796 karmaJoined Sep 2017


Yeah that's a great point. I think you're right that these issues were ideologically polarized historically, and that now the parties reflect that polarization, it may mean that most social reforms will be politically polarized too.

Thanks, this is a good point. I agree that it's not obvious we should choose A) over B).

My evidence for A) is that it seems to be the approach that worked in every case where farm animal welfare laws have passed so far. Whereas I've seen a lot of attempts at B), but never seen it succeed. I also think A) really limits your opportunities, since you can only pass reforms when liberals hold all key levers of power (e.g. in the US, you need Democrats to control the House, Senate, and Presidency) and they agree to prioritize your issue.

My sense is that most historic social reforms also followed path A), e.g. women's suffrage, child labor, civil rights. In the UK, cross-party support was also critical to abolishing slavery, while in the US, where abolition was more politicized, it took a Civil War.

That said, the farm animal welfare successes of A) mostly occurred in past decades when politics was less polarized and I think some modern movements like climate change suggest A) may be the only plausible path today. I also wonder if we might be able to do some of A) and B). E.g. try to make being pro-factory farming an unpalatable opinion for anyone on the left or moderate right to hold -- leaving just the most conservative rural representatives championing it.

Thanks for flagging that. I agree that most of the funds donated by animal ag employees were not to oppose animal protection, or likely any specific policies. I should have clarified that. I also generally don't think of people working in agriculture as evil. I think they're mostly just doing the rationale thing given the goal of profit maximization, and the lack of constraints we've imposed on how to pursue that.

Thanks Jason! You raise some really interesting points. I particularly like your logrolling point, which I think explains well the disproportionate power of reform opponents on ag policy. The decline of rural Democrats may be quite helpful here in getting the Democratic party onboard. But it won't help with Republicans, where I agree that pro-reform suburban Republicans are likely going to keep trading away this issue to anti-reform rural Republicans.

Thanks Ozzie! I should have been more precise in my claim. I'm guessing people who happen to be vegans or animal rights activists cumulatively donated millions in the 2020 election cycle. I'm just not aware of anyone donating substantial $ for the purpose of advancing animal advocacy. 

But, in fairness, this may well be true of a lot of the $45M donated by industry-aligned individuals too. E.g. $14.7M of the $45M was donated by executives of Mountaire Corp, almost entirely to conservative groups. My guess is that's likely because those executives are personally conservative -- not because they're buying influence.

And yeah I agree the money involved is surprisingly little given the stakes. I'd love to see someone try to organize vegans to give politically, though you'd also need to get the vegans to tell politicians this is why they're donating, which might be more challenging.

Yeah good point. I think welfare reforms should mostly be good for these indirect players, since the reforms mostly require agribusinesses to invest more in new infrastructure (e.g. building more barns to give animals more space) and increase staffing (e.g. cage-free farms require more workers than caged farms). But I agree that the indirect players probably don't see it this way.

Thanks Linch. Yeah I think you're spot on about the salience / enthusiasm gap. I should have emphasized this more in the piece.

I agree with everything above, especially how lucky we are that Dustin and Cari both give generously and defer to experts (neither is common amongst the few other billionaires I've talked with). Although I think our funding is the vast bulk of our impact, I don't think we'd have been so effective without EA. I think the EA ideals and community have helped the whole animal movement maximize its impact ... something I may write a post on sometime.

Haha thanks Howie! I want to also give a shout-out to Amanda, who's been a leader on this work at Open Phil since 2018. And to the hundreds of EAs, including Jakub, who have done the hard work to turn funding into results for animals :)

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