Summary of Evidence for Foundational Questions in Effective Animal Advocacy
photo_camera Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Rescued laying hens

Most recently updated: 11/15/17

Table of Contents

Introduction

Clarifying notes

Debates

Broad vs. animal focus

Confrontation vs. nonconfrontation

Consistent vs. varying messaging

Individual vs. institutional interventions and messaging

Influencer vs. mass outreach

Left-wing vs. nonpartisan focus

Momentum vs. complacency from welfare reforms

Reducetarianism vs. veganism

Social change vs. food technology

Animal protection vs. environmental vs. human health focus

[meta] Farmed animal vs. wild animals vs. general antispeciesism focus

[meta] Long-term vs. short-term focus

[meta] Social movements vs. EAA randomized controlled trials (RCTs) vs. intuition/speculation/anecdotes vs. external findings

Other debates

Introduction

In discussions of effective animal advocacy (EAA) — the field of study for how we can most effectively help animals, also known as effective altruism for animals — there are several important, challenging, and sometimes controversial foundational[1] questions that come up over and over. This post attempts to summarize and catalog the key evidence[2] cited by EAA supporters on each side of these debates for easy reference. For example, in the “Effective Animal Activism - Discussion” Facebook group, there have been dozens of threads discussing confrontational strategies like protesting inside a restaurant or grocery store. Repeated arguments include:

Clarifying notes

This post is intended for advocates and researchers wanting to make the most accurate assessments of what strategies have the highest expected impact, even in the face of limited knowledge. The evidence herein will not satisfy any desire for scientific proof. (We discuss this in more detail in this blog post.)

This post includes evidence that EAA researchers think is strongest: anecdotes and intuition, speculation, social movement trends, psychology findings, marketing findings, animal advocacy experiments, and any other information that makes one hypothesis more likely to be true than another. We provide citations when possible, usually to EAA discussions though sometimes to outside resources. Most uncited arguments have already been discussed in casual EAA conversation.

We attempt to categorize each piece of evidence into the side of the debate that we expect significant majority of EAA researchers agree it supports.[4] Where there is less agreement, or when the evidence’s direction depends largely on other questions in this document, it will be noted as pointing in an “unclear direction.” We also note when there seems to be significant majority agreement among EAA researchers on which side of the overall debate is most likely correct. Note that this does not mean it’s highly likely to be correct, just that it seems most compelling given the current evidence. The three questions with that level of agreement are:

Advocates can, of course, take a moderate position between the sides of the debates addressed in this document, and the composition of the animal advocacy movement might need some advocates taking different approaches. This document discusses what approach seems most promising on the margin, e.g. with a new $1,000 donation to the movement.

It’s useful to evaluate movement-wide strategy on the margin, but individual advocates should keep in mind that contexts (e.g. country, time period, resources) vary significantly and are often a crucial factor in individual situations. For example, if you are an established climate activist who now wants to focus on helping animals, you might want to focus more on environmental arguments than the average advocate does because that is where your expertise is and you might have disproportionate influence on environmentalist audiences.

This document is intended as a living reference, where ideas for further research are logged, new evidence can be added, and additional important questions can be discussed. We will try to update it as frequently as possible. Eventually, researchers in the field could add their own quantitative weights to different arguments so we can have more precise debates and updates of our individual views based on peer opinion.

The primary purpose of this document is as a secondary EAA resource, meaning we will cite existing EAA research when possible instead of outside sources. Because many EAA discussions happen via in-person conferences and meetings, social media, and email and other private communication, we will inevitably use some sources from outside EAA. When a theoretical argument is uncited in the text, you can assume that it is from unpublished discussions within the EAA community.  

Before publishing this page in June 2017, we asked for feedback from 15 individuals who we selected based on (i) the amount of time we estimate they have spent thinking critically about these questions and (ii) our estimate of how independently they came to their views, e.g. we avoided asking too many people who work at the same organizations. Of course, despite our efforts, this post is likely still missing some evidence and misrepresenting some evidence. One way to help us improve this resource is through community feedback, so please feel free to contact us at info@sentienceinstitute.org.

Debates

Broad vs. animal focus

Explanation: Should animal advocates actively promote other causes or focus exclusively on animal protection? For example, how much non-animal advocacy content should an animal organization or individual animal advocate share on their social media page? They could share none and consistently stick to an animal message; share only very relevant or only very significant news in other areas of social change where there’s widespread agreement, e.g. on combating racism; or share a large amount of non-animal content, even where there’s controversy.

To clarify, we are discussing active engagement in other issues, with resources that could otherwise be spent on animal advocacy (e.g. creating and sharing content about sexism in the corporate world, attending pro-immigration rallies), not just passive support (e.g. stating one’s political positions on matters outside of animal advocacy when asked about them as an individual, or supporting inclusion of diverse backgrounds in animal advocacy).

Arguments for a broad focus

  1. It can have spillover benefits for those other movements, e.g. sharing lessons of what works and what doesn’t, lending human capital.[6]
  2. It can have spillover benefits from other movements into animal advocacy, e.g. credibility given animal advocacy is often treated as a less serious, less mainstream social movement.
  1. This can include people involved with or benefiting from those movements being more interested in and comfortable with being animal advocates.

Arguments for an animal focus

  1. Insofar as we think animal advocacy is the most important way to spend our time, we miss out on impact when we are spending time advocating in other areas.
  2. A broad approach can have spillover harms into those other movements, e.g. reducing their credibility if one thinks animal advocates are less respected by the mainstream.[7]
  3. A broad approach can have spillover harms from those other movements, e.g. associating with violent movements might make the public less sympathetic to animal advocacy.
  1. This can include people opposed to those movements being less interested in and comfortable with being animal advocates. Too broad a focus could discourage people who like the animal advocacy from working on it if they disagree with animal advocates on their other positions.
  1. If animal advocates give more of their time to human issues, that could reinforce the notion that advocates should prioritize human issues over animal issues.

Unclear direction

  1. If movements animal advocates associate with are partisan, it could make animal protection more of a partisan issue.
  2. Close proximity to other movements might make criticism more likely, e.g. anti-racist activists could attack animal advocacy for having too high a proportion of white advocates. This could have benefits such as helping animal advocacy improve, but also harms such as making the public who hears those criticisms think less of animal advocacy.
  3. Advocates of other social causes might be more or less receptive to animal protection messages. They might be more receptive because they are used to and have shown interest in social causes generally. They might be less receptive because they identify their cause of choice as most important and think any focus on other causes detracts from it.

Confrontation vs. nonconfrontation

Explanation: How confrontational should we be in our activism? Most EAAs have little trouble consistently categorizing activism as confrontational or nonconfrontational, though it’s hard to come up with a precise, comprehensive definition. Informative questions for assessing confrontation include: How much does a specific tactic make its audience uncomfortable? How much does it disrupt people from their normal routine? How much does it evoke anger or other forms of emotional arousal?

Arguments for confrontation

  1. Some well-studied social movements, such as US anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, and the 1960s civil rights movement, seemed to greatly benefit from confrontational tactics.[8][9][10][11][12]
  1. Critics note — and proponents agree —  that we are different in many important ways from these movements, such as our movement being led by allies instead of the oppressed themselves and the degree of popular support at the time of confrontational action, though the implication of these on the direction of the evidence is unclear.[13][14]
  2. Nonviolent confrontation likely differs substantially in its effect from violent confrontation, and what qualifies as the latter is unclear.[15][16]
  1. Disruption, discomfort, and anger all tend to make people take notice and speak out, whether for or against the activists. This can lead to more media attention and a larger number of people reached by a pro-animal message.[17]
  1. Moral outrage is important in overcoming the tendency to justify the status quo, an important step in accepting pro-animal messages.[18]
  1. Confrontation implies that the issue is important enough for people to protest about, even as important as historical social movements that used confrontation.

Arguments for nonconfrontation

  1. Confrontation probably has something of a “backfire effect” where the pro-animal message actually moves some of the audience away from a pro-animal position.[19][20][21]
  2. While confrontation can succeed in getting large amounts of press coverage, it might be too negative to be helpful, and might in fact harm the reputation of animal advocates.[22]
  3. Instead of seeming like respected historical social movements such as the 1960s civil rights movements, pro-animal confrontation might instead be categorized with less-respected protest movements like anti-abortion activism. It also might associate impact-focused animal advocates with less reputable segments of the animal advocacy community who use gimmicky or violent tactics. Similarly, there are arguably several examples of unsuccessful confrontational social movements such as the Occupy Movement and anti-gay marriage movement.[23]
  4. By being perceived as aggressive and acting in a way most people don’t, confrontational activists risk being less persuasive because they are less likeable, authoritative, and similar to their audience. This might be mitigated by, for example, dressing professionally at a protest.[24]
  5. Moral outrage can come from less risky sources than confrontational tactics, such as simply showing people the cruelty exposed through undercover investigations.[25]
  6. Rational people might be particularly less likely to associate themselves with a confrontational animal movement because of greater concern for their intellectual reputation or general aversion to argumentative tactics that don’t center on rational arguments.[26]
  1. The importance of this argument is affected by how much influence you think such people have. For example, if one thinks advanced technology such as general artificial intelligence is likely to be developed quickly and have a large impact on society, then people involved with those technologies might have extremely disproportionate influence, and they may be less receptive to confrontational tactics.
  1. Some argue that the current farmed animal advocacy movement lacks sufficient public support to effectively utilize confrontation.[27]

Unclear direction

  1. Confrontation has more of a polarizing effect, varying greatly in whether it leads to more or less acceptance in each audience member. Some think polarization leads to more discourse and social change,[28] while others think it leads to a stalling movement due to a lack of unilateral support.
  2. Animal advocacy seems to currently have limited public support (e.g. most people still consume factory farmed animal products). Some think this makes confrontation more effective as social movements might need attention to begin snowballing,[29] while others think this makes confrontation less effective as it makes advocates seem fringe and unpopular.

