Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers

Thanks for writing this up Saulius! I think it is a really useful addition to the literature on EAA and I could see myself returning to it multiple times in future. You seem good at writing such content! :)

Some thoughts that I had after reading this piece:

- I think there’s a decent chance that if one were to dive deeper into captive invertebrates then this could lead to discoveries of tens of billions of animals that are in captivity that the movement currently largely neglects

- One important point I think worth highlighting about the numbers is their differential growth rates. That is, for instance, not only are there many more farmed fish than pigs or cows but the annual increase in the number of farmed fish is much greater than that for pigs or cows

- “Captivity” seems a binary distinction applied to an underlying continuum of something like “the degree to which people control an animal’s habitat.” I wonder if there are some edge cases that could significantly impact the numbers reported here. For instance, and this could certainly be stretching the definition of “captivity” but if fish ladder-type structures were included then that could be another significant source of fish in captivity, even if each fish only spends a small amount of time in them

- I agree with the update towards China being even more important than previously thought given numbers of quail, frogs, and turtles. Relatedly, something that feels important is most, if not all, of the five countries with the most farmed vertebrate animals are Asian countries

Farmed Animal Funders Custom Shallow Review: On Selecting Funding Strategies In General And On Focusing Funding On Open-Access Scientific Research For Plant-Based Alternatives

Sorry for my slow reply! I think that I missed the notification for this.

You’re right I accidentally linked the wrong article. IIRC, this was the article that I should have linked. I believe that it outlines the high-moisture twin-screw extrusion method, a method which decades later proved important for the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger.

I hope this helps! Would be curious about any takes you have in this area.

How frequently do ACE and Open Phil agree about animal charities?

[Fwiw: I previously worked at ACE and now work at Farmed Animal Funders. I'm also on the committee for EA Animal Welfare Fund]

Thanks for writing this, Ben! It is an interesting analysis. Here are some thoughts that I had while reading:

  • What could also be interesting would be looking at the concordance/ disconcordance between some of the regranting funds in this area (e.g., EAA fund, EA Animal Welfare Fund, and OWA.)
  • What could also be interesting for Open Phil and ACE is comparing and contrasting the funding allocations across the concordant groups.
  • Some of the discordance between Open Phil and ACE might also be explained by different views about the potential of cultivated meat, different overall capacities for funding, and different approaches on restricting funding.

Lastly, two quick notes:

Three charities which were named “Standout Charities” by ACE but did not receive Open Phil grants did receive grants from the Centre for Effective Altruism’s Animal Welfare Fund (Animal Ethics, Faunalytics, and Compassion in World Farming - USA).

I think Compassion in World Farming - USA has received three Open Phil grants.

None of the charities ACE comprehensively reviewed but did not recommend have received a grant from Open Phil.

I think Compassion in World Farming International has been comprehensively reviewed by ACE and then not recommended but have received several Open Phil grants.

The ITN framework, cost-effectiveness, and cause prioritisation

Thanks for completing this analysis on the advantages and disadvantages of the INT framework! I particularly like you clearly enumerating your points.

I think there are some important points not adequately covered in the alternative INT framework and discussion of cost-effectiveness estimates. Namely:

(1) To a significant extent cause prioritization involves estimating long-term counterfactual impacts

(2) Neglectedness could be instrumental to estimating long-term counterfactual impacts because the more neglected a cause the more potential to translate to greater far future trajectory changes, as opposed to accelerating proximate changes

Insect herbivores, life history and wild animal welfare

Really interesting article!

Various approximations of the total number of insect individuals range between 1017-1019 (Williams 1960 , Hölldobler & Wilson (1990), Bar-On et al. (2018)).

I think that 17 and 19 should be exponents :)

[LINK] Farmed Fish Welfare Report

I think that your general model is wrong. Briefly, here’s a couple of reasons why:

First, producers strongest economic incentive is net-profit maximization.

Net-profit= #fish sold * (average revenue per fish sold - average cost to farmer per fish sold)

Farming fish at quite high stocking densities without counteracting aeration causes low dissolved oxygen levels. These high stocking densities cause a greater number of fish to be sold. As long as the increase in net-profit caused by the increase in the # fish sold is greater than the decrease in net-profit caused by the decrease in marginal profit per fish, farmers have economic incentive to do that. Therefore farmers would have their strongest economic incentive be in favor of some negative outcomes caused by lower oxygen levels as long as these were outwieghed and lead to them increasing their net-profit, namely through them being able to farm a greater number of fish.

Second, fish farming is still a young and rapidly evolving industry so farming practices may not totally align with economic incentives. One sentiment I have heard expressed is that for fish welfare there still are a lot of either welfare and economic wins-wins or win-ties. That is, there are opportunities for fish welfare to be improved without costing economic productivity.

