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Book Chapter

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The demand for animal products and services is a powerful economic force in society, and multibillion-dollar industries are organized around this demand. These industries often face increased costs by improving animal welfare and are quick to use economic arguments against proposed welfare reforms (see sidebar on page 169). These arguments, while often specious, can influence consumers, voters, and policy makers. Citizens are less likely to support animal welfare reforms they’ve been told will double their shopping bill or impoverish family farmers.

Animal welfare advocates cannot respond to these economic arguments with moral rhetoric alone. Instead, non-governmental observers (NGOs) must challenge the economic assumptions, calculations, and conclusions of animal industries and produce reliable economic arguments of their own. To do so they should understand some basic economic principles, which we review below, and, when possible, enlist the help of economists.