Consistent vs. varying messaging

Explanation: Should we use consistent slogans, images, etc. or should we vary them with each campaign, each organization, etc.? Consider the rainbow flag that’s used across the gay rights movement or the golden arches McDonald’s consistently uses to identify themselves. How much should animal advocates try to use consistent messaging features like these, as opposed to varying their slogans, images, etc.? Here we can also come to moderate conclusions, such as using a consistent slogan but varying the associated image, e.g. the words “Help animals” but with different photographs of animals each time those words are displayed.

Arguments for consistent messaging

  1. There are many apparently successful examples of these in historical social movements.[30]
  2. Marketers see the development and maintenance of “memory structures” (e.g. association of golden arches with McDonald’s) as one of the most important functions in advertising.[31]
  3. Consistent structures build familiarity, which leads to more liking and success in interpersonal persuasion.[32]

Arguments for varying messaging

  1. The elements of a given billboard, leaflet, etc. can be better optimized for a specific situation if they are not required to be consistent.[33]
  2. When a new element is included in a campaign, such as a provocative slogan relating to a current event, that can increase discussion and media attention because it is more fresh and interesting.

Individual vs. institutional interventions and messaging

Explanation: Should we focus, in our messages and interventions, on changing individuals or changing institutions and social norms? Generally, changing individuals means changing consumer diets — though it could arguably also include creating activists —  and changing institutions means changing companies, governments, or other groups of individuals. Specific decisions affected by this consideration include whether to say “go vegan” or “end animal farming” (messages) and whether to donate to veg leafleting or corporate campaigning (interventions).

Arguments for individual focus

  1. Usually the ask of the message is clearer when it’s individual-focused, e.g. “go vegan” means you should go vegan.[34]
  1. An increased rate of short-term behavior change can lead to more long-term behavior and attitude change as it shifts the person’s identity.[35]
  2. The focus on short-term behavior change, which is relatively easy to measure and monitor, also means activists can iterate with shorter feedback loops.[36][37]
  1. Institutional interventions might be less tractable due to the current number of individuals advocating for animals, or due to the current Overton Window that arguably excludes common animal-friendly positions, such as veganism and ending animal farming.[38]
  2. Institutional messaging could lead to a loss of motivation as the scale of the issue might seem large and overwhelming.
  3. Some people, especially many effective altruists[39] and others who are particularly ambitious, might be biased towards institutional change because it seems to be weighted more towards lower likelihoods of larger impacts instead of higher likelihoods of smaller impacts.[40]

Arguments for institutional focus

  1. It seems that few if any social movements have succeeded with a heavy focus on individual change. Environmentalism seems like the best candidate, and environmentalists seem to think “green consumerism” has been fairly ineffective.[41]
  2. Institutional messaging could reduce defensiveness by shifting blame away from the recipient and onto relevant institution(s), facilitating moral outrage in the audience.[42] Blaming the audience can induce more of a “backfire effect.”[43][44]
  3. Institutional messaging makes it harder for people to become demotivated by the lack of a clear large-scale solution to the relevant issue. It helps prevent the recipient from feeling like they can only make a drop in the bucket, especially given the highly communal nature of animal product consumption.[45]
  4. Institutional messaging has more inherent emphasis on social pressure, i.e. that other people are making changes, and social factors seem very powerful in individual decision-making across different contexts.[46]
  5. Institutional changes in society create talking points, rhetorical ammunition, and common knowledge that can spark further discussions and change minds.
  6. Individual focus can exacerbate the “It’s my personal choice” counterargument to farmed animal advocacy. An institutional focus might do more to emphasize the victims of animal farming, leading to more motivation for advocates and consumers, as well as doing more to promote the interests of animals, especially relative to trivial human interests like gustatory satisfaction.
  1. The importance of this argument is affected by how you weigh long-term versus short-term impacts. If you care more about short-term impact, then the direction of future progress matters less.
  1. Some people might be biased towards individual focus because of its association with direct, short-term impact, i.e. instant gratification.[47]
  2. There seems to be significant majority agreement among EAA researchers that an institutional focus is more effective.[48]

Influencer vs. mass outreach

Explanation: Should we target our advocacy efforts towards influencers or the general population? Concrete examples of targeting influencers include writing more sophisticated, intellectual content instead of more accessible content; giving a talk at a small academic conference vs. giving a talk to the public; engaging in substantial one-on-one outreach with celebrities vs. handing out literature to as many people as possible.

Arguments for targeting influencers

  1. For each influencer you affect, you tend to have a bigger impact because, by definition, they have more social, financial, political, etc. resources.
  1. The importance of this argument is affected by how disproportionate you think resources are divided between some groups and others. For example, if one thinks advanced technology such as general artificial intelligence is likely to be developed quickly and have a large impact on society, then people involved with those technologies might have extremely disproportionate influence.
  1. Influencers are arguably more amenable to rational messaging (especially intellectuals such as researchers and academics), which probably makes them more receptive to our reason-based arguments and allows us to get our message across in the most honest and straightforward way.
  2. Influencers are arguably less fickle, meaning changes we make in their attitudes and behavior are more likely to persist.

Arguments for targeting the general population

  1. Influencers are often more difficult to reach and have more competition for their attention.
  2. Influencers are often more publicly committed to certain positions, which likely makes it harder to change their minds.
  3. Because many influencers have their success determined by public opinion (e.g. authors getting book sales, politicians getting votes) influencer attitudes and behavior might be mostly determined by the general population’s attitudes and behavior.

Left-wing vs. nonpartisan focus

Explanation: Should we prioritize appealing to the mainstream left or a nonpartisan audience? There are other options, such as appealing to the radical left or exclusively to right-wingers, but people suggest these two approaches most often.

Arguments for left-wing focus

  1. The most-discussed and well-researched social movements in the past 100 years, such as gay rights and anti-racism, seem to have succeeded with this method.
  1. This evidence is mitigated by potential selection effects that make left-wing-focused movements more likely to be discussed and researched, such as the general left-wing leaning of academia.[49]
  1. Left-wingers might be easier to persuade than right-wingers because left-wingers have wider moral circles, which seems like a key factor in acceptance of animal protection, and there’s more precedent for left-wing rights movements. Also, right-wingers, especially politicians, often have ties to animal industries.
  1. Empirically, we see that most of the current animal movement is left-leaning, including leadership, e.g. nonprofit executives, public figures, entrepreneurs. Of course, this is anecdotal evidence and might be affected by the historical prevalence of the different arguments, biases in self report, and other issues.

Arguments for nonpartisan focus

  1. Arguably, there is historical precedent for movements stalling and failing to make significant progress with a strong left-wing focus, such as environmentalism or even the animal rights movement to date.
  2. Strong opposition from the right could be detrimental, especially if one thinks that sympathetic right-wingers can mitigate the opposition from animal industries.

Unclear direction

  1. Left-wing focus lends itself to a broad (i.e. cross-movement) approach.
  2. Partisanism probably leads to more polarization.
  3. Focusing on the mainstream left means it’s likely harder to implement policy change when a right-wing government is in power. On the flip side, it’s easier when the administration is left-wing.[50]

Momentum vs. complacency from welfare reforms

Explanation: Do welfare reforms lead to momentum or complacency for future progress? When companies and governments commit to higher welfare standards, does this make further progress, such as increased vegetarianism rates, corporate adoption of plant-based foods, and public opposition to animal farming more or less likely?

Arguments for momentum

  1. When a welfare reform happens, people see that their culture includes some concern for farmed animals, which could help people them stronger cultural identities with that concern, enabling them to feel more outrage when they learn that the animals are still suffering tremendously even in improved or purportedly “humane” farms and slaughterhouses.
  2. Animal advocates establish connections with companies, media, etc. that can be utilized to make further changes easier.
  3. In 2015 and 2016, welfare reforms quickly followed each other, including the transition from cage-free policies to commitments to ending chick culling and policies for chickens raised for meat.[51]
  4. Increased rates of vegetarian diets are associated with higher farmed animal welfare across countries in the EU.[52] Note that this is only weak evidence because the correlation is likely influenced by additional variables that increase concern for animals. Similar correlations have been found within the US and within the Netherlands.[53]
  5. Anecdotally, it seems that media coverage of welfare reforms tends to focus much more on what issues still exist and what progress is coming next than on how things are better now and meat-eating is less ethically concerning.[54]
  6. A small-scale empirical study by Mercy For Animals on Mechanical Turk found that respondents who read about welfare reforms were more likely to say they would reduce their consumption of animal products than a control group who read about unrelated policy changes. This difference held for both corporate and legal reforms, tested separately.[55] Two smaller studies on Mechanical Turk observed similar effects.[56]
  7. An observational analysis of the US from 1982 to 2008 showed a negative association between media coverage of farmed animal welfare and meat consumption. There are numerous qualifications for assessing this result that make it less useful evidence. See the Qualifications section in the cited report for more detail.[57]
  8. Empirical evidence suggests welfare reforms increase the costs of animal farming, which likely weakens the industry and decreases consumption of animal products, which is progress and likely makes the public more receptive to future reform.[58] The cost increase makes sense theoretically as well because if reform increased profits, then the industry would likely do it without advocacy pressure. There is disagreement about the extent of this price increase.[59]
  9. If companies that use animal products eventually become unwilling to further increase farmed animal welfare on their own, this could increase public frustration with the industry and possibly build momentum for legal regulation, especially if the reforms they have pursued have built momentum against farmed animal cruelty in the public.
  1. Beyond that, if the public momentum has built up sufficiently and the industry resists legal regulation, the public may come to agree that the cruelty they oppose cannot be sufficiently removed from the industry through regulation and concede that as such, the industry needs to be abolished. There is some evidence that this is what happened in the British antislavery movement.[60][61]
  1. Some advocates might be biased towards complacency because of frustration with the current rate of progress of incremental change for farmed animals and their desire to believe that the movement will quickly reach its goals.
  2. There seems to be significant majority agreement among EAA researchers that momentum probably outweighs complacency.[62]

