Vegetarian Impact Calculator

For me, it's important to attempt to alleviate suffering in the world, no matter who is suffering -- even if they may be nonhuman. Furthermore, we should do so effectively -- trying to make the world as better as possible given our resources. One of these ways is by looking for effective places to donate money to. One such place is to fund advertising to get people to reduce their meat consumption via the efforts of Vegan Outreach and The Humane League.

I explain the rationale for why this calculator exists and why all the default numbers are as they are in the footnotes of this calculator, "How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Vegetarian?", "Buying Vegetarians: Handling Complications", and "Buying Vegetarians: Addressing Criticism".

 

Simple Calculator

The simple calculator makes use of the following equation:

Cost effectiveness in days of suffering prevented per dollar = (Pamphlets / dollar) * (Conversions / pamphlet) * (Veg years / conversion) * (Animals saved / veg year) * (Days lived / animal)

Note that I make use of the term "Pessimistic Bound" instead of "Lower Bound" because the point is for the pessimistic bound to be as unkind to Vegan Outreach as reasonable, which depending on the input may not be the lower number. Same logic applies to "Optimistic Bound" instead of "Upper Bound". The use of bounds is very helpful because while you may not know the exact answer, you probably have a number where you can say "well, it certainly can't be any lower than this" and a number where you say "no matter how well things go, it couldn't be higher than this" and make a decent guess from that. The reason you get a caluator is so you can feel free to be more or less pessimistic than me. :)

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
Pamphlets / Dollar
Conversions / Pamphlet
Veg-Years / Conversion
Animals Saved / Veg-Year
Days Lived / Animal
Days Saved / Dollar
Cost to Prevent a Year

 

Complex Calculator

The complex calculator makes use of the previous equation, but adjusts for differences in going entirely vegan versus reducing meat consumption; adjusts for differences between animals; and additional indirect conversions[1]. Details about why the defaults are the way they are in "How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Vegetarian?" and "Buying Vegetarians: Handling Complications".

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
People Reached Directly / Dollar
Average Years Reducing
Additional People Reached / Person Reached Directly

 

Reduction from Being Reached

After being reached, how much will people reduce their consumption of each type of animal? This section doesn't have upper and lower bounds because it's just raw data, but we'll account for some potential biases in these numbers lower down and there will be bounds there. The labels here come from Cooney's survey and are "Increased", "Stayed the Same", "Slight Decrease", "Significant Decrease", "Eliminated", and "Never Ate".

Increased Stayed Same Slight Decr. Sign. Decr. Eliminated Never Ate Name
% % % % % % Cows (Beef)
% % % % % % Cows (Dairy)
% % % % % % Pigs
% % % % % % Chicken (Broiler)
% % % % % % Chicken (Layer)
% % % % % % Turkey
% % % % % % Fish (Farmed)
% % % % % % Fish (Sea)

 

Guessing Precise Values

Labels like "increased", "stayed the same", "decreased slightly", "decreased significantly", and "no longer eat" are probably as precise as you can get on a survey, but they're not precise enough for a calculation. So we have to guess -- if someone says they've decreased their eating slightly, by what percentage have they actually decreased their meat eating? Don't account for biases in the data yet here, we'll do that in the next step. My defaults here are speculation not based on any data.

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
% % Increased
% % Stayed Same
% % Slight Decrease
% % Significant Decrease
% % Eliminated
% % Never Ate

 

Biases in the Data

So we have the raw data from surveys about how much people will reduce. But these numbers could be affected by all sorts of biases, or problems in survey methodology that could lead us to overestimate or underestimate the true answer. Essentially what we're doing here is reducing the numbers by a given percentage to account for these biases. If there's no bias, we use 0%, reducing by nothing. If we expect the survey to represent only 10% of the population with the remaining 90% being reached but having no reduction in consumption whatsoever, we'd reduce by 90%. (100 reduced by 90% is 10.)

Non-Response bias involves the problem where people will tend to only report their answers if they care enough to report, for example, if they've reduced their consumption. Other people will ignore the survey.

Desirability bias is the problem where people don't change their behavior, but say they did because they want to look good in front of other people, or because they intend to reduce their behavior but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
% % Non-Response Bias
% % Desirability Bias

 

Normal Animal Consumption (Of Non-Reducers) Per Year

How many animals does the average person (unconcerned with reducing their animal consumption) consume each year? (This is equal to the amount of animals saved per year for becoming vegetarian.)

