I consume (very) few animal products, mostly on ethical grounds, however, I have been wondering about gelatin, which may people shy away from. I am a consequentialist, I have no issue with the act of eating for instance meat, but I do not want to support practices that inflict suffering on animals, and that is why I (mostly) abstain from it.

My question concerns gelatin. As far as I know it is produced from the surplus of meat production by cooking bones, skin etc. However, I can not see that by buying products with gelatin would increase the number of animals kept in captivity? Hence, by asking the counterfactual, namely what would have happened if someone had not used those products, there seems to be no increase in suffering inflicted on animals, and thus it should not really be problematic to consume such products(on consequentialist grounds)?

I can see an obvious objection, namely that one should not support any animal exploiting industry, but to me this is not particularly forceful given my consequentialist attitude. I would also change my attitude were there animals kept solely for making gelatin, but I can not see how that is the case in todays industry. Are my reasoning sound, or am I making some mistake along the way?

  • 1
    Thank you, I have changed the title as you suggested. Also appreciate sorting out my confusion about the (general) motivations behind veganism Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 16:49

5 Answers 5


Veganism excludes all animal products (at least by the commonly accepted definition) so gelatin is not consistent with veganism regardless of whether there's additional suffering.

The way I look at it, even if gelatin is a by-product of the meat industry, and I'm all for not wasting things, the sale of gelatin and other "by-products" (I use quotes because they are actually just another product if it makes them money) like leather or rennet might make the difference between a business model that is sustainable and one that isn't (after all, why does the US government subsidise animal agriculture in the first place?).

Plus, it's not like eating jelly sweets is doing anyone any good, except maybe your doctor and dentist's bank balance.

  • Fair point, thank you Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 16:46

That's a good question and I see the argument behind your thoughts. However, I would argue that, even on consequentialist grounds, it might be problematic because gelatin is still profitable to sell for companies (otherwise they wouldn't do it), so you are in fact still supporting people profiting from the exploitation. Thus, I think it might make sense to avoid gelatin exactly for consequentialist reasons. Let me know what you think. :)

  • If the gelatin was donated by the meat producers rather than sold, then you might be able to argue from a no-waste perspective. But I agree with Ivo that if selling by-products is a part of the business, then you are still supporting the practices.
    – egeorge
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 20:46

Short answer: NO

Consuming gelatin increases the profitability of animal farming. The consequence is quite direct and clear.


For me, this was quite a fundamental question when I first started to think about my consumption 10 years ago. So I can understand your "confusion". Since other users have pointed out some "financial reasons", I'll try to give you another point of view based on your consequentialism.

Assumption: We live in a non vegan world. Thus being 100% vegan in all sub brackets (clothing, eating, environmental aspects, e.g. don't buy sealed goods) is not possible if one wants to function in this world.

Consequence: Based on this assumption and from a consequentialist's point of view, one cannot be full vegan since one could not function in our society (assuming that not functioning is a bad consequence (under the assumption that each individual is valuable)).

Proposition: I try to think of veganism as a statement. During the years I have influenced many people positively (they stopped eating meat or started to care), which can be seen as a good consequence.

However, a statement that makes people start to think (as a consequence), must be consistent (I think this lies in human nature). In order to achieve consistency you should stop consuming animal products (such as gelatin). On the other hand, one still has to function, but substituting gelatin, leather etc. is a minor sacrifice (this forum has plenty of resources on that).

As a final remark I'd like to point out a bias of my logic. From reading your question, it seems to me that your "time-to-consequence" is finite, whereas I assumed it to be infinite (or at least no specified end). Under finite TTC you can eat gelatin, since your actions will most likely not have any consequences. However for this discussion we would need to define "most likely" as well as a measure for a consequence.


This attitude could lead to some very unusual vegans. I know several couples in which one will only eat the "nice" cuts: steaks, chicken breast, etc and not the icky bits: offal, tail, feet, head, etc. The other will happily eat all these odd bits. So, if the first does all of the ordering and paying and the other eats what the first will not then can second claim to be a vegan? If would be rather bizarre to see a "vegan" eating oxtail soup and fish head curry. As a further oddity, sometimes the first won't eat the odd bits because they are more obviously bits of a dead animal whereas the second has no qualms about bits of dead animal.

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