Sure! I’d guess it depends on the project. I doubt that narrowly supporting effectiveness-focused individuals or organisations would always be the best use of resources, but I’d guess that it would be in most cases (say, 70% of marginal EAA movement building resources over the next 5 years?)
Offering movement building services to some organisations might be a lower priority if you think that those organisations don’t have a particularly positive impact anyway.
There are also costs of broadening the scope of some shared resources/services; it makes coordination harder and mutual support less useful. An intuitive (though possibly slightly unfair) comparison is between the EAA Facebook discussion group to various AR or vegan groups. If someone only had time to create/manage one of those two resources, I’d much prefer the former. I think my current view on this is similar to CEA’s (e.g. see the section on “preserving value” here).
PS I’m not worried about the total scale being low, if there are opportunities that would likely be cost-effective (see this related post, if interested).
If you are intending to look into or start one of the projects listed in the post above, please comment on this thread. This may help with coordination and mutual support.
(E.g., as noted above) I’m currently planning to start an EAA podcast in the next few months. Comment below or contact me at email@example.com if you would like to share ideas or concerns (both are welcome!)
This was very interesting. There were several aspects I found surprising, such as the apparent importance of collaboration and shared physical space. Thanks for writing and sharing this.
I’m interested in the methodology, since I’ve also been working on both 1) case studies, which I hope to able to compare between at a later point and 2) a literature review.
How long do you estimate that you spent looking at each of the case studies?
It seems that most are based on a small number of sources. Did you find that reading additional sources changed your views about a particular research team compared to the first source or two that you read? Do you expect steeply diminishing returns from investing more time into digging further into particular case studies?
“I wonder if there could be a kind of “trip advisor” type badge to recommend how well charities/interventions are doing in such a way as to encourage them to improve.”
Not quite the same, but you might be interested in https://sogive.org/
It’s often assumed in work on wild animal welfare/suffering that biodiversity and ecosystem protection are poor heuristics for representing the best interests of individual animals. Just because a system is diverse doesn’t necessarily mean the individuals are suffering more or less.
Many relevant essays by Brian Tomasik on his site. Here’s one example https://reducing-suffering.org/medicine-vs-deep-ecology/
Additional consideration to the cross-species comparison consideration:
In comparing human to animal charities, we’re often comparing human years lost (with DALYs or QALYs) to improvements in quality or years of negative life prevented. There’s lots of scope for disagreement in making these comparisons.
E.g. is a year on a factory farm worse than a year of an average human’s life is good? If so, by how many orders of magnitude? I’d guess it is worse, perhaps by an order of magnitude or more.
See here for more discussion (though it’s quite an old post and Kelly has told me she would change / update sections of it, given the time).
Thanks for this, hadn’t seen that link before.
One point made there is that “likely interventions in human welfare, as well as being immediately effective to relieve suffering and improve lives, also tend to have a significant long-term impact… By contrast, no analogous mechanism ensures that an improvement in the welfare of one animal results in the improvements in the welfare of other animals.” An important long-term consideration for the effects of welfare reforms is whether they generate more momentum for further reforms for animals and for expansion of the moral circle, or whether they generate complacency. I’m currently very uncertain on this, though lean slightly towards momentum. See here for relevant considerations and evidence.
Some other posts related to considering the long-term effects of animal advocacy interventions:
1) Jacy Reese, “Why I prioritize moral circle expansion over artificial intelligence alignment”
2) Me, “How tractable is changing the course of history?” (see especially some of the considerations in “How tractable are trajectory changes towards moral circle expansion?”)
3) Brian Tomasik, “Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World” (not necessarily specific to animal issues, but I think there is some v useful theoretical discussion)
Thanks for this post. Appreciate the “empirical ideas about tackling climate change” but also found the concepts of climate change multiplying very bad outcomes useful.
I wanted to pick up on the “urgency” idea. Doesn’t urgency just mean that there are more ways in which it is important, because it has an interactive effect with other issues? I.e. considering urgency means that the importance/scale is high now, even if it might not be as high in the future?
Happy to be challenged on this; I use the ITN framework a lot (I’m sure we all do), so substantial criticism of that model seems worth delving into.