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
Cows (Beef)
Cows (Dairy)
Pigs
Chickens (Broiler)
Chickens (Layer)
Turkey
Fish (Farmed)
Fish (Sea)

 

Product Elasticity

Product Elasticity is how much less of the product we expect to be sold if one unit of the product is no longer demanded.

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
Cows (Beef)
Cows (Dairy)
Pigs
Chickens (Broiler)
Chickens (Layer)
Turkey
Fish (Farmed)
Fish (Sea)

 

Average Lifespan (Days)

How long does each animal live?

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
Cows (Beef)
Cows (Dairy)
Pigs
Chickens (Broiler)
Chickens (Layer)
Turkey
Fish (Farmed)

 

Amount of Days of Suffering Equivalent to Slaughter, per Animal

How painful is it for an animal to be slaughtered? I don't know how one would get sources for these. These are my guesses informed by Brian Tomasik's guesses.

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
Cows (Beef)
Cows (Dairy)
Pigs
Chickens (Broiler)
Chickens (Layer)
Turkey
Fish (Farmed)
Fish (Sea)

 

Results

Here are your results! You may mess around with the numbers yourself, or use one of the pre-sets I've included. The "Facebook Preset" is the data from Nick Cooney's survey on facebook ads, whereas the "Pamphlet Preset" is the data from an additional survey done tracking the effectiveness of distributing various pamphlets.

Pessimistic Bound Optimistic Bound Input
Days Saved / Dollar
Cost to Prevent a Year

 

Conclusion

I wouldn't recommend taking these estimates too seriously because there's a lot of moving parts so something could have gone wrong easily somewhere and the evidence tends to over-rely on a few sources. However, we now have two different surveys from two different areas (Facebook ads and pamphleting), and the data seems to converge well to a range of $0.01 to $16.48 to prevent a year of animal suffering. I've head that additional evidence I've heard is on it's way that can bolster our certainty further. I'd love if you adjust the numbers to fit your own intuitions and see what you get. Let me know in the comments what you think!

Updated 27/Dec/12 to change the methodological approach of the complex calculator with suggestions from Nick Cooney.

Updated 2/Jan/13 to again change the methodological approach of the complex calculator with suggestions from Nick Cooney.

Updated 9/Jan/13 to correct an error in the complex calculator that made calculations off by 10x! :/ Ouch! Told you not to take this stuff too seriously! Hopefully it's all fixed now!

Updated 19/Jan/13 to include new data.

Updated 6/Jun/13 for relaunch on Everyday Utilitarian.

 

Footnotes

[1]: Cost effectiveness in amount of days prevented per dollar = (People Reached / Dollar + (People Reached / Dollar * Additional People Reached / Direct Reach * Response Bias * Desirability Bias)) * Years Spent Reducing * (((Percent Increasing Beef * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Beef * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Beef Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Beef Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Beef * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Beef * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Beef Consumption * Beef Elasticity * (Average Beef Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Beef Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Dairy * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Dairy * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Dairy Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Dairy Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Dairy * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Dairy * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Dairy Consumption * Dairy Elasticity * (Average Dairy Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Dairy Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Pig * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Pig * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Pig Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Pig Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Pig * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Pig * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Pig Consumption * Pig Elasticity * (Average Pig Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Pig Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Broiler Chicken * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Broiler Chicken * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Broiler Chicken Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Broiler Chicken Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Broiler Chicken * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Broiler Chicken * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Broiler Chicken Consumption * Broiler Chicken Elasticity * (Average Broiler Chicken Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Broiler Chicken Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Egg * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Egg * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Egg Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Egg Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Egg * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Egg * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Egg Consumption * Egg Elasticity * (Average Egg Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Egg Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Turkey * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Turkey * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Turkey Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Turkey Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Turkey * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Turkey * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Turkey Consumption * Turkey Elasticity * (Average Turkey Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Turkey Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Farmed Fish * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Farmed Fish * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Farmed Fish Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Farmed Fish Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Farmed Fish * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Farmed Fish * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Farmed Fish Consumption * Farmed Fish Elasticity * (Average Farmed Fish Lifespan + Days of Suffering from Farmed Fish Slaughter)) + (((Percent Increasing Sea Fish * Increase Value) + (Percent Staying Same with Sea Fish * Staying Same Value) + (Percent Decreasing Sea Fish Slightly * Decrease Slightly Value) + (Percent Decreasing Sea Fish Significantly * Decrease Significantly Value) + (Percent Eliminating Sea Fish * Elimination Value) + (Percent Never Ate Sea Fish * Never Ate Value)) * Normal Sea Fish Consumption * Sea Fish Elasticity * Days of Suffering from Sea Fish Slaughter) * Response Bias * Desirability Bias