Animal welfare
Animal welfare
Reducing suffering experienced by farmed animals and wild animals

Quick takes

46
15d
7
The meat-eater problem is under-discussed. I've spent more than 500 hours consuming EA content and I had never encountered the meat-eater problem until today. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/topics/meat-eater-problem (I had sometimes thought about the problem, but I didn't even know it had a name)
27
9d
12
Im intrigued where people stand on the threshold where farmed animal lives might become net positive? I'm going to share a few scenarios i'm very unsure about and id love to hear thoughts or be pointed towards research on this. 1. Animals kept in homesteads in rural Uganda where I live. Often they stay inside with the family at night, then are let out during the day to roam free along the farm or community. The animals seem pretty darn happy most of the time for what it's worth, playing and galavanting around. Downsides here include poor veterinary care so sometimes parasites and sickness are pretty bad and often pretty rough transport and slaughter methods (my intuition net positive). 2. Grass fed sheep in New Zealand, my birth country. They get good medical care, are well fed on grass and usually have large roaming areas (intuition net positive) 3. Grass fed dairy cows in New Zealand. They roam fairly freely and will have very good vet care, but have they calves taken away at birth, have constantly uncomfortably swollen udders and are milked at least twice daily. (Intuition very unsure) 4. Free range pigs. Similar to the above except often space is smaller but they do get little houses. Pigs are far more intelligent than cows or sheep and might have more intellectual needs not getting met. (Intuition uncertain) Obviously these kind of cases make up a small proportion of farmed animals worldwide, with the predominant situation - factory farmed animals likely having net negative lives. I know that animals having net positive lives far from justifies farming animals on it's own, but it seems important for my own decision making and for standing on solid ground while talking with others about animal suffering. Thanks for your input.
5
2d
4
I recently wrote a post on the EA forum about turning animal suffering to animal bliss using genetic enhancement. Titotal raised an thoughtful concern: "How do you check that your intervention is working? For example, suppose your original raccoons screech when you poke them, but the genetically engineered racoons don't. Is that because they are experiencing less pain, or have they merely evolved not to screech?" This is a very good point. I was recently considering how we could be sure to not just change the expressions of suffering and I believe that I have determined a means of doing so. In psychology, it is common to use factor analysis to study a latent variables--the variables that we cannot measure directly. It seems extremely reasonable to think that animal pain is real, but the trouble is measuring it. We could try to get at pain by getting a huge array of behaviors and measures that are associated with pain (heart rate, cortisol levels, facial expressions, vocalizations, etc.) and find a latent factor of suffering that accounts for some of these behaviors. To determine if an intervention is successful at changing the latent factor of suffering for the better, we could test for measurement invariance which is an important step in making a relevant comparison between two groups. This basically tests whether the nature of the factor loadings remains the same between groups. This would mean a reduction in all of the traits associated with suffering. This would also seem relevant for environmental interventions as well.  As an illustration: imagine that I measure wefare of a raccoon by the amount of screeching it does. A bad intervention would be taping the raccoons mouth shut. This would reduce screeching, but there is no good reason to think that would alleviate suffering. However, imagine I gave the raccoon a drug and it acted less stressed, screeched less, had less cortisol, and started acting much more friendly. This would be much better evidence of tru
102
5mo
3
The Belgian senate votes to add animal welfare to the constitution. It's been a journey. I work for GAIA, a Belgian animal advocacy group that for years has tried to get animal welfare added to the constitution. Today we were present as a supermajority of the senate came out in favor of our proposed constitutional amendment. The relevant section reads: It's a very good day for Belgian animals but I do want to note that: 1. This does not mean an effective shutdown of the meat industry, merely that all future pro-animal welfare laws and lawsuits will have an easier time.  And, 2. It still needs to pass the Chamber of Representatives. If there's interest I will make a full post about it if once it passes the Chamber. EDIT: Translated the linked article on our site into English.
30
3mo
2
I made a vegan vitamin supplement spreadsheet! It has vitamin ranges for many multivitamins available on amazon along with price/day estimations informed by this Vegan Vitamin Primer.  Inspired by reading this VOX article on Nutrition (and knowing that I should be taking vegan vitamin supplements for a while now): Just fyi, but the vitamin values in this spreadsheet ARE NOT informed by my own independent deep dive into all the potential vitamins I should be getting or the research behind it. I'm mostly relying on the expertise of this VOX promoted Ginny Kisch Messina, a vegan Registered Dietician with a Masters of Public Health. 
52
8mo
2
I've just written a blog post to summarise EA-relevant UK political news from the last ~six weeks. The post is here: AI summit, semiconductor trade policy, and a green light for alternative proteins (substack.com) I'm planning to circulate this around some EAs, but also some people working in the Civil Service, political consulting and journalism. Many might already be familiar with the stories. But I think this might be useful if I can (a) provide insightful UK political context for EAs, or (b) provide an EA perspective to curious adjacents. I'll probably continue this if I think either (a) or (b) is paying off. (I work at Rethink Priorities, but this is entirely in my personal capacity).
40
6mo
4
Longtermist shower thought: what if we had a campaign to install Far-UVC in poultry farms? Seems like it could: 1. Reduce a bunch of diseases in the birds, which is good for: a. the birds’ welfare; b. the workers’ welfare; c. Therefore maybe the farmers’ bottom line?; d. Preventing/suppressing human pandemics (eg avian flu) 2. Would hopefully drive down the cost curve of Far-UVC 3. May also generate safety data in chickens, which could be helpful for derisking it for humans Insofar as one of the main obstacles is humans' concerns for health effects, this would at least only raise these for a small group of workers.
8
1mo
2
Are there any experiments offering sedatives to farmed or injured animals? A friend mentioned to me experiments documented in Compassion, by the Pound in which farmed chickens (I think broilers?) prefer food with pain killers to food without pain killers. I thought this was super interesting as it provides more direct evidence about the subjective pain experienced by chickens than merely behavioural experiments, via a a plausible biological mechanism for detecting pain. This seems useful for identifying animals that experience pain. Identifying some animals that experience pain seems useful. Ideally we would be able to measure pain in a way that lets us compare the effects of potentially welfare-improving interventions. It might be particularly useful to identify animals whose pain is so bad they'd rather be unconscious, suggesting their lives (at least in some moments) are worse than non-existence. I wonder if similar experiments with sedatives could provide information about whether animals prefer to be conscious or not. For example, if injured chickens consistently chose to be sedated, this would provide moderate evidence that their lives are worse than non-existence. (Conversely, failure to prefer sedatives to normal food or pain killers seems weaker evidence against this, but still informative.)
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