Daniela Waldhorn

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Rethink Priorities is incubating a new organization–temporarily called the Insect Welfare Project–and we are looking for an Executive Director! This person will initially join us at Rethink Priorities while working to build the project into a successful independent organization.

This is a pivotal decade for the insect farming industry: consumer attitudes are in flux, regulations are being considered and written for the first time, and new factories are being designed and built. Now is the best time we might ever have to influence this sector and help animals farmed and harmed in the trillions.

If you’re interested in this opportunity, please apply by July 17, 2022. Otherwise, we greatly appreciate your help in sharing this open position with anyone in your network you think would be a good fit. Thanks!

Hi Ula! I agree with you. I myself stopped working directly as an animal advocate after being mobbed, harassed, and listening to regular discriminatory comments for being a woman, an immigrant, and because of my origin. I've seen so many activists going through the same.

In my case, the continued support of other advocates, especially of the Encompass community (www.encompassmovement.org), has been invaluable. I highly recommend it.

Second, I also believe that it's time to stop normalizing activists' mistreatment and discriminatory practices, especially in organizations where there is evidence that these issues are structural. In this regard, it's very disappointing that organizations with ongoing and severe management and leadership problems continue to receive large grants or support from the EA community.

Third, I think organizations should develop active policies to prevent these situations from happening in the very first place. We should not have more advocates burning out or leaving the movement to take this issue seriously.

I'm glad that you're also concerned about this problem, and I'd be happy to talk about this further with you :). I'm also open to discussing it with Lewis– if he considers it appropriate.

Thanks for pointing this out, Ula. I'm aware that several activists in other organizations have also suffered similar situations, along with derogatory comments because of their origin and gender.

Hey Lewis!

  1. What kind of work would you like to see done for invertebrates?
  2. What kind of work would you like to see done for animals living in the wild?
  3. Are there key research questions that you think would contribute to advance these two areas' tractability?


Hi Tobias!

Thanks for commenting. That's a very interesting question. Probably, after the pandemic, people may be more concerned about safer and healthier food, and more open to messages about public costs and other problems associated with animal farming. But for now, this is just a hypothesis that should be empirically tested, as Peter says.

However, I disagree with the idea that coronavirus doesn't have anything to do with animal farming. There is extensive evidence about how factory farms provide an ideal breeding ground for highly pathogenic viruses, worsen by the abusive use of antibiotics. Researchers Cynthia Schuck and Wladimir Alonso have recently published a report about this issue available here.

Thanks for your comment, adamShimi! Do you have a sense of the profile of people that find eating snails disgusting? I wonder if it's a generational issue, for example. In Spain, eating snails now seems to be much more prevalent among older generations than among the youngest population.

Hey Julia! I partially address that point in the section that Linch indicated. As you say, whether snails have a capacity for valenced experience is still uncertain. When compared to bivalves, snails have more diverse and specialized sensory organs. As snails are motile and active foragers, they display a wider range of behaviors, and that is reflected in greater neural complexity. For instance, snails show nociceptive responses, like avoidance behavior in response to high temperatures (not surprisingly, several sources that provide instructions for cooking snails mention the attempts of snails to escape boiling water). However, relatively little is known about the anatomical organization and actual functions of most neurons in their ganglionic regions.
I must admit that I haven't investigated any bivalves in detail. Still, for what I know, the case for snail sentience is much better than the evidence for bivalve sentience.


Although the possession of nociceptors is perhaps some evidence of a capacity to feel pain, it is certainly not by itself "a good indicator" of that capacity. If nociceptors are not connected to centralized information-processing structures, these neurons could trigger reflexive reactions (i.e., similar to spinally mediated responses in mammals), but that would not imply that the nociceptive input is consciously perceived (in humans, see Becker et al., 2012; Dubin & Patapoutian, 2010). If we understand consciousness as suitably integrated information (Oizumi et al., 2014), the projections of nociceptors to integrative information-processing structures is a crucial aspect to examine when judging the probability that a nonhuman individual is conscious.

In the case of C. elegans, unlike other invertebrates, they do not seem to have a specific neural region for the processing of spatial information and organization of movement. In other words, movement and stimuli discrimination do not appear to be integrated in a manner sufficiently similar to the vertebrate midbrain (see Altun & Hall, 2011; Kato et al., 2015).

However, it should be noted that some noxious stimuli reactions have been identified in C. elegans, specifically, physiological responses to nociception and moving away from a noxious stimulus. However, heat-evoked escape responses in these animals, for example, are considered highly stereotypical, and a reflexive reaction (Leung et al., 2016).

Finally, when I used the term "simple" [nociceptive behaviors] here I specifically meant: (i) nociceptive responses can be identified, but they do not necessarily account for noxious stimulus intensity and direction, (ii) absence or insufficient indicators of 'long-term' learning and memory, and (iii) absence or insufficient indicators of motivational tradeoffs. Given our findings (summarized here), C. elegans seem to mostly display simple nociceptive responses.

I applied to RP when I decided to make an important change in my career. If RP hadn't hired me, I'd have kept trying it at different EA organizations, maybe as an intern. Yet, I would likely have ended up working in a management position at a local NGO.

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