My name is Saulius Simcikas. I am a researcher at Rethink Priorities. I currently focus on topics within farmed animal welfare. Previously, I was a research intern at Animal Charity Evaluators, organised Effective Altruism events in the UK and Lithuania, and earned-to-give as a programmer.


Cost-effectiveness analysis of a program promoting a vegan diet

Some more thoughts: If someone were to look into the program deeper, maybe it is possible to run an RCT. You could randomly assign some participants who sign up to the program to the control group. You could just send a document to these people explaining how to be vegetarian or something, and not make them join any groups. And then you could send them the same questionnaire to them as to others. This has some flaws but would be better than nothing. But it’s pretty clear that the program should continue so I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Another mildly useful thing to do would be to check if meat consumption in Israel has gone down in general, and use that as a control group. It could be mildly useful because it would make you dismiss hypotheses that they consumed less meat because of unrelated reasons that apply to all Israelis like increased meat prices, or increased availability of plant-based options, or meat-related health scare.

Cost-effectiveness analysis of a program promoting a vegan diet

Hey, thanks for doing this! I think you did a good job at considering most of the uncertainties. My main disagreement would be that this is a moderate limitation: graph

I think that it is a major limitation. In general, since it seems that most of the work is done by volunteers, the situation reminds me of an example I gave in this article:

Imagine many volunteers collaborating to do a lot of good, and having a small budget for snacks. Their cost-effectiveness estimate could be very high, but it would be a mistake to expect their impact to double if we double their funding for snacks.

You could imagine that program being run without any paid staff and any expenses, and having an infinite cost-effectiveness. But it wouldn’t follow that this is a good opportunity for donors. If volunteer involvement is the major reason for cost-effectiveness, I don’t see a reason to think why the cost-effectiveness of related activities like expanding advertising and accelerating the development of an app would be at all similar to the cost-effectiveness of the program so far. These seem to be totally different activities.

That said, the cost-effectiveness estimate does inform us that expanding the program into more geographic locations, cultures and languages could be promising. But if this is what you use the cost-effectiveness estimate for, maybe you shouldn’t adjust the estimates of future costs towards the lower present day costs, because in that case the set up costs are relevant. Also, in that case I wouldn’t feature the cost-effectiveness figures so prominently in this analysis if the target audience is Israelis wanting to donate to local charities.

Another thing is that if participants switched to a vegetarian diet and started eating more eggs to get enough protein instead of eating beef or lamb, the program might have caused more suffering than it prevented (see I imagine that they were encouraged to get their proteins in other ways though, but it is still something to consider.

Introducing Animal Ask

Congratulations on the new organization!

I hope you guys have talked with the Aquatic Life Institute or the Aquatic Animal Alliance because I see some overlap. If I recall correctly, they are also working on an ask.

Factors other than ITN?

I feel I should also mention that I personally find the framework unnecessary and limiting. My opinion is that we don't need any framework here. I find that it's easier and more productive to simply think about what actions I can take and what consequences those actions will lead to. But this is a bit off-topic and I will explain my view in full another time.

Factors other than ITN?

Other factors

If you are thinking about what cause you should work on, you may also consider personal fit. 80,000 hours explain why they didn’t include it as a factor here. Also, none of us is 100% altruistic, so you may also want to consider the personal benefit of working on the cause, although I guess that can go under personal fit as well.

Is it exhaustive?

You could say that there are two ITN frameworks: informal and quantitative. It’s easier to talk about the quantitative framework, so that’s what I will talk about, even though people usually use the informal one.

The quantitative framework cancels out to Good done / extra person or $. If you are a pure consequentialist, I think that this is exhaustive by definition. It doesn’t capture non-consequentialist concerns. E.g., maybe making cost-effective progress on this cause would involve morally questionable means like lying or blackmail. However, you can incorporate these by redefining tractability to something like “tractable with only using means I am comfortable with”. Or you can just assume that in the long run, using these means is bad from a consequentialist point of view anyway, which usually seems to be the case.

Also, it’s exhaustive only if Good done includes all things you intrinsically value like personal benefit, equity, etc. Usually when people use the framework, they assume pure utilitarianism and don’t include these.

Propose and vote on potential tags

When tags were introduced, the post said to "submit new tag ideas to us using this form." I made a bunch of suggestions (don't remember what they were) and probably some other people did too. Could someone who has access to results of that form paste all those suggestions here?

What is the most effective intensive farming video to convert meat eaters?

Also, I just want to share my experience that I tried to convert my family members as well when I first became vegan but then I realized that the chance of succeeding is low and that this isn't at all a good use of my time because I could help animals much more and with less effort by e.g. donating money to effective animal charities. Your situation might be different, but if your brother doesn't seem receptive right away, I'd recommend not pushing it too much. Vegans have a bad reputation of being too pushy in this way and I think that it's important to not reinforce it. Nowadays, I almost never bring up the topic of veganism myself, and I am very casual about it, and I only talk about it if people ask me about it. Ironically, I feel that this may be more effective. E.g., I noticed that multiple people I dated just happened to go vegan while we were together, despite me hardly ever talking about it. I think that my quiet example may have been an influence. Maybe it just showed to them that it is possible and no big deal. That said, I've heard at least one story of a son arguing a lot with his father and in the end convincing him to go vegan.

Also, I see that you want to convert them to vegetarianism. I think vegetarianism is not great from animal welfare perspective because conventional eggs might be one of the worst commonly-consumed foods for animals. E.g. see It could be argued that beef less bad than eggs. Hence, I think it makes more sense to advocate for lacto-vegetarianism which excludes eggs, but includes diary products, or something else.

I don't know if any of these things needed to be said to you, but I thought I would say them just in case.

What is the most effective intensive farming video to convert meat eaters?

Vegfund has some recommendations here. Personally, I always thought that What Cody Saw was very good, and I heard it being recommended by some animal advocates. I showed it to a friend once and she was moved by it and considered going vegan but didn't in the end. However, this was a while ago and now I see that Mercy For Animals have taken down the original video so maybe there is a reason not to use it.

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