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Proponents of the utilitarian animal welfare argument (AWA) for veganism maintain that it is reasonable to expect that adopting a vegan diet will decrease animal suffering. In this article I argue otherwise. I maintain that (a) there are plausible scenarios in which refraining from meat consumption will not decrease animal suffering; (b) the utilitarian AWA rests on a false dilemma; and (c) there are no reasonable grounds for the expectation that adopting a vegan diet will decrease animal suffering.
The article is divided into four sections. In the first, I set out the utilitarian AWA in its original form. I give some background and distinguish it from other related arguments. In the second, I discuss the causal impotence objection, a popular objection to the utilitarian AWA. I explain how the objection works by means of a conceptual distinction between consumers and producers. In the third, I explain how proponents of the utilitarian AWA respond to this objection. In particular, I set out in some detail what I call the expected utility response. In the fourth and final section, I use the three prior objections to explain why I do not find this response convincing.