1612 karmaJoined


Thanks Nick! I agree that "keep it positive" isn't always the right call. In fact, it was very negative footage that first got me to care about factory farming.

My advice was intended for navigating social media algorithms and media editors, who both seem to favor the positive. But I agree the history of social movements suggests you also need to explain the gravity of the issue and elicit outrage.

Thanks Nathan! I like your idea of mapping the key arguments that stop people from helping farm animals. My sense is there are different blocking arguments depending on the ask. For high-welfare meat, I suspect the blockers are:

  • "I already buy humane meat" (easy to believe this when most meat is labeled with 'all natural' and other meaningless labels)
  • "High welfare meat is too expensive" (true of truly high-welfare, but not necessarily of med-welfare)
  • "I have no way of knowing which meat is high welfare" (it's really hard because in most countries the meat industry is free to mislabel their products with fake certifications and lots of meaningless claims)

You're absolutely right that a major challenge is that portions of the animal movement don't negotiate. Some high welfare meat is easily 50% better, but if you claimed that on Twitter you'd get drowned out by abolitionists claiming it's all equally bad. 

I'm pessimistic about changing individual diets in general, whether to higher welfare meat or plant-based, simply because of the scale of people you need to reach. So I'm more excited about mobilizing people to support corporate and political change. I suspect there the biggest blockers are a mix of "my action won't make any difference" and "I'm too busy with other stuff."

I'd welcome any additional thoughts you have!

Things I believe. Though I'm really torn on the Huel vs. Soylent one

Yeah that makes sense. I think you're right that it's plausible that new funding could decrease Open Phil funding in the space. I just think it's low odds, and would only be to a much lower extent than the size of new funding.

Thanks Aidan. I agree that much social change is nonlinear and hard to predict. I also agree that violent opposition preceded some significant social changes, though I'm more inclined to see that as a symptom of the issue having achieved high social salience rather than as a cause of the change.

I studied historic social movements in college and it's been my hobby since, and it's left me wary of extracting general lessons from past movements, since I think they often fit our prior beliefs. For instance, I see in the US civil rights movement a movement that for decades clocked up small achievable incremental legal and political wins in service of several larger incremental wins (two key federal laws and several Supreme Court rulings) but that failed in its more radical goals (racial and economic equality). I see in gay marriage a movement that largely sidelined radical calls to end marriage and other oppressive institutions in favor of a disciplined focus on a quite narrow practical goal: marriage equality. And I see the US abolitionists' radical goals and tactics as largely a failure alongside the UK abolitionists' more moderate ones, which achieved abolition decades earlier and without a war. But I suspect this is largely me projecting my beliefs on the past.

We're supporting a lot of work that relies on nonlinear theories of change, for instance our work to build a field of farm animal advocacy across Asia, to build a field of fish welfare advocacy and research, and to promote hard-to-predict alt protein R&D. I'm not confident though that that work will have better secondary effects on social change than our linear work. For example, I've seen cage-free campaigns build public momentum, activist morale, and support for political reforms. But I agree it's likely we're missing important work to seed future nonlinear reforms. I just find it hard to work out what that work is.

Thanks Michael. Yeah I agree with those three categories. In practice we support a lot of interventions with much worse short-term cost-effectiveness than cage-free campaigns, in part for information value, in part so we can scale them up if they do work out, and in part for diversification purposes.

Thanks Vasco. On (1) and (2), I think that the grant sizing process is messier than it may seem. So the portion of a group's budget we can be is often a major factor, but not necessarily the limiting one. And I don't think our considerations all boil down to us setting a given target revenue for a group, in large part because we don't want to create a perverse incentive for other funders to not fund groups we do and for our grantees to not fundraise.

On (3), I agree there's some chance that in aggregate your donation will flip a group into a different funding category. I just think it's quite rare, because the ideal revenue level for a group is not our only consideration in funding levels. See also the point above about us explicitly trying to avoid gaming other funders or groups' fundraisers.

On the final point, I think you're wrong to assume that if funding for farm animal welfare increased by $100M then there's a 100% chance our program's funding would decline by $100M (which to be clear is more than our program's budget). I think reduced neglect could influence Open Phil leadership to allocate less funding to a cause area. But I think the odds it did so are much below 100% and the amount it would do so by is far less than the increased funding in the space (here $100M).

I think the most likely causes of the decline in plant-based meat sales are:

  • A failure to meet consumers' expectations on taste and perceived healthiness. There was a high trial rate with a lot repeat purchase rate.
  • A significant turn in the media and popular discussion on plant-based meat from overwhelmingly positive (and high volume) to largely negative (and low volume).
  • A reduced willingness to pay the price premium for plant-based meat in a period with higher inflation / a perceived cost-of-living crisis.

I think some good strategies to build career capital in the animal welfare spare are:

  • Read about current and past interventions in the space, e.g. through books like Ethics into Action and research like Rethink Priorities reports.
  • Attend movement events, like the Animal and Vegan Advocacy Summit, and volunteer with groups, e.g. with The Humane League.
  • Develop skills most in need in the animal welfare space, which I think include corporate outreach, campaigning, fundraising, people management, and operations.

I think there's a lot of potential in regulatory reform, though I'm probably more optimistic about its prospects outside the US. E.g. I think DEFRA in the UK or the European Commission are more likely to make meaningful regulatory changes than the USDA.

My top priority US regulatory reform would be to get the USDA to interpret the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to apply to birds too. Courts have held that its within the USDA's discretion to decide this, but decades of on-and-off advocacy by HSUS and AWI have failed to get them to do so. I do think it's worth trying again if we get a more sympathetic USDA secretary (I'm confident Vilsack wouldn't do this).

I think the options under the other laws are more limited. My understanding is that few animals are transported for more than 28 hours anymore, so the 28 Hour Law's protections aren't that helpful. And I don't think the Animal Welfare Act or Horse Protection Act could be extended to apply to farm animals (though better enforcement of the AWA could help a lot of lab animals).

Finally, we looked into the potential to move APHIS on the inhumane methods use to kill animals during disease outbreaks. Unfortunately it seemed pretty intractable at the present time.

Load more