JamesOz

Director & Strategy lead at Animal Rebellion - using social movements for effective work on animal welfare and climate change.

Comments

Research suggests BLM protests increase murder overall

It's important to highlight this point from the article:

It’s worth noting that Campbell didn’t subject the homicide findings to the same battery of statistical tests as he did the police killings since they were not the main focus of his research. (He intends to do more research on how these protests affected crime rates.)

Just a word of caution before we jump to conclusions.

 

Also, I think the main findings from the research were extremely interesting in their own right; That the BLM protests were successful in achieving some of their intended aims. The effectiveness of protests are rarely assessed quantitatively so glad to see someone doing this work. It would be interesting (and probably extremely challenging) to do a cost-effectiveness estimate for BLM, considering you have to account for the counterfactual value of 350,000 people etc.

A new study, one of the first to make a rigorous academic attempt to answer that question, found that the protests have had a notable impact on police killings. For every 4,000 people who participated in a Black Lives Matter protest between 2014 and 2019, police killed one less person.

..

From 2014 to 2019, Campbell tracked more than 1,600 BLM protests across the country, largely in bigger cities, with nearly 350,000 protesters. His main finding is a 15 to 20 percent reduction in lethal use of force by police officers — roughly 300 fewer police homicides — in census places that saw BLM protests.

JamesOz's Shortform

Why is there such a big disparity in focus areas between grassroots groups and NGOs/think-tanks? 

 

I’m thinking primarily in the two cause areas I’m most involved in: animal welfare and climate change. Animal Welfare NGOs focus a lot on corporate cage-free reforms (the EA ones anyway) whilst most grassroots groups are talking about ending factory farming, fur or individual vegan outreach. For climate, it’s even worse: Think-tanks recommend clean energy R&D and innovation whilst most grassroots groups often reject nuclear and other tech-focused solutions for nature-based solutions. Why are these differences so big (in these cases), how bad is it to not have a unified movement and what can be done about it?

 

Would like to write a bigger post about this at some point but initial thoughts to remedy this:

  • We incubate EA-aligned social movements/grassroots groups (currently writing a big post on this)
  • A 'middle-man' organisation to bring these different groups into the same room to try collaborate on shared campaigns? Probably very hard work.
  • Strategy workshops for grassroots groups and NGOs - more tractable and could lead to obvious shared goals. I can definitely seeing this helping grassroots groups who often don't think strategically (I feel justified in saying this after being involved for 4 years of grassroots work).
     

Disclaimer: There are some strategic grassroots groups out there and lots of variety in campaign demands across the two movements so this is definitely not representative of all groups.

Ramiro's Shortform

This is something interesting that I've been thinking about too, as someone who identifies as an environmentalist and who cares about animals. I would say most mainstream environmentalists promote rewilding but it's not that common with Effective Environmentalism from what I've seen so far. You might say it gets lumped in with afforestation but that isn't exactly rewilding nor that popular within EE anyway. Certainly the issue of more wild animal suffering is one I've raised when talking to less-EA aligned folks about rewilding and that's not gone down well but I haven't seen it discussed much in EE spaces.

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

Wow, 81 million meals changed is really quite something! I would love to see a more comprehensive write-up of how they achieved that.

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

It's predominately based on when I think ProVeg would have had capacity to work with Hackney and get this change moving. Like I've mentioned above, they only have one person working on the School Plates campaign and things generally take on the order of 12-18 months from initial contact to implementation. Most councils (90%+) don't reply to ProVeg's outreach emails so I can't imagine Hackney being particularly different over the next 1-2 years.

The much smaller probability is that either a very proactive councillor or very proactive citizen wanted to push this through but I think it would have been unlikely. It would be unlikely for the councillor to instigate such a thing in my opinion as councillors are generally extremely busy and not willing to go out on a limb on a politically risky move (as I think this is) without some external pressure. Also that most councillors aren't that motivated by animals or climate reasons. I don't think a citizen would have instigated this change as councils are actually quite complex to get your head around and most people don't even know how to go about this. Even with providing people with lots of information, people struggle to know the best people to contact and how to pitch an idea so I'm doubtful it would have happened organically this way for the next few years at least.

