Today, we are pleased to announce that Wild-Animal Suffering Research (WASR) and Utility Farm (UF) are merging together to form a new organization focused solely on wild animal welfare — Wild Animal Initiative.
Over the last year, we (Wild-Animal Suffering Research and Utility Farm) have become increasingly aware that our work overlaps significantly, and that our values are well aligned. Because of this, a merger seemed like the natural next step for our organizations. We drafted a merger plan, sought feedback from our teams and external members of the EAA community and our respective Boards. All were broadly supportive of our decision. This new organization will be better suited to coordinate research and academic outreach, and incorporates lessons that have been learned over the last two years at both WASR and UF.
Wild Animal Initiative will begin publishing research and writing at wildanimalinitiative.org. However, the Utility Farm and Wild-Animal Suffering Research sites will remain live and serve as an archive of the work previously completed by both organizations. If you’re interested in receiving updates on our progress, sign up for our mailing list.
Why Wild Animal Initiative?
Problem. Wild animals suffer. We don’t have solutions to this suffering, and few people take wild animal welfare to be a critical cause area.
Solution. To improve wild animal welfare, we need to build foundational knowledge of the problem, facilitate the search for solutions in academia, and advocate for promising strategies to improve the wellbeing of nonhuman animals in nature. This is the objective of Wild Animal Initiative.
Our priorities are to conduct research to understand the problem, to develop solutions that improve wild animal welfare, and to build capacity through academic outreach.
Understanding the problem
We will conduct multidisciplinary research in ecology, biology, and economics to better understand the cause area, evaluate research findings, identify interventions and examine the relevant considerations in developing viable interventions.
We will release a Research Agenda in early 2019 that lists our specific priorities.
We will continue work to research near-term interventions to improve wild animal welfare, such as advocacy for the adoption of humane insecticides, and publish research on the cost-effectiveness of these interventions.
Building an academic community
Both WASR and UF spent a significant amount of time on academic outreach in 2018. Our goal was to encourage: (a) the establishment of welfare biology as an academic field, and (b) foundational research projects in biology and ecology. In 2019, we will refocus on early career academics, and launch a new outreach program that funds these young academics to conduct the outreach themselves.
If you’re interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you! Right now, we are hiring for the following positions:
We also are hoping to continue growing our cohort of volunteer writers. Sign up today!
Support our work
Wild Animal Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and donations in the US are tax-deductible. Please support our work today to help us understand how to best help wild animals!
This initiative sounds really cool! You guys are seriously amazing to take up such a difficult task, and major kudos to you.
I've felt that wild animal suffering research agendas tend to focus more on research reports as opposed to lab research. Given that the fundamental goal is to raise the hedonic level of wild animals, my opinion is that research into modifying pain pathways + propagating those modifications is essential. The only person who is doing research in this area is Prof. Kevin Esvelt at MIT, who has written about wild animal suffering and is applying the above techniques to rodents.
Personally, I think it would be valuable to consult with Prof. Esvelt and focus substantially on lab research. I'd appreciate your perspective, if you think I'm missing something.
Thanks for this - we definitely agree that there needs to be more work in the field. However, I think it's unlikely that we are best positioned to do that work. This is the reason that academic field building is such a major part of our focus. Both WASR and UF tried this for the last year (UF has a write up on this here - https://www.utility.farm/words/academic-outreach. Neither had much success with this, both through offering funding for research directly and trying to shift values.
We are taking a new approach to this now, working with early career academics who are less likely to have their reputation staked on certain approaches, etc. Hopefully, this will be a lot more fruitful for generating novel and relevant lab and field research. Also, this research would likely be funded outside EA / animal advocacy, which adds additional value. Lab research is significantly more expensive than literature reviews / things within our capabilities. Since we don't have a strong sense of what the most important questions are to answer first, shifting those costs to external organizations reduces risk in some ways for us, while allowing us to still help shape the direction of the research to some extent.
"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?
To clarify one thing - when we refer to academic outreach, we mean outreach to academics in the hard sciences, specifically working on building welfare biology as an academic field. UF and WASR both had at least one staff dedicated to this throughout the last year. UF has a writeup on their efforts here - https://www.utility.farm/words/academic-outreach, and WASR's approach included doing a request for grant proposals etc. for academics.
I don't think there will be significant overlap - we are trying a new approach targeting early career academics, and offering them funding to work on the outreach themselves instead of us. From what I understand of AE's program this is pretty different. We are also primarily operating in the US, while AE has less of a presence here, and seems to me to have generally worked with European academics. Regardless, we plan on working to coordinate with them to the greatest extent possible to limit overlap.