WRITING 101: Behavioral Economics, Animal Welfare and Meat Consumption

Reader requirements: graduate degree and experience in behavioral economics, psychology of choice, decision making science, marketing, or related fields.

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. Cary Moskovitz

It should no longer come as a surprise that modern industrial farming is often associated with mistreatment of animals. Just this September, The Guardian magazine called industrial farming “one of the worst crimes in history” and “one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time.” The same month, ABC news reported that following the release of an undercover video showing demonstrably cruel treatment of chickens, McDonald’s Corp ceased ties with a farm that formerly supplied them with meat for Chicken McNuggets. These farming practices are also an environmental problem—increasing the production of greenhouse gases and polluting rivers and streams. Few among us are not troubled by the realities of industrial animal farming, whether we eat animal products or not. But for most of us, that concern doesn’t translate into dietary choice.

Now a non-profit animal welfare organization is interested in changing this through a new initiative aimed to reduce the consumption of animal products in the U.S. Specifically, they are interested in whether the relatively new field of behavioral economics might offer ideas for getting consumers to choose non-animal alternatives more often. And they want our help. So, in partnering with this organization, students in this course will collaborate in mining relevant behavioral economics and psychology research, producing a “white paper” report that lays out possible intervention strategies based on the best available evidence.

This will clearly be an unusual course, as students will collaborate extensively with classmates and interact with our non-profit collaborators along the way. But while we hope to produce useful work on an important issue, the aim of this unusual course design is to engage students in developing important skills in academic reading, writing and research. We will begin with an emphasis on library research skills, learning how to locate the most relevant and useful sources for an academic project. Students will then practice careful, skeptical reading, effective summary, and thoughtful analysis as they draft and revise their assigned portions of the white paper.

Student Writing Assignment

What are students writing? A white paper (or portions of).
For whom? Administrators of animal welfare organizations.
Where would such writing typically be found? An office document.
Why would someone usually read it? A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

Course links:

**Important Reader Project info for this course**
What Readers and Student partners need to know about the Reader Project. Includes information and suggestions on giving feedback.

Course Information
General information about Prof. Moskovitz’s writing courses.

Example Reader Feedback

WR 101 (Moskovitz) sample with feedback