There has been recent discussion within effective altruism around global mental health as a new cause area. In the 2018 EA survey, it was included as a potential top cause area, and around 4% of EAs identified it as their top priority . This has led us to think about whether Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) should do prioritisation research on mental health as a potentially high-impact cause area. Many of us at CE have been convinced that this is a promising enough area to investigate as one of the four areas for our 2020 incubation program. In this post, I will explain which factors convinced us to expand our portfolio of cause areas for the next incubation round to include mental health.
Unlike in previous years, we are considering multiple different cause areas this year, which leaves more room for cause comparison. We think that generally, both entrepreneurs and donors have specific cause areas in mind when they attend or support our program. However, some have asked us for a sense of how the different cause areas, and more importantly, charities within them, compare. We think each area has its strengths and weaknesses and at this level, it's hard to reliably compare because many assumptions (both ethical and epistemic) need to be made.
We are considering the following four areas:
Government outreach is one possible approach for helping animals. It has advantages over other approaches because enshrining welfare into law eliminates most of the concern about recidivism that occurs with other methods, such as corporate campaigns. However, like other approaches, government outreach also has its flaws, which, due to differences in each country’s legislative system, will vary in severity from place to place. Its effectiveness depends on some key questions. Is there popular support for legislative change in the country? What is the likelihood of success for creating legislative change? And if they succeed, will animal welfare laws be enforced?
To answer some of these questions, this approach report examines governmental outreach for dissolved oxygen for fish in Taiwan and feed fortification for egg-laying hens in India. Using a cluster approach, we examine many sources of evidence that could support or disprove their expected impact. We also present the remaining crucial considerations surrounding these approaches. Our tentative conclusion is that lobbying for dissolved oxygen in Taiwan is likely moderately cost-effective, and feed fortification in India is one of the less cost-effective interventions we have considered.
This report considers how food technology can help animals by reducing the demand for conventional animal products and increasing the demand for plant-based and cell-based alternatives. We considered eight possible interventions, and cursory research on these ideas suggests that the most promising option is to create a plant-based seafood product. Therefore, this report provides an in-depth look into this specific intervention.
Our deeper research suggests that while product creation is the most promising intervention within food technology in terms of impact on animals, it is not the most promising intervention for Charity Entrepreneurship to focus on. This is for several reasons:
1) there is already a lot of work being done in this area by other organizations;
2) letting the market fund this start-up would be better than us starting this organization as the costs of production are very high;
3) as plant-based foods become more popular, the market will be incentivized to create plant-based seafood, and it will be better for this intervention to come from non-mission aligned private capital than philanthropic dollars; and
4) when comparing this approach with alternative approaches we might recommend, such as corporate and government outreach, our research suggests it is less cost-effective.
Why is some research conducted with very high quality, yet it does not affect decisions on where to direct our time and money? What makes research relevant, important, and ultimately lead to positively impacting the world? A considerable portion of resources aimed at doing good at the world goes towards conducting research. In just the animal advocacy space (often considered one of the least research-heavy causes), about $9 million and 40 full-time researchers in the past five years went to work. That number is growing. With increasingly more organizations focusing on research, the importance of designing an effective research agenda is also growing. With so much attention on research, there is a high degree of importance on creating an impactful research agenda. In this post, I will present one meta-method for improving the impact of a research agenda. This post starts by explaining the importance of the theory of change for your research and then elaborates on a method to involve decision-makers in the process of creating your research agenda to maximize the impact of research.
Conducting research is essential for identifying high-impact interventions and assessing the effectiveness of existing strategies. Unfortunately, the historical impact of research within the animal welfare space has been limited by poor quality studies, a lack of experienced researchers, and organizations’ lack of responsiveness to findings. In this report, we consider various approaches to animal welfare research and their prospects of being translated into positive impact for animals.
Should we minimize the suffering felt next year or speed up neglected welfare improvements? A simple model
In my work as a research analyst for Charity Entrepreneurship, I have been assessing possible animal welfare campaigns. The first thing I found is that finding the correct welfare asks for corporate or government campaigns is really hard. The scarcity of information in animal advocacy relative to other cause areas means that accurate decisions are harder to make. Establishing reliable metrics to assess ideas is essential to avoid wasting time. One way of doing this is to think about how to approximate the endline metric we are trying to maximise: counterfactual impact.
Are China and India the most promising countries for animal advocacy? A systematic country comparison
When considering a new charity to start, the question of which country to target is an important one. This post explains the process for prioritizing countries and how this system is applied to different countries.
