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.

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


Megaprojects for animals

Thanks Jamie! We struggled a lot with this issue when writing the post.

I'm not really sure I see a problem or a difference with the "which megaproject ideas can we think of?"/ "how rapidly will we get diminishing returns on further investment in various plausibly cost-effective project ideas?" distinction. I think if the answer to the second question is "quickly and with only a few million $" then you cut the idea from the list. It's part of the way to arrive at answers to "which megaproject ideas can we think of?". Other ideas floated seemed like they would be cost-effective at a small scale but could never absorb $10M because the problem was so small (foie gras bans perhaps) or the low-hanging fruit was uniquely cheap (the first type of a new campaign in a new region/species but hit some blockers or severe diminishing returns as they try to scale), and other ideas didn't look cost-effective at a small scale only but maybe at large scale if they reach some sort of economies of scale (some sort of policy or subsidization schemes that only gain leverage at large scales).

On the specific example you highlighted, I think "almost any animal charity" would have more weight as a critique if there were many such opportunities. I think the N of animal charities pursuing interventions that could actually both scale & remain cost-effective is relatively small (I don't see orgs like FWI and Healthier Hens popping up without the deliberate effort of Charity Entrepreneurship and it's still to be proven if they can scale and remain cost-effective. Even larger orgs like CIWF & THL aren't obviously only doing cost-effective things). The two we cited (focusing on shrimp and farmed insects) were deliberate because the sheer number of animals affected provide the opportunity that cost-effectiveness could be maintained even if spending a lot of money, unlike other animal charities. 

I agree not all the items on the list will turn out to meet strict definitions, or even vague definitions, of megaprojects. The main point of the exercise here was to note the virtual lack of any ideas on animals and prompt discussion and interest, and secondly to actually propose ideas from among which further investigation might find some really compelling megaprojects.

Project: bioengineering an all-female breed of chicken to end chick culling

Thanks for your thoughts on the different approaches Zane, do you have an estimate of when your proposed approach would bear fruit in terms of a scalable intervention?

As Sebastian noted, in-ovo is already being done in two countries with chick culling prohibition legislation, and the Metaculus forecasting community median estimates most eggs produced in the EU will be sexed before hatching by October 2025, and most eggs produced in the USA will be sexed before hatching by 2033 (but a major U.S. supermarket chain will sell “no-kill eggs” in at least 25 states by 2031 ).

Project: bioengineering an all-female breed of chicken to end chick culling

How do you think this approach (make male chickens lay eggs if I understand correctly) compares to other solutions being proposed/rolled out:

Forecasts estimate limited cultured meat production through 2050

Makes sense. Made a few edits along those lines.
Genuinely appreciate suggestions on how to make our summaries more useful to readers, so thanks again. 

Forecasts estimate limited cultured meat production through 2050

(Note that I've replaced that exact sentence with a new paragraph about plant-based and conventional meat production volumes in response to a comment from Stefan.)


The production volumes were not chosen as a comparison to plant-based meat. It was more that we started with an upper target we thought would be meaningful (arriving at the >50M metric tons in 2051) and then wanted to add an intermediate time prediction. >1M metric tons we thought could indicate cultured meat was "on track" since it would have exceeded mere startup volume, and then the >100,000 and >10M were simply picking one order of magnitude up and down to increase the range of estimates. We didn't choose lower volumes such as 10,000 mostly to not overload the forecasters since there were already 29 questions.

I agree that animal advocates should care whether or not alternative protein production is actually replacing/displacing conventional meat production (to reduce numbers of animals farmed). I do not know of any questions directly asking about this. The closest might be the Metaculus questions asking "How many commercial cattle, in millions, will be slaughtered in the U.S. in 20XX if the lowest retail price of clean meat in 20YY is less than $Z per kg?" (here, here, here) (which fwiw, only suggested the number of cows in 2032 would drop (by 8M) if cultured meat was <$8/kg in 2026). We didn't develop replacement/displacement questions here since pure production volume was a "cleaner" question in that it didn't require forecasters to also develop models of meat substitution. To use forecasting for this purpose, I personally would be more interested in taking pre-registered studies aiming to test if people are buying & eating cultured meat instead of conventional meat and having forecasts of what the results of that study will be. (Versions of these studies (Lusk et al 2021, Piernas et al 2021, Tonsor & Lusk, 2021, Zhou et al 2021, Malan 2020, Lusk et al 2019)) 

Forecasts estimate limited cultured meat production through 2050

Thanks for the suggestion. I've added a few production numbers of plant-based and conventional meat after the first table in the results section to provide this context.

One reason we didn't ask questions about "what % of meat production will be cultured meat in 20XX" was that it would require forecasters to also produce models of total meat production (including plant-based and funghi-based meat). This seemed overly taxing and could introduce a lot of unclear underlying assumptions. We did ask  "What will total global conventional meat and seafood production be in 2051 in millions of metric tons (80% confidence interval i.e. 80% probability that the true value is between this range)" and there was quite a large range: For example, forecaster 1 estimated 30M to 600M metric tons, while forecaster 3 estimated 695M to 1.1B metric tons (I gave 620M to 1.1B metric tons). So it's not entirely clear what a reasonable denominator to use would be to arrive at the %, and I think is an area where people can have reasonable disagreement.

Why the expected numbers of farmed animals in the far future might be huge

Another example for "V. Factory farming might spread to space - Some proponents of space colonization include factory farming in their plans"

"North Carolina State University is now taking applicants for its Nuggets on Mars program [ . . .] The multi–step, year–long program will involve teachers learning STEM principles behind poultry production and the unique challenges of raising chickens on Mars [. . .] At the end of the program, the participants will be tasked with putting together a unit for their class focused on developing ideas on ways to raise chickens on mars." (Cottrell 2022)

AMA: Future of Life Institute's EU Team
  1. DG Connect proposed the AI Act. Rauh's (2019) study of 2,200 proposals for regulations and directives that the Commission tabled between 1994 and 2016 suggests DG Connect proposals have a 40-55% chance that the adopted law equals what the Commission has originally proposed.
    Does your team have any internal estimates of how likely the final law will equal the original proposal? Or perhaps more importantly, how likely the sections of the original proposal that you like will remain intact?
  2. Given the importance of the Council and qualified majority voting do you have a sense of how many countries * their percent of the EU population support/oppose the amendments to the AI Act that you prefer (you mention France & Finland above)?
  3. Do you only focus on the EU level (Commission, Parliament, Councils) or do you also work directly at the EU member state level (if so which ones and why)?
  4. How did you decide which channels of influence to pursue? You mention above submitting feedback to the European Commission, why do you think your submission will be taken seriously? How do you rate the various channels for engaging with the Commission: stakeholder conferences, DG meetings, online consultations (restricted/open)?
  5. Which of the three major institutions (Commission, Parliament, Councils) have you found most receptive to your preferred policies?

Please complete a survey to influence EU animal protection policies

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides said "this has reached today a record of over 40,000 contributions. I think you will all agree with me, dear members, that this clearly shows how much animal welfare matters to our citizens."
H/T Jan Sorgenfrei again

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