Animal Ethics work in 2020

Crossposted from the Animal Ethics blog; this report is also available in pdf here.


In 2020 Animal Ethics has worked in three main areas. We have done:

1. Educational work about wild animal advocacy
2. Work promoting the study of how to help wild animals in academia
3. Work to expand the moral consideration of animals internationally

As a result of this work, we published:

• 28 new YouTube videos in English, and 121 in all languages
• 85 new audio texts
• 97 new posts in all languages
• A new ebook introducing wild animal suffering
• Four long reports
• Hundreds of publications in social media
• A new language was added to our website

In addition:

• Our members have given more than 30 talks
• We now have 590K followers on social media
• Our website now contains more than 1300 pages and posts in all languages (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish and Hindi).

Below is a more detailed explanation of our work this year.

Educational work about wild animal advocacy

Many people, including many animal advocates, haven’t heard about wild animal suffering, or know a little about it but don’t know what can be done to help animals in the wild. As a result, very few people have been involved in this work.

To help fill the knowledge gap, in 2020 we published extensive educational materials about this topic in several formats. The materials cover why this is an important field and what can be done about it now, and provide specific ideas and guidelines about how to work in this area.

Online video course about wild animal suffering advocacy

We have published the first online course about wild animal suffering. The course contains 28 videos as well as related materials, organized into three modules. The videos in the course are subtitled in English and in Portuguese, and we are currently completing subtitles in French. In addition, the course has been filmed separately in Spanish. The course is divided in three modules:

Introduction to the course

Module 1: Wild animal suffering and ways to help (12 videos)

Module 2: Animal ethics (7 videos)

Module 3: Promoting academic work to help wild animals (8 videos)

A companion ebook about wild animal suffering

We also published a 222 page free ebook that expands on the content of the course and includes a long list of scientific references. Again, this is the first of its kind. You can see it here:

Introduction to wild animal suffering: A guide to the issues

This book aims both to raise awareness about the importance of the situation of wild animals and to help train animal advocates on this topic.

The audio versions of our texts about wild animals

We also published audio versions of the wild animal suffering materials on our website. They cover the following topics:

• Introduction to wild animal suffering
• The situation of animals in the wild (9 texts)
• Why wild animal suffering matters (3 texts)
• Helping wild animals (6 texts)

In addition to English, all these audios and texts are also available in Spanish and Portuguese.

These materials, especially the video course and the ebook, have been the most extensive projects we have completed to date. This was our largest project in 2020 and we’re very happy that we have been able to provide accessible materials to help people understand that wild animal suffering is an important and tractable area of work, and to encourage them to support it.

Work promoting the study of how to help wild animals in academia

Making a difference in the situation of wild animals is possible, and having a huge impact in the long term is feasible. However, for that we need to get academic work on this topic done and have it established as a serious field of research. With this aim, in 2020 we published the results of several studies about how to promote this work in academia, we have continued to work with researchers at different universities, and we’ve conducted novel research about issues important to the development of this field.

Two studies on how to establish work on welfare biology in academia

This year we published the results of two research projects on how to promote work on welfare biology in academia.

• A 64 page qualitative study, using interviews, of the attitudes of scientists towards different ways of helping animals in the wild and on opportunities and barriers for research on wild animal welfare:

Scientists’ attitudes towards improving the welfare of animals in the wild: a qualitative study

• A 56 page quantitative study, using a survey, of the attitudes of scientists and students, to address the same issue in more depth:

Surveying attitudes towards helping wild animals among scientists and students

Together, these studies identify important obstacles and opportunities. One of the most encouraging findings is that professors and students have similar preferences and perceptions about promising areas of study, which include vaccinations, the effects of weather conditions, and the wellbeing of urban animals. This work can provide a framework for successfully fostering academic work in this field.

Academic research on welfare biology funded by Animal Ethics

Animal Ethics has partnered with academics working in several universities to develop research projects to study the welfare of animals in the wild. As a result of one of these partnerships, we funded and published a study about wild animals in forest fires and how to help, which was done by a postdoc researcher at the Autonomous University of Madrid. The study includes a literature review of more than 400 publications about how animals are harmed by forest fires and about how they can be helped: Challenges posed by fires to wild animals and how to help: a literature review

In addition, this work has been presented in a paper submitted for publication in a biology journal, which is available as a preprint: “Fires in nature: a review of the challenges for wild animals

Other projects resulting from partnerships between Animal Ethics and university departments include a research project on a framework to aid welfare-based decision-making to help stranded whales at the Marine Research Group, based at Massey University, New Zealand, and a study of the causes of harm to wild animals in Canada, at the University of Guelph, Canada.

These projects will provide information about the factors that affect the wellbeing of wild animals. This information can be used to inform policies that could help wild animals, and can foster further academic work on the wellbeing of animals in the wild.

Research on issues in welfare biology

We have also published our own work addressing issues that are relevant to helping wild animals.

