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Hi saulius - thanks for those thoughts (and for your previous work on this issue).

Re pet stores, that could also be an impactful way to go, although a few considerations suggest to me it might not be as impactful. Many of the reptile stores that sell large amounts of mice seem to be small local businesses, not large companies with brands they'd want to protect. There are some international pet companies like PetCo that sell rodents, but I don't think their volume is that big. Also, many of the smaller pet stores specialize in reptiles, so perhaps people who shop at those stores would have a sense of what's going on and not be so upset by it, whereas people that go to zoos probably don't think at all about how the animals are fed. I agree with your point about auditing, I think there's still more work to do in figuring out exactly what change you'd ask for.

It's definitely possible that lots of rodents are fed to other types of animals, particularly birds of prey, although it's not something that came up much in our research. The UK report at the very end talks about this a lot, which I found somewhat surprising. I don't have a good sense of how much this might change our estimates.

The point about average age is something we indeed thought about a lot and asked a few industry people about this. For example, rodent imports are reported by weight, so we tried to estimate the average size of the rodents to figure out how many rodents were being imported. We ended up estimating that the average mouse was a "fuzzy" or "small" which would make them 5-21 days old. For rats it was "pups" and "weaned" which would make them 14-28 days old. I think these were just gut estimates though, so could be wrong.

I appreciate the kind words, although to avoid taking too much credit I should say that this research was conducted under the umbrella of an existing organization, although we elected to not publish under the name of that organization for various reasons :)

Thanks for your work trying this out, and for this informative writeup!

One thing you might consider for next time on the outreach side is the notion of "leading with value." I think you're right that fish farmers will get lots of sales-y outreach all the time, so even if you're framing yourself as "farmer friendly," you probably need some way to grab their attention or stand out. 

One way to do this is to first find a way to provide some sort of value to them before you've officially connected. What this looks like will differ based on the audience, but it seems like you developed strong expertise over the course of your research that I think opens up some options, even for an under-resourced group. For example:

  • You could develop some super clear and easy to read resources for farmers and put them up on your website. For example, you could write up a "market snapshot" that discusses all of the ESS products on the market, and their relative merits. Or you could map out which seafood companies are using which machines, so that companies can easily compare what they're doing to their competitors. Then, when you do outreach, you can start with those resources and say "I wanted to make sure you saw this. Also, we'd love to have a conversation to understand what other information we could provide that would be useful." 
  • It's often surprisingly easy to get articles publishes in trade press for smaller industries like aquaculture. For example, you could closely track what's happening with ESS around the world, and then when there's e.g. a development in Asia or North America you can pitch that story to trade journalists in Europe along with a quote from you. Or you could pitch an oped directly for trade press that outlines the basic case for using ESS. Then, when you reach out to producers you can lead with a link to the article as a demonstration of your expertise.

Generally I think business will be unlikely to engage with a new entity unless they have a strong sense there will be some value for them in it. If you can find some way to provide even a little bit of value to them immediately, then I think they would be more likely to engage. Just a thought!

Are there any notable differences in your ability to have impact in the different areas you conduct research? E.g. one area where important novel insights are easier / harder, or one area where relevant research is more easily translated into practice

Have you considered doing an Animal Charity Evaluators review? I personally think Rethink puts out some of the most important animal-related research out there! 

Thanks Kevin! You pose a great question, and I'm not sure about the answer. I'm hoping to learn more as I get further along with this. A few hypotheses come to mind:

  • The large meat companies are the most powerful voices in the sector, and they have interest across all types of animal products. In particular, they have a lot of influence in the NCBA, which is the main group that one might think would be interested in these arguments. 
  • Cultural factors that define the space of possible things that one could do to help ranchers. Similar to why I haven't really heard about this strategy from the animal welfare side of things, despite it being (as you say) pretty straightfoward.

It seems like there's recently been a noticeable uptick in the quality and quantity of animal-related posts by group like Rethink Priorities, Animal Ask, and many others. This puts the movement in a much better place than just a few years ago where it was very hard to know how to effectively help animals.

Just wanted to say this is awesome, and keep up the good work!


Thanks for doing this important work! I think this is one of the most important findings in animal advocacy research, so understanding it deeply and accurately is critical.

My operating model of the underlying psychology is that "slaughterhouse", "factory farm" and "animal farming"  can suggest to varying degrees the idea of "place where animals are treated poorly." People  generally don't want animals to be treated poorly, so they express support for banning such places. Then, if it's made clear that, in fact, slaughterhouses are just where animals are killed for meat, this support goes away.

If we think of people as being pro-animal welfare, but also pro-meat, all the data is explainable. As activist, it can be easy to go from "animals are mistreated on farms" to "we shouldn't eat them," but for most people I think the more natural response is "The people mistreating them should stop."

Just wanted to throw this out there, since I think all this data is still consistent with a surprisingly pro-welfare stance of a lot of people :)