Thoughts on Singer’s Effective Altruism (Rethinking Vegan Advocacy)

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Thoughts on Singer’s Effective Altruism (Rethinking Vegan Advocacy)

Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:21 pm

Singer’s effective altruism functions on how best to allocate our resources to benefit others in the world. It’s about indentifying high-impact problems and using evidence-based tactics to bring about practical solutions.

The EA organization formulated a framework for evaluating the overall impact of social causes; scale, neglectedness and solvability.

Given this framework, animal agriculture is clearly high-impact

SCALE:
  • Habitat destruction
Intensive farming practices are key contributing factors to habitat destruction and climate change (roughly 26% of the Earth's terrestrial surface is used for livestock grazing)

http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0262e.pdf‬

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Featu ... date3.php‬
  • Climate change
Globally, the Animal ag industry accounts for about 24% of total GHG emissions
A fourth of these emissions is a direct result of animal belching and methane flatulence
GHG’s trap infrared radiation and heat the atmosphere
Methane is 34 times more potent than C02

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623/icode/

https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global ... sions-data
  • Animal suffering
The factory farm industry legalizes and normalizes abusive standard practices (debeaking, defeathering, removal of teeth/genetalia without anasethics etc).

Animals are often holed up in confinement and slaughtered inhumanely (electric baths, poorly operated machinery)

Animals are sentient and capable of conscious experience
http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeD ... usness.pdf
  • Antibiotic resistance
Factory farmers feed their animals antibiotics for the treatment, control, and presentment of disease (animals holed up in tight confines)

Overuse/overexposure of antibiotics helps to develop resistant strains of bacteria in animals’ that contaminate their meat and infect humans who ingest it.

Makes antibiotics less efficient

https://www.cdc.gov/narms/faq.html
  • Food waste/Ineficciency


55% of the world’s crop calories are consumed by humans, and 36% is used for animal feed. In the US, more than 67% of crops (soy, corn, wheat etc) is fed to animals, and only 27% is fed to humans.

https://www.vox.com/2014/8/21/6053187/c ... imal-feed‬

‪Eating animals is a ‬net loss of calories and energy (thanks to thermodynamics). In meat, caloric efficiencies range from 7%–8% (beef is by far the least efficient resting at 3% conversion efficiency).

https://globalchange.umich.edu/globalch ... hic2.html‬


NEGLECTENESS:

A mere 3% of philanthropic funding in the US is split between the environment and animals, and 97% goes toward helping humans.

1% of funding spent on animal welfare goes towards farmed animals

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index. ... ew/cpid/42

I’d like to discuss solvability. Singer’s ideas seem to be in line with preference utilitarianism (the good consists in the satisfaction of an individual’s preferences), and hence supports solutions that are effective in satisfying said preferences. It isn’t surprising that Singer is in such favor of charitable giving. However, there’s an amalgam of different tactics that can be utilized to improve the state of animal agriculture, and some tactics are more effective than others.

I wanted to focus mainly on social advocacy and food. While most vegans would like to think that raucous animal rights protests, boycotts, and demands that people “stop-and-go-vegan” are the most productive forms of activism, some evidence shows that people respond well to a reducitarian message as well.

https://osf.io/nxrx3/
To address this problem, we conducted a three-
wave survey experiment examining the effects of
two diet change appeals on self-reported meat consumption and attitudes: a reduce appeal that encourages individuals to reduce their meat consumption but not necessarily eliminate it entirely, and an eliminate appeal that encourages individuals to completely give up eating meat. *We find that both the reduce and eliminate appeals led to significant reductions in self-reported meat consumption five weeks after treatment exposure, on the order of 7.1% and 5.8%, respectively. In addition, both appeals led to shifts in attitudes towards factory farming and perceptions of social norms about meat-eating in the US.*
Some studies find that people who respond to small changes are more likely to adopt larger changes in the future.

