Then it ought to be the case that they are addressed somewhere by the relevant organisations.
ACE does largely work in relation to institutional change compared to individual change. But not really systems change, at least not in a more radical sense. Most of the work is about mainstreaming change through a dominant capitalist system, which is something that foundations seem to be pretty comfortable with. So it doesn’t challenge the roots of the issues but seems to cut away at the branches in a fairly single issue type way. The organisations that effective altruists tend to support are generalist, particularly engaged in welfare and “veg” approaches, not those engaged with educating around speciesism or taking broad based justice approaches. Perhaps EA Funds will do more work around these issues and maybe ACE is going to as well, though i feel there is a general sense that direct work around justice issues is considered too demanding, which is why incrementalism from within systems is preferred. However, almost inevitably effective animal advocacy has reflected some aspects of these harmful systems.
Shaming tactics are used, but the issue i’m raising here is how they impact relations between the campaigning organisations and the businesses themselves. If it is the case that relations are impacted negatively through the “stick” then this is going to create issues going forward if organisations want to be part of business decision making or advisory groups.
In relation to McDonald’s the line from mainstream organisations has been to celebrate their commitments and their one or two veg offerings, until it seems the moment they go back on a pledge (though we don’t really know how this compares to what else they are planning to do). It seems a lesser matter compared to the various reasons people boycotted McDonald’s over McLibel. So I would think boycotting and the THL style of McCruelty campaigning ought to be a last resort because it appears to demonise the business over this one issue, but it seems to me that isn’t a very compelling issue on its own. I guess we’ll see what changes, and i’m sure there are many different tactics being used, but likely this will attract the most attention and it seems this would broadly be supported by the Open Wing Alliance. So it isn’t as if business would consider it just the approach of one organisation.
I also think it would be nice if there is broader consultation with the animal movement before some decisions are made. It is much easier to get people on board if different perspectives are openly included in decision making, and even if there was a unilateralist decision made on this (as wouldn’t be unusual) at least different perspectives would have been heard.
Traditionally the approach taken by welfare seems to have been corporate engagement and building positive relations around “win wins”, so a commitment in exchange for good publicity upfront. So i’m not really sure about a shift toward “shaming” strategies as an enforcement approach, i’m uncertain that enough power exists within the welfare movement to use this particular tactic, whilst going forward it seems uncertain how it would impact relations with large businesses. If for instance The Humane League pursue a shaming campaign against McDonald’s now, then how is that going to impact their work with that business in the future? Presumably there will be other welfare campaigns to consider that McDonald’s will need to sign up to?
Whilst it is also worth noting that McDonald’s and other large fast food enterprises are under pressure from an environmental perspective, and it seems that slow growing chickens are likely to exacerbate that particular issue, so i’m not sure whether competing demands might also be behind some of the reluctance here. It seems to me the Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council is partly constructed to consider these issues, and it is worth noting that Temple Grandin is part of that set up.
I would also be concerned about how some of the welfare commitments are being marketed, for instance the Better Chicken Commitment talks about choosing “happy chickens” which seems disingenuous. This is one of the key disagreements that rights advocates have with welfare approaches, in that they fail to represent what actually happens in the process, relating only to “welfare” designated “improvements” rather than describing the reality of animal farming.
I think the diversifying approach has been somewhat underexplored, and up to now many of the recommendations have involved filling capacity for welfarism / general advocacy / some for product promotion. This has caused some issues for diversity because the preferred approach has given weight to certain aligned organisations in the movement space. This has sometimes been justified as “effectiveness” but I think in reality it has disproportionately pressed smaller organisations and allowed some larger groups and their associated ideologies to dominate. This wouldn’t be important in terms of considering the differences between a cat rescue and farmed animal advocacy, which really don’t interact in any meaningful way, but in terms of the farmed animal movement space, particularly in terms of different worldviews or moral theories that are often overlooked then it is certainly important.
I would welcome more consideration of this area, and believe that safeguarding diversity has significant value in terms of maintaining a healthy movement / maintaining a sense of competition rather than co-operation among a small group of in-group leaders. For one thing I believe it would be useful for ACE to split its recommendations into different areas (maybe around general / wild / welfare / rights / vegan / veg / social justice / product), and that the Open Philanthropy Project ought to diversify its approach from being centred around conventional welfarism / HSUS. I think even with EA Funds there are issues with taking a default approach too closely aligned to “pragmatic” ideology over a more diversifying approach. In some ways this is the type of consideration that ought to have taken place at the foundation of EAA, but I’m not aware of whether those discussions took place or how they played out, instead i get the impression it was all a bit rushed. They are however long overdue, but I think partly because people think they are time consuming / would potentially disrupt present donation strategies / disrupt the political state of EAA they are neglected.
“The EA community should not push veganism except insofar as a milk exception is considered weird and difficult to communicate.”
This could be a utilitarian position within effective altruism but it wouldn’t reflect a rights position. Overall i don’t think EA could take a position of not pushing veganism. Not that it pushes veganism anyway, and never has done, instead the preference has been for the “rational pragmatism” of Shapiro, Friedrich and Ball.
If veganism were to be promoted then it would challenge the conventional position of welfarism favoured by most leading utilitarian EAs. Whilst we could point to some veg promotion this tends to exist in opposition to “extreme” rights views of non-exploitation and is viewed as compatible with welfarism, indeed one way to ensure that welfare standards aren’t violated is to have less domesticated animals to violate.
I think even in terms of where we might argue that dairy is necessary for nutrition, then rights advocates would look to promote alternatives and address inequalities in terms of accessibility to plant based nutrition. Also worth noting that Open Philanthropy funded charities RSPCA and CIWF have been promoting rose veal as a way to discourage farmers from killing calves at birth or live exporting them.
Overall though cross-price elasticity would seem interesting for rights advocates in terms of how it might affect a shift to plant based products or alternatively toward animal products (if people are of the mind they are merely consuming products). Though as a general matter rights advocates are addressing cultural speciesism rather than nudging consumer behaviour within systems of exploitation.
Given the EA animal welfare fund appears oriented around two organisations (Effective Giving also utilises research from Open Philanthropy and ACE to find exceptional opportunities to do good), what efforts are being made to include different value systems and perspectives that are found in effective altruism more generally? And how ought those perspectives be valued?
What are the similarities and differences between the new ACE fund and the EA animal welfare fund?
It also seems to me that some of the organisations that receive EA funds could graduate to multi-year funding from Open Philanthropy. So i wonder what progress is being considered there?
Non-consequentialist considerations aren’t really part of animal welfare. They aren’t taken seriously as part of the Animal Welfare Program at the Open Philanthropy Project and neither are they factored into the work that ACE does in relation to “top” or “standout” charities. It’s difficult to wonder about how rights advocates would think about prioritisation when they wouldn’t agree with how effective altruism has constructed “effective animal advocacy”. To consider how non-consequentialists would think about different causes we would first need to think about how they would conceptualise those areas and what they would do. However, to do so would mean undertaking a review of the foundational work of “effective animal advocacy” in order to reflect on those considerations. Up to now there has been little institutional appetite to prioritise consideration of rights views, perhaps because they are considered too difficult and controversial to deal with, and it would certainly challenge the conventional EAA epistemology.
The greater the priority EA has placed on animal welfare as it stands, the more marginalised rights views have become, so it would be somewhat absurd for rights advocates to argue for prioritisation of animal welfare, indeed if those views are going to be further marginalised by the comparative weight of Open Philanthropy resources (for instance) then deprioritisation ought to be emphasised. Though given how little value rights views have in EAA, it would be a largely meaningless act.
In terms of cost effectiveness it’s relevant to consider that ProVeg set up a UK operation despite the organisational space appearing relatively saturated in the UK. It’s an interesting situation because as far as i can tell The Vegan Society has largely been directed on ProVeg grounds since co-founder of ProVeg International Jasmijn de Boo was CEO of The Vegan Society (2011-2016), it seems to me it has largely continued along those lines. I’m also not sure what level of consultation took place in relation to VeggieWorld London, the veg festival space isn’t operated by the larger conventional organisations, so i would wonder what sort of consultation took place there or whether it was something more speculative.
Separate to that there remain issues as to why ProVeg (at least Tobias Leenaert, Melanie Joy and Sebastian Joy) set up the ideological ProVeg organisation Centre for Effective Vegan Advocacy (CEVA) under Beyond Carnism rather than ProVeg or VEBU (as it was formerly known). This organisation is supported by several of the other top and standout charities and seeks to influence the animal movement more broadly. There is no assessment of the impact of this organisation on EAA generally or the animal movement.
I would also disagree that ProVeg is medium to long term. It’s ideologically short term around promoting “veg” and focussing on “mainstreamness”. It doesn’t reflect or promote a broader and inclusive perspective in relation to speciesism or animal rights. ProVeg seems to believe it is too soon to talk about such issues, so focusses on short term gains (in a de-politicised way), whilst stressing the medium to long term approaches more commonly found in the grassroots animal rights movement. But there has been no consultation here.
I have more to say about how ProVeg functions within the broader animal movement, but these types of issue aren’t given much weight in decision making terms. Something which in my view functions to undermine the recommendation process. Overall i remain sceptical of the value of a “top” and “standout” charity system and would favour compartmentalising recommendations in relation to the approach of organisations, and then making meaningful comparisons between those organisations, whilst weighting the different compartments. There isn’t really any discussion about the utility of different systems of recommendation as far as i can tell. Presumably this happened originally with 80,000 hours, but i’m not sure if it has been reviewed.
The Vegan Society has its Growing Green campaign which springs to mind. There is also an article here about how Oatly helped a farmer shift more of his oat crop from animal feed to Oatly, so that is quite interesting from a business perspective and the article also discusses some of the tensions between Oatly and animal farmers. Some of these issues were also covered in the Rotten series that netflix produced, one of the episodes looked at chicken farming in the USA and how the industry functions, so that may be interesting if you haven’t seen it. But i agree this type of approach doesn’t receive as much attention as it could.
In relation to short / medium term, i am saying that short term gains are more geared toward welfarism and *veg* approaches rather than projects such as rights / anti-speciesism in terms of anti-exploitation. So whilst we could view conventional EAA interventions as part of a bigger picture, we’re not exploring these issues as part of how they fit together in a broader context, particularly in terms of different moral theories or how it is that different perspectives aim to reduce suffering. In the sense of what is funded / emphasised through effective altruism then there are conflicting overarching ideas which in my view need to be considered and resolved in order to be inclusive / representative.
For most organisations which already fit with “pragmatism” this is a bit of a non-issue. However, for those which are more politicised they can be marginalised in relation to how funding is allocated and how powerful alliances are constructed around ideology. This i would argue has happened with most of the large considered to be EA aligned organisations. This to me overlooks how narrow the framework for intervention actually is. To illustrate this point we can look at where problems have arisen with organisations ACE has considered evaluating such as A Well Fed World.
“Declined to be reviewed/published for the following reason(s):
They disagree with Animal Charity Evaluators’ evaluation criteria, methodology, and/or philosophy.
They do not support Animal Charity Evaluators’ decision to evaluate charities relative to one another.”
Despite this outcome they don’t appear a good fit for conventional EAA because the work they do is difficult to measure and the groups they support as part of their work so small it is difficult to measure their impact going forward (positive or negative). However, that potential impact is diminished (in terms of including different perspectives) further by favouring resourcing conventionally aligned organisations over those not part of the EAA family (which isn’t to say they don’t tacitly accept EA principles) which then grow at a much faster rate potentially crowding out other ideas and organisations. For those resourced and largely ideologically aligned i’m thinking of Animal Equality, The Humane League, Good Food Institute, Mercy for Animals, ProVeg, Reducetarian Foundation, Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Open Cages, Compassion In World Farming.
What happens here is that EAs tend to point toward funding directed toward cat / dog rescues over farmed animal protection, and it is correct to note how egregiously disproportionate that continues to be. However, within the somewhat delicate and nascent space of farmed animal protection, funding a small number of ideologically aligned groups has been disruptive in the movement as a whole (for instance affordability in terms of conferences, sponsorship, outreach and so on), and this impact hasn’t been factored in (though it remains to be seen whether the new ACE Effective Animal Advocacy project will address some of these issues, though perhaps only implicitly). A further issue would arise that if it doesn’t happen and if EA Funds doesn’t shift beyond Lewis’ general considerations then the new panel for EA Funds will present a missed opportunity. Lewis might be concerned about whether people would be a good fit and could agree on certain issues, but it seems unfortunate that conclusion was drawn before an attempt made to really challenge the foundation of EAA, for instance in relation to normative uncertainty. However, here it depends on what time Lewis would have to oversee that, and i suspect not enough to make it a viable possibility which i think illustrates the reason that underpins the new approach.
Traditionally, organisations that are more challenging to the “mainstream” have often struggled for funding (so therefore by the lights of many aren’t very successful), and are often too small for Open Philanthropy to consider, or EA Funds at least up until now because of the time constraints involved in doing so (time spent per dollar donated). Indeed, it is challenging to present a case for many organisations, other than it is important to have multiple perspectives / organisations in a movement format, though, as Lewis pointed out in relation to EA Funds he also worries about discord. But this isn’t a reason not to do that more challenging work, and neither are time constraints. If anything, these are fundamental considerations that ought to have been incorporated at the inception of EAA and the Open Philanthropy Animal Welfare Program, but it doesn’t appear to me they ever really were. Partly because it appears EA leaned heavily on conventional organisational leaders of the larger animal organisations prior to EAA, and there isn’t much evidence those leaders took those types of considerations onboard either. Particularly i’m thinking Paul Shapiro, Wayne Pacelle, Nick Cooney, Bruce Friedrich, Matt Ball who largely preferred an agenda and approach grounded in “pragmatism”, something which was quite appealing to many utilitarians but not to rights advocates, who became unflatteringly associated with terms such as extremist, fundamentalist, absolutist, puritan, hardliner in the associated rhetoric. Their value further diminshed because a lack of pragmatism seemed to become equated with a lack of effectiveness.
None of this is to say that it is “wrong” to fund any of the top or standout ACE charities (for instance) from an EA perspective, but taken together it’s a stretch even for effective altruism. So from my view funding is disproportionate, but this also reflects the view of the EAA trust network presumably. If we had a better idea of who exactly that was, including who the CEA was consulting then it would be easier to point out where adjustments could be made, so we might have diversity of viewpoints and representation within an EA framework, or we could at least consider how it is that it could function differently given a variety of scenarios / counterfactuals. Otherwise we have no real idea of how effective we are being collectively, we are instead looking at things from a fairly conventional EAA view, which from my perspective is loaded toward de-politicised short terms gains associated with “veg” and welfare approaches.
I think with EAA waves have been made in quite a depoliticised way. We can point to how GFI has supported investment and promoted products, but we can also look to the costs of this general approach. Going “mainstream” often seems to mean that we are adopting and replicating the characteristics of that mainstream and nudging within it (or just aligning with it) rather than challenging it. This has informed much of effective altruism and how donations are made to larger organisations, particularly as issues of rights, anti-speciesism and veganism have been considered and often pushed aside. For instance, i doubt there are many rights advocates in the ACE top charities, or generally associated with effective altruism. Those perspectives are largely missing throughout EAA and neither are they sought out or particularly welcome as far as i can tell.
The emphasis for me has been a race to make short term gains whilst medium to longer term projects have been marginalised or just not considered in favour of approaches aligned to dominant ideologies around welfarism and “pragmatism”. Particularly associated with Bruce Friedrich, Paul Shapiro, Nick Cooney, Matt Ball and favoured by Peter Singer.
Another concern is how effective altruism continues to break issues down between individualism (or atomisation) and corporate campaigning from organisational perspectives, something which overlooks the nature of the general animal movement. I’m pleased that plant based burgers are more readily available these days, but this is perhaps not so much due to GFI but more to do with how people have helped promote them generally.
We can find positive things to consider about effective altruism, but there is a tendency to overlook some underlying issues which are important to think about in terms of a more complex form of effectiveness, and it is rare to see these types of issues considered and discussed. Perhaps not least because EAA has become somewhat distorted by a mainstream it has attempted to engage and influence.
Hi Amy, is there any progress in terms of presenting who is on the advisory boards? Or if people don’t want to be named that would be useful information too.
I appreciate the clarification of where people are presently working. More information is available in the bios.
I would like to know a bit more about the reasoning behind bringing in people from ACE and Sentience Politics to contribute to the Animal Welfare Fund.
From my point of view ACE is already heavily represented in terms of decision making in relation to animal organisations, particularly distributing funds to organisations affiliated to the “pragmatic” ideology favoured by most utilitarians in EAA.
