Which animals need the most help from the animal advocacy movement?

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Ula
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Which animals need the most help from the animal advocacy movement?

Post by Ula » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:16 am

Hey Everyone,

So it's my first post here and I hope it'll be interesting for you, because I want to share with you the results of my colleagues' months of research work. This is a part of a larger project that will result in starting new, high-impact charities in animal advocacy.
And this is our work at Charity Entrepreneurship - to do proper, high-quality research and then help people start organizations based on this research.

So in this post: http://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/ ... y-movement
we share a spreadsheet, where you can see: which animals should be our priority in animal advocacy if we want to decrease the biggest amount of suffering.

As you can see we came to the conclusion that fish (both wild and factory farmed), turkeys, wild bugs, broiler chickens, and wild rats are the top priority animals for new charities to focus on.
This is based on months of research on animal welfare.
Here you can see the post when we compared animal welfare and come to the conclusion which of them have the hardest lives:
http://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/ ... es-results
If you'd like to learn more about the methodology of the research and go deeper into it, let me know.

I wanted to share it here because I think it might be interesting and useful, especially for philosophers and animal advocates.
I think I truly believe that as animal activists (and I'm one for 17 years now) we really need to pay attention to the research and improve our work accordingly. Because, especially working in NGOs, we're using money that belongs to animals, so it's our ethical obligation to use it to their biggest advantage.

This research is a part of a project which will be ended with finding people that would start new organizations, that will aim to target neglected areas with the most effective way of helping, that we can give those animals (this research will be published later this year and in 2019)

So please check out the research and if you have comment or questions I'll be here to answer them (or ask my colleagues to answer them :)).

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:44 am

I think research like this can be a little counter productive, particularly when you talk about wild bugs being among the most in need of help.
People aren't ready for the wild animal question, they're not ready to worry about bugs, and they certainly aren't ready to worry about wild bugs.

That said, I think it misses a great deal when we don't take into account degree of sentience.
The only thing you have that's close is odds of feeling pain... no idea how you got those stats. All of the mammals and birds are almost comically low.
The actual odds of a bird or mammal feeling pain are the same as a human, essentially 100% (solipsism isn't a 1% chance).
They are likely less sentient, though, in the sense that their depth of understanding is less.

Odds of a insect or fish feeling some specific kind of pain may be lower (odds of insects feeling it are probably less than 10%), but pain is not the metric of moral value. There are humans (rare, way under 1%) who have congenital analgesia and don't feel pain; doesn't mean they're without value.
In any case, the important matter is that of degree of sentience.

In effect, this way of calculating value has put a gnat at 1/7th the value of a chicken, which is just incredibly wrong.

Rather than looking at suffering per individual, why not look at suffering per neuron? That's still crude since it depends on what area of the brain they're in, and the relationship is non-linear (there are thresholds of brain size that give huge returns, and then less after that)... but it would give you something closer to an objective view of the issue.

You also need to account for what degree of the suffering is anthropogenic. That can be philosophically relevant.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:24 pm

This is a bit difficult to answer but definitely the following factors should be considered:

The number of individuals affected
The amount of suffering incurred
The longevity of the suffering in question
The bang for the buck factor, i.e. where is the charity money most likely to have a positive impact

I'm not sure if charity money will have more of an impact in areas where the masses have already expressed outrage (although the victims are relatively few) such as the Yulin dog meat festival, or if it is better to focus on areas where few have spoken out but where the number of victims are multiple (such as the poultry industry). There may also be one "trigger" animal, i.e. if one can get a person to stop eating that one, s/he is likely to stop eating more, or even all, animals. Some animals may even have the opposite effect. For example, a charity that focuses on getting people to stop killing bugs may be considered so ridiculous that it repels people from the general idea of veganism.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:41 pm

Jebus wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:24 pm
The longevity of the suffering in question
That's a very good point too.
If insects suffer, it's over the duration of a typically brief life cycle (sometimes days outside their larval form), whereas cows suffer for potentially two to three years, and chickens from a few weeks to a few months.
Jebus wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:24 pm
Some animals may even have the opposite effect. For example, a charity that focuses on getting people to stop killing bugs may be considered so ridiculous that it repels people from the general idea of veganism.
Yes, actually Greger has a good (short) article on this one, and that's for bees which people are already more sympathetic to than other insects.
Here we go: http://www.satyamag.com/sept05/greger.html
Michael Greger wrote:Honey hurts more than just bees. It hurts egg-laying hens, crammed in battery cages so small they can’t spread their wings. It hurts mother pigs, languishing for months in steel crates so narrow they can’t turn around. And the billions of aquatic animals who, pulled from filthy aquaculture farms, suffocate to death. All because honey hurts our movement.

It’s happened to me over and over. Someone will ask me why I’m vegan—it could be a new friend, co-worker, distant family, or a complete stranger. I know I then have but a tiny window of opportunity to indelibly convey their first impression of veganism. I’m either going to open that window for that person, breezing in fresh ideas and sunlight, or slam it shut as the blinds fall. So I talk to them of mercy. Of the cats and dogs with whom they’ve shared their lives. Of birds with a half piece of paper’s worth of space in which to live and die. Of animals sometimes literally suffering to death. I used to eat meat too, I tell them. Lots of meat. And I never knew either.

Slowly but surely the horror dawns on them. You start to see them struggling internally. How can they pet their dog with one hand and stab a piece of pig with the other? They love animals, but they eat animals. Then, just when their conscience seems to be winning out, they learn that we don’t eat honey. And you can see the conflict drain away with an almost visible sigh. They finally think they understand what this whole “vegan” thing is all about. You’re not vegan because you’re trying to be kind or compassionate—you’re just crazy! They smile. They point. You almost had me going for a second, they chuckle. Whew, that was a close one. They almost had to seriously think about the issues. They may have just been considering boycotting eggs, arguably the most concentrated form of animal cruelty, and then the thought hits them that you’re standing up for insect rights. Maybe they imagine us putting out little thimble-sized bowls of food for the cockroaches every night.

I’m afraid that our public avoidance of honey is hurting us as a movement. A certain number of bees are undeniably killed by honey production, but far more insects are killed, for example, in sugar production. And if we really cared about bugs we would never again eat anything either at home or in a restaurant that wasn’t strictly organically grown—after all, killing bugs is what pesticides do best. And organic production uses pesticides too (albeit “natural”). Researchers measure up to approximately 10,000 bugs per square foot of soil—that’s over 400 million per acre, 250 trillion per square mile. Even “veganically” grown produce involves the deaths of countless bugs in lost habitat, tilling, harvesting and transportation. We probably kill more bugs driving to the grocery store to get some honey-sweetened product than are killed in the product’s production.

Our position on honey therefore just doesn’t make any sense, and I think the general population knows this on an intuitive level. Veganism for them, then, becomes more about some quasi-religious personal purity, rather than about stopping animal abuse. No wonder veganism can seem nonsensical to the average person. We have this kind of magical thinking; we feel good about ourselves as if we’re actually helping the animals obsessing about where some trace ingredient comes from, when in fact it may have the opposite effect. We may be hurting animals by making veganism seem more like petty dogmatic self-flagellation.

In my eyes, if we choose to avoid honey, fine. Let’s just not make a huge production of it and force everybody to do the same if they want to join the club.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:53 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:41 pm
Greger has a good (short) article on this one, and that's for bees which people are already more sympathetic to than other insects.
Here we go: http://www.satyamag.com/sept05/greger.html
Well put, Dr. Greger.

It is rare to see him venture into vegan areas outside of nutrition.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

Ula
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Post by Ula » Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am

I asked our research team for a comment an here it is:
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:44 am
People aren't ready for the wild animal question, they're not ready to worry about bugs, and they certainly aren't ready to worry about wild bugs.
Thanks for your comment.
This may be true, and people should take this possibility into account when doing public outreach. We don't think this should prevent research on these questions, however.
The question of weighting different species by the degree of sentience is a controversial one (for obvious reasons). On some defensible views, insects and other non-humans might even require a higher sentience weighting, due to factors like higher clock speed. That's beyond the scope of our project, but we agree that if people have determinate views about different levels of sentience, then we agree they should weight accordingly.

For the probability of sentience, we simply refer to the estimates in this report (https://www.openphilanthropy.org/2017-r ... babilities), which goes into a lot of different issues, as a reference point. Again, if people have different views, then they should reweight accordingly.

Similarly, we recognise that on some moral views, there are elements of moral value beyond an organism's capacity to suffer, as well as moral significance to whether or not that suffering is caused by humans. People with different moral views should also take this into account when deciding their priorities, though we think our research will be relevant to people with a wide variety of moral views.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Mon Dec 10, 2018 4:40 pm

Ula wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am
The question of weighting different species by the degree of sentience is a controversial one (for obvious reasons).
That's like saying taking a position on the Earth not being flat is controversial, so we'd better not do it, because a small and radical fringe may disagree.
Controversy is inherent in anything, the question is degree of controversy. You also court controversy by NOT weighing sentience.

The fact is that failing to do so is even more controversial, for obvious reasons.
The idea that a dust mite is less valuable than a human being is NOT significantly controversial, even among vegans.