Arguments for complacency

  1. The arguments above apply more strongly to momentum for further welfare reforms than to momentum for reducing the number of animals used for food.
  2. Because of both reforms and the “humanewashing”[63] that those reforms might support, some people might think animal farming has become humane and the cruelty no longer exists, making them more likely to eat more animal products and support the continuation of the institution. Similarly, some people who know that much of animal farming is bad but buy products newly marketed as humane because of reforms might experience a moral licensing effect that makes them feel more comfortable consuming other products they know are less humane.[64][65] 
  1. Anecdotally, many meat-eaters justify their behavior with the existence of humane animal farming. There aren’t many anecdotes, however, of this justification increasing in prevalence with welfare reform information, and since few people will attribute a behavior they feel guilty about to the usual factors such as social pressure or a lack of motivation, such justifications should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.[66]
  1. Companies could become more resistant to further reform after they have implemented some changes, particularly those that boost their image significantly while costing them little.
  2. Pushing for reforms instead of replacement of the industry could suggest that animal farming is a more permanent institution, or reinforce the notion that animals will always be mere property for us to use.
  3. Animal industry companies might be able to influence and defuse animal advocacy organizations using the connections advocates build with them, especially if there is financial investment, donations, or other payments.
  4. EAA researchers, especially those who have been heavily involved with welfare reforms, may be biased towards momentum because of optimism, status quo bias, or bias towards more immediate and tangible impact.

Unclear direction

  1. An observational analysis of egg consumption during the lead-up to California’s Prop 2 vote found that there was no decrease in egg consumption associated with increased media coverage, though demand for cage-free eggs tended to increase and demand for cage eggs tended to decrease. There are numerous qualifications for assessing this result that make it less useful evidence. See the Qualifications section in the cited report for more detail.[67] 

Reducetarianism vs. veganism

Explanation: When we advocate for individual diet change, should we emphasize reducetarianism or veganism? This is assuming we’re focusing on individual diet change. For a discussion of whether to focus on that at all, see the Individual vs. institutional section. This question particularly lends itself to answers that lie between the two extremes, such as suggesting a vegetarian diet or to “cut back on or cut out animal products entirely.” If you find yourself near the middle of the debate, consider these moderate options.

Arguments for a vegan ask

  1. Asking people to go vegan more strongly communicates the importance of the issue because it requires a more drastic action. This argument could be empirically tested by asking people about the importance of farmed animal issues after seeing a vegan or reducetarian message.
  2. Each individual who complies with the ask directly causes more of a reduction in the scale of animal farming.
  3. Popularizing a vegan ask among professional, friendly advocates could reduce the stigma around veganism,[68] which is especially important if we want to advocate veganism more down the road.
  4. The audience might think less of reducetarian or vegetarian asks because they seem less internally consistent than veganism. This is even more true if the audience knows that eating eggs causes a relatively large amount of suffering compared to eating cow and pig flesh. Vegans might seem more dedicated and committed than reducetarians and/or vegetarians. Similarly, a vegan or vegetarian diet is simpler to follow due to the hard-and-fast rules.

Arguments for a reducetarian ask

  1. Arguably, a greater percentage of outreach recipients will change based on a reducetarian ask, even if they make smaller changes. This is usually justified just based on reducetarianism being a smaller lifestyle change,[69] and there is some empirical evidence,[70] though the difference could be reduced or reversed by effects like (4) in the above list.
  1. If one believes the success of the animal-free food movement depends on reaching a critical mass of people making any change in their diets, then this argument carries more weight.
  2. Because reducetarianism is a smaller behavior change, it might also have a higher rate of recidivism.
  1. If more people are amenable to a reducetarian ask, it could do more to broaden our support base, which is important insofar as one thinks that many somewhat-committed members are important for social movement success.[71]
  2. Arguably, reducetarianism is a more novel idea than veganism, so it could be more interesting and thought-provoking. This is probably more applicable in Europe, where there seems to have been a heavier focus on veganism than in other regions.
  3. Advocating reducetarianism or, to a lesser extent, vegetarianism can avoid the negative stigma around veganism.[72]
  4. Advocating selective reducetarian diets better allows advocates to explain the reasoning behind the choices, e.g. advocates can emphasize that avoiding chicken, fish, and eggs reduces the most direct suffering. There are significant differences in the impact of various reducetarian diets, but vegan diets all have the same impact.

Unclear direction

  1. One might have more of an individual, “personal choice” focus, which could be bad.
  1. There seems to be significant majority agreement among EAA researchers that institutional focus is more effective.[73]
  1. Veganism is more strongly associated with a focus on animals than with environmental/health aspects.
  1. There seems to be significant majority agreement among EAA researchers that animal focus is more effective.[74]
  1. If one wants to make a reducetarian ask, making a vegan ask right beforehand might be an effective way to increase the likelihood of agreement with a “door-in-the-face” strategy.[75] Similarly, if one wants to make a vegan ask, making a reducetarian ask right beforehand might be an effective way to increase the likelihood of agreement with a “foot-in-the-door” strategy.[76] It’s not clear which of these strategies is more impactful.

Social change vs. food technology

Explanation: Should we focus on social change, such as activism and marketing, or on developing better animal-free food technology? Many resources of the animal advocacy movement, such as a dedicated college graduate with a degree in tissue engineering, are clearly better suited for one strategy or the other, but we face a dilemma with less-specialized resources, such as money.

Arguments for social change

  1. Food technology seems to mostly go through monotonic progress, i.e. we mostly have better — or at least not worse — technology as we used to except in extreme cases like societal collapse or government-mandated destruction of research findings. In contrast, social change can move backwards, i.e. attitudes and human behavior could become worse than they used to be. This suggests that work on social change is more likely to affect the direction of the future, e.g. whether animal farming ever ends, than work on improving food technology.[77]
  1. The importance of this argument is affected by how you weigh long-term versus short-term impacts. If you care more about short-term impact, then the direction of future progress matters less.
  1. There is more private interest in technology because it’s more strongly associated with short-term corporate profits, suggesting it’s more likely to happen without animal advocates.
  2. Current animal-free foods are — surprisingly to some — still not very popular despite their arguably high quality. This suggests that quality matters less.
  3. Some researchers, such as those at the Open Philanthropy Project and Animal Charity Evaluators, are skeptical about cellular agriculture products getting to market in the near future.[78][79] This suggests that we might need to depend on social change to help farmed animals, at least in the near future.

Arguments for food technology

  1. In the same vein as the first argument above, there are some ways for technology to affect the direction of the far future even if there is monotonically increasing technological progress.[80]
  1. The importance of this argument is affected by how you weigh long-term versus short-term impacts. If you care more about short-term impact, then the direction of future progress matters less.
  2. One example is that if we think highly-advanced artificial intelligence or other advanced technology will arrive soon and take control of the universe, the values of society at the time of arrival might be very important, such that we just want to improve values as much as possible as quickly as possible because advocates’ ability to effect change would stop when the artificial intelligence arrives. Similarly, And some technology might offer a quicker improvement to society’s values than social change, even if in the long run the social change might result in more significant or more robust value improvements.
  3. Another example is that speeding up animal-free food technology could result in social change, e.g. once people stop eating animals they might subsequently care more about them, and achieving this quickly frees up modern animal advocacy efforts to do more to change attitudes in further ways, e.g. by helping people care about non-anthropogenic suffering.
  1. The importance of this argument is affected by how much you think we’re in a “golden age” of animal advocacy. If you think there will be much less animal advocacy, say, 100 years from now, then hastening technological progress in order to take advantage of this opportunity to multiply our impact (e.g. there’s a friendlier political climate, more advocates eager to help with projects), which we won’t have after the golden age, could matter much more.
  1. Technological work could leverage private interest from corporations, investors, and entrepreneurs (resources that are otherwise unavailable to the movement), e.g. if you did the early-stage research, you could count on others to finish it and commercialize the product if you showed them it was a promising opportunity.
  2. Social change might be less tractable, partly because it’s harder to measure one’s progress. It might be prohibitively challenging to convince others to make a significant change like switching many of the foods they eat or adjusting their identities to become antispeciesist, so what’s most needed could be to make going vegan or opposing harm to animals require less of a transition cost for people (e.g. with better plant-based meats).
  3. Arguably technology has been more neglected, perhaps due in part to some animal advocates thinking that if they just show the public how animals are treated and offer solid ethical arguments, people will change.

Animal protection vs. environmental vs. human health focus

Explanation: Should we focus on animal protection, environmental, or human health arguments when promoting animal-free foods? Advocates cite many benefits of eating animal-free foods, but often we have limited space for our messages. For example, if we can only put one statistic on a billboard, should it be about water usage or factory farm cruelty?

For debates like this with more than two sides, we will discuss the arguments in turn and rank each side according to how much that argument favors it. Here is a table of rankings elaborated on below:

Value Alignment

Leadership Appeal

Moral Outrage

Less Trendy

Consensus on Harm

EAA Consensus

Selfish Appeal

Mainstream Appeal

Animal Protection

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

3

Environment

3

2

1

1

2

3

2

2

Human Health

2

3

2

2

2

2

1

1

1 = most promising in terms of this criterion

Value alignment

  1. Animal protection
  2. Human health
  3. Environmental

Explanation: Values vary, but it’s common in the EAA community to care most about the wellbeing of sentient individuals, so that’s the perspective we’ll take. Animal protection and human health are both mostly focused on individual wellbeing. Human health, however, is a more established value in society, so the emphasis of animal protection on individuals who are more neglected does more to align society with our values. Environmentalism could be motivated by a concern for the wellbeing of sentient individuals, but often the motivation is instead for the preservation of nonsentient entities such as ecosystems and landscapes.[81] Preserving these entities might matter as a proxy for improving sentient wellbeing, but the connection is tenuous and indirect.[82][83]

Value alignment matters for several reasons, including that it could affect partial measures people take towards an animal-free food system, e.g. whether they found a company creating fish meat substitutes to most reduce the number of animals being farmed, or beef substitutes to most improve human health; it could affect whether people continue to eat and promote animal-free foods if circumstances change, e.g. whether they continue to be vegan if evidence comes out that vegan diets are unhealthy;[84] it could affect what people do in other areas, such as whether they will take steps in the future to help wild animals.[85][86]

Degree to which they inspire current animal-free food movement leaders, e.g. nonprofit executives, public figures, entrepreneurs.