This large-scale study found that directly compared the impact of different language in a vegan advocacy brochure found that encouraging people to “cut out or cut back on meat” or “eat less meat” created more dietary change and spared more animals than encouraging people to “eat vegan.”

http://www.humaneleaguelabs.org/blog/20 ... et-change/

This small study found that people who were encouraged to “cut out or cut back on meat” and “eat vegetarian” were more likely to want to remove animal products from their diets and to take steps toward doing so than people who were encouraged to “go vegan.”

http://www.humaneleaguelabs.org/blog/20 ... effective/

In addition, reducitarianism accounts for all outcomes of even the smallest increments in change. Cutting back meat consumption by 10% or on Mondays has a large impact on animals.
Mercy for Animals wrote:We need to realize that when we’re encouraging dietary change, we’re interacting with human beings. And that means we have to account for human psychology. We need to craft our messaging in a way that accepts how people’s brains actually work, not how we think they should work.
Information on human psychology seems to play a role as well. Particularly the public perception of vegans as judgmental and dogmatic, and the perception of a strict vegan diet as unhealthy. People may have a better perception of a vegetarian or reducitarian diet than a vegan one, and thus may respond better to the latter. https://www.publicpolicypolling.com/wp- ... 022613.pdf

As @JacyReese explained in his TedTalk, history shows us that working from an institutional framing (promoting changes in government/industry practices) rather than an individualist framing brings about the most effective results. It’s also the least alienating. Given the evidence on humans psychology and the response to reducitarian/reductionist messaging, it may be more effective to rethink how we (vegans) are conducting our advocacy, and to move beyond promoting veganism as the sole heuristic toward ending animal agriculture, especially when the evidence does not support this.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:51 pm

Good article. Thanks for this. I think there is a good case for asking charity evaluators like GiveWell to look more at animal opportunities including farm animals related issues.

I see a doubt on how to make the structural changes driven by government. In the case of an electricity grid, for instance, it's easier to see how government and industry can take the lead in transforming. But in food, the individual has more power and more choice. It isn't clear how industry can take the lead (perhaps fake meat) or how government could take the lead (taxation, end of subsidies could be a factor though and regulation of factory farming).

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Post by Lay Vegan » Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:12 am

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:51 pm
Good article. Thanks for this. I think there is a good case for asking charity evaluators like GiveWell to look more at animal opportunities including farm animals related issues.
Thanks! Givewell is an excellent resource, although I don’t think they recommend any animal charities on their site. Most of their charities work within global health.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:51 pm
I see a doubt on how to make the structural changes driven by government. In the case of an electricity grid, for instance, it's easier to see how government and industry can take the lead in transforming. But in food, the individual has more power and more choice. It isn't clear how industry can take the lead (perhaps fake meat) or how government could take the lead (taxation, end of subsidies could be a factor though and regulation of factory farming).
I think institutions can take the lead in a number of ways namely: reforming harmful business-standard policies and investing in plant-based alternatives/cellular agriculture. The reality is that if we want to insight change in the world, we need to think critically about the effectiveness of our efforts. I’m not convinced that a heavy focus on individual efforts will reduce animal suffering drastically or end factory farming. From an economic perspective, vegan boycotts typically do not work on their own and provide little economic incentive for businesses, namely because we represent such a small fraction of the market share. Businesses need strong economic incentives to reform policies and rely less heavily on animal agriculture, and people need an alternative way to eating factory-farmed animals. I think clean meat technology and plant-based food are real game changers. In addition, the evidence (and our understanding of human psychology) suggest that people respond well to a reducitarian message, and sometimes far better than they respond to a vegan message. In short, I’m skeptical that consumer veganism is the only, or even the best heuristic to follow if our goal is to end factory farming.

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Post by Roman0vmarisa » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:29 pm

I largely believe that for businesses/corporations, it is entirely effective to protest and use other means of pressure to make change. I know you’d like to focus on food, but I wanted to talk about fur quick- the fur industry has been on a high decline for years now with big designers going for free or implementing a fade out period for their fur. Part of this decline was not due to “people giving money to charities” and sitting behind computer screens making YouTube videos. Some of this change was implemented because there were dedicated activists on the streets and in front of the stores every day. Influencers and those with high profiles have communicated this with fur protestors over social media, with them as their main reasoning to ditch fur all together. This type of pressure helped many companies to go fur free or start to fade out their fur products. Not saying that this is the only reason, of course, but these protests and digital marketing campaigns for anti-fur have been instrumental.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleash ... sales.html

In regards to veganism and food, programs like Meatless Monday and people adapting to a “reducitarian” diet has made such great changes in the diets of people and the reduction of animal products, but I also think that having a balance of different forms of activism and implementation for plant based lifestyles is vital to continue the change.

So, I think individually, especially regarding food, small changes do lead to great results in the end, but for large corporations and businesses who also have a large influence on their customers, pressuring them to incorporate more plant based options and less animal products makes sense. I can’t help but to think that there have been many attempts to simply “sit and talk” peacefully and without protest/heavy pressure, but I think that the protests and other forms of similar activism come about when people feel they’ve hit the end of the road and tired out their “nice guy” act.

