1877Coquitlam, BC, CanadaJoined Jun 2018


Dr. Neil Dullaghan is a senior researcher at Rethink Priorities. Rethink Priorities is a research organization that conducts critical research to inform policymakers and major foundations about how to best help people and nonhuman animals in both the present and the long-term future. Neil currently works in the farmed animal welfare team, with an expertise in European Union policy.

Neil is also a fund manager on the EA animal welfare fund.

He holds a PhD in Political & Social Science from the European University Institute, an MPhil in European Politics & Society from the University of Oxford and a BA in International Relations from Dublin City University.

He has volunteered for Charity Entrepreneurship & Animal Charity Evaluators. Before joining Rethink Priorities, he was a political data manager for WeVoteUSA while it participated in Fast Forward's accelerator for tech nonprofits, held numerous research assistant positions at the University of Oxford, and acted as Strategy Associate for a behavioural science think tank, The Decision Lab.


Topic Contributions

I think this is a really positive indication that builds on the many other positive indications we've had from the Commission that they will try push for an ambitious animal welfare reform, but I wouldn't want to overplay the EFSA opinion. It's harder to imagine a path to a cage-free transition in a world where EFSA came out against cage-free or was more muted in its support, but the fact that many EFSA opinions are ignored and watered down show that it is low down on the list of necessary but not sufficient factors.

The two Metaculus questions I set up on the cage-free reform have been pretty steady for a while now (and less optimistic than my median forecast), and I would be slightly surprised if they massively updated based on the EFSA opinion

Will the current European Commission make a proposal before the end of its term in November 2024 to phase out remaining hen cages? 

If the EU bans caged-housing for egg-laying hens, what date will be set as the phase out deadline?.

Just copy-pasting general comments I made on EFSA opinions from my long report on the EU farmed animal revision:

>"Most of the existing EU farmed animal welfare directives have been preceded by a report from an EU scientific committee (which proposes recommendations based on animal welfare considerations and often includes socio-economic impact assessments). There are certainly many cases of scientific reports that have not led to legislation (see the final section in the case studies), so although they may be necessary, they are not sufficient. My rough estimate is that four to six of the 22 to 59 reports since the 1980s on farmed animals that plausibly had species-specific welfare recommendations were used as the basis for legislation (depending on what you count as a relevant recommendation).  On average, when a report was produced and a law proposed by the Commission, then such a proposal came 32 months after the scientific report was completed, but this gap has been as quick as 2 months and as long as 63 months in past animal welfare directives. A baseline might be to expect that with the submission of a scientific report there is a 4%-27% chance it becomes a proposal in the short-term (within 5 years)."

There have been many instances where EFSA recommendations were ignored or severely  watered down. A relevant example being in March 2000, the EU scientific committee produced a report, “The Welfare of Chickens Kept for Meat Production (Broilers)”, and noted problems when densities exceeded 30kg/m2 [. . .] The Commission’s original May 2005 proposal hewed to the 2000 scientific report setting a maximum of 30kg/m2, with exceptional circumstances allowing a limit of 3kg/m2 if the cumulative daily mortality rate was  1%+ 0.06% *" . But the eventual  2007 compromise reached was 33kg/m2-39kg/m2 with a bonus up to 42kg/m2  if certain conditions were met. 

This is why I put a lot of attention of shaping the political landscape of the reform to increase the odds that any positive EFSA opinion turns into real results for animals.


You can read what Jason Crawford had to say on the topic here when 
Peter Wildeford  asked:

Peter:  What do progress studies people think about nonhuman animals?
Jason : It's not discussed much. There are probably a range of views. Personally, my current position is that we shouldn't be inhumane or needlessly cruel, but that animals aren't on the same moral level as humans

Peter: Do you think modern factory farming is inhumane?
Jason: I've only read a little bit about it, and what I read was pretty bad. But the topic is controversial enough that I'd want to hear multiple takes (ideally from different sides) before having a real opinion

Also mentions that he doesn't see factory farming of animals as  one of the biggest problems/negatives caused by progress.

OurWorldinData also wrote something like this and had a visualization too
Growth needed to reach denmark

They also write

"If we want to know how much the distribution of Ethiopia would need to change to reduce the share in poverty to Denmark’s level we can read it off the two parameters that describe the distribution – the average level of income and the inequality of those incomes.

Ethiopia has a much lower average income: an increase of average incomes is called economic growth and to increase the average from $3.30 per day to $55 would mean that Ethiopia would need to increase its income 16.7-fold (because $55 is 16.7-times higher than $3.30).8
[. . .]
A more than 16-fold increase in average incomes is certainly not easy to achieve, but it is also not impossible. The average income in Denmark grew by more than that over the last few generations, and such growth is not rare in recent economic history. 

