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Brown University’s Department of Economics and Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics are hosting an interdisciplinary conference on the economics of animal welfare on July 11–12, 2024

This conference aims to build on successful workshops on this topic at Duke University, Stanford University, and the Paris School of Economics. We welcome submissions on a range of topics that apply economic methods to understand how to value or improve animal welfare. This includes theoretical work on including losses or benefits to animals in economic analyses, applied empirical work on the effects of policies or industry structure on animal welfare, and anything else within the purview of economics as it relates to the well-being of commodity, companion, or wild animals.

We invite 300-word abstracts from economists and those in relevant fields, including animal welfare science, political science, and philosophy. In addition to full presentations, we also welcome “ideas in development” from graduate students or early-stage researchers that can be presented in less than 10 minutes. 

Please submit abstracts and ideas-in-progress by January 15, 2024 via this form. General attendance registration will open in January 2024.

 

  • Travel support to Providence will be provided for all accepted speakers. 
  • A limited number of travel bursaries are available for graduate students and predoctoral researchers to attend without presenting a paper. Please apply for non-speaker travel funding in the link above. 
  • Vegan meals will be provided. 
  • While this is an in-person event, a limited number of remote presentations may be possible.

 

ORGANIZED BY:

Bob Fischer, Department of Philosophy, Texas State University

Anya Marchenko, Department of Economics, Brown University

Kevin Kuruc, Population Wellbeing Initiative, University of Texas at Austin

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This sounds very welcome. I wanted to mention that The Unjournal is looking to expand our agenda and our team of field specialists into this area in particular. We have a few economists with an interest in animal welfare involved, but we are looking for a few more to have a sort of quorum. Please reach out if you are interested. 

Great! Perhaps at a conference like this, dedicated to this particular field of inquiry, there could be commitment to start writing papers in a non-anthropocentric fashion? There's a problem I've written about before where academics tend to presume the obvious human interests on topics like climate change and environmental harms where discourse norms are normalized, but for anything pertaining to animal welfare, they slip into "and animal rights groups have historically called for", rather than "lessened meat-eating (or other adjacent welfare concern) lessens animal suffering".

This is less problematic in philosophy and in economics to a degree, but it tends to persist in other sciences. Part of the problem is a lack of interdisciplinary connection - just what this conference is posed to help with! 

Thanks for doing this!

By supporting interventions which save lives more cost-effectively, organisations and people aligned with effective altruism, namely GiveWell and its supporters, often took the lead in acting upon the principle that all human experiences are equally valuable regardless of nationality. I am glad this happened. I believe it would also be good to see a similar dynamic around considering:

  • All experiences of similar intensity and valence equally valuable regardless of species.
  • The effects of human activities on animals.

I have argued that:

Thinking at the margin, I would say scope-sensitive ethics imply prioritising animal welfare over global health and development. I think the scale of the welfare of farmed animals and wild terrestrial arthropods is 12.0 and 253 k times as large as that of humans, so accounting for them seems crucial a priori.

So I encourage organisations, especially the ones I discussed above aligned with effective altruism, to:

What follows is more outside the scope of your post, but, to the extent there is disagreement with the above, I think it would be good if organisations explained more their prioritisation. For example, it is quite unclear how much of a role the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions played in Open Philanthropy's planned allocation to GiveWell’s recommendations for the next few years[1].

Going back to more within the scope of your post, have you considered a similar call related to the economics of digital (or LLM's) welfare[2]?

  1. ^

    I asked for further details, but got not reply. Open Philanthropy only discusses prioritisation related to animals in the following point:

    we [Open Philanthropy] are a much larger portion of the funding available in many other areas where we work. Relative to the size of the opportunity space in farm animal welfare (to name one example), the amount of funding from other donors is quite low, and some of our highest-ROI opportunities would often go unfunded without our support.

  2. ^

    I have no familiarity with the literature, but I noted economic considerations are not discussed in Moral Consideration for AI Systems by 2030, although I assume they are outside scope.

Just in case you haven't seen it yet, here is a popular post agreeing with you, published this week.  And the response from OpenPhil. 

Thanks for letting me know, tobytrem!