I say: we need all. We need people to give to charities. We need protestors on the streets. We need people making YouTube videos. We need it all. We have a better chance at reaching more people using all forms of activism. In regards to “turning people off,” I think that, regardless of the execution of the activism, there will be people who will be really negatively effected and really positively effected.

I also like this website!
http://www.veganadvocacy.org

I also really like this:

https://mercyforanimals.org/essays-effective-advocacy

“Ask yourself, if you were the chicken on the factory farm, drugged and bred so that you couldn’t even stand up, or the pig in the slaughterhouse, drowning in boiling water, how would you want your advocates to look? I don’t believe our personal desire to reject society’s norms is nearly so important as advocating effectively for animals.”


And this one:
http://veganstrategist.org/2018/01/28/v ... 0644531250

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Post by carnap » Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:06 pm

Referring to global statistics makes no sense when you're thinking about your individual actions. For example, while globally animal agriculture seems to contribute around 20% of emissions the figures are much different in developed nations. In the US animal agriculture only contributes around 5% of green-house gases making it low on the list of priorities for someone in the US.

There are other environmental issues with intensive agriculture (both animal and crops) but those can be managed with better regulation.

So that really leaves "suffering" or ethical issues in general. But how does one meaningfully compare the suffering of a farm animal to that of a human? But again you have a situation where the suffering of farm animals can be greatly reduced by improved regulation of farms.

So, at best, this ethical ideology would lead you to focus on improved regulations for farming both in regard to the environment and animal welfare. But the animal welfare case is complicated by there no clear way of comparing the suffering of farm animals to that of people which is critical in determining which action is more "effective" than other.

In short, effective altruism seems to just lead people to do what they would do otherwise.....support what they think is important. It just adds a layer of smugness to matters.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Fri Oct 26, 2018 8:55 pm

carnap wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:06 pm
Referring to global statistics makes no sense when you're thinking about your individual actions. For example, while globally animal agriculture seems to contribute around 20% of emissions the figures are much different in developed nations.
It absolutely makes sense to talk about global statistics when we're talking about which practices humans should end.

The fact of a lower percentage of total emissions coming from meat in developed countries is not because they're emitting any less per capita from meat (if that were true, then you might have a point).
While developed nations may release less per kg of meat produced due to higher efficiency of factory farming, those people also tend to eat a lot more meat (and waste more) and the emissions from meat are comparable or sometimes worse per capita than in less developed countries. The only thing that makes them seem lower as a ratio relative to developing countries is higher emissions elsewhere.

It's like a rapist/mass-murder saying mere rapists have to stop raping, but he's good to keep raping no problem because he murders too so rape is only a small percentage of the harm he does whereas for mere rapists it's a larger percentage.
Doing other things worse is not an excuse to continue whatever bad things you're doing, and since the West is ultimately the cultural and economic leader of the world it also poses a VERY bad example.

Developed countries are SO much worse in other areas, but that doesn't excuse animal agriculture, and it only makes fake environmentalists in developed countries hypocrites when they won't quit eating meat despite the obvious fact that humanity as a whole needs to. It remains the largest avoidable contribution to global warming.
carnap wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:06 pm
In the US animal agriculture only contributes around 5% of green-house gases making it low on the list of priorities for someone in the US.
That's some bullshit low-balling, accounting correctly for opportunity cost it's likely much higher.

Aside from that, it's dishonest to just present raw numbers like that with the implication that all sources are equal in need and difficulty changing.

The majority of emissions outside of animal agriculture are due to the source of our power, and to essential things like concrete manufacture. Switching to nuclear is essential, but it's largely a political issue and not one that consumers can do much about. In contrast, purchasing behavior of meat is very much consumer driven. We can support green building alternatives, but compromising building safety or living on the streets is not a sensible ask, and again it's not something most consumers can influence.
carnap wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:06 pm
There are other environmental issues with intensive agriculture (both animal and crops) but those can be managed with better regulation.
Some of them can, like waste processing perhaps, but those aren't significant global issues.
carnap wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:06 pm
So that really leaves "suffering" or ethical issues in general. But how does one meaningfully compare the suffering of a farm animal to that of a human?
You don't have to, ending animal agriculture is win-win. It's effective even just for humanity to fight to end it.

It's reasonable to support animal testing for medical advances that benefit humans, not to support animal agriculture.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:14 pm

5% is certainly too low. I doubt you can provide the data to defend that. It's probably more like 15% so it's pretty important.

However the large size of everything, the car culture, the materialism is also a big factor in the US. They are also pretty slow on their electricity grid in some parts of the country.

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