Ren Springlea

Research Scientist @ Animal Ask
248Joined Apr 2022

Bio

My name is Ren. I work as a Research Scientist at Animal Ask.

My work focuses on animal advocacy. I have experience in ecology, fisheries science, and statistics from my time in academia and government. I'm also personally interested in a wide range of other cause areas, particularly around social justice, politics, and democracy.

How others can help me

Please feel free to message me if you want to talk about any area of animal advocacy. I'm currently thinking about 1) animals and longtermism and 2) animal advocacy from the lens of intersectionality and consistent anti-oppression, but I'd also love to chat about any area of effective animal advocacy.

How I can help others

I know a fair bit about fisheries science, (minor) party politics, experimental design and data analysis, working in government, and working in academia. I'm more than happy to chat about any of these areas if you're looking for someone to bounce ideas off.

Comments
18

Thanks, this is a super useful article.

In case readers of this article are interested: we recently completed a collaboration with Animal Welfare Competence Centre for Africa, a new charity based in Uganda. Our recommendations centred on both welfare reforms and limiting the spread of industrialised farming practices. Our write-up is available here: https://www.animalask.org/post/farmed-animal-advocacy-in-uganda

Currently, we (Animal Ask) are also doing some research on the trajectory of animal agriculture in developing countries and how moldable it is, as the author mentions.

This is exciting to see. I definitely agree - sometimes getting your foot in the door, either at the local level or with a more limited version of the policy, can let you expand the policy later when people have seen the benefit. And your scorecard approach is similar to what Australian Alliance for Animals has recently done: https://www.allianceforanimals.org.au/victorian-election-2022

Very roughly, yes.

If you assume that bringing a wild fish into existence is bad (and outweighs the benefits from not catching fish), then  fishery subsidy reform looks bad. The assumption of net negative lives is one position from which you can arrive at this conclusion. There are other positions from which you can arrive at this conclusion too.

If you think that bringing a wild fish into existence is good or neutral, then fishery subsidies reform looks more promising.

In practice, we don't know whether bringing a wild fish into existence is good, bad, or neutral, and there are plausible arguments supporting all three of these. But it does seem that a large proportion of the moral value of fishery subsidy reform comes from bringing additional wild fish into existence. Since it's unclear whether that is good or bad, we are not able to recommend this as a clearly good intervention.

Thanks for the feedback :)

No, that was probably poorly expressed on my part. What I'm saying is: if you catch reducing fishing effort now, you catch fewer fish in the short-term, but many more fish in the long-term. This means that the total number of fish being caught (and thus suffering) could increase.

Yes - all else being equal, a higher probability of detection is a good thing, as it would lead to a stronger deterrent effect (as long as the authorities respond to violations with clear, effective enforcement actions)

Thanks for the positive feedback :)

If you consider on-farm (rather than slaughterhouse) CCTV, the welfare benefits increase significantly, as you're monitoring a much longer period of each animal's life. However, the tractability of an on-farm CCTV campaign would probably* be much lower. Farmers often have closer, more personal relationships with their farms than slaughterhouse owners do with their slaughterhouses. Proposing to install CCTV on farms would likely trigger a lot of backlash from farmers (particularly given the common public image of the 'family farm').

*Admittedly, this is mostly speculation (although speculation that we checked with experts). It could be the case that an on-farm CCTV campaign is more tractable than we think. If somebody tests a campaign and finds it to be tractable, then yes, my opinion of such a campaign would increase significantly. That would start to look like a highly impactful campaign. But you would first need to show that the campaign is tractable, which I don't have high hopes for. I could imagine that you might be able to increase the tractability by only focusing on industrial/factory farms, which would capture almost all of the impact for animals anyway.

Hey Fai! According to the crime research, the deterrent effects of CCTV depend on the slaughterhouse workers' perceived  probability of detection, not the true probability of detection. So, in principle, it's possible for CCTV to have a meaningful deterrent effect even if the videos aren't watched 100%.

For example, a government could identify which slaughterhouses have the highest risk of non-compliance and focus on those footage, then very quickly and clearly respond to any incidents they do detect. These visible, rapid responses would help convey the impression to slaughterhouse workers that the feeds are being monitored, which would increase the perceived probability of detection despite not all feeds being watched.

Intriguing idea, thanks for sharing. In general think it's worth at least doing some tentative exploration all ideas to increasing the popularity of plant-based diets.

There seems to be an implicit assumption in your post that courses/coaching on plant-based eating will either increase the probability that somebody adopts a plant-based diet, or increases the probability that they stick with it. Has this assumption been tested, to your knowledge? It could also be that this intervention would mostly reach people who are keen on plant-based eating anyway, which is why I think it'd be good to test these assumptions in reality (pilot study or similar).

You might also get some useful feedback by sharing this idea with the RECAP group (https://www.recapresearch.org/join-recap) or Faunalytics, if you haven't already, as both of those groups have people thinking along these lines. I also mention this because - in my opinion - we should be focusing on whatever plant-based interventions appear to work the best. So, for this idea to be deserving of resources (in the long-term, after the idea is tested) it would also need to be shown that this idea works as well as, or better than, other plant-based interventions available to us. (Admittedly, I'm not sure what the best plant-based interventions are right now, but Faunalytics has loads of research on this.)

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