  1. Animal protection
  2. Environmental
  3. Human health

Explanation: This is anecdotal evidence and might be affected by the historical prevalence of the different arguments, biases in self report, and other issues.[87]

Promotion of moral outrage

  1. Animal protection, environmental
  2. Human health

Explanation: Animal protection arguments most clearly involve harm to outside entities, which can inspire people to get angry and view animal farming as a social priority over a personal choice. The environmentalist movement can also successfully inspire moral outrage when emphasizing the victims of environmental harms, such as wild animals and low-income or future humans. Health arguments could be framed as the animal farming industry harming or infringing upon the rights of consumers, such as through deceptive marketing, but the connection is weaker.[88]

Avoiding being seen as a passing trend or fad

  1. Animal protection, environmental
  2. Human health

Explanation: Similar to moral outrage, fads tend to involve personal choices that mostly only affect the decision-maker’s wellbeing, so health is more susceptible to this perception.

Expert consensus on the relevant harm

  1. Animal protection
  2. Environmental
  3. Human health

Explanation: Few people outside of the animal farming industry disagree that there are serious animal protection issues with eating animals. While the majority opinion is that the animal agriculture industry is very harmful to the environment and human health — especially the environment — there is less agreement, especially when it comes to non-industrial animal agriculture. [89]

Selfish benefit

  1. Human health
  2. Environmental
  3. Animal protection

Explanation: Human health directly affects consumers. Environmental harm could plausibly affect a consumer later in life, or affect the welfare of those they know personally, e.g. their children.

Mainstream acceptance and popularity

  1. Human health
  2. Environmentalism
  3. Animal protection

Explanation: While each of these areas receive significant mainstream attention, human health seems most compelling and environmentalism second most compelling to the general public by metrics such as how many laws have been passed to improve it, or how often it’s used to market new products and technologies. This is important because it both indicates how motivating people find these areas and how comfortable companies, policy-makers, and other decision-makers would be citing these areas as reasons for adopting more animal-free foods. Note that within the specific context of intellectual left-wingers, environmentalism might actually be a more popular motivation than human health.[90]

EAA researcher agreement[91]

  1. Animal protection
  2. Human health
  3. Environmental

Explanation: There seems to be significant majority agreement in the EAA researcher community that we should focus on animal arguments. The difference between human health and environmental arguments is lower, but EAA researchers tend to favor human health due to concern about the long-term attitudinal effects of promoting environmentalism (e.g. it could make people care less about wild animals’ wellbeing because it emphasizes moral concerns for ecosystems, biodiversity, and other nonsentient entities, which can come at the expense of sentient wellbeing).

[meta] Farmed animal vs. wild animals vs. general antispeciesism focus

Explanation: Should we focus on farmed animals, wild animals, or general antispeciesism in our messaging? General antispeciesism could mean anything from a message of, “Animals have feelings like us. Don’t be cruel to them,” to “Discriminating against certain species is just as bad as discriminating against certain races or genders.” The stronger versions of antispeciesism are favored more in the EAA community as the message we should emphasize in our advocacy, so this post will focus on them.

Scale

Neglectedness

Clear Call to Action

Avoids Preservationism

Farmed animal focus

3

2

1

2

General antispeciesism

1

2

2

1

Wild animal focus

2

1

3

1

1 = most promising in terms of this criterion[92]

Scale of the issue

  1. General antispeciesism
  2. Wild animal focus
  3. Farmed animal focus

Explanation: General antispeciesism arguably includes all animals,[93][94] not just farmed or wild, even though discussing the plight of wild or farmed animals could raise concern for other populations. There are approximately 2*10^11 farmed animals alive at any time and 10^13 to 10^15 wild birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, plus many more bugs and other potentially sentient creatures.[95][96]

Neglectedness of the idea

  1. Wild animal focus
  2. General antispeciesism, farmed animal focus

Explanation: Wild animals currently have very little advocacy on their behalf, at least for large-scale intervention to benefit individual animals.[97] There are people advocating for the preservation of certain species, such as pandas and elephants, and people helping individuals at a small-scale, such as wildlife rehabilitation programs. Some large animal rights organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) use general antispeciesist messaging, though it is still neglected under a sufficiently strict definition.[98] Some large organizations, including PETA, Compassion in World Farming, Animals Australia, and Humane Society of the United States advocate for farmed animals. These mainstream organizations achieve substantial media attention.

Similarly, there are reasons to expect cruelty to farmed and other domestic animals to decline without our intervention, at least this seems more inevitable than proper assistance being provided to wild animals.[99]

Clear call to action

  1. Farmed animal focus
  2. General antispeciesism
  3. Wild animal focus

Explanation: People affect farmed animals every day with their food choices, so changing those behaviors is a relatively clear call to action. General antispeciesism could include this call to action, but given its broadness, its calls to action are less closely tied to the message. A wild animal focus has less clear calls to action, but still some, such as donating to organizations working on the issue, conducting further research, and helping individual wild animals, e.g. at rehabilitation centers.

Divergence from preservation arguments and association with preservationist ideas

  1. Wild animal focus, general antispeciesism
  2. Farmed animal focus

Explanation: EAAs tend to care more about the wellbeing of sentient individuals than the preservation of nonsentient entities such as landscapes and ecosystems. Environmental arguments against animal agriculture are common, and modern environmentalism is often grounded more in preservation than wellbeing, so a farmed animal focus runs a risk of furthering that preservationist ideology relative to a wellbeing-focused perspective.[100]

Unclear direction: Tractability of spreading the idea

Explanation: Helping farmed animals is probably a more established cause in mainstream discourse as measured by, say, number of articles on the topic in major news outlets.[101] Similarly, there seems to have been more rapid growth in farmed animal concern and discussion of the problem than explicit mentions of antispeciesm or reducing wild animal suffering. Antispeciesism is limited somewhat in tractability by its abstract nature. For people to accept that we should help wild animals, they need some concern for those animals as well as a willingness to take action against harms that happen in nature, which is difficult for many people to accept.[102] One counter-consideration is that people regularly participate in farmed animal cruelty by eating animal products, while they don’t participate in wild animal suffering, at least in a similarly direct way. There is some anecdotal evidence that attendees of antispeciesist lectures accept the arguments for antispeciesism, indicating tractability.[103] Lecturers on farmed and wild animal advocacy also report attendees saying they are convinced by the arguments, though Oscar Horta notes that in his presentations, the discussion of veganism (which is not necessarily synonymous with discussion of farmed animals — see the individual vs. institutional change section) is the most contentious.[104]

Unclear direction: Relatively strong appeal to intellectuals

Explanation: Because antispeciesism is a more abstract, sophisticated idea it could have greater appeal to intellectuals relative to its appeal to the general population.

Unclear direction: Alignment with utilitarianism

Explanation: When people hear about or discuss farmed animal welfare, they usually focus on the wellbeing of individuals, either in terms of their suffering or the dissatisfaction of their preferences. Wild animal advocacy is usually individual-centric, but people often assume helping wild animals involves pursuing goals other than directly utilitarian ones, such as the preservation of a species. General antispeciesism is sometimes advocated for in utilitarian terms, but the concept of not discriminating across species doesn’t come loaded with a specific vision of how other individuals should be treated other than just that it shouldn’t depend on species identity.

Unclear direction: Association of antispeciesism with social justice and left-wing politics

Explanation: Antispeciesism in particular comes across as a very left-wing idea given its association with anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc. This could be a good or bad thing depending on how much you think animal advocates should focus on appealing to the mainstream left relative to a bipartisan audience. A possible counterargument here is that left-wingers might be particularly defensive about the inclusion of animals in their discussions because they want to avoid diluting their focus on oppressed humans or because they have developed their identities more around human rights than around general nondiscrimination.[105] Some EAA researchers think that counterargument is quite compelling.

[meta] Long-term vs. short-term focus

Explanation: Should we give more weight to long-term outcomes or short-term outcomes? A useful place to draw the line between the short- and long-term is at the end of animal farming, e.g. when humanity has such advanced technology that we no longer eat animals simply because they are inefficient ways to get meat, milk, and eggs. Of course, it’s really more of a spectrum than a line, so you should consider these arguments as they apply to more concrete decisions.

Arguments for long-term focus

  1. The scale is astronomically larger. For instance, some suggest we​ could ​fill​ ​the​ ​universe​ ​with​ at least 10^38 human minds per second, a number of sentient beings that vastly outweighs the approximately 7.5 billion humans alive today.[106] Even the number of bugs alive today is likely not more than 10^20, and they live much shorter lives than humans.[107]
  1. These estimates based on potential size of long-term civilization are optimistic in the sense that humanity might not continue that long.
  1. Fewer resources (labor, money, etc.) are being used to help animals, or other nonhuman sentient beings, who might exist in the far future.
  2. Short-term good might backfire in the long-run, e.g. promoting vegetarianism — especially for environmental reasons — could lead society to care more about preserving species and ecosystems at the cost of the interests of individual animals,[108][109] but long-run strategies seem not to have comparable risks of short-term harm.

Arguments for short-term focus

  1. Short-term outcomes tend to be more tractable.
  2. Achieving multiple short-term outcomes involves shorter feedback loops that activists can use to optimize their strategies.
  3. There is more uncertainty about the ability to help animals in the long-term, especially in that there are more crucial considerations about the long-term that could not only affect the magnitude of impact but also its sign.

