Licence to Kill? Investigating the Moral Licensing Effect of Meat Reducing Petitions on Personal Meat Avoidance Pledges
This paper investigated the possibility of moral licensing in the context of meat reduction. Specifically, we investigated the impact of petition-signing on personal commitment to meat reduction. In two studies, participants were assigned to a treatment condition, in which they had the opportunity to sign a petition to restrict meat in public sector catering, or a control condition, where they did not see the petition. All participants then indicated whether they would personally pledge a meat-free week. We compared personal pledge rates between petition-signers, non-signers, and the control group. In Study 1 (n = 166) we found that petition-signers were significantly more likely than the non-signers to pledge a meat-free week but were not significantly different from the control group. The non-signers, however, were significantly less likely to pledge a meat-free week than the control group. In Study 2 (n = 435) we added measures of meat attachment and environmental attitudes as covariates. We found that, in a model without covariates petition non-signing significantly predicted non-pledging. In a model with covariates, meat attachment significantly predicted pledging likelihood, but petition non-signing remained a significant predictor of pledging. These results show no moral licensing effects. In fact, we observe consistency between petition-signing and pledge-taking, though this is likely attributable to stable underlying attitudes rather than a consistency effect per se. Animal advocates should target advocacy requests towards those who are most likely to have positive underlying attitudes and avoid those who are likely to refuse.