Bella_Forristal

Hello, my name's Bella Forristal. I'm a current undergraduate at Oxford, interested in animal advocacy, moral circle expansion, and normative ethics. I'm involved in community building with EA Oxford, and have previously interned at Charity Entrepreneurship. Please feel free to email me to connect!

Comments

Killing the ants

Your suspicions are correct; there's actually some good evidence to suggest that TNR is not effective at reducing feral cat population. Here's a very short summary which links to pages with more detail, if you're interested: https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/trap-neuter-release/

A brief explanation of the Myanmar coup

Could you define 'selectorate' and 'ejectorate'? The paragraph in which these terms are used is quite difficult to read, and I do not know what they refer to. Thanks!

Important Between-Cause Considerations: things every EA should know about

Thanks for this post; really interesting and seems like it could be really important.

You wrote:

"I think this classification allows for there to be potentially astronomical differences in value between the cause areas. There probably won’t be as astronomical differences in value within these cause areas (e.g. between different ways to improve near-term human welfare)."

While I share this intuition (i.e. I can think of some informal reasons why I think this would be correct), I'm not sure it's an obvious enough claim to not need argumentation. Also, I agree with Michael that the importance of IBCs depends in part on this claim.

For that reason, I'd be really interested to see you make explicit your reasoning for saying this, if you can.

Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions

Just wanted to say that this looks extremely cool, and is something I will definitely be sharing with people in my life! (Especially those who insist on still eating shrimp and almost no other animal products...)

AMA: Owen Cotton-Barratt, RSP Director

Thanks for this interesting discussion; for others who read this and were interested, I thought I'd link some previous EA discussions on this topic in case it's helpful :)

One brief addition: I think the kind of conscientious omnivorism you describe ('I do try to only consume animals I think have had reasonable welfare levels') might have similar opportunity costs to veg*ism, and there's some not very conclusive psychological literature to suggest that, since it is a finer grained rule than 'eat no animals', it might even be harder to follow. 

Obviously, this depends very much on what we mean by opportunity cost, and it also depends on how one goes about only trying to eat happy animals. I'm not sure what the best answer to either of those questions is.

The scale of direct human impact on invertebrates

If there was ever something to read to prove that scope insensitivity exists, this would be it! Unreflectively, I feel about as bad about all of these industries, even though there are many orders of magnitude between the smallest and largest.  

Thanks for this very valuable post!

Antibiotic resistance: Should animal advocates intervene?

Arguments like these are some of the reasons why I am less optimistic about total bans, rather than bans on subtherapeutic and growth promotion use of antibiotics. If there aren't good treatment alternatives available, then banning antibiotics outright would probably sometimes force producers to leave disease untreated, which seems like it would be really bad for animal welfare. I don't know how often there are no good treatment alternatives, but I'd guess it's some decent proportion of disease.

However, I do think the argument is a bit disingenuous. I can't find the transcript of that speech on Google so I don't know when it was made, but if it was before March 2019, Sanderson Farms was at that time using antibiotics not just to treat disease, but also to promote the growth of their chickens and prophylactically to prevent disease. Undoubtedly, using antibiotics in these ways has some non-negligable benefits to the chickens' welfare and to their environmental impact (although I don't know anything about the environmental impact of producing antibiotics!). But forgoing prophylactic and growth promoting antibiotic use would not force them to abandon their 'obligation to care for the animals under [their] care'. Also, it doesn't seem like people oppose using prescribed and targeted antibiotics, which is what the speaker was defending here. Both Tyson and Perdue sell antibiotics with the label 'No Antibiotics Ever', but Perdue reassures us in their FAQ:

"Of course, no matter how hard we try, some chickens will “catch something,” and we’ll never withhold appropriate treatment. Those chickens would not be labeled “no-antibiotics ever” and would be sold through different channels."

I'm therefore somewhat confident that even when producers do sell meat which is labelled 'No Antibiotics Ever' they still treat sick animals where antibiotics are the best treatment option. There is a strong economic incentive for them to do so, since mortality, slower growth rates, and worse feed conversion ratios are expensive. 

But of course, if any country were to totally ban antibiotics, they wouldn't be able to do this (I suppose it's possible they could export the animals needing treatment internationally, but this seems pretty unlikely). 

So, for a total ban to be net positive in my opinion, I would have to see strong evidence that a) welfare reforms were widely adopted and b) welfare reforms were effective at preventing disease, or c) antibiotic substitutes were equally effective at treating and/or preventing disease. I think this is a pretty high bar which isn't very likely to be met, so I would only be in favour of a ban on subtherapeutic/prophylactic and growth promoting use. 

Urgency vs. Patience - a Toy Model

I think that ignoring all the value in futures where we don't safely reach technological maturity kind of stacks the deck against GPR, which I intuitively think is better than your model suggests. This seems especially the case if we have a suffering-focused ethics (I mean by this: there is an asymmetry between suffering and happiness, such that decreasing suffering by x is better than increasing happiness by x). 

Including 'bad futures' would, I suspect, affect how easy you think it is to increase the value of the future by 1/4 (or equivalent). This is because there are lots of different ways the future could be really bad, with loads and loads of moral patients who suffer a lot, and avoiding one of these sources of suffering feels to me like it's more tractable than making the 'good future' even better (especially by some large fraction like 1/4). It would be even easier to improve the value of these 'bad futures' if we have a suffering-focused ethics rather than a symmetrical view of ethics. 

(Note: I wrote this comment with one meaning of 'technological maturity' in mind, but now I'm actually not sure if that was what you meant by it, so maybe the answer is you would be including the kind of futures I mean. In that case, we probably differ on how easy we think it would be to affect these futures.)

Antibiotic resistance: Should animal advocates intervene?

Thanks for your question!

I didn’t go as far as doing a cost-effectiveness analysis on this; I think that there are a lot of uncertainties that would make that quite difficult, but it'd definitely be a good next step for this topic.

My guess is that if we purely consider impact on animals then it might come out quite a bit less cost-effective than other interventions, but that if we account for public health benefits as well it might turn out to be comparable in terms of cost-effectiveness.

I think the two most important variables that cost-effectiveness would be sensitive to are whether/what kind of welfare adaptations farmers would make, and how effective antibiotic substitutes are. If we’re including impacts on humans then it would also be very sensitive to what proportion of the antibiotic resistance burden comes from antibiotic use on farmed animals!

My Meta-Ethics and Possible Implications for EA

Thanks for this. I think that we should probably be investigating metaethics much more than it generally seems to be investigated (based on my view that conclusions in metaethics seem like they could be hugely important, mitigated by the fact that conclusions seem very hard to come by). 

I'm not sure I fully understand the claim about population ethics. Is it that population ethics necessarily speculates about things outside of our experience, therefore it's harder to make correct judgements? Or is it a stronger conclusion than that (perhaps, we can't make any judgements at all?). Do you think we might be more likely than random to be right about population axiology, or do we have no guidance at all?

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