The results of the Dutch provincial elections
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_Dutch_provincial_elections] are in. The
Party for the Animals [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_for_the_Animals] (the
party that banned factory farming, but people ignored it
has increased its number of seats in the senate from 3 to 4 (out of 75).
Before you start cheering I should mention that the Farmer–Citizen Movement
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmer%E2%80%93Citizen_Movement] (who are very
conservative when it comes to animal rights) have burst onto the scene with 16
seats (making them the largest party).
With farming and livestock becoming a hot button issue in the Netherlands
there's a chance that animal rights will now become a polarizing issue, with a
lot of people who previously didn't think about it becoming explicitly for or
against expanding animal rights. While this would increase the amount of
vegetarians and vegans, it remains to be seen if this will turn out positive for
animal welfare overall.
WHY IT'S DIFFICULT TO FIND COST-EFFECTIVE WILD ANIMAL WELFARE INTERVENTIONS WE
COULD DO NOW
Most Wild Animal Welfare (WAW) researchers I talked to thought that we are
unlikely to find WAW interventions that would be directly competitive with
farmed animal welfare interventions in terms of direct short-term
cost-effectiveness. After spending some months trying to find such interventions
myself, I tentatively agree. In this text, I will try to explain why.
EXPERIENCE FROM THE PROJECT
I spent some months trying to find a WAW intervention that is:
* tractable (can in principle be funded >$100K/yr in the next two years even if
we choose not to do so),
* non-controversial (>40% support and <30% oppose in a US poll), and
* directly cost-effective (10%+ as cost-effective in expectation as chicken
The first step in the process was listing all potential interventions. Even
though many people contributed to it, I found this list to be underwhelming
(unfortunately, I don’t think I can share the list without asking for permission
from everyone who contributed to it). I feel that coming up with plausible
interventions for farmed animals is much easier. And in fact, lists of farmed
animal welfare ideas I've seen from Charity Entrepreneurship did seem much more
promising. And I found it easy to think of more farmed animal charity ideas for
Charity Entrepreneurship. But despite all my research, none of the WAW ideas
seem promising enough to seriously consider.
Also, ideas in the WAW list seemed much more complex to research and gain
certainty on than most ideas for farmed animals would be. Consequently, the
impacts of WAW interventions also in general seemed to be much more uncertain.
This makes me less excited about WAW interventions because it increases the
effects of the optimizer’s curse.
This could be
Four podcasts on animal advocacy that I recommend:
* Freedom of Species (part of 3CR radio station)
Covers a wide range of topics relevant to animal advocacy, from protest
campaigns to wild animal suffering to VR. More of its episodes are on the
"protest campaigns" end which is less popular in EA, but I think it's good to
have an alternative perspective, if only for some diversification.
* Knowing Animals (hosted by Josh Milburn)
An academic-leaning podcast that focuses on Critical Animal Studies, which
IMO is like the academic equivalent of animal advocacy. Most guests are
academics in philosophy, humanities and social sciences. (and btw, one
episode discussed wild animal suffering, and I liked that episode quite a
* The Sentience Institute Podcast
EA-aligned. Covers topics ranging from alt proteins to animal-focused impact
investing to local animal advocacy groups to digital sentience.
* Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach Commentary (by Gary L. Francione)
A valuable perspective that's not commonly seen in EA. Recommended for
Off-topic: I also recommend the Nonlinear Library podcasts; they turn posts on
EA Forum and other adjacent forums (LW, AF) to audio. There're different
versions that form a series, including a version containing all-time top posts
of EA Forum. There's also a version containing the latest posts meeting a
not-very-high karma bar - I use that version to keep track of EA news, and it
saved me a lot of time.
Summary: This is a slightly steelmanned version of an argument for creating a
mass social movement as an effective intervention for animal advocacy (which I
think is neglected by EA animal advocacy), based on a talk by people at Animal
Think Tank. (Vote on my comment below to indicate if you think it's worth
expanding into a top-level post)
link [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsIZfwW2B_I] to the talk; alternative
version with clearer audio [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAAVeJ7-eNk], whose
contents - I guess - are similar, but I'm not sure. (This shortform doesn't
cover all content of the talk, and has likely misinterpreted something in the
talk; I recommend you to listen to the full talk)
Epistemic status: An attempt at steelmaning the arguments, though I didn't
really try hard - I just wrote down some arguments that occur to me.
The claim: Creating a mass social movement around animals, is more effective
than top-to-bottom interventions (e.g. policy) and other interventions like
vegan advocacy, at least on current margins.
* This is not to say policy work isn't important. Just that it comes into the
* My impression is that the track record of mass movements in creating change
is no less impressive than that of policy reforms, but EA seems to have
completely neglected the former.
A model of mass movements:
* Analogous to historic movements like the civil rights movement in the US, and
recent movements like Extinction Rebellion. Both examples underwent
exponential growth, which will be explained in the next bullet point.
* You start with a pool of people in the movement, and these people go out and
try to grab attention for the movement, using tactics like civil disobedience
and protests. Exposure to the ideas leads to more people thinking about them,
which in turn leads to more people joining. With the enlarged people pool,
you start the cycle again. This then leads to an exponentially growing pool.
* After t