 

Regarding the drop-out rate, that's a good point. Although I'm fairly confident that individual schools themselves can't drop out, as all the catering/food is provided by the council so I think it's an all or nothing situation. Obviously the nothing situation would be extremely bad but I think a whole council quitting is quite unlikely (but not impossible).

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

Good question. ProVeg works with councils on refining their menu and the implementation of a new menu after a commitment. To my knowledge they don't recommend eggs as replacements for the meat meals and they focus predominately on plant-based options as replacements. The only exceptions I've seen to this is two cases of dairy cheese included in a total of 40 recommended meals. I can follow up with them about this on Thursday however as it's definitely important.

In essence, the new meals are almost always plant-based but the schools legally have to serve a portion of milk or dairy every single day which is why they're labelled vegetarian days vs plant-based days.

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

Thanks for highlighting these, these are both really good points. I really appreciate the thought provoking comments and questions you've left generally so thank you!

Regarding point 2: In hindsight, it would have probably been more accurate to weight each meal but their relative 'animal-content' e.g. 0.5 for dinner, 0.35 for lunch and 0.15 for breakfast. You're right in that most people won't be eating meat for breakfast (except on weekends I imagine) so that should be weighted down. If I used the weights above, it would probably be very similar to the 0.33 I've basically assumed in my original model so you're right in that it probably wouldn't change much.

 

Regarding number 1, again it would make some to have some kind of subjective weighting system based on the size of the meals. I did add a little epistemic uncertainty factor to the top of my post of about 70-80% as like you and Ula have pointed out rightly, there's definitely more factors that I could have included in my analysis but I didn't for simplicity/time. 

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

Yeah it really can be quite easy or low-effort if you seem to have a blend of the right circumstances: in-house catering, supportive councillors and luck! I fleshed out the volunteer hours put in centrally for Ula if you're curious as I didn't say how I got the 170 hour number so that might be of interest:

 

It's volunteers (like myself) organising more volunteers so I accounted for all the weekly meetings we had, workshops we delivered, resources we created, etc. To be specific, I accounted for 3 people spending a total 8-9 hours per week for 5 months, which did include all the various activities needed for the campaign. This figure is low because no one works full-time or part-time on this campaign. We only have one 1-hour weekly meeting and offer 1.5 hour workshops every other week so it really isn't very time intensive. Then I added some extra hours to for individual work to create the various documents, slideshows and other resources for the campaign.

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

Hi Ula,

Thanks for your comment!  You're right in that there's definitely much more complexity that I laid out in my post and model. Some things you've mentioned I've already accounted for so I'll answer those below:

 

  • What kind of meal was replaced: I definitely agree that the number animals spared depends hugely on the meal that was replaced on any given day. This is what I meant when I said in my "improvements that could be made section" with:

Better estimates for the average number of animals eaten per meal and per school meal.

Although it hindsight, it's not very clear exactly what I meant so I'll clarify that in the post a bit more. There's no obvious way for me to tell if most school serve cows, chickens or fish on any given day (as they might implement their vegetarian days on different days too) so I couldn't make a reasonable assumption that it would be any certain animal affected most. Due to that, I went with the average value of animal deaths averted using this post by ACE . Obviously fish and other marine animals make up the most of those deaths so if we found out that the fish day was the least likely to be affected, it would bring down the number of animal deaths averted. This might be something we update once it's implemented and we have a good idea of what meals were commonly swapped out.