[. . .]
The minimum necessary growth to reduce global poverty to the level of poverty in Denmark is 410%.10

An increase by 100% would mean that the size of the economy would double. A 410% increase is therefore a 5.1-fold increase of the global economy.

Or put differently, a world economy with substantially less poverty is at a minimum 5-times bigger than today’s global economy."

Hi Stijn,
Interesting post!
I have a few questions about your meat-to-animal conversions.

1. In the "Deathprint of meat" section you clearly cite the sources for the meat-to-emissions conversions, but not the meat-to-animal conversions. From reading further down the piece it seems they probably come from Saja, K. (2013). Is that correct?

2. Saja (2013) seems to calculate 2 kg of chicken meat for "Average animal products per one animal life", which would be 0.5 chickens per 1kg though in your table you have 0.667 for animals killed per kg meat for chicken meat. I think that 0.667 is Saja's figure for Fish (1.5kg of meat per 1 fish)?

3. If you did use Saja (2013), I wonder if you could elaborate on why, especially since as you note it "excludes the animals used as feed (e.g. fish meal and insect meal given to farm animals)." One could also use the conversion factors from Faunalytics (2020) which I believe do include feed fish (here 1kg of chicken meat would be associated with 0.87 animal deaths). There are of course also other more recent conversions Warren (2018), Hurford (2014) for number of animal deaths, and for days of life (or suffering) e.g. Drescher (2017), Tomasik (2007).

Thanks for this,
Just wanted to note a misframing of the slaughterhouse ban post.  You have written
 "found ~40% supported banning slaughterhouses or said ‘don’t know / no opinion’ to questions, highlighting a large discrepancy"-which I think is taken directly from the latest "EA & LW Forums Weekly Summary"  rather than the slaughterhouse ban post.
This makes it seem like 60% opposed and then 40% combined EITHER supported or had no opinion, when in fact the 2017 Sentience Institute result was 43% supported, 11% chose don't know,  46% opposed.

I realise this misunderstanding comes from my phrasing in the summary
"(~39-43% support when including those who chose no opinion/don't know)" 

I added the "when including those who chose no opinion/don't know" clause because  Sentience Institute's 2017 summary only reports the percentages agreeing out of those who either agreed or disagreed (47% agree with the ban, 53% disagree). But since many respondents selected “Don’t know” regarding the bans on slaughterhouses (11%), the overall percentages supporting these ban is slightly lower than their headline summary: 43% rather than 47%. In their 2020 replication, the same issue appears again when SI report a headline result of "44.8% are in favor of banning slaughterhouses" but this excludes the "don't know", so the actual support is 39.5%.

Sorry for causing confusion. I have now edited the original post to avoid this so it just reads "(~39-43% support).

Also you only mention the results from survey 1, the survey experiment of N=700, and I think a fairer comparison to the Sentience Institute figure is from survey 2 of  15.7% (95% CI [13%-18.8%]) support because both of these use weighting to represent the US public's opinion and are of a larger sample size.

We should also note that Norwood (one of the authors who replicated SI’s original 2017 study) this year ran a new slaughterhouse ban survey experiment  ([Britton & Norwood 2022]( and found lower support. (I only just received the data from them so I couldn’t include it in the post).

Here is my summary from just skimming the article and quickly aggregating the data.

They test a hypothesis that the question ordering in the 2017 SI study cued respondents' ideal self (like whether voting is a moral virtue) rather than their common self (like whether they actually voted). Their theory is that by asking respondents first whether they agreed with statements about meat reduction, discomfort with the way animals are used in the food industry, and animal sentience it cued their ideal self so that “the desire to not appear hypocritical induced them to activate a mixture of their ideal and common self” when answering questions about bans on animal farming, factory farming, and slaughterhouses.

The actual design of their study is a little too complicated to explain here (involving four treatments that altered the order and wording of ideal and common self questions, some food-related and some non-food related, as well as inserting buffer questions), but basically some respondents saw the ban questions before the ideal self questions, and others saw them in the same order as in the original 2017 SI study. Furthermore, to build on their tests about whether respondents understood the implications of bans,  "roughly half of the subjects are given the [common self] statements exactly as they appeared on the Animal Sentience survey, while the other half contain an addition [. . .] For example, some see the statement “I support a ban on slaughterhouses” while others see the statement “I support a ban on slaughterhouses and will stop eating meat”. "

While the primary aim of their study was to test something they call “identity inertia” and they fail to find convincing evidence of it, their finding on the slaughterhouse ban issue was "once individuals are informed about the implications of actions like banning slaughterhouses, they are less eager to do so." 

