Working paper

The Animal-Welfare Levy

Romain Espinosa, and Nicolas Treich


We provide a non-anthropocentric rationale for implementing a levy on meat consumption due to animal-welfare considerations. It operates as a Pigouvian tax and addresses externalities on farmed animals. Under total utilitarianism, the levy is a subsidy when an animal’s life is worth living, and a tax when it is not. Under average utilitarianism, it is always a tax when human welfare exceeds animal welfare. Even under conservative assumptions, calibrated tax levels are substantial and would make most-intensive animal farms unprofitable. Taxes are significantly higher for chickens and pigs than for cows, in contrast to the taxation of other meat externalities.


Animal welfare; meat; Pigouvian taxation; utilitarianism; life worth; living; quality-adjusted life years; population ethics.;

JEL codes

  • Q18: Agricultural Policy • Food Policy
  • Q50: General
  • H41: Public Goods
  • I31: General Welfare, Well-Being


Romain Espinosa, and Nicolas Treich, The Animal-Welfare Levy, TSE Working Paper, n. 24-1503, January 2024.

See also

Published in

TSE Working Paper, n. 24-1503, January 2024