Quantifying the Valuation of Animal Welfare Among Americans

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 33 (2):261-282 (2020)
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There is public support in the United States and Europe for accounting for animal welfare in national policies on food and agriculture. Although an emerging body of research has measured animals’ capacity to suffer, there has been no specific attempt to analyze how this information is interpreted by the public or how exactly it should be reflected in policy. The aim of this study was to quantify Americans’ preferences about farming methods and the suffering they impose on different species to generate a metric for weighing the trade-offs between different approaches of promoting animal welfare. A survey of 502 residents of the United States was implemented using the online platform Mechanical Turk. Using respondent data, we developed the species-adjusted measure of suffering-years, an analogue of the disability-adjusted life year, to calculate the suffering endured under different farming conditions by cattle, pigs, and chickens, the three most commonly consumed animals. Nearly one-third of respondents reported that they believed animal suffering should be taken into account to a degree equal to or above human suffering. The 2016 suffering burden in the United States according to two tested conditions was approximately 66 million SAMYs for pigs, 156 million SAMYs for cattle, and 1.3 billion SAMYs for chickens. This calculation lends early guidance for efforts to reduce animal suffering, demonstrating that to address the highest burden policymakers should focus first on improving conditions for chickens.



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Disability-adjusted Life Years: A Critical Review.Sudhir Anand & Kara Hanson - 2006 - In Sudhir Anand, Fabienne Peter & Amartya Sen (eds.), Public Health, Ethics, and Equity. Oxford University Press.

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