Executive Director at Animal Charity Evaluators
While I’ve been working in this space long enough that many of our ethical stances don’t feel counterintuitive to me anymore, I’m sure some of our stances come across that way to mainstream audiences. Farmed animal advocacy is still considered a very niche topic in society at large, even though it’s the primary focus of our work at ACE. Wild animal welfare is another topic that we find challenging to communicate about to mainstream audiences, even though it’s a high priority for many of us in the EAA community (I remember when it felt counterintuitive to me!). We adjust to that by being mindful in our communications to meet our different audiences where they are at, and not assume that everyone has the full context that we do from having been steeped in this topic for years.
We seek to gather data about this question through our annual Donor Survey. Our most recent published data is from 2018, and we are planning to publish the results from our 2019 survey soon.
Hi Ben, that’s a great question. We don’t have a lot of conclusive research on this topic, so what I’m sharing here are just my personal intuitions. I think that food technology will play a major role in the future reduction of farmed animal suffering. However, I wouldn’t consider this an “either/or” question. Many people who work in the food technology space around this issue view their work as advocacy. Additionally, many of the people focused on improving the welfare of animals currently living on factory farms see their work as complementary to the food technology space—some welfare improvements drive up the cost of animal products, perhaps making animal-free alternatives more cost-competitive. Additionally, welfare advocacy raises the importance of animal welfare in the public eye, which is often a strong motivator for those who choose to reduce their animal product consumption.
I would recommend that those who are trying to better understand their intuitions around which cause areas to prioritize try out 80,000 Hours' problem quiz.
Hi Michael, this is a big question! It's getting a bit late but I want to give you some of my quick thoughts:
Research into reducing fish suffering (scale, promising interventions, tractability, etc.) is needed, and there are a few groups working in this area, such as our Top Charity Albert Schweitzer Foundation and newly-founded organizations Fish Welfare Initiative and Aquatic Life Institute.
Economic research, including research into economic interventions. We have an economist starting on our team in May!
Research into ways we can positively influence the welfare of wild animals, which is something that Wild Animal Initiative is researching (one of our EAA Fund grantees).
Research on estimating the effectiveness of intervention to improve the lives of farmed animals in general. This is something that ACE has worked on, as well as groups like THL Labs, Rethink Priorities, Open Phil, etc. We’d especially be interested in seeing research on how interventions support and interrelate to each other.
I also think it is important for us to look at considerations around longtermism in EAA.