 

  • Was the supply chain affected: This is similar to what Abraham was saying below too. To copy that reply: As we've been asking for this commitment on the basis on helping councils meet their climate targets and lower their catering costs, not actually purchasing less meat would be shooting themselves in the foot! Although I could definitely see some variation of this happening (e.g. purchasing 10% less vs 20% less). I'll mention it to ProVeg in our meeting this week and will see if they've had similar issues in the past or if they've considered this. My initial guess is that ProVeg have already considered this as they've been doing this work for two years so I hope they've gotten past this issue! Also, I do see this campaign as different to most Meatless Mondays campaigns as this is run on an environmental and cost angle where councils commit because it helps them immediately with lowering costs so they actually have a strong incentive to purchase less meat. I don't think this is the case with Meatless Mondays campaign that run on ethical stances.

 

  • Are the kids eating the plant-based meals in the long run: This is a good question. I believe ProVeg have been doing some impact assessment of their previous work to monitor the uptake of veggie and vegan meals so I'll try get ahold of that data. However, as this is rolling out primarily in maintained government schools, there is a certain percentage of children who get free-school meals due to being from low-income households. In those cases, which I believe is 30% of kids in Hackney, I strongly doubt parents would send any meat options to the school as it's unlikely they would want to turn down a free school meal. Also it seems like from MichaelStJules post below, there is some evidence that skipping meals could increase which would mean my final values are too high (for some cases). Broadly though I think we agree, if I wanted to make the model more rigorous, I would have included some variations of this point.

 

Regarding the cost calculations:

  • who is managing volunteers and how much time they put into: This was already accounted for in my model to produce the 170 hours figure for organising the campaign centrally. It's volunteers (like myself) organising more volunteers so I accounted for all the weekly meetings we had, workshops we delivered, resources we created, etc. To be specific, I accounted for 3 people spending a total 8-9 hours per week for 5 months, which did include all the various activities needed for the campaign. This figure is low because no one works full-time or part-time on this campaign. We only have one 1-hour weekly meeting and offer 1.5 hour workshops every other week so it really isn't very time intensive.
  • when you count the time of ProVeg: I think there's an important distinction to be made between ProVeg International and ProVeg UK here. ProVeg UK is a very small team of only 3 staff so most of the things you talked about I believe don't apply or are greatly simplified for such a small team. In addition, only one person works on the School Plates program full-time. You're right in that I could have included their manager's time but I think it would have been quite a bit more complex than what I wanted to do in terms of time I had for this. Instead, I over-estimated the time spent by ProVeg by about 25% to account for any other things I missed, like the items you outlined. Regarding the hourly pay - I converted a £40,000/year salary into an hourly rate using an online tool to make the calculation more convenient but it is based on someone getting an annual salary.

 

Overall, I definitely agree, there are more factors I could have included into this to make it extremely rigorous and watertight. Whilst I did account for some/most of the things you mentioned, it maybe wasn't explicit in my post so apologies for that. I think also I should have put my epistemic uncertainty as I don't think these values are 100%  accurate and I didn't do the research to justify that level of precision, but it's maybe more like 70-80%.

How we averted 130,000 animal deaths (in expectation) with a volunteer campaign.

Thanks for the feedback, that's much appreciated!

 

That's a great point and one that I actually hadn't thought of. As we've been asking for this commitment on the basis on helping councils meet their climate targets and lower their catering costs, not actually purchasing less meat would be shooting themselves in the foot! Although I could definitely see some variation of this happening (e.g. purchasing 10% less vs 20% less). I'll mention it to ProVeg in our meeting this week and will see if they've had similar issues in the past or if they've considered this. Thanks for flagging it!

 

Regarding your second point  - I definitely agree. I'm actually attending a workshop of teachers who want to see more plant-based meals in school this weekend so the goal is to inspire them to do something similar!  The only challenge is that it's extremely difficult to export something like this to a different country as laws and governance structures are so varied. People from Sweden and Portugal have said they're interested and want to try it but there really isn't many ways we can support them from the UK as we have no idea how those countries operate. But as your article shows, it really can be very straightforward if you happen to talk to someone who is already sympathetic. 

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