Many individuals have empathetic feelings towards animals but frequently consume meat. We investigate this “meat paradox” using insights from the literature on motivated reasoning in moral dilemmata. We develop a model where individuals form self-serving beliefs about the suffering of animals caused by meat consumption in order to alleviate the guilt associated with their dietary choices. The model predicts that the price of meat has a causal effect on individuals’ beliefs: high prices foster realism by lowering the returns to self-deception, which magnify the price elasticity of meat consumption. The model also predicts a positive relationship between individuals’taste for meat and their propensity to engage in self-deception, a causal effect of aggregate consumption on individual beliefs, and the coexistence of equilibria of “collective realism” and “collective denial”.
motivated reasoning, moral dilemmata, self-deception, meat; paradox, meat price-elasticity, animal welfare;
- D72: Political Processes: Rent-Seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
- D81: Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
- D83: Search • Learning • Information and Knowledge • Communication • Belief
- D84: Expectations • Speculations
- Z13: Economic Sociology • Economic Anthropology • Social and Economic Stratification
TSE Working Paper, n. 20-1141, September 2020