[meta] Social movements vs. EAA randomized controlled trials (RCTs) vs. intuition/speculation/anecdotes vs. external findings

Explanation: Which type of evidence has been most useful for answering questions like those in this document?

Social movement evidence comes from examining the strategies employed by movements along with the potential[110] outcomes of those movements, such as the US environmental policy changes in the decade following the publication of Silent Spring in 1962.

EAA RCTs are done specifically in the field of EAA, such as the Mercy For Animals online ads study.

Intuition is hard to define, but means a judgment made by an individual that doesn’t rely on evidence they can cite directly. For example, a graphic designer might think one company logo idea looks better than another, but not be able to describe exactly why. If this designer has decades of experience seeing logos succeed and fail, we should probably take their intuition seriously. Speculation is similarly challenging, but I’m using it to refer more to logical reasoning than a single, untraceable judgment. For example, we can speculate that we should focus on animal wellbeing over consumer health when promoting animal-free foods because having a wider moral circle seems beneficial for the long-term wellbeing of sentient beings. There’s a chain of reasoning here, but it’s not really based on specific, empirical evidence. Anecdotes, while distinct from intuition and speculation, have many similarities as evidence so these are all considered together.

External findings are often from RCTs, but also general findings in psychology, sociology, or other relevant fields field, such as the identifiable victim effect.

# of outcomes

Context focus

Variable isolation

Sample size

EAA RCTs

3

1

1

2

External findings

2

3

2

1

Intuition/speculation/anecdotes

1

2

3

3

Social Movements

1

3

3

4

1 = most desirable

Accounting for the most outcomes, e.g. short-term and long-term effects, direct and indirect effects

  1. Social movements, intuition/speculation/anecdotes
  2. External findings
  3. EAA RCTs

Explanation: If we look back on a social movement, such as the children’s rights movement of the 1800s, we can take a broad, comprehensive look at outcomes that the movement might have affected, such as the laws governing children’s working conditions in the 1900s. Since most EAAs care about sentient beings that exist a long time from now, and those that are less directly related to our advocacy, accounting for these outcomes is useful.

One’s intuition can be built up from looking at history, having long experiences in one’s own life, or listening to other advocates with their own experiences. In the latter two cases, you probably get a sense of long-term outcomes, but not as many indirect outcomes. Speculation can also account for a variety of outcomes, but it tends to be quite challenging to speculate about long-term and indirect ones. Admittedly, the ranking of speculation is unclear and “Accounting for the most outcomes” might not be a very useful metric for evaluating it.

External findings are often from psychology, such as the identifiable victim effect and the backfire effect, where they have undergone substantial testing in a variety of contexts — though keep in mind that many psychological findings do not replicate, so it’s best to rely on findings with a large number of varied studies weighing in their favor. Even well-studied findings, however, are often only about a small number of short-term, direct outcomes, and it requires speculation to use these findings to estimate other outcomes.

EAA RCTs usually measure a limited number of direct, short-term outcomes, such as self-reported diet change a few weeks after seeing an online veg ad. It is possible to expand this scope somewhat with strategies like tracking subjects for years or measuring outcomes at a macro-level such as a college cafeteria, but given the limited budget and number of researchers in EAA, it’s unlikely the scope will be as wide as external findings, intuition/speculation, or social movements.

Focusing on the context where we’ll use the results

  1. EAA RCTs
  2. Intuition/speculation/anecdotes
  3. Social movements, external findings

Explanation: EAA RCTs are done in the specific context we want to understand better: animal advocacy. The context of intuition/speculation varies, but it’s often based in EAA itself. Social movement evidence and external findings are necessarily from different contexts, though they can be more applicable if the conclusions persist across a range of contexts.

Isolating the variable of interest

  1. EAA RCTs
  2. External findings
  3. Social movements, intuition/speculation/anecdotes

Explanation: EAA RCTs and external findings based in RCTs are able to experimentally control for the variable of interest. Some external findings are at least partially based in non-RCT results, and social movements and intuition/speculation/anecdotes often can isolate the variable of interest by controlling for other variables. However, as with any observational evidence, it’s quite challenging to avoid risks of lurking variables.

Sample size

  1. External findings
  2. EAA RCTs
  3. Intuition/speculation/anecdotes
  4. Social movements

Explanation: External findings are often based on a number of experiments or other studies across a variety of experiments. However, one should be cautious about the presentation of “established” effects that actually lack reproducibility, especially in recently criticized fields like psychology. Still, EAA RCTs will probably have even lower total sample sizes due to a lack of financial resources and researcher interest, at least in their current state and the near future.

Intuition/speculation/anecdotes vary tremendously in sample size based on how much experience we have in the area of interest, from hundreds of data points when it comes to one-on-one communication to likely very little when it comes to how societies behave.

Social movements are pretty clearly the lowest on this metric due to the small number of data points available, which are even fewer when we consider the limited research done in this area so far.

Other debates

There are many debates we hope to discuss in the future and add to this post. These include:


[1] Another potentially confusing term. We just mean it as questions whose answers indirectly inform decisions of which interventions to undertake to help animals (e.g. handing out veg leaflets, giving lectures in schools on caring for animals). The reasons we’re focusing on foundational questions are (i) limited research staff time, meaning we have to restrict our scope, (ii) it’s probably better to start at the more foundational level; if we started with discussions of intervention tactics, we’d be referring to foundational questions without having associated write-ups.

[2] The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of evidence is “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.” We use this definition, which does not require the evidence to be particularly strong, as opposed to a definition like “something that furnishes proof.” In other words, we consider any information that makes one empirical hypothesis more likely than the alternative; we are not restricting ourselves to evidence that leads to high confidence in a certain hypothesis.

[3] Note that for the topic of confrontation, as of October 2016, there are now a few blog posts by advocates debating confrontation that can be used as references. However, it seems useful to aggregate the arguments therein. One advocate wrote a summary blog post along those lines for that debate, but a more general reference is probably still useful.

[4] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement among EAA researchers” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. In June 2017, we conducted a survey to gauge opinions on the top-level questions in this survey, but we did not ask about each piece of evidence on this webpage. See this blog post for more information.

[5] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement among EAA researchers” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. Our claims were originally based on best guesses, but in June 2017, we surveyed the 21 such people and this was true among the 15 respondents to our full survey. See this blog post for more information.

[6] In this context, we’re considering “benefits” to include outcomes beyond the animal advocacy movement, such as reducing sexism. Note that this could be a harm if one disagrees with the goals of the movement one is working with.

[7] In this context, we’re considering “harms” to include outcomes beyond the animal advocacy movement, such as effects on sexism. Note that harming another movement could be a benefit if one disagrees with the goals of the movement one is working with.

[8] “The action taken by these activists was radical and dangerous: William Lloyd Garrison’s public burning of the US constitution, which he called a “covenant with death”, almost left him dead after a lynch mob attempted to murder him (ironically he was saved by the police, who seized him and threw him in jail for his protest). Goodman writes that “Abolitionism grew, by contrast [to the ACS], in the teeth of elite hostility, intense popular prejudice, and physical violence, and it required an exceptional organizational and ideological commitment.”

Despite these obstacles, however, the radical abolitionist movement was extremely successful, growing from four to 1348 independent chapters in just six years - a 34,000% increase in activism (Goodman, 124). This exceptional growth coupled with a strong message and provocative activism had extreme influence on public dialogue and political action on slavery, pushing public tension to ultimately to the brink of the Civil War.” - Brian Burns,
An Opiate to the Conscience: Welfarism as a Step to Animal Liberation

[9] “The willingness of [National Womans Party] pickets to be arrested, their campaign for recognition as political prisoners rather than as criminals, and their acts of civil disobedience in jail shocked the nation and brought attention and support to their cause. Through constant agitation, the NWP effectively compelled President Wilson to support a federal woman suffrage amendment. Similar pressure on national and state legislators led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.” - Library of Congress, Tactics and Techniques of the National Womans Party Suffrage Campaign

[10] “The story of the Greensboro Four spread far and wide, far beyond the city of Greensboro. And then suddenly, almost inexplicably, the wave became a cascade - a cascade so wide and powerful that it would sweep over the country in a tide of direct action.

By the end of the campaign, over 100,000 people all across America would participate in sit-ins, despite the risk of arrest, beatings, or even assassination.” - Direct Action Everywhere,
Why Direct Action

[11] “This stagnation was in stark opposition to the great success of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), which grew to 250,000 members in just five years from 1833 to 1838. The AASS openly and aggressively opposed slavery, provoking violent responses from its opposition. Encyclopædia Britannica describes, "The society’s antislavery activities frequently met with violent public opposition, with mobs invading meetings, attacking speakers, and burning presses." - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[12] “The 1960s Civil Rights Movement is one of the most recent and largest social movements in US history. It consisted largely of confrontational tactics such as protests, sit-ins, and marches. These actions ostensibly led to several major legislative achievements like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned employer discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In the later 1960s and early 1970s, the movement grew more violent with urban riots and the Black Power movement.” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[13] “Here, Alex discusses that we lack credibility as we do not come from the oppressed class and that disruptions erode our credibility, so we should avoid them. There are other ways that our movement differs from other movements, though, that suggest we might want more disruption … I do not mean this to say that Alex is flat out wrong that our movement is different from other movements. All movements are different, and all comparisons are imprecise. My point, instead, is that it’s at least unclear whether we should be less confrontational than other movements.” - Zach Groff, A (Potential) Summary of Disagreements and Agreements on Direct Action

[14] “The basic assumptions underlying these conclusions are (i) if a historical social movement found success using a particular tactic, then existing social movements should favor that tactic, and (ii) the evidential weight of the lessons from a historical social movement should be proportional to the similarity between the two movements being compared.” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[15] "In presidential elections, proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote- share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines and likely tipped the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Richard Nixon. is research has important implications for existing theories of political communication, social movements and voting behavior." - Omar Wasow, Do Protests Matter? Evidence from the 1960s Black Insurgency