Bringing more people onboard to the Animal Welfare Fund is a good idea but seems to have offered an opportunity to take on a variety of perspectives to inform decision making (from people who hold them), and to be more representative in terms of theory, but instead seems to bolster a fairly narrow view associated with EAA. This is at least indicated by the track record of ACE and associated EAA organisations which have historically marginalised organisations and perspectives through not accounting or valuing them, particularly in relation to rights theory / ecofeminism.
I look forward to seeing how this develops, particularly if there is direction in terms of funding grassroots organisations and projects aligned to EA principles but working from the ground up*.
Whilst i presume donations to ACE will now shift back to the Open Philanthropy Project rather than be directed through EA Funds.
*In relation to this i would like to see funders active in the animal movement space jointly allocate resources to convene a conference representing neglected views from people who hold them. With the particular aim of assessing the impact of EAA funding on the broader animal movement, and to explore possibilities and limitations.
Wouldn’t referring to other groups likely confirm that it is the only game in town? If they were working on similar issues then there would be cross referencing and a greater degree of accountability. But it seems that hasn’t happened at least in some cases and it may or may not be the case there are further issues to be examined elsewhere. In my view there are around moral theory (particularly managing more polarising issues), whilst i would disagree with Jc that meta evaluation isn’t useful. Likely it would provide some useful information to consider in one sweep if other organisations aren’t doing that work or people too time constrained or just willing to trust in the process. I think it would at least be worthwhile seeing whether it has value in this context and it could also give people more confidence in the process.
I wonder whether it would also be useful to take a broader movement view on these issues alongside EA professionals, because effectiveness considerations are likely to be weighted toward organisations rather than movements. For instance one concern for me is that saying animal rights in the generic way overlooks animal rights theory and immediately minimises those considerations. This for me is a survey more related to animal welfare, which is to centre use within a system of exploitation whereas rights is focussed on freedom from exploitation and justice and would relate to thinking effectively in relation to that theory.
Taking the above approach could be indicative of the strong belief that vegan outreach is a poor strategy, and i would agree with that, i believe it is a poor strategy for EA animal organisations because it is difficult to take a position against animal exploitation and then reify various forms of exploitation through welfarism or reduction through speciesism. Various attempts to neutralise vegan advocacy for pragmatic / strategic or effectiveness reasons have also had negative consequences for rights advocates, particularly through the authentic representation of those ideas.
It may at the end of the day suit EA to have a generic system for core ideas but it will also likely result in limiting diversity and creativity within EA and animal organisations more broadly. So this could be specifically addressed with animal related EA surveys. At the very least it would give researchers the opportunity to consider different viewpoints, frameworks and value systems, some of which could at times function as more insightful than more generic identifiable animal related EA.
In terms of representation then my own opinion in relation to the animal welfare cause area is that it could relate to moral theory. At present the dominant ideology (rational pragmatism) favoured by many utilitarians has functioned as a way for people to associate with one another, and offers a fairly easy way to become part of EAA through adopting certain organisations and ideas. This is an ideology which in my view has been dismissive of rights based approaches by diminishing their value / relevance to effectiveness thinking.
To address this issue i believe rights based thinking ought to be valued and represented at various levels rather than dismissed in favour of the preferred ideology. This isn’t to say anything about which organisations or approaches are “most” effective but dismissing moral theory in favour of an ideology seems to be weak at both representativeness and integrity (particularly where it hasn’t been agreed upon but is more unilateral).
I tend to think that addressing issues of representation in cause areas will have better follow on results in the community at large (informed from below rather than from above). However, the problem here is that unrepresentative cause areas are more likely to be resistant to representation, because they are likely to gravitate toward that norm rather than away from it unless significant efforts are made, particularly where it has become institutionalised. Whilst it is unclear whether some EAA leaders would think that a lack of representativeness (as i am stating it) or plurality would be a bad or concerning thing anyway as it can instead be associated with increasing utility, particularly through simplifying the cause area.
I think what conference attendees most want to hear about but also worth considering what potential attendees would want to hear about. Personally i would prefer more diversity within the cause area to look at various challenges to conventional EAA whilst focussing more on philosophy and demandingness. I think in this way people could become somewhat more familiar with the broader cause area rather than in my view a tendency to focus on a fairly narrow group of organisations and individuals.
Would it be possible to say who is on the advisory board?