think they are no-good lazy people. Think about the person living on the streets or a friend who never seems to be able to keep their job. We see people who are struggling through life and instead of thinking about what external forces influenced how they ended up in dire straits we assume it has to do with their moral behaviour. E Price calls on us to take a holistic look at individuals when we accuse them of “immoral” laziness:

People love to blame procrastinators for their behavior. Putting off work sure looks lazy, to an untrained eye. Even the people who are actively doing the procrastinating can mistake their behavior for laziness. You’re supposed to be doing something, and you’re not doing it — that’s a moral failure right? That means you’re weak-willed, unmotivated, and lazy, doesn’t it?

For decades, psychological research has been able to explain procrastination as a functioning problem, not a consequence of laziness. When a person fails to begin a project that they care about, it’s typically due to either a) anxiety about their attempts not being “good enough” or b) confusion about what the first steps of the task are. Not laziness. In fact, procrastination is more likely when the task is meaningful and the individual cares about doing it well.

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