[16] "I find a significant and negative relationship between property destruction associated with protests and the chance of near term success in changing policy." - Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, (PDF Download) Quiet Riot: Estimating a Causal Effect of Protest Violence

[17] “One of the key components of confrontational activism is the effect of emotional arousal and moral outrage. If you have ever experienced a protest or even watched a video of one online, you probably experienced some sort of heightened emotion, much more so than occurs when you hand out or receive a leaflet.” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[18] “Our intuition would suggest that moral outrage is an effective way to defeat system justification, and a study by business professor Cheryl Wakslak confirmed this. She drew from previous research that showed moral outrage, e.g. ‘I feel really angry when I learn about people who are suffering from injustice,’ is an important motivation for people driven to help those suffering from social and economic inequality.” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[19] “Some well-publicized psychology experiments showed a similar ‘backfire effect.’ Researchers showed participants fake newspaper articles arguing one side of the issue on some touchy political issues like the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, stem cell research, and tax reform...:” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[20] “Four experiments supported this prediction and found that authentic vegetarians, vegetarians freely making the decision to abandon meat, consistent vegetarians, and anticipating moral reproach from vegetarians produced greater endorsement of dissonance-reducing strategies than their counterpart conditions.” - Rothgerber, Efforts to overcome vegetarian-induced dissonance among meat eaters

[21] “However, we find across three experiments that extreme protest tactics decreased popular support for a given cause because they reduced feelings of identification with the movement.” - Feinberg et al, Extreme Protest Tactics Reduce Popular Support for Social Movements

[22] “While both PETA and Direct Action Everywhere consider media coverage of any sort a victory in itself, research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology indicates that media coverage of activists who fit the stereotype for their cause is ineffective at gaining support.” - Alex Felsinger, Direct Action Leading Where?

[23] We don’t know of a citation for this, but the claim was mentioned to us by a reviewer of this page.

[24] “Some non-profits that hold protests ask all protestors to dress in business casual clothing. While policies like this can draw the ire of some participants, they are usually a good idea and will make the public and the protests target consider the message more seriously.” - Nick Cooney, Change of Heart

[25] “Overall, the evidence considered in this essay suggests confrontation has a useful ability to spark moral outrage, facilitate productive discourse, and raise awareness for a social issue. This ability, which seems crucial for effective social change, may extend quite well to some nonconfrontational approaches but not as well to others. This suggests the animal advocacy movement should consider reducing its focus on nonconfrontational tactics that seem to mostly lack this upside, like directly changing consumer behavior with the "Go Vegan!" approach, and increasing its focus on actions that are more likely to create nonlinear change through moral outrage and launching animal rights into public discourse.” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[26] “Unfortunately, research indicates quite the opposite. People are actively dissuaded from participating in radical action due to their fears of social ostracism: ‘Participants’ accounts reflected that they contemplated whether their actions or their group affiliations would impact upon their agency and efficacy, explaining that they avoid certain actions in order to retain agency and voice, and/or to avoid negative social ramifications from relevant others.’ Others have reached similar conclusions in their research.” - Alex Felsinger, Direct Action Leading Where?

[27] “Direct Action Everywhere’s strategy is akin to mobilizing today, seeing that their numbers aren’t enough to succeed, and then mobilizing again the next day. Direct action is a powerful tool that should be used at the appropriate time. The less public support an issue has, the less powerful a mobilization to direct action will be, especially if it plays into activist stereotypes and ostracizes the public.” - Alex Felsinger, Direct Action Leading Where?

[28] “The moral of the story? Don't be afraid of personal attacks. Don't be afraid of triggering a defensive reaction. Don't be afraid of debate and polarization.  

Because the lessons of history and psychology teach us that the path to liberation is a path built on the bricks of controversy.” - Direct Action Everywhere,
On Controversy and Campaigns

[29] “Another (by Winnifred Louis, one of the experts on the psychology of collective action) discusses different aspects of planning collective action. It states that movements should avoid negative labels and that all else equal, actions more palatable to the public are better. However, it also states that ‘if the issue is marginal to public debate, then nondisruptive conventional tactics may not attract the kind of attention that the cause needs to build a basic awareness from which other actions and methods can snowball.’” - Zach Groff, A (Potential) Summary of Disagreements and Agreements on Direct Action

[30] Consider “Am I not a man and a brother?” in the anti-slavery movement, “Make Love Not War” in the 1960s US anti-war movement, and polar bear photos and the color green in the environmental movement.

[31] “Since colours are important for brand identification on-shelf, we recommend colours should be used prominently in advertising campaigns to reinforce the link to the brand in memory.” - Romaniuk et al., Developing Memory Structures for Brand Identity Elements in Packaged Goods Markets

[32] “The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.” - Wikipedia, Mere-exposure effect (Note Wikipedia is unreliable as a source in itself, but is often useful for its citations and as a summary of uncontroversial topics.)

[33] “To this end, many social marketing researchers have found that customizing messages to a particular audience maximizes their strength and influence.” - Schmid et al, Targeting or Tailoring? Maximizing Resources to Create Effective Health Communications

[34] “Individual change is something you can do immediately in an obvious way, while institutional change is more vague and long-term. The clarity of the individual focus could make the outreach recipient more likely to act on that call to action, perhaps because people who hear an institutional message might agree with the message but not fully realize they can help by changing their diet.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[35] “Having more people make the initial step of diet change could lead to substantial spillover benefits. For example, there is some empirical evidence that eating animal products leads people to think animals have less sophisticated mental capacities, likely due to the cognitive dissonance of thinking that animals have rich mental lives but also eating them. The attitude shift from reducing that dissonance could lead to more activist involvement and long-term diet change.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[36] “Another spillover benefit is that short-term change, or at least chains of impact that involve measurable short-term outcomes (e.g. caring more about animals this month, if that predictably leads to increased activism a year later), has short feedback loops.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[37] One reviewer suggested that this is part of the reason individual messaging remains a dominant approach in most health promotion research.

[38] “Finally, given how small the animal-free food movement currently is, institutional change might be so intractable that perhaps the best thing we can do right now is to promote individual change, increasing the number of vegans and vegetarians so that we can create institutional change later when we have more public support.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[39] One reviewer suggested that the average bias of effective altruists might be in the other direction .

[40] “However, there’s also a potential bias in favor of institutional change, where ambitious people like me might be too excited by the exciting prospect of very large-scale impact.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[41] “One obvious conclusion is that the animal-free food movement has a virtually unprecedented focus on individual and consumer change … Some activists in the environmental movement feel similarly about “green consumerism,” the environmental movement’s take on a consumer-focused strategy.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[42] “Moral outrage is also described as ‘a response to the behavior of others, never one’s own.’ It seems natural that institutional messaging would be more likely to spark the emotion because it puts the blame for the issue on an outside institution or one that the audience member is only a small part of, usually the animal agriculture industry or society as a whole. Because of this, institutional messaging could reduce the defensiveness we frequently encounter when talking about veganism and animal-free food.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[43] “Some well-publicized psychology experiments showed a similar ‘backfire effect.’ Researchers showed participants fake newspaper articles arguing one side of the issue on some touchy political issues like the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, stem cell research, and tax reform...:” - Jacy Reese, Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

[44] “Four experiments supported this prediction and found that authentic vegetarians, vegetarians freely making the decision to abandon meat, consistent vegetarians, and anticipating moral reproach from vegetarians produced greater endorsement of dissonance-reducing strategies than their counterpart conditions.” - Rothgerber, Efforts to overcome vegetarian-induced dissonance among meat eaters

[45] “Institutional messaging helps avoid the “collapse of compassion” by suggesting that we can make headway on the issue beyond what we achieve with our own diet. Changing only our own diet can be demotivating and seen as a mere drop in the bucket, while taking collective action feels more tractable and impactful. If many people are eating animal-free food, then the marginal consumer faces a much lower cost to jumping on the bandwagon.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[46] “There is abundant psychological evidence for the power of peer pressure, also known as social messaging, which is often used to persuade someone to take a certain action or have a certain belief by showing them that many of their peers, or authority figures, also take that action or have that belief. While both individual and institutional messaging can incorporate peer pressure, I think institutional messaging has more of this built-in because it necessarily communicates that other people are making changes and that helping farmed animals is a group effort.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[47] “I think there’s good reason to think we’re biased in favor of individual messaging because of the general psychological desire for instant gratification, and we should account for this bias by updating slightly in favor of institutional messaging. Additionally, most animal advocates are currently using individual messaging, so there could be more status quo bias.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Move Towards An Institutional Message

[48] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. Our claims were originally based on best guesses, but in June 2017, we surveyed the 21 such people and this was true among the 15 respondents to our full survey. See this blog post for more information.

[49] “Results indicate that professors are more liberal than other Americans because a higher proportion possess advanced educational credentials, exhibit a disparity between their levels of education and income, identify as Jewish, non-religious, or non-theologically conservative Protestant, and express greater tolerance for controversial ideas.” - Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse, Why Are Professors Liberal?

[50] One reviewer noted that it might be harder to pass policies in general under a right-wing government.