I haven’t looked into this myself in any detail, but I just wanted to note that others have concluded that factory farmed cows have net negative lives, e.g. see this post by charity entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, here are excerpts from a couple of relevant posts, written by Brian Tomasik:
1) “Rainforest-beef production probably reduces wild-insect suffering. In fact, purchasing one kg of Brazilian beef prevents 2.6 * 105 insect-years of suffering as a median estimate and 5.9 * 106 insect-years in expectation. The sign of this conclusion could flip around if you substantially change certain input parameters—particularly if you think death by burning is many times more painful than predation and other non-burning deaths.”
2) “If someone insists on eating meat, I would recommend eating rainforest-raised or grass-fed beef. Rainforest-grown beef plausibly reduces net animal populations because rainforests have such high productivity. Grass-fed beef plausibly also reduces net animal populations, because cattle can eat lots of grass that would otherwise feed smaller animals, and given that less of the feed for these cattle is farmed grain than in the case of non-grass-fed cattle, the uncertain net impacts of crop cultivation loom relatively less large over the calculation.”
Were any of the RA positions advertised or were they exclusively cold outreach? I can’t think of times when I’ve seen this sort of position being advertised (context being that I’ve mostly looked at effective animal advocacy research positions, and very occasionally positions at meta EA orgs)
I’m interested if these sorts of “assistant” roles crop up very often, be it in research or otherwise.
If they aren’t formally advertised, do you think that people have to accept very low salaries to have a decent chance of securing a role? If an org/researcher has a need for an assistant, why wouldn’t they have advertised for it?
“Both WASR and UF spent a significant amount of time on academic outreach in 2018”
I hadn’t realised this; I thought that Animal Ethics focused more on this, while WASR focused more directly on foundational research. Do you think there will be overloaded between WAI and Animal Ethics or do the organisations have different approaches?
Yes, I had thought about this. There was a question in the survey intending to check if people thought this was the case so far, and I didn’t see much evidence for it. But Id guess that those sorts of effects might be less obviously noticeable, or might take longer to become noticeable.
Just a note that there was a useful post for discussing some of the potential gaps and issues around EA career advice a few months ago (subsequent to our discussion) here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ej2v2wkExivqNghJ4/towards-better-ea-career-advice#YKQxGfmcxAMhYPboY
Note that an EA for Christians group exists, although I’m not sure if they’ve conducted active outreach much
“For example, the difference between assigning a 5% probability and a 50% probability is epistemically vast but arguably practically insignificant. It merely affects the amount of expected value represented by invertebrates by one order of magnitude. There are very roughly 10^18 insects in the world, and this number is still multiple orders of magnitude higher than the number of vertebrate animals.”
Given this point, and the implications of Jacy’s comment, perhaps it would be preferable to conceptualise the impact of this research/career plan in this area as a form of advocacy, rather than as a form of enhancing our knowledge and affecting cause prioritisation?
In some ways, your rough career trajectory might look similar, but it might affect some decisions e.g. how to split your time between focusing on further research and focusing on giving talks to EA groups, academic settings etc.
This list has research questions across a number of different themes or categories, e.g. “wider understanding of current animal use” and “evaluations of farmed animal interventions.” To think about which questions are important, I’d suggest categorising the questions, then prioritising the overall categories.
Sentience Institute has summarised foundational questions in effective animal advocacy, and we tend to prioritise research that we think will best help to improve our understanding of these questions (see our research agenda).
Frankly, there are huge amounts of research questions that could be useful in some shape or form to effective animal advocacy. I’m not aware of anyone having compiled a comprehensive list, although I think that this might be worthwhile doing at some point, especially to coordinate the different organisations and individuals conducting research and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.
There are also important considerations about the risk that rainforest preservation efforts might indirectly increase suffering.
Many in the effective altruism community believe that a large proportion of wild animals, especially invertebrates and other r-selected species, have net negative lives. Recently, this was the conclusion of a recent report by charity entrepreneurship. If you believe that there is a non-trivial chance that these animals can suffer or have morally relevant experiences, then the short- and medium-term effect of rainforest protection might be a counterfactual increase in wild animal suffering (see here for Brian Tomasik’s discussion of a related question).
More widely, encouraging concern for habitat protection might encourage people to value non-sentient entities even where the interests of these non-sentient entities conflict with the direct interests of individual animals. In general, this seems to be a step in the wrong direction if you agree that moral circle expansion is desirable. This might encourage the likelihood of future dystopian scenarios which involve astronomical levels of suffering.
In a sense, by promoting environmentalism via conservation, you might be reducing the chance of a global catastrophe via climat change but increasing the chance of S risk.