You ignore this issue at your peril, and you will face increasing opposition if you're resistant to addressing it (or AT LEAST providing the option in your results in terms of weighted and unweighted results).
Ula wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am
On some defensible views, insects and other non-humans might even require a higher sentience weighting, due to factors like higher clock speed.
No, that's not defensible. If you want to use computer analogies, it's the total processing power that matters. Look at effective IQ and problem solving as an outward representation.
Ula wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am
That's beyond the scope of our project, but we agree that if people have determinate views about different levels of sentience, then we agree they should weight accordingly.
People do have views about the importance of degrees of sentience; virtually ALL people. Stop courting the flat-earth fringe of extremist vegans and ignoring the mainstream by shirking this.

By YOU not incorporating degree of sentience, you imply it's unimportant or unreasonable. You strongly imply that direct comparison on a population level is the appropriate approach, and in so doing you make vegans completely unreasonable and deeply immoral.

This kind of "research" is the worst form of vegan advocacy. If carnists get wind of this, you'll just be handing them ammunition against us.
The harm you are doing to our cause by releasing this is profound. Even IF that's not what you meant to do, you should very well KNOW that things like this can and will be misinterpreted, and by failing to account for sentience (and REFUSING to attempt it even as a presented option) you encourage that misinterpretation.
Ula wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am
For the probability of sentience, we simply refer to the estimates in this report (https://www.openphilanthropy.org/2017-r ... babilities), which goes into a lot of different issues, as a reference point. Again, if people have different views, then they should reweight accordingly.
That report is on consciousness.
This kind of cherry picking is very unusual when we have much more significant consensus statements on the issue. It's transparently absurd for any value less than 100% to be used for mammals and birds, and it discredits your work to do so.

http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeD ... usness.pdf
We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from
experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the
neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with
the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that
humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman
animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also
possess these neurological substrates.”
Outside of mammals and birds, some small degree of uncertainty is justified. In insects, a larger one may be. There's no wriggle room for suspecting a chicken may only have a 70% chance of being sentient/conscious. That's not credible, and anybody pretending it is credible is profoundly ignorant. Whether that ignorance is a result of stupidity of having an agenda, that's less clear.

If you're unwilling to reconsider these values given more evidence, I can only assume it's the latter.

It sounds like you're actually *trying* to avoid accounting for degree of sentience for ideological reasons, and so you're attempting to use these twisted values of "probability of sentience" as a crude replacement to avoid counting chickens and humans as equals in your calculation output.
This suggests to me that this is what you personally believe. It tells me you aren't arguing that you should leave out degree of sentience because some people don't agree with it (some people = a radical fringe) but because YOU don't agree with it, and you ARE that radical fringe.

Maybe I'm wrong. If I am, prove it by updating your numbers to consensus on consciousness rather than cherry picking bad research.
Outside of mammals and birds I could understand why you might incorporate numbers like these, but again for mammals and birds this is transparently absurd.
Ula wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am
Similarly, we recognise that on some moral views, there are elements of moral value beyond an organism's capacity to suffer,
Sentience/consciousness is not pain. As I explained, pain in itself is morally nonessential unless you're claiming that people with congenital analgesia have no moral value.
That's a completely absurd position, and you should not be humoring it because it makes vegans look mad and deeply evil. Such "research" implying that is the most effective propaganda AGAINST veganism I can imagine.

What matters is a being having interests. See the Cambridge Declaration. We're interested in intentional states when it comes to morality. If a being can be emotionally frustrated (experience a negative state), it doesn't matter if it experiences the same kind of technical "pain" which is a specific sensation from tissue damage.

Even the most hard core classical hedonistic utilitarians recognize negative emotional states, and not exclusively "pain". You're taking a very extremist position here, and you don't seem to be able to even admit it.
Ula wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:44 am
People with different moral views should also take this into account when deciding their priorities, though we think our research will be relevant to people with a wide variety of moral views.
You already took into account NUMBER of individuals. Not everybody cares about numbers: look at deontological views.
You have ALREADY dismissed their moral views, why? Because they're unreasonable, of course.
For the same reason, you should account for degree of sentience and make this research actually useful. As it stands, it's not relevant to a wider number of people, it's just deceptive and harmful to the vegan cause because people will use this kind of stuff against us. Without any exploration of degree of sentience this is absolutely useless to normal sensible people.

If you can take into account NUMBER of individuals against unreasonable deontological views, then you can also take into account DEGREE of sentience against unreasonable "dust mites are equal to human" views (unless the case is that this is YOUR view as I speculated and your "research" has an agenda in pushing that view).
You can also properly account for probability of sentience so this isn't a joke (all birds and mammals at 100%).

If you fail to do that, then you ARE making a statement. You're making a very strong implicit claim that those views are reasonable. In effect you are promoting those extremist views with this "research" and harming veganism in doing so.

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