Data were collected via an online survey through Qualtrics from August to October 2019 of a representative sample of nearly 2600 drawn from the U.S. population. A subset of the results (N=1528) show

  • 26.48% "agreed" with the statement "I support a ban on slaughterhouses" (36.5% disagreed, 37.02% no opinion) (N=759)
  • 18.21% "Agreed" with the statement "I support a ban on slaughterhouses and will stop eating meat." (58.13% disagreed, 23.67% no opinion (N=769)

(Though Norwood say they couldn’t confirm this was correct since they never went into the data to get raw numbers like that, and I couldn't see an easy way to break these results down according to whether respondents saw the ideal-self or common-self questions first- though that probably doesn't matter since Norwood didn't find a lot of evidence that it matters)


Thanks for reading and engaging with our work!

  • In 2019 we conducted some exploratory small-N, low-confidence studies on this topic that informed these high-quality, larger N studies. We feel comfortable presenting these recent results as we want to promote the norm of advocates choosing strategies and messages based on the best quality evidence, so would rather the community update based on the results of high-quality studies rather than low-confidence small-N studies where the wrong inferences may be drawn.
  • [Update 2022-Nov-18: I added a methods section to make it clearer for readers. Thanks Jacy for flagging this issue]. Respondents were recruited via Prolific and surveyed using Qualtrics and were weighted for representativeness using 5-year 2019 American community survey data and general social survey data. More details and data are available in the OSF project, but let us know if it's not clear or something is missing since the 2nd survey was part of a larger survey that is described here which we have not finished publication of yet. (minor update- the pre-registration for the experimental study was still, unintentionally, embargoed at the time of publication so that information wasn't easily accessible for readers, but it has been lifted and should be available here by Nov 12)
  • I don't think one should take a survey showing 16% support for banning slaughterhouses when animal welfare frames are used as reason for the marginal farmed animal advocate to update towards more radical approaches relative to their prior, unless that farmed advocate assumed there would be basically 0% support. In practice, I imagine many advocates have been relying on surveys showing much higher support as their benchmark so this survey would update them toward more pessimism. 
  • More generally, given the clear variation in support results from well-done surveys from different organizations on this specific item it doesn't seem advisable for advocates to update their beliefs strongly on how support for other specific or the whole class of radical policies will be. As we wrote, it would be better to test the specific policies in question with a variety of messages to get closer to understanding how the public might actually act if given the chance to vote. And of course compare these to more moderate asks that the movement thinks are also worthwhile in expectation. I don't think we should take attitudes towards a specific policy as very indicative of attitudes to all of animal agriculture or other anti-factory farming policies. I also don't think we should take attitudes towards all of animal agriculture as indicative of support for specific policy proposals advocated for under specific messages. It was the claim that support for banning slaughterhouses should encourage advocates to push stronger messages and policies that we wanted to raise more questions about. 
  • Thanks for the reminder about the 2021 AFT survey!- which if I'm correct also showed ~43% support for banning slaughterhouses, when including No Opinion. I'll add it to the report.

Thanks for engaging with the report. I'll offer a response since Tapinder's summer fellowship has ended and I was her manager during the project. I've made a general comment in response to Tristan that applies here too.

On your comment specifically, the "malthusian trap" is empirically not always supported. A population can approach or be at its carrying capacity and still have adequate resources, for instance if they simply do not reproduce as much due to less resource surplus.

Thanks for engaging with the report. I'll offer a response since Tapinder's summer fellowship has ended and I was her manager during the project.

Firstly, as a response to both you and Max.

Those are very fair concerns. I tend to think that in the very nascent WAW field tractability is such a big issue that focusing only on the most painful deaths of wild animals leaves us with few (if any?) tractable things to do. Until we gain greater knowledge of what to do, there is value in some WAW resources going towards trying out things that look more tractable. In the specific cases in this report, much of the value is coming from establishing the norm around acting on wild animal welfare in human-wildlife conflict, especially in an area where we can get buy-in from non-EA stakeholders at the ground level of a technology that might affect the larger sources of suffering that we do care more about.

On counterfactually more painful deaths, even if the counterfactual death is more painful, this of course needs to be weighed against the fact that the birds would have died later and so the birds get to enjoy more life. In terms of how birds fare as a result of not being killed by windmills, it is fair that the report could have more explicitly acknowledged uncertainty about this, but this uncertainty cuts both ways since the value of living longer is tied to one's assumptions about the suffering-v-pleasure in wild animal welfare which could be very optimistic or pessimistic.

For something similar, see David Manheim's 2021 list

Net worth & Charity Pledges

Elon Musk: $205 billion - Giving Pledge (GP), 50% 
Jeff Bezos:  $200 billion - No pledge (None) 
Bernard Arnault:$159 billion -  None 
Bill Gates: $151 billion - GP, ~100% 
Mark Zuckerberg: $136 billion - Non-specific, 99% 
Larry Page: $126 billion - None 
Sergey Brin: $121 billion - None 
Steve Ballmer: $107 billion - None 
Larry Ellison: $101 billion - GP, 95% 
Warren Buffett: $101 billion- GP, 99%

Load More