# Summary

• I calculated the welfare ranges per calorie consumption for a few species.
• They vary a lot. The values for bees and pigs are 4.88 k and 0.473 times as high as that for humans.
• They are higher for non-human animals:
• 5 of the 6 species I analysed have values higher than that of humans.
• The lower the calorie consumption, the higher the median welfare range per calorie consumption.

# Methods

I calculated the welfare ranges per calorie consumption from the ratio between:

• Rethink Priorities’ 5th percentile, median, and 95th percentile welfare ranges.
• Calorie consumption per day for mature individuals. Note there is variation within the same species.

My calculations are here.

# Results

The results are below by descending median welfare range per calorie consumption.

# Discussion

The median welfare ranges per calorie consumption vary a lot. The values for bees and pigs are 4.88 k and 0.473 times as high as that for humans[8].

In addition, the values are higher for non-human animals. 5 of the 6 species I analysed have values higher than that of humans. Moreover, the lower the calorie consumption, the higher the median welfare range per calorie consumption. These suggest welfare can be created more efficiently via small non-human animals. However, one should also account for:

• The energy needed besides that in food.
• The level of welfare as a fraction of the median welfare range.

I would still guess that it is possible to achieve higher total welfare with mostly small non-human animals, in agreement with animal welfare arguably being dominated by that of arthropods and nematodes. In the future, one might be able to produce welfare much more efficiently via non-biological beings.

1. ^

According to Mark Patterson, “in summer a full strength Honey Bee hive contains around 50-60,000 workers and needs to consume around 1800 calories per day”. So I used 0.0327 kcal/d (= 1.8/((50 + 60)/2)).

2. ^

A shrimp of 40 g is fed 0.84 g/d (= 0.021*40), and shrimp feed has 0.989 kcal/g (= 84/(3*28.3)). So I used 0.831 kcal/d (= 0.84*0.989).

3. ^

Adult crayfish weigh 24.8 g (= (23.29 + 26.40)/2), and therefore, “at a daily feeding rate of 5 % of body weight”, eat 1.24 g/d (= 24.8*0.05). The feed contains 3.93 kcal/g (= 16.43/4.184). So I used 4.88 kcal/d (= 1.24*3.93).

4. ^

“After two years at sea”, adult salmon have “8 to 12 pounds”, so it grows 6.21 g/d (= (8 + 12)/2*454/(2*365.25)). In addition, “Atlantic salmon needs 1.15 kg feed to gain 1 kg body weight”, which translates into 7.15 g/d (= 6.21*1.15) of feed, which contains 4.88 kcal/g (= (0.356 + 0.110)*4 + 0.335*9). So I used 34.9 kcal/d (= 7.15*4.88).

5. ^

According to Ken Macklin and Joe Hess, “a hen may consume up to 340 calories of metabolizable energy per day during winter to keep warm. But in summer, she may consume only 260 calories of metabolizable energy per day”. So I used 300 kcal/d (= (260 + 340)/2).

6. ^

According to the National Health Service, “the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men”. So I used 2.25 k kcal/d (= (2 k + 2.5 k)/2).

7. ^

Mean between the lower and upper bounds of 2.4 k and 2.5 k for breeder pigs.

8. ^

Fun fact, I was stung by a bee/wasp just today.

# Reactions

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This is a really interesting project and way of approaching the topic!

One thing to note: welfare ranges don’t factor in the lifespans of animals, so we’d also need to factor in the typical time a farmed animal lives and then weight by welfare range to get a moral weight-adjusted sense of per calorie animal impacts.

But again, approaching this from a per calorie perspective is really interesting!

I am glad you found it interesting, Laura!

To clarify, my post is about the calories consumed by the animals, not about the animal calories consumed by humans. However, I agree running a similar analysis for the calories provided per animal, and then factoring in their lifespan (and median welfare range, and ideally quality of life) would be quite interesting too! Just in case you are not aware, Brian Tomasik has a piece about "equivalent days of suffering caused per kg demanded". There is a website which weights days of suffering by various functions of the number of neurons, and also accounted for climate change, but I do not remember the name (Michael St. Jules should know). Maybe they could add an option to weight by Rethink's median welfare ranges.

I was thinking about welfare ranges per calories consumed by the animals with the goal of getting a sense of what type of beings would fill the world in order to increase welfare. For a given amount of energy, and welfare as a fraction of the welfare range, it looks like feeding bees produces much more welfare than feeding humans. Nevertheless, I do not think one should start tilling the universe with bees just yet! This is only one of many factors to consider.

Oh I see! Thanks for the clarification!

There is a website which weights days of suffering by various functions of the number of neurons, and also accounted for climate change, but I do not remember the name (Michael St. Jules should know).

I asked Michael, and the website is Food impacts, which is now using Rethink's median welfare range estimates instead of functions of the number of neurons. In the methodology page, other analyses of welfare impacts per calorie are mentioned:

Rankings based on welfare have been developed previously by various individuals and groups such as Peter Hurford, Brian Tomasik, Charity Entrepreneurship and Dominik Peters. This tool is a minor extension of the work of Dominik Peters that also considers emissions in addition to welfare. I want to thank Dominik for kindly providing the data and methodology that he used.

I think Julian Galed also did one many years ago, looking into days of animal living time per calorie.

FYI, I also have a short draft related to the badness of eating farmed animals as a fraction of the human goodness supported by their calories. Your comments are welcome, but no worries if you have other priorities now. I trust your decision-making! Update on July 22: published!

What is a welfare range?

Hi David,

Thanks for asking! A welfare range is the difference between the best and worst possible states a being can experience.

The error bars on the Rethink Priorities' welfare ranges are huge. They tell us very little, and making calculations based on them will tell you very little.

I think without some narrower error bars to back you up, making a post suggesting "welfare can be created more efficiently via small non-human animals" is probably net negative, because it has the negative impact of contributing to the EA community looking crazy without the positive impact of a well-supported argument.

Hi Henry! While the 90% confidence intervals for the RP welfare ranges are indeed wide, this is because they’re coming from a mixture of several theories/models of welfare. The uncertainty within a given theory/model of welfare is much lower, and you might have more or less credence in any individual model.

Additionally, if we exclude the neuron count model, the welfare ranges from the mixture of all the other models have narrower distributions.

Here’s a document that explains the different theories/models used: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xUvMKRkEOJQcc6V7VJqcLLGAJ2SsdZno0jTIUb61D8k/edit

Hi Henry,

To be honest, that is a quite funny meme!

The error bars on the Rethink Priorities' welfare ranges are huge. They tell us very little, and making calculations based on them will tell you very little.

I have now added the 5th and 95th percentiles. Thanks for the nudge!

I think without some narrower error bars to back you up, making a post suggesting "welfare can be created more efficiently via small non-human animals" is probably net negative, because it has the negative impact of contributing to the EA community looking crazy without the positive impact of a well-supported argument.

I think the post is still beneficial, because I am not endorsing taking any specific actions to create welfare via small non-human animals. However, I think you have a good point, and I agree the post could plausibly be harmful (although my best guess is that it is beneficial!). I would only disagree with views strongly asserting that the post is harmful.