You pose some great questions, Holly.
I really like the EA culture of “unintended consequences” analysis, as you do with a political campaign on rodent control. That analysis is good to do with all campaigns, and some political campaigns will have greater risks and some will have lesser. It is not inherently a reason not to engage in politics.
Interesting points about undermining democracy. I think it is also worth considering the null-hypothesis: what is the impact of doing nothing? How does it favor existing powers to continue the status quo?
Ultimately, the costs and benefit of political campaigns are extremely difficult to quantify, so I understand why EAs are still developing our attitudes toward this. As a person who works in politics, I agree that there are potential consequences to be wary of (developing a partisan identity, making powerful enemies, etc). Nonetheless, I see these as important precautions and risks to mitigate rather than dealbreakers.
I like the philosophy behind this—in order to win in politics we need to build coalitions. A good example of aligning opposing sides behind one bill is the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which was our nation’s largest climate bill in history, but also had provisions that advanced fossil fuel interests.
I do have questions about practicality—how would somebody work with beef? Call them? Is there enough trust between animal welfare and beef to collaborate? Given that the big picture is to have the beef industry stop hurting/killing cows, would they want to work with a community that believes in its abolition? Are we talking Big Beef or small scale ranchers? If the latter, are local ranchers powerful enough to advance law?
I understand that we are not giving beef a free pass, but instead finding a meeting of “strange bedfellows” with mutually aligned interests. I like the concept: support from the beef industry immediately neutralizes any stigma associated with a bill being a “vegan agenda”. There may be a need to test this on a local level before working on a national campaign.
I love this campaign—it is so tragic to see octopi eaten :′ (
I know I’ve asked this, but I’m struggling to get a sense of scale of the problem. How many octopi are killed for food...and do we have a sense of how that number could grow? How many octopi is the Canary Islands facility projected to produce? Especially when compared to the gajillions of marine animals killed for food. From the INT framework, I see a potential gap in the “Importance” variable. This campaign is certainly Neglected and Tractable, but so is stealing candy from children : P
One factor in favor of this campaign is the idea that bad practices are a lot easier to prevent than to stop. If we can halt this practice now, it is a lot easier than fighting an entrenched and politically connected industry.
Great write-up! Sometimes establishing policy on a local level can help build momentum to scale it up. In DC one similar policy we are advocating for is to have the Mayor establish an Animal Welfare Liaison. We have used candidate questionnaires to gauge interest in such an office. You can see an example of some results here: https://dcvfa.com/who-are-the-best-at-large-candidates-on-animal-issues/
Incredible news. I see two big benefits of the results:
If 37% of the voters supported the initiative, approximately 30% of the meat eating voter pool signed off on ending factory farming (assume ~5-7% are vegetarian/vegans. That is noteworthy.
Sometimes an initiative takes multiple attempts before it passes.
The main rebuttal I see to the “if it doesnt happen in Switzerland then it’ll happen elsewhere” argument is that it has to start somewhere. One country can be the catalyst for others.
Great points—especailly the positive framing. On the surface it seems valid, although I’d want to see evidence to support the positive framing perspective. Also, I really like how you give examples to back up your points.
And a rating of which campaign tactics worked and did not.
Love this, Josh. Political advocacy can feel so inaccessible, you really lay out the fundamentals clearly.
I love this post and the fact that EAs are weighing trade-offs of electoral politics.
OP undervalues the impact having one EA in Congress can make. Even if not in the party in power, the member can 1) raise/introduce policy interventions that would otherwise not be considered, even as “marker” bills, 2) shift the Overton window on important cause areas, 3) Recruit fellow members to support policy interventions.
Nonetheless, I’m glad we are weighing the trade-offs of appearing partisan. There are benefits of that too, that should not be overlooked, but def some unintended consequences.
LOL “0% of respondents heard about EA or EA-adjacent ideas before age 2.”
This is super helpful, thank you Michael!
Thanks for highlighting the potential of small donors to support political candidates and campaigns. In the US, if you expect to take the standard deduction on your taxes, you have a fantastic opportunity to leverage your voice in the democratic process.
“There’s a relatively small amount of funding towards policy advocacy and legislative change, compared to what I expected, approximately 4.5% average across all three years.“
Could you elaborate on why you were expecting more?
I love this analysis, thanks for taking the time to put it together. I would not have expected it to be so lopsided toward corporate campaigns either.
Great analysis. Many of these conclusions were not intuitive.
For those looking to advance climate solutions, I’ll plug Citizens’ Climate Lobby which advocates for a price on carbon in Congress. I love political advocacy because it can be done with zero cost (ie writing to/lobbying your elected officials), and is a powerful tool for collective action.
I love this. I’m definitely excited to see EAs thinking about effective policy.