It is definitely difficult to do research into these areas where there is so much suffering involved, and as you mentioned it is often the areas of suffering that you just had no idea about that are the worst - learning a new way that animals suffer. It’s also important, of course, to make sure that these emotions don't bias us towards interventions that are more horrific but less tractable etc.
For me the most difficult thing I have had to research is the use of glue traps for rodents as I just didn’t know glue traps existed before doing this research and the photos and descriptions of their use were particularly horrible, this was without a doubt the saddest I had felt whilst doing research. The way I console myself is that I know that I am doing this research because we are trying to help these animals, or the most animals we can, and that definitely feels worthwhile.
Hi - sorry for the belated response!
For policy obviously the overall scale of the number of people/animals you can help is much bigger, but then we have to discount this based on the expected enforcement rate and also by the fact that we expect the overall probability of success of policy advocacy to be lower on average.
For the expected enforcement rate we look at existing enforcement rates of the policy in similar/neighbouring countries (if applicable) and the existing enforcement rates of similar policies (eg. when estimating the enforcement rate of seatbelt legislation we may look at the enforcement rates of speed limit legislation by looking at that % of people stick to the speed limit). This can be easier or more difficult to do depending on the intervention and the availability of information. In cases where there is less relevant information we might use proxies such as the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index.
For the probability of success we usually try to do a case study analysis of advocacy efforts by other organisations in other countries and take the average success rate of these campaigns, with a note that we are more likely to find information on successful campaigns so this might be somewhat of an overestimate on the overall probability of success.
Hi Peter, thanks for your comment!
I must admit I have not really thought about this before, but intuitively it still seems important to have appropriate road safety legislation like speed limits in place even if it is robocars following them rather than human drivers. In fact, I could see it as important to have appropriate speed limits in place before the introduction of robocars in case robocars are programmed to drive faster than is safe as a reflection of a too high speed limit.
I think the use of seat belts is still a good norm to have, even if robocars will drive safer than human drivers.
I'm not sure whether this would affect the timing of the transition, but if the robocar was going to be programmed with a speed limit anyway then lowering the speed limit doesn't seem like it would slow down the transition (not sure on this though).
Hey Devon, thanks for your comment!
As you can see above, Larks raised a similar concern in their comment. After a quick Google search, I have found some data on this from the UK - "Each 1 mph reduction in average traffic speed costs the UK economy in excess of £1Bn in lost productivity through extended journey times" (https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-hes-proposed-motorway-speed-limit-reduction-to-60mph-borders-on-economic-vandalism/). This suggests the impact could be quite significant and could give us reason to reduce the economic impacts that are currently being modeled to account for this lost productivity. However, as the World Health Organization found that the economic impact of road traffic injuries is approximately 3% of GDP, I think the economic impacts would still be net-positive.
Hi, thanks for your comment and apologies for the somewhat belated response!
On increasing travel times - yeah I think this is a really interesting point and something that we didn't consider when modeling the CEA. I think it may be best to discount the income effects of this intervention as a result of this. After a quick Google search, I have found some data on this from the UK - "Each 1 mph reduction in average traffic speed costs the UK economy in excess of £1Bn in lost productivity through extended journey times" (https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-hes-proposed-motorway-speed-limit-reduction-to-60mph-borders-on-economic-vandalism/). This suggests the impact could be quite significant, though as the World Health Organization found that the economic impact of road traffic injuries is approximately 3% of GDP, I think the economic impacts would still be net-positive.
Clare's point on traffic jams is an important consideration here, both for your point and for the promise of this intervention - if drivers are never getting up to the speed limit, then decreasing them looks less promising. This was a concern we were aware of, but we felt unable to address from our desktop research, but this is something we will highlight to the founders of this organization, and it is something that they will be able to assess when doing country scoping visits.
Perhaps these considerations make advocacy on seat-belt legislation look more promising than advocacy to reduce speed limits. This would be good to pass on to the potential founders so that they can weigh up these considerations.
On the stress of getting pulled over by the police, I am not sure I can comment usefully on this as I don't know too much about it, but thanks for raising the concern, and thanks Clare for the insight from Sierra Leone.
Hi Clare - thanks for your response! Yeah, I do think enforcement really is the main concern for this intervention, and the experts we spoke with also mentioned that bribes are common in the areas where they have worked (mainly Sub-Saharan Africa).
As mentioned in the report we have tried to somewhat get around this issue in our country selection by selecting countries that seem to have good enforcement of other road traffic safety laws (either from eg. the percentage seat-belt or helmet wearing rate or from the average rating given to the enforcement mechanisms of that country by different stakeholders of that country). This definitely isn't totally bypassing the issue, though, and these numbers can only tell us so much. This is definitely the limitation of the desktop research we do and we will stress the importance of country scoping visits to the founders of this charity so they can better get a sense of what things are like on the ground and hope that they can find a country where these enforcement issues seem surmountable.
Re the motorcycle helmet law: That's interesting! We did consider motorcycle helmet laws but ultimately ruled them out in favour of speed limits and seat belt laws as they seemed more scalable (a bigger issue in more countries).
Apologies for the belated response, I missed this!
The pitch for shrimp welfare would be similar to the pitch of invertebrate welfare in general where even if the case for shrimp sentience is weaker than the case for mammal, bird, and fish sentience, the expected value of helping shrimp might be higher than the expected value of helping mammals, birds, and fish due to the large scale of their suffering. For example, fishcount estimate that 51-167 billion fish were slaughtered in 2017, and 210-530 billion shrimps and prawns were slaughtered.
I think the case for working to end the practice of eyestalk ablation is particularly strong as it is such a horrific practice that it could be seen as low hanging fruit. This could then be a good 'foot-in-the-door' for other shrimp welfare issues.
Yeah, welfare points are a per-animal metric, but they are discounted by our best guess at the likelihood of sentience of each animal so we have estimated that shrimp have a 10% likelihood of sentience and cows, to use your example, have a 75% likelihood of sentience. So an intervention that affects shrimp would have to affect sufficiently more welfare points than an intervention that affects cow to be considered cost-effective. I hope this makes sense!
And Maternal Health Initiative!