An article examining wild animal suffering and the response to it during the particularly bad fire season in Australia early this year

An article about the prospects for wild animal vaccination programs against coronaviruses like SARS-CoV2

A post about the negative and positive effects of habitat fragmentation on animals

A post examining the legal consideration of wild animals in the United States

A post about the potential to reduce the suffering of animals living in the wild by using eDNA sampling

• We also published a post about the effects of status quo bias on the moral consideration of animals, which addressed among other things the way this bias leads to disregard for wild

Expansion of work internationally

Animal Ethics has always considered it crucial to work internationally, because it’s vital to expand concern about sentient beings to as many places as possible. It is important to us that such work is led by local people who know the local situation. We give talks, seminars, and classes for audiences who don’t have English as their native language. In addition, our website materials are available in many languages and this year we published new materials in several languages. This is especially important because information about issues like speciesism, animal sentience, and wild animal suffering is still lacking in many languages.

Work in India

In January 2020 we announced the beginning of our work in India. With a population of over 1.4 billion people, India is the second most populated country (and is likely to soon become the first), it’s been estimated to be the world’s fifth largest economy, and it has a historic tradition of concern for animals. Its population is mostly young, with the average age under 30. At the beginning of this year, we began a series of talks at Indian universities about the moral consideration of animals and wild animal suffering, which we discontinued due to the spread of COVID-19. We gave talks at the following universities:

• Andhra Vidyalaya College of Arts Science and Commerce-Zoology Branch and Biotechnology Branch
• Osmania University
• Ann’s College
• University of Hyderabad-Animal Biology Branch and Integrated Studies Branch
• Maulana Azad National Urdu University
• Loyola College
• Telengana State Veterinary University

During those initial months of activity we also had meetings with other animal organizations in India to let them know about wild animal suffering and about the antispeciesist and longtermist approaches to helping animals, and we attended the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation /​ South West Animal Rights Conference with this purpose.

When our talks program was discontinued, we turned to giving talks and webinars online.

• A talk to Indian Institute of Public Health – Gujarat students on wild animal suffering
• A talk on speciesism with Fridays for Future – Hyderabad
• Two live webinars about the moral consideration of animals broadcasted on social media for an Indian Audience, in June and November
• A talk at the Asia Animal Advocacy Conference for Indian participants

In addition, we translated our materials into Hindi, the most widely spoken language in India (where most people don’t speak English). We published the Hindi version of our website, making information about wild animal suffering available for the first time in this language.

Increasing our work in Brazil and other countries in Latin America

In 2020 we have continued our outreach work in Brazil, with a focus on reaching university students and researchers. We organized and gave two officially recognized courses about animal ethics and wild animal welfare at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (which this year, due to the pandemic restrictions, were online, and are available on our YouTube channel in Portuguese). Animal Ethics speakers also gave talks at the following events:

• The Webconf Animal Rights 2020
• A live webinar about speciesism and wild animal suffering broadcasted on social media for a Brazilian Audience
• The Veganário Fest

In addition, Animal Ethics representatives gave talks at several other events organized in Latin America.

• In Argentina: The 1st International Virtual Animal Law Conference, the University of Buenos Aires Social Sciences Seminar and the Animal Law Observatory seminars
• In Chile: The 3rd Animal Law Conference and the 5th Meetings on Animal Law
• In Mexico: The 4th March Against Speciesism Event
• In Uruguay: The online seminar series of the Association for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
• In Bolivia: The 1st International Conference on Animal Law at the University of San Andrés UMSA

Online conferences and events

In addition to the talks listed above, Animal Ethics’s spokepersons have given talks, seminars, and presentations at different international events, and we have organized some events ourselves as well.

• A series of five talks about the arguments against speciesism in English, Spanish, and Portuguese during the World Day for the End of Speciesism event
• A talk at the International Vegan Rights Online Conference
• A talk on challenging speciesism for the Red & Green VegFest online
• A joint presentation at the EA Student Summit conference on the emerging field of wild animal welfare research
• A presentation at the EAGx Asia-Pacific conference on the expansion of animal advocacy and concern for wild animal suffering in India

We also ran a series of online live interviews with academics and animal advocates who have made important contributions to the defense of animals, including Steve Sapontzis, Jo-Anne McArthur, Siobhan O’Sullivan, and Mark Bernstein.

In addition, Animal Ethics co-hosted a virtual summit about how to best help wild animals together with two other organizations, Wild Animal Initiative and Rethink Priorities, that was attended by people belonging to seven other animal and effective altruist organizations. The participants had a variety of different areas of expertise, in natural science, policy, law, philosophy, and communication, as well as varied experiences in activism.

Making new information available in multiple languages

We regularly upload new content in the different languages on our site. In addition, we work in social media in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Counting our followers in all these languages, we have more than 590,000 followers on social media. We are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. We regularly upload new content in the multiple languages on our site. This year, this includes our updated texts about wild animal suffering in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and new articles about wild animal suffering in other languages. We don’t just translate texts from English; several of our materials are written directly by our local activists in other languages, such as a recent article in Spanish about the legal situation of animals in Latin America. We are not aware of other animal organizations providing the kind of information we have in most of the nine languages in which our site is available.

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