[51] “Second, from the limited track record of welfare reforms for farmed animals, we see some evidence of momentum over complacency. A recent wave of cage-free commitments in the US was followed in short order by a commitment from United Egg Producers, a cooperative of egg producers in the US, to phase out the killing of male chicks, suggesting that reforms create momentum for further reforms.” - Sentience Politics, Our Support for the Massachusetts “Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment” Initiative

[52] “Furthermore, in the European Union, the countries that have the most progressive corporate policies and governmental protections for farmed animal welfare (for example, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and the UK) also tend to have higher rates of vegetarianism than comparable EU countries with less progressive policies (for example, France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Finland, and Norway).” - Mercy For Animals, Why We Work For Policy Change

[53] Faunalytics (formerly known as Humane Research Council), Advocating Meat Reduction and Vegetarianism to Adults in the U.S. and Boer et al., Towards more sustainable food choices: Value priorities and motivational orientations

[54] “Third, we have informally observed that media coverage of these reforms often highlights the shortcomings of animal farming and focuses on what’s next, rather than suggesting that the reformed products offer a solution to the problems of animal farming.” - Sentience Politics, Our Support for the Massachusetts “Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment” Initiative

[55] “The results of this study suggest that reading about a corporate policy change or legislative reform that improves conditions for farmed animals makes consumers more interested in reducing their consumption of the related animal products.” - Mercy For Animals, Welfare Reforms and Meat Consumption

[56] Brian Tomasik, A Small Mechanical Turk Survey on Ethics and Animal Welfare and Jacy Reese, Testing the Effectiveness of Animal Advocacy Messages with Amazon Mechanical Turk

[57] “Tonsor and Olynk found a statistically significant negative relationship of demand with the pork media index in the short-run (i.e. demand changing in the same quarter as the publication of a newspaper article), and with the pork and poultry media indices in the long-run (i.e. demand changing in the quarter following the publication of a newspaper article).” - Animal Charity Evaluators, Models of Media Influence on Demand for Animal Products

[58] See, for example, Egg prices set to rise after EU battery cage hen ban and Price of bacon set to soar as producers are hit by new EU animal welfare laws

[59] See, for example, Mass. ballot question could raise the price of eggs

[60] “By 1830 [twenty-three years after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 and three years before the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833]  a consensus had emerged among government officials that in the colonies where reform should have been easiest, the amelioration agenda had nevertheless failed. The agenda had known at least as many frustrations as it had triumphs. Further progress would need orders in council. Not far behind, a similar conclusion was being reached respecting the old colonies.” - Caroline Quarrier Spence, Ameliorating Empire

[61] “The growing pressure for Reform reignited the antislavery movement. Many younger members of the London Society for Mitigating and Gradually Abolishing the State of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions had had enough of mitigation and gradualism. Hoping that Reform might yield a more responsive Parliament, they pushed for another great mobilization of public opinion against slavery. Although none of them would openly acknowledge a woman’s influence, Elizabeth Heyrick’s example had been powerful. Like her, they wanted slavery ended now.” - Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains

[62] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. Our claims were originally based on best guesses, but in June 2017, we surveyed the 21 such people and this was true among the 15 respondents to our full survey. See this blog post for more information.

[63] To “humanewash” is defined in analogy to “greenwash,” which means “Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” - Oxford Dictionary

[64] “We share some advocates’ concerns that legal or corporate policy changes that lessen the suffering of farmed animals, but do not directly challenge their use as property or reduce their numbers, risk inducing some level of complacency in the public, potentially making society more comfortable with our still deplorable treatment of these animals and reducing our ability to effect positive change for animals in the long-term. Many advocates are particularly concerned by “humanewashing”, the labelling of products whose production involves severe animal suffering with terms and images that mislead consumers into believing that the animals led happy lives.” - Sentience Politics, Our Support for the Massachusetts “Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment” Initiative

[65] “Some research has documented evidence for moral balancing (Nisan, 1991), or the observation that engaging in an ethical or unethical behavior at one point in time reduces the likelihood of engaging in that form of behavior again in a subsequent situation (Merritt, Effron, & Monin, 2010; Sachdeva, Iliev, & Medin, 2009). For example, Khan and Dhar (2006) showed that after committing to help a foreign student, participants were less willing to donate money to charity.” - Cornelissen et al, Rules or Consequences? The Role of Ethical Mind-Sets in Moral Dynamics.

Note that there is also some evidence for the opposite effect, moral consistency. “In contrast to research investigating moral balancing, there is a long tradition of research on behavioral consistency (Cialdini, Trost, & Newsom, 1995; Festinger, 1957; Taylor, 1975), including research in the moral domain (Foss & Dempsey, 1979;Thomas & Batson, 1981). This work suggests that after engaging in an ethical or unethical act, individuals are likely to behave in the same fashion later on. For example, Gino, Norton, and Ariely (2010) demonstrated that participants who wore counterfeit sunglasses were more likely to cheat, compared with participants who wore branded sunglasses. Cornelissen, Pandelaere, Warlop, and Dewitte (2008) found that reminding individuals of their previous environmental conservation efforts provoked more subsequent proenvironmental behavior.”

[66] The prevalence of this justification suggests that highlighting the issues of so-called humane animal farmign could be an effective messaging strategy.

[67] “Thus we conclude that the media coverage surrounding Prop 2 did not cause a decrease in demand for eggs in general.” - Animal Charity Evaluators, Models of Media Influence on Demand for Animal Products

[68] One analysis (“Vegaphobia: derogatory discourses of veganism and the reproduction of speciesism in UK national newspapers”) of this stigma was done of UK newspaper articles in 2007, which found “Newspapers tend to discredit veganism through ridicule, or as being difficult or impossible to maintain in practice. Vegans are variously stereotyped as ascetics, faddists, sentimentalists, or in some cases, hostile extremists.” Many think that this stigma has significantly reduced since 2007, possibly due to a shift in the animal advocacy community towards more friendly, less confrontational tactics.

[69] Brian Kateman is a frequent proponent of this view, e.g.“Brian Kateman and Tyler Alterman, co-founders of the reducetarian movement, argue that rather than a draconian attempt to cut out meat altogether, most people may find it easier and more congenial to simply eat a little less of it.” - Rebecca Rupp, To Really Reduce Meat in Your Diet, Don’t Go Cold Turkey

[70] Mercy For Animals lists some evidence in their article on The “V” Word. At face value, some of this evidence even suggests more diet change resulting from reducetarian asks, though these experimental results should be taken with caution due to low statistical power and other methodological limitations. “A large-scale study of 1,600 people that directly compared the impact of different language in a veg 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.’ [Full report here. Note that the control group outperformed each experimental group in the primary outcome measure, p 3.]


A separate study of 800 individuals who were shown photos and text online about factory farm cruelty 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 towards doing so than people who were encouraged to ‘go vegan.’ [Full report
here. Note that some EAAs have criticized this study because they thought its publisher, The Humane League, was biased against the “go vegan” message and did a poor job of presenting it to study participants in a way that actually mirrors real-world “go vegan” messaging.]

An internal MFA study across hundreds of thousands of visitors to our MeatVideo.com and CarneVideo.com websites found that visitors were much more likely to pledge to change their diets, to order a starter guide, and to sign up for a veg eating email series when we used “vegetarian” than when we used ‘vegan.’

Internal reviews by MFA have found that using ‘vegetarian’ instead of ‘vegan’ in advertisements drives more traffic to our vegan eating websites.”

[71] Brian Kateman is a frequent proponent of this view, e.g. “When it comes to the success of a social movement, inclusiveness and likeability matter. In fact, they matter a lot. People don’t want to feel inferior. They don’t want to feel like a bad person for not living the way another person tells them they should live.” - Brain Kateman, We need more meat-eating animal-rights advocates

[72] One analysis (“Vegaphobia: derogatory discourses of veganism and the reproduction of speciesism in UK national newspapers”) of this stigma was done of UK newspaper articles in 2007, which found “Newspapers tend to discredit veganism through ridicule, or as being difficult or impossible to maintain in practice. Vegans are variously stereotyped as ascetics, faddists, sentimentalists, or in some cases, hostile extremists.” Many think that this stigma has significantly reduced since 2007, possibly due to a shift in the animal advocacy community towards more friendly, less confrontational tactics.

[73] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. Our claims were originally based on best guesses, but in June 2017, we surveyed the 21 such people and this was true among the 15 respondents to our full survey. See this blog post for more information.

[74] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. Our claims were originally based on best guesses, but in June 2017, we surveyed the 21 such people and this was true among the 15 respondents to our full survey. See this blog post for more information.

[75] “Three experiments were conducted to test the effectiveness of a rejection-then-moderation procedure for inducing compliance with a request for a favor. All three experiments included a condition in which a requester first asked for an extreme favor (which was refused to him) and then for a smaller favor. In each instance, this procedure produced more compliance with the smaller favor than a procedure in which the requester asked solely for the smaller favor. Additional control conditions in each experiment supported the hypothesis that the effect is mediated by a rule for reciprocation of concessions. Several advantages to the use of the rejection-then-moderation procedure for producing compliance are discussed.” - Cialdini et al, Reciprocal Concessions Procedure for Inducing Compliance: The Door-in-the-Face Technique

[76] “2 experiments were conducted to test the proposition that once someone has agreed to a small request he is more likely to comply with a larger request. The 1st study demonstrated this effect when the same person made both requests. The 2nd study extended this to the situation in which different people made the 2 requests. Several experimental groups were run in an effort to explain these results, and possible explanations are discussed.” - Freedman and Fraser, Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

[77] “Most forms of animal advocacy involve social change, such as inspiring people to consume fewer animal products or helping companies adopt better animal welfare policies. It seems advocacy could make a crucial difference in whether they will occur, so a major portion of the expected impact of funding programs that achieve these outcomes comes from the possibility that the change would never happen otherwise. For example, it seems unclear whether society will replace animal agriculture with cultured meat, given the technology develops, and that additional funding could substantially increase the likelihood this replacement occurs. In this way, social change affects the direction of the future.

