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.
Written by: Joey Savoie
Time capping can be defined as fixing the number of hours for a certain task, research project or decision and keeping our research within those bounds. Most tasks can be completed at different levels of depth and research itself is never-ending - a single topic could often be researched in an hour or could equally have an entire PhD made out of it. The same can apply for website design, outreach, polishing or many other tasks that an organization engages in. Given tasks that are not time capped, people will generally spend more time on doing what they find fun or what they get absorbed in instead of what is best to put hours into in the long run. By setting a time cap on a task we are pre-determining how important that task is relative to other counterfactual tasks. This approach often results in more getting done at some cost of depth, as often 90% of the value of tasks is captured by the first 10% of the effort.
Ethical pest control
This ask report is focused on considering more humane pest killing and controlling mechanisms. There are possibly billions of rats and pest birds, as well as many other species of mammals and insects which are counted as pests. These animals are often killed non-humanely, and yet the animal advocacy movement has been relatively inactive within this problem. Few organisations have attempted to reduce the suffering of pests, and those that have did not scale up. Overall, a charity built around ethical pesticides seems moderately promising. This report considers various possible interventions and the crucial considerations involved.
Authors of the research: Joey Savoie, Karolina Sarek, David Moss
When recommending different charities to found in the field of animal advocacy, a unique question to consider is what animals should be prioritized.
From humans in Canada to battery caged chickens in the United States, which animals have the hardest lives: results
Authors of the research: Karolina Sarek, Joey Savoie, David Moss
After spending considerable time on creating the best system we could for evaluating animal welfare, we applied this system to 15 different animals/breeds. This included 6 types of wild animal and 7 types of farm animal environments, as well as 2 human conditions for baseline comparisons. This was far from a complete list, but it gave us enough information to get a sense of the different conditions. Each report was limited to 2-5 hours with pre-set evaluation criteria (as seen in this post), a 1-page summary, and a section of rough notes (generally in the 5-10 page range). Each summary report was read by 8 raters (3 from the internal CE research team, 5 external to the CE team). The average weightings and ranges in the spreadsheet below are generated by averaging the assessments of these raters.