Decision-making on which charities to establish involves certain complex processes. Part of this analysis is looking at the effectiveness of different approaches. Currently at Charity Entrepreneurship, I am analysing how promising the corporate outreach campaigns are in implementing the most promising asks. Coming from a cluster approach perspective, I analyse multiple groups of evidence, one of which is historical case studies. This post explains an analysis about the counterfactual impact of cage-free corporate campaigns in the US.
The following report is a part of ongoing research by Charity Entrepreneurship looking into corporate outreach as a potential approach used to implement asks.
You can download the full report here:
When recommending different charities to start in the field of animal advocacy, a crucial question to consider first is which ask should be prioritized? Regardless of the approach - corporate outreach, governmental intervention or individuals focus intervention - we need to decide what we are going to ask them for in the first place.
This report considers gene modification for farmed animals with a focus on improving their welfare
This ask report considers interventions for stocked fish and fish used for bait.
Fish stocking is the practice of raising fish to be put into wild areas, such as rivers, to supplement the natural population. Bait fish are those caught to be used as bait for other fish. These two practices are commonly neglected within the animal ethics movement, despite there being potentially a comparable or even larger amount of animals affected by these two industries than by other animal-based industries that we have considered in previous research. This is heightened further as fish are one of our priority animals. Our speculative estimates are that a successful intervention for bait fish could save ~25 Welfare Points per animal, and for fish stocking ~23 Welfare Points per animal.
This ask report considers humane slaughter and transportation methods with the aim of reducing suffering during particularly stressful events in animals’ lives.
This ask report considers the impact of increasing the price of meat products to reduce demand.
For each salmon produced, it takes ~5 other fish to be caught in order to feed it. Great numbers of fish killed every year are not used directly for human consumption, but for the purpose of being fed to other farmed fish. The amount of fish fed to other fish exceeds the number of fish sold to consumers by an order of magnitude: around 0.45 to 1.2 trillion annually compared to 48 to 160 billion slaughtered for food globally in 2015.
Over the past few months, Charity Entrepreneurship has dedicated hours of work to researching ideas for potential animal charities that we believe could have uniquely high positive-impact. Our ask reports cover the impact of many different components of charitable interventions (for example, which animals to focus on). However, all of these reports are done only in the context of founding a new charity.
The following is a fictional story to illustrate a point.
The two interventions were both urgent. Animal Issues - Canada had been considering which of the two to pick for months. Jeremy thought that they should work on geese, as they had a significantly lower welfare standard than other in Canada. It looked clear to him that they should move the majority of their resources onto campaigns aimed at increasing the welfare of geese. However, his co-director disagreed. Jenny had been researching ducks and thought they were even more important than geese, since the ducks were slightly more numerous, although slightly better treated than the geese. It was a hard call, and so they chose to flip a coin. Both interventions were good, and flipping a coin seemed like a fair way of deciding, but both Executive Directors agreed that whatever the outcome, they would dedicate themselves to the issue.
But the coin betrayed them.
This ask report considers switching people’s consumption of chicken to beef.
This ask report considers preventing practices of mutilation on factory farms.
Old post on scale (that people generally did not understand/disliked it).
Scale, or importance, is held as one of the 3 criteria to consider when evaluating an intervention for promisingness. With the idea being that large scale problems might suggest which area will be more effective to work on, assuming it also scores well on the other criteria. Some interventions are predicated on very strong scale arguments, such as far future or wild animal suffering. However, we have found that scale specifically is quite a poor indicator of the promisingness of an area.
This ask report focuses on improving the environmental conditions of factory farmed animals. Specifically, it is focused on improving management of dissolved oxygen levels for fish.
There are billions of animals who live in extremely painful conditions, but there are also hundreds of ways to help them. From methods as direct as rescuing a single animal from a horrible life to means as wide-reaching as working with governments and corporations in order to set up long term policies for improving the lives of millions of animals. Given the ongoing suffering and all the possible ways to help, why would anyone concerned with animal issues choose to focus on something as abstract and long term as research?
This ask report focuses on providing free or discounted contraceptives. Contraceptives are a well-known global poverty intervention, but in so far as they affect human population they also have major effects on the environment and animals. This report primarily considers the effect that a contraceptive charity could have on animals, although more extensive reports would consider the full range of benefits, including its effects on humans. The intervention ended up looking surprisingly impactful for animals, particularly if conducted in countries with high need for contraceptives and high fish and poultry consumption.