Technological change that is physically possible, on the other hand, seems likely to eventually occur even without our intervention. It seems that humans in modern society work towards technological progress for a variety of reasons like helping others, personal curiosity, and commercial profit. This, combined with the fact that backwards technological progress seems quite uncommon, unlike backwards social progress, suggests that when we fund technological progress, the primary mechanism of impact is speeding up new technologies rather than causing them to exist when they otherwise never would. In this way, technological change affects the speed of the future.” - Jacy Reese,
Foundational Questions in Animal Advocacy

[78] “Judging on the basis of the above two examples, the challenges involved in dramatically reducing the cost of animal-free media, and our holistic assessment of the challenges involved in reducing the cost of cultured meat, discussion with scientists who have experience with cell cultures and tissue engineering, we currently see developing cost-competitive cultured meat products as extremely challenging, and we have been unable to find any concrete paths forward that seem likely to achieve that goal.” - Open Philanthropy Project, Animal Product Alternatives

[79] “Approximate estimate of the probability that there will be at least one cost-competitive cultured alternative for more than half of the main broad types of animal products within this animal product category in:

Animal product category        5 years time        10 years time        20 years time
Acellular                15%                40%                75%
Ground Meat                7.5%                20%                55%
Whole Pieces of Muscle Tissue        1%        5%                30%” - Animal Charity Evaluators,
When Will There be Cost-Competitive Cultured Animal Products?

[80] “Also, the rate of technological change could interact with the rate of social change in important ways. For example, if society is approaching a crucial social decision between continuing with animal agriculture or switching to a more ethical food system, one that will have its result embedded in society for a very long time, then making sure we are equipped at that time with the most appetizing and accessible vegan foods possible seems quite important.” - Jacy Reese, Foundational Questions in Animal Advocacy

[81] We don’t know of any survey or experimental data on how common these motivations are for different issues, but that would be useful information.,

[82] “Yes, the integrity of local ecosystems could benefit sentient beings, but we should discuss environmental issues in terms of the impact on sentient beings, not simply on the preservation of nonsentient entities like ecosystems or biodiversity, and we should ensure the social change we create is promoting our own values as much as possible, rather than related values that overlap in some, but not all, contexts.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[83] “Some animal supporters are environmentalists because they think ecological preservation best advances animal welfare, while others hold an additional moral view that nature is intrinsically valuable. It's troubling that spreading the animal movement risks creating more defenders of wildlife who may cause more animal suffering than they prevent. Plausibly the animal movement is still net positive, especially if future wisdom helps to correct its present oversights, but I think it's safest if we push explicitly on the cause of reducing wild-animal suffering -- both among animal activists and others who are open-minded.” - Brian Tomasik, Does the Animal-Rights Movement Encourage Wilderness Preservation?

[84] “Additionally, new studies or changing features of human health (e.g. a rise in diseases that are more prevalent in plant-based eaters) could change the evidence base and make our favored arguments for an animal-free food system less compelling.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[85] “While veg advocacy is intended to change people’s diets and reduce the suffering of farmed animals, it could have important effects on whether people would take steps to reduce the suffering of wild animals.” - Luke Hecht, Wild Animal Suffering Survey Report

[86] “An environmental focus could cause people to harm wild animals, such as by painfully killing members of invasive species in order to preserve the integrity of local ecosystems.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[87] “It also seems to be the case that animal arguments have been most compelling in creating highly impactful animal-free food leaders, and creating more of these leaders could be very important for pushing our movement forward.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[88] “Environmental and animal protection argument can better inspire moral outrage than human health, because they involve harm to outside entities rather than just harm to the consumer making the decision. The health argument could be framed as the animal farming industry harming or infringing upon the rights of consumers, such as through deceptive marketing, but the environmental and animal protection arguments still seem more clearly associated with this sort of external harm in the eyes of the public.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[89] “There is very little disagreement outside the industry itself about the intense animal suffering involved in modern animal farming. However, there is substantial disagreement about whether a vegan, or even a vegetarian diet, is better for human health. … Similarly, while there is much agreement that many modern factory farms are very environmentally damaging, some environmentalists think that farming some animals, such as grass-fed cows, waste-fed pigs, or insects, is actually more environmentally friendly than eating plants.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[90] “Some might disagree with me because environmental, human health, or other topics have more public interest right now than animal protection, so they think emphasizing these benefits of animal-free foods could lead to more public enthusiasm and quicker public adoption. For example, one might be more likely to get news stories of a new animal-free food company if the press release is written with an environmental focus. People might also self-report health and the environment as more important factors in their consumption.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[91] We very approximately define “significant majority agreement” as 80% agreement among the 20 people who we believe have most thoroughly considered these issues. Our claims were originally based on best guesses, but in June 2017, we surveyed the 21 such people and this was true among the 15 respondents to our full survey. See this blog post for more information.

[92] Some considerations are not listed in the table because their direction is unclear, i.e. a 1 could be most promising or a 3 could be.

[93] “Antispeciesism addresses all the ways in which we discriminate against nonhuman animals, not just select sites of that discrimination, like circuses or food farms. Unlike more common approaches to animal advocacy, it demands that we take all forms of suffering endured by nonhuman animals into consideration.” - Jacy Reese, Which Key Ideas Should We Be Spreading with Marginal Resources?

[94] Another interpretation of antispeciesism is that it excludes reducing the suffering of wild animals when it’s not caused by humans. This could depend on whether one thinks that humans would choose to help humans, such as remote tribes, isolated from the rest of civilization.

[95] See our Global Farmed & Factory Farmed Animals Estimates.

[96] Birds                ~1 * 10^11 to 4 * 10^11
Mammals        10^11 to 10^12
Reptiles        10^11 to 10^14
Amphibians        10^11 to 10^14
Fish                10^13 to 10^15 or more” - Brian Tomasik,
How Many Wild Animals Are There?

[97] “We think a relatively small number of people are aware that some individuals are researching and advocating for intervention in the wild to help reduce the natural suffering of animals, like that of illness and starvation.” - Jacy Reese, Which Key Ideas Should We Be Spreading with Marginal Resources?

[98] “While veganism likely has a promising future, the future of antispeciesism seems much less clear and less promising still, and has far fewer people working to promote it.” - Magnus Vinding, Animal advocates should focus on antispeciesism, not veganism

[99] “Veganism is rising, and there are considerable incentives entirely separate from concern for animals to move away from the production of animal “products”. In economic terms, it is inefficient to sustain an animal in order to use her flesh and skin rather than to grow meat and other animal-derived products directly, or replace them with plant-based alternatives. Similarly strong incentives exist in the realm of public health, which animal agriculture threatens by increasing the risks of zoonotic diseases, antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA, and cardiovascular disease. These incentives, none of which have anything to do with concern for nonhuman animals per se, could well be pushing humanity toward veganism more powerfully than anything else.” - Magnus Vinding, Animal advocates should focus on antispeciesism, not veganism

[100] “Compared to veganism, antispeciesism is also much harder to confuse with environmentalism, supporters of which often recommend overtly speciesist interventions such as the mass killing of beings in the name of “healthy ecosystems” and biodiversity.” - Magnus Vinding, Animal advocates should focus on antispeciesism, not veganism

[101] “It seems that the cruelty of animal agriculture and associated dietary change are closer to the middle of the Overton Window — the range of ideas that are acceptable to discuss in mainstream public discourse — than wild animal suffering and antispeciesism.” - Jacy Reese, Which Key Ideas Should We Be Spreading with Marginal Resources?

[102] “Wild animal suffering seems like a particularly difficult idea to spread because it conflicts with the common intuition that we should leave nature alone and that natural things are inherently good, known as the ‘natural fallacy’ or ‘appeal to nature.’” - Jacy Reese, Which Key Ideas Should We Be Spreading with Marginal Resources?

[103] Translated: “Actually, contrary to what some people think, the majority of people who attend these talks accept the arguments for the rejection of speciesism.” - Oscar Horta, Charlas en centros de secundaria sobre el especismo, la ética y los animales

[104] Translated: “On the contrary, the most controversial point is (as might be expected) the discussion about whether we should stop eating animal products.” - Oscar Horta, Charlas en centros de secundaria sobre el especismo, la ética y los animales

[105] “In shorthand summaries of the preferred causes of the progressive Left in the past 40 years, one often finds a reference to animal rights, alongside gender equality, gay rights, the disability movement, and the rights of immigrants, racial minorities, and indigenous peoples. All are seen as paradigmatically progressive causes, fighting to emancipate historically subordinated and stigmatized groups,often subsumed under the label of ‘social justice struggles’ or ‘citizenship struggles.’ Yet the inclusion of animal rights in this list is misleading: the reality is that the animal question is virtually invisible within the Left. As Boggs notes,’Apart from its marginal leverage within the radical-ecology movement, animal rights discourse has scarcely entered into or altered the work of Left/progressive groups in the United States’ (Boggs 2011, 73).Animal advocates are ‘orphans of the Left,’ championing a progressive cause that is shunned by other progressive movements. Animal rights may receive a passing ritualized mention before being promptly ignored.” - Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson, Animal Rights, Multiculturalism, and the Left

[106] “Given these estimates, it follows that the potential for approximately 10^38 human lives is lost every century that colonization of our local supercluster is delayed..; or equivalently, about 10^29 potential human lives per second.” - Nick Bostrom, Astronomical Waste

[107] “‘Bugs’ (insects, spiders, etc.)        | 10^17 to 10^19” - Brian Tomasik, How Many Wild Animals Are There?

[108] “While veg advocacy is intended to change people’s diets and reduce the suffering of farmed animals, it could have important effects on whether people would take steps to reduce the suffering of wild animals.” - Luke Hecht, Wild Animal Suffering Survey Report

[109] “An environmental focus could cause people to harm wild animals, such as by painfully killing members of invasive species in order to preserve the integrity of local ecosystems.” - Jacy Reese, The Animal-Free Food Movement Should Focus Primarily on Animal Protection Arguments

[110] We say potential just because the causation isn’t certain. Various factors influence how well we can determine causation. For example, policy-makers saying that a policy change was caused by advocates is evidence of causation.

[111] We include this question here because it often comes up in discussion, but many animal advocates unilaterally oppose violent tactics for moral reasons, and our current impression is that most think it is ineffective as well.


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