Third, regardless of the incentives or possibility of welfare and economic win-wins or win-ties, it still empirically seems true that a) many farmed fish seem subject to sub-optimal dissolved oxygen levels and b) mass die-offs are not rare. Given the frequency of sub-optimal dissolved oxygen and mass die-offs this is probably evidence farmers currently don’t overall have very strong incentives to prevent these issues. So, while there is limited evidence in general on the topic, here are some of the counterexamples to the general model you seem to propose:

In channel catfish, the most farmed fish in the US, “[t]he traditional pond system typically produces 4,500–5,500 kg/ha of catfish with a maximum of 7,000 kg/ha (Brune, 1991; USDA, 2006). However, today, many farms in Alabama produce more than 10,000 kg/ha, and the amount of aeration provided is not adequate to consistently maintain minimum dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations above 3 mg/L (Boyd and Hanson, 2010).” (Brown (2011), p. 72)

E.g, “For catfish, one of the major causes of significant die-offs is low oxygen, while oxygen levels are something that can be feasibly controlled.”

E.g., “Caged salmon companies have reported over 760 mass deaths to the Scottish Government in the last three years.” This article reports that oxygen shortages are a frequent killer.

E.g., The report linked in the OP estimates pre-slaughter mortality rates of 15%-80% for commonly farmed fish over the entire production cycle.

Rodents farmed for pet snake food

Thanks for writing this up Saulius! I think it is a really useful addition to the literature on EAA. You seem good at writing such content! :)

Some very quick thoughts that I had on this piece:

- My rough impression is that the “pre-slaughter mortality rate” of mice is relatively high. This matches my own experience when I had pet mice when I was younger and a quick google suggests that lab mice mortality seems high. E.g.
> We examined the survival rate of 539 litters of mice from two of the most commonly used laboratory strains (C57Bl/6 and Balb/c) bred under normal husbandry procedures, and found that mortality rate (that is whole litters lost) was at average 28,9%.

- My rough impression is some pet snakes feed on eggs or fish predominantly rather than mice. I am not sure how big a proportion does that though but it could be significant. E.g., I think the Gartner Snake is a fairly common pet breed and that it is common to feed them fish.

- I have a feeling that rodents are farmed in larger numbers for human consumption in some asian countries but a quick google didn’t really confirm or deny that.

- I wonder if more mice are fed to captive/farmed crocodiles, alligators, and caimans then to captive snakes. These other reptiles are are much bigger than the average snake and eat more often, and I think it is common to feed them mice. Skimming this and it seems possible that the number of these other reptiles farmed is in the hundreds of thousands.

-I wonder if mice are fed in quite large amounts to captive predatory birds. E.g., this suggests one of these birds eats x5 the amount of mice p/w than a python does.

- I thinks there’s a decent chance that if one were to dive deeper into the farming of invertebrates then this could lead to discoveries of tens of billions of additional farmed animals the movement largely currently neglects.

But in all I mainly think this is an important area that not many have thought about (including me). Thanks for highlighting it! :)

Latest Research and Updates for December

Great post! Thanks for doing these, I find them really valuable :)

> visualisation from GFI with over 100 organisations in the new protein space

I don't think that map is from GFI and I think that there's a slightly more recent version available here.

Sentience Institute 2017 Accomplishments, 2018 Plans, and Room for Funding

[Disclosure: I am a Research Associate at ACE.]

I am also excited about Sentience Institute’s work and look forward to seeing more :)

Small point:

We also produced Global Farmed & Factory Farmed Animals Estimates, suggesting that around 71% of farmed land animals and probably 96% of all farmed animals globally are factory farmed, and that probably 85% of the farmed animals alive at any time are fish.

The estimate of farmed fish numbers used in that estimate relies on Mood and Brooke (2012). The Mood and Brooke (2012) “estimate does not include the numbers of fish farmed for bait and it does not include fish mortalities arising in fish farms prior to harvest….” (p.2). Those exclusions seem significant. E.g.,

  • This article claims that “six billion bait minnows—predominantly golden shiners, fathead minnows, and goldfish—are raised in Arkansas each year and shipped throughout the country.” That would be nearly 19 minnows per capita, more than all the finfish farmed for food for U.S. consumption.

  • ACE estimates that for the four most consumed farmed finfish in the U.S. the mortality rate prior to slaughter is 18-60%, 5-35%, 10-38%, and 12-65% (as 90% subjective confidence intervals) for salmon, tilapia, pangasius and catfish respectively.

Including those quantities in the overall estimate seems like it will take the percentage estimate of the proportion of all farmed animals that are factory farmed much closer to 100%.

It is probably also worth noting that the Global Farmed & Factory Farmed Animals Estimates does not to include estimates for the number of farmed insects (e.g., silkworms and honey bees.) The sheer number of those insects could have a big impact on the percentage estimate of the proportion of all farmed animals that are factory farmed too!

Hi, I'm Luke Muehlhauser. AMA about Open Philanthropy's new report on consciousness and moral patienthood

Thanks. That feedback was useful :)

In future, I will submit individual questions as separate comments.

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