Directly Valuing Animal Welfare in (Environmental) Economics

Alexis Carlier, and Nicolas Treich


Research in economics is anthropocentric. It only cares about the welfare of humans, and usually does not concern itself with animals. When it does, animals are treated as resources, biodiversity, or food. That is, animals only have instrumental value for humans. Yet unlike water, trees or vegetables, and like humans, most animals have a brain and a nervous system. They can feel pain and pleasure, and many argue that their welfare should matter. Some economic studies value animal welfare, but only indirectly through humans’ altruistic valuation. This overall position of economics is inconsistent with the utilitarian tradition and can be qualified as speciesist. We suggest that economics should directly value the welfare of sentient animals, at least sometimes. We briefly discuss some possible implications and challenges for (environmental) economics.


Animal welfare; environmental economics; agricultural economics; economic valuation; speciesism; ethics; sentience; effective altruism.;

JEL codes

  • Q51: Valuation of Environmental Effects
  • Q18: Agricultural Policy • Food Policy
  • I30: General


Alexis Carlier, and Nicolas Treich, Directly Valuing Animal Welfare in (Environmental) Economics, International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 2020, forthcoming.

See also

Published in

International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 2020, forthcoming