Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, April 08, 2005

Cruelty to Animals

Is it cruel to horses and oxen to release them live in wild animal safaris so lions and tigers can kill them and eat them? Or is it cruel to lions and tigers not to provide them with simulated hunting experiences?

I am sure reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which different aspects of maintaining wild animal safaris and zoos would be considered cruelty to animals.
No matter what, from my perspective, cruelty to animals does not include hunting, even though I have never hunted in my life.

My candidates? Horse racing, dog racing, and "catch-and-release" fishing. The animals are kept alive only to provide sport for humans. I'm not sure that's morally wrong, but I have an uneasy feeling about it.

I have been thinking about this question for many years. Recently, however, I came across Tyler Cowen's paper, "Market Failure for the Treatment of Animals." Here is the abstract:

I examine the welfare economics of how humans treat animals, using
ordinal welfare economics and the standard of willingness to pay. I therefore assume that animals count in the social welfare function only insofar as human animal lovers care about them. I do not defend these assumptions as the best available moral theory, but rather treat them as a minimalistic approach that counts animals as little as possible and looks for robust conclusions. Even under these assumptions we find systematic and significant market failure in the treatment and allocation of animals. Many of the common recommendations of animal rights advocates, however, fail to consider secondary consequences and therefore may decrease animal welfare. The effects of mandatory animal care standards, subsidies to animal care, and taxes on meat consumption all differ. Piecemeal and systematic reforms do not generally have the same effects on animal welfare. The results of this paper do not require any particular judgments as to exactly how much animal welfare counts, relative to human welfare.
Fascinating stuff. You can read the whole paper on line or read a section of it here.
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