December 18, 2020
Guest Oscar Horta, University of Santiago de Compostela
Hosted by Jamie Harris, Sentience Institute
Oscar Horta of the University of Santiago de Compostela on how we can best help wild animals
“The main work that really needs to be carried out here is work in the intersection of animal welfare science, the science of ecology, and other fields in life science… You could also build a career, not as a scientist, but say, in public administration or government. And you can reach a position in policy-making that can be relevant for the field, so there are plenty of different options there… Getting other interventions accepted and implemented would require significant lobby work. And that’s why having people, for instance, if you have people who are sympathetic to reducing wild animal suffering, and they are working in, say, national parks administration or working with the agricultural authorities, forest authorities, or whatever, these people could really make a significant difference.”
Animals in the wild suffer, often to a large degree, because of natural disasters, parasites, disease, starvation, and other causes. But what can we do as individuals to help them? What are the most urgent priorities?
Oscar Horta is a Professor of philosophy at the University of Santiago de Compostela and a co-founder of the nonprofit Animal Ethics. He has published and lectured in English and other languages on topics including speciesism and wild animal welfare.
Topics discussed in the episode:
- Why should animal advocates and researchers think more carefully about the definition of speciesism? (1:40)
- Why Oscar believes framing our messaging in terms in speciesism and focusing on attitudes rather than behavior would help advocates to do more good (9:10)
- How relevant is existing research to the proposed research field of welfare biology, that would consider wild animals among other animals, and how can we integrate it? (16:40)
- What sorts of research are most urgently needed to advance the field of welfare biology and how can people go about pursuing this? (21:13)
- Careers related to helping wild animals in policy (36:10)
- What you can do if you already work at an animal advocacy organization or are interested in growing the field in other ways (39:45)
- The size of the current wild animal welfare movement in and the work of relevant nonprofits (51:40)
- How can we most effectively build support for this sort of work among other animal advocates and effective altruists? (57:33)
- How can we most effectively build a new academic field? (1:02:49)
- To what extent is public-facing advocacy desirable at this point? (1:10:09)
Resources discussed in the episode:
Resources by or about Oscar Horta and Animal Ethics:
Resources for using this podcast for a discussion group:
Transcript (Automated, imperfect)
Welcome to the sentience Institute podcast, where we interview activists, entrepreneurs, and researchers about the most effective strategies to expand humanity's moral circle with a focus on expanding the circle to found animals. I'm Jamie Harris research at Sentience Institute and at animal advocacy careers. What control 13th episode of the podcast? In our last episode, I had a discussion with Oscar Horta, who is a professor of philosophy at a university of Santiago de Compostela and a co-founder of the non-profit Animal Ethics. In that episode, we discussed why you might or might not want to spend your time resources working to help wild animals focusing on their individual welfare, including addressing some common objections. I'll squeeze back in this episode for the second part of our conversation, focusing more on the practicalities of work in this area, such as what nonprofits should be focusing on how to develop the academic field of welfare biology and how individuals can use their careers to help wild animals.
If you're new to the topic of wild animal welfare and suffering, I strongly advise that you listen to the previous episode before listening to this one, because this might not make much sense. Otherwise, on our website, we have a transcript of this episode, as well as timestamps for particular topics. We also have suggested questions and resources that can be used to run an event around this podcast and your local animal advocacy or effective altruism group. Please feel free to get in touch with us. If you have questions about this and we would be happy to help. Oscar Horta is a professor of philosophy at the university of Santiago de Compostela. He has published articles on a number of topics, especially the problems of speciesism and wild animal suffering. He's also the co-founder of animal ethics and animal advocacy non-profit that is focused on promoting and supporting work relevant to these topics.
Before we dive into the main focus of our conversation about how animal advocates and effective altruists can most effectively help wild animals. I wanted to ask you about a couple of interrelated topics that you've written and spoken about. You take the position that animal advocates should use a general anti speciesist framework, rather than focusing narrowly on particular categories of animals like farm animals, lab animals, wild animals, or so on in your academic work. You've written about the topic of speciesism quite extensively. Do you want to start off by defining what speciesism is and what the difference is from anthropocentrism?
Yeah, sure. So speciesism has been defined in different ways. So I won't go into all the debate about this, but, um, the definition that I think is the best one is that especially for some, is a form of discrimination, and we could define this further saying that especially system is, um, an unjustified consideration or, or treatment of those who don't belong or are not classified as belonging to a certain species. It could be one species, it could be a group of species. So anthropocentrism in term would be the, the view that human interests count for more than the interests of other animals. So if anthropocentrism is an unjustified view, then that means that it is a form of speciesism. We could call it a anthropocentric, speciesism, or other forms of speciesism would be for instance, the ones favoring certain animals that we feel moral sympathy for against other animals or favoring, say dogs against pigs or favoring animals that we consider. I don't know, cute or more scientifically interesting over other equally sentient animals.
Yeah. Um, you've written various papers making the case against speciesism. Do you think there's still space for more people to write academic ethics papers on this topic?
Yeah, absolutely. Uh, well actually that's where I think I've, I've made a more, probably a more significant contribution. My, my most cited paper is not about wild animal suffering, but about the definition of speciesism. And as I said before, there is a lot of debate, uh, between different ways of understanding speciesism and the concept of speciesism is underused. I think, and even among animal advocates, they seldom use it really, uh, which is a shame. And in fact, even when you consider animal organizations, it's, it's, it's not really common to, to see their message framed in terms of speciesism. And I think this is very problematic because, um, in the long-term challenging speciesism will have, um, much more significant effect than challenging certain practices, certain expressions of, of speciesism. And actually this is, this was one of the reasons why we created, uh, animal ethics to start with.
So our main motivation was to work on wild animal suffering, but we had the other motivation. We, we wanted to further some intellectual work, some research, uh, uh, more, you know, uh, technical and the theoretical issues. And we wanted to stress what, uh, a form of advocacy focus on speciesism would be like. So, and, and this is not something that just concerns animal organization as such also people who want to do research, uh, people who yeah. In different disciplines, maybe in social science philosophy and others who want to do work for animals. I think that doing more work on speciesism can help to further the debate about this. And this can really make a difference in the, in the longterm.
Yeah. I'm interested in that. So I guess my intuition and I, I'm not a philosopher, as I said, so I, I kind of feel this about a lot of philosophy debates, but my interest is just that quite often the argument has been made. It's there. Like what, what else is left to debate? Why do you think that it's a promising area for continuing to have positive long-term effects?
Well, maybe what you have in mind, the bit you have in mind is the debate about the reasons for and against anthropocentrism. That is the reasons leading us to consider that anthropocentrism is a form of speciesism or not, but, um, there's more work there. So for instance, how we do, how do we define speciesism? Just an example of, of different debates that they are around. Many people tend to define speciesism, in a narrow way while other people like, for instance, Frauke Meyer and myself have advocated for a wide understanding of speciesism. So the narrow view claims that suspicious or some is just discrimination made on the basis of species. So if you discriminate against non-human animals, because they don't have certain cognitive capacities. And if that is unjustified, maybe that's a form of discrimination, but it's not suspicious as, and maