Willful Ignorance and the Effect of Information on Meat Consumption

Research Seminars

Individuals may avoid information about the consequences of their actions in order to circumvent moral concerns. The paper investigates this issue in the context of food consumption, where the decision to eat meat from intensive farming negatively affects animal welfare. It conducts a pre-registered experiment to investigate consumers’ demand for information on intensive farming and use laboratory as well as field data to estimate how such information affects meat consumption. The researchers find that about 30 percent of subjects avoid information on intensive farming when it is costless. In the laboratory, information increases the likelihood to choose a voucher for a vegetarian meal by about 11 percentage points. This effect extends to the consumption behavior at the university canteens, where subjects who have received information are more likely to purchase vegetarian food products. The findings show that consumers avoid adverse information on intensive farming and that not obtaining such information leads to higher levels of meat consumption.