Bella

Head of marketing @ 80,000 Hours
1904 karmaJoined Working (0-5 years)Bethnal Green, London, UK

Bio

Hello, my name's Bella Forristal. I work at 80,000 Hours, as the head of marketing. 

I'm interested in animal advocacy, moral circle expansion, and normative ethics. 

Previously, I worked in community building with the Global Challenges Project and EA Oxford, and have interned at Charity Entrepreneurship. 

Please feel free to email me to connect at bellaforristal@gmail.com, or leave anonymous feedback at https://www.admonymous.co/bellaforristal :)

Comments
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Bella
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It can be difficult to have conversations about socialism without it becoming politically and emotionally charged.

Still, when I have been able to, my experience is that EAs generally share a great deal of the core beliefs that socialists do about what an ideally organised society looks like, and what capitalism gets wrong.

The question is then 'should (some) EAs advocate for socialism?' I think I'm rather more uncertain than you are on that front. Some broad intuitions driving my pessimism:

  • Many dedicated and talented people have tried very hard to advocate for socialism for decades, and I think they haven't made as much progress as they might (or indeed, as EAs have on their issues of choice in much less time) -> i.e. I think tractability is low
  • I'm pessmistic about moral suasion in general
  • Revolution is, to put it lightly, a fraught concept
  • I'm often confused about what precisely people mean when they argue against "individualistic" decision making (this isn't to say they're wrong — just that I've not yet found the arguments convincing)
Answer by Bella2
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I made a lot of my early friends in EA through my local group. I'm guessing you don't have one since you said you're not in an EA hub (?) but there's always EA Anywhere.

You could also organise an online discussion group yourself — a couple of my closest friends today were people I met because I started an online discussion group on animal welfare during the pandemic. We would discuss an article or paper on animal advocacy for like an hour in the evening, and then some people would stay and chat all evening. It was really nice :)

Actually, I meant that as a matter of practical ethics, we may be better off in our attempts to do good if we use what you call 'mental hacks.'

For example, utilitarians have near-universally acknowledged that if we think in terms of heuristics and rules of thumb, we'll more reliably maximise utility than by trying to use the decision criterion, 'do what maximises utility.' See e.g. this page or any of the literature on two-level utilitarianism.

I didn't read your post in detail, but I think these kinds of discussions often miss considerations around fine-grained vs coarse decision criteria.

  • It's really hard to try to minimise animal deaths in whatever you do
  • It's also really hard to stick by 'I try to drive as little as possible, especially when it's raining, except in emergencies where considering whether to drive would cost precious time and worsen the outcome, or when, by refusing to drive, I would cause reputational harm to utilitarians by seeming too weird, or...'
  • It's (comparatively) really easy to stick by the rule 'I don't eat animal products.'

Sure, there are edge cases/confusing things e.g. cross-contamination, but there's a whole community of vegans who have thought about those cases, and have generally converged on some sensible-ish ways to handle them.

I think, in our moral decision-making, we should usually strive to find not-always-optimal-but-decent, relatively-easy-to-follow criteria, like:

  • Be kind
  • Be honest
  • Don't eat animal products
  • Donate ~10%

I think the term I've heard (from non-EAs) is 'freegan' (they'll eat it if it didn't cause more animal products to be purchased!)

Not opining on the overall question, but FWIW I'm not sure on-farm slaughter is better. Reason being — I think that large slaughterhouses have "smoother" processes and (per animal killed) are less likely to end up with e.g. no stunning, stunning but resuscitation before being killed, etc.

But this does have to be weighed against the stress of transport, and I bet in a lot of cases it'd have been better to have on-farm slaughter given the length & conditions of transport.

Hey Sam — thanks for this really helpful comment. I think I will do this & do so at any future places I live with wool carpets.

Answer by Bella2
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I hadn't heard of cornucopia.org before.

I quickly skimmed three of their highest-scoring egg producers. The main things that worried me:

  • "Spent hens sold live." What does that mean? I worry about transport conditions, and about hens being sold to inexperienced, "backyard", or small-scale operations that won't ensure a quick death or stunning before slaughter.
  • No mention of providing veterinary care, or euthanasia for very sick hens
  • Large flock sizes (hundreds)

[Disclaimer: I'm not an animal welfare or hen care expert!!]

This summary was helpful — I've tried a couple times to engage with the original paper but found it hard, whereas this was very readable & I now think I understand the main points at a basic level :)

(& let's not forget the fetal calves who are still gestating when their mothers go to slaughter. They're killed slowly, if they ever get purposefully slaughtered at all rather than just left to asphyxiate. Obviously, it's unclear whether they're conscious, but I've read accounts of them moving, opening eyes, trying to breathe, etc.).

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