The Economics of Animal Welfare: Some Brief Comments

Some welfarists say that welfare reform will help animals because reform causes a price increase and that decreases demand.

This position shows that welfarists do not understand the economics of animal agriculture or of welfare reform.

Since most welfare reform campaigns address inefficiencies in the production process, many welfare reforms increase production efficiency so production costs can actually decrease.

If there is an ultimate price rise for any reason, that price rise generally usually does not affect demand because demand for animal products is often inelastic–demand is not very sensitive to price in a range–and the price rise generally does not go outside that range.

Moreover, if the price of an animal product goes up, that does not mean that consumers go vegan. Far from it. Generally, if someone cannot afford beef, they buy lamb or pork or chicken. If someone cannot afford chicken, they buy chicken pies or some cheaper form of processed meat.

And, in the end, the best that welfarists can do is help industry create niche markets, like Whole Foods “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating” happy meat, where affluent people can pay a higher price and get a stamp of approval from the animal groups that praise and express their “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods:


Welfarists are claiming victory because, in recent years, meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped. They claim that this is because of animal welfare campaigns. There is *no* support for that and the far more likely explanation is that meat prices have remained stable or even increased and the economic slump is affecting the ability of consumers to buy the forms of meat measured in those surveys. Second, there is increasing concern about the detrimental health affects of animal foods.


If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione