Consumer Choice and Collective Impact

In Anne Barnhill, Mark Budolfson & Tyler Doggett (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 267-286 (2017)
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Taken collectively, consumer food choices have a major impact on animal lives, human lives, and the environment. But it is far from clear how to move from facts about the power of collective consumer demand to conclusions about what one ought to do as an individual consumer. In particular, even if a large-scale shift in demand away from a certain product (e.g., factory-farmed meat) would prevent grave harms or injustices, it typically does not seem that it will make a difference whether one refrains from purchasing that product oneself. Most present-day food companies operate at too large a scale for a single purchase to make a difference to production decisions. If that is true, then it is not clear what point there is in refraining. This is “the problem of collective impact.” This chapter explores a range of proposals for how to solve this problem.



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Julia Nefsky
University of Toronto at Scarborough

References found in this work

Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age.Christopher Kutz - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Do I Make a Difference?Shelly Kagan - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (2):105-141.
How you can help, without making a difference.Julia Nefsky - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2743-2767.
Puppies, pigs, and people: Eating meat and marginal cases.Alastair Norcross - 2004 - Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):229–245.

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