alene

Founder, Legal Impact for Chickens

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Potentially high-impact job: Colorado Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Protection Manager

Thank you for your correction Aaron! I removed “As you probably know” from my comment about the Colorado governor.

Here’s what I know about Gov. Polis: -He is very nice. -He is committed to advancing animal welfare in Colorado. -As Charles points out, a politician wanting to help farmed animals—rather than just wanting to help industries use farmed animals—is almost unheard of in US politics. So Gov. Polis is a huge deal. -And yes, animal rights is the #1 priority for Colorado’s Second Gentleman. They are a power couple.

When to get off the train to crazy town?

Thank you so much Saulius! I never heard of prioritarianism. That is amazing! Thanks for telling me!!

I’m not the best one to speak for the pure utilitarians in my life, but yes, I think it was what you said: Starting with one set of emotions (the utilitarian’s personal experience of preferring the feeling of pleasure over the feeling of suffering in his own life), and extrapolating based on logic to assume that pleasure is good no matter who feels it and that suffering is bad no matter who feels that.

When to get off the train to crazy town?

Oh wow, Saulius, it is so exciting to read this! You described exactly how I think, also. I, too, only follow utilitarianism as a way of making moral decisions when it comports with what my moral emotions tell me to do. And the reason I love utilitarianism is just that it matches my moral emotions about 90% of the time. The main time I get off the utilitarian train is when I consider the utilitarian idea that it should be morally just as good to give one additional unit of joy to a being who is already happy, as it is to relieve an unhappy being from one unit of suffering. I’d rather relieve the suffering of the unhappy. So I relate to you not following the idea that utilitarianism led you to when it felt wrong to you emotionally. (That said, I actually love the idea of lots of blissed out minds filling the universe, so I guess our moral emotions tell us different things.)

When interacting with pure utilitarians, I’ve often felt embarrassed that I used moral emotions to guide my moral decisions. Thanks for making me feel more comfortable coming “out” about this emotional-semi-utilitarian way of thinking, Saulius!

Also, I love that you acknowledged that selfishness, of course, also influences our decision making. It does for me, too. And I think declaring that fact is the most responsible thing for us to do, for multiple reasons. It is more honest, and it helps others realize they can do good while still being human.

Notes on "Managing to Change the World"

Thank you so much for posting this! I love Alison Green. And she is a friend to animals.

Questions on "humane" farms

That makes sense. 

The reason I tried to break down the various meanings that the word 'humane' can have is exactly this: It is a confusing word, which is often used with the goal of deceiving. The whole point is to mean different things to different people.

Companies  use the concept of 'humane farming' to make consumers think of old-fashioned, pasture-based farms where animals roam freely. It is a marketing term. But in reality, most of the time that a company talks about its farm being 'humane,' at least in the US, the company is actually still talking about a factory farm. 

In the US (the only country I'm familiar with), the vast majority of meat comes from factory farms. Even "cage-free" or "free-range"  meat usually comes from a factory farm. 

Sometimes, 'humane farming' refers to factory farms that treat their animals a little better than the typical factory farm, and sometimes it just refers to a typical factory farm.

So I personally don't think 'humane farming' a very useful concept for us to try to talk about. In my experience, when animal advocates talk about 'humane farms,' they are doing it with the goal of being sarcastic or disparaging. Their goal is basically to criticize certain farms for deceiving consumers. Perhaps that is why the book used the term, but again, I didn't read it.

Those animal advocates who are focused on improving the treatment of animals in farms don't usually talk about "humane farming," in my experience. Instead, we would talk about 'less cruel' methods of production, or we would talk about specific practices that a farm has eliminated, like the use of battery cages or gestation crates.

As for non-factory-farms: I'm not actually sure what the best term for them is, since they come up so rarely in my work. Maybe you could call them "pasture-based farms,"  "old-fashioned farms," "small-scale farms"?

Questions on "humane" farms
Answer by aleneAug 02, 202112

Is the question (a) whether it is better to support "humane" farms than to support typical factory farms, or (b) whether it is better to support "humane" animal farms than to support the creation of plant-based or other animal-free foods?

Based on my experience working on animal welfare issues, I would say (a) it is generally better to support farms that have improved animal welfare rather than to support typical factory farms, but (b) it's still probably best to support creating plant-based or animal-free foods, since life on any factory farm still stinks.

A note of caution and clarification about terminology: The word "humane," and the concept of humane meat, eggs, or dairy, are very broad, and can have multiple meanings. That's why I tried to rephrase the question to talk about farms that treat their animals better than typical factory farms, versus farms that don't. I didn't read the book, and without context, I'm not sure what someone means by "humane." Here's why:

Sometimes food sold as "humane" is just normal factory farmed food. Sometimes, in other words, the term is a trick. In a practice that animal welfare advocates call "humane washing," a company sells products made at a typical factory farm, but markets the products in a way that tricks consumers into thinking the animals were treated better than they really were. An example of this would be if you were to see the word "cage-free" written on chicken meat. All chickens raised for meat are kept in cage-free factory farms. (The chickens who are forced to live in cages are the ones used to produce eggs, not the ones used to produce meat.) So talking about "cage-free" chicken meat would be deceptive humane washing. "Cage-free" chicken meat would be no better than any other chicken meat. Another example would probably be any package that literally says "humane" on it. My understanding is that a lot of companies think the word "humane" is so vague that they can get away with using it even when the animals in their factories aren't treated any better than animals in typical factory farms. For example, California used to advertise that its milk came from "happy" cows, even though there was no factual basis for that. 

But there are some factory farms that actually do treat their animals a little better than other factory farms. For instance, if you were to see an egg package that said "cage-free," the birds used to make those eggs were treated a little less cruelly than the birds used to make eggs that don't bare the "cage-free" label. Because instead of being kept in tiny battery cages so small that they can't even spread their wings, the birds used to make cage-free eggs can walk around a little bit. That said, they're still kept in crowded factory farms. This is just one of many examples of how companies sometimes actually tell the truth about treating their animals a little better than other companies. Other examples would be "crate-free pork," or a "global animal partnership certification."

If you are trying to figure out whether certain products are actually more humane than typical factory farmed products or not, I'd recommend looking up any claims used at this website: https://awionline.org/content/consumers-guide-food-labels-and-animal-welfare, or other similar websites put out by animal advocates. For instance, that website explains that food labeled "global animal partnership" step 4, 5, or 5+ is generally more humanely raised than other food. But it explains that food labeled "humanely raised" isn't.

So in my opinion, the question is too complicated to give a simple answer to. But if I had to summarize, I'd say (a) it is possible for factory farms to improve the lives of their animals, and that is a good thing, but (b) it would be better for animals if there were no more factory farms at all.

Racial Demographics at Longtermist Organizations

Thank you so much for this article! I especially liked the part about "Suggestions for  improving racial diversity." As someone who is founding a new organization, I am looking for ideas about what I can do on the front-end to set us up for success from a DEI perspective, and I love that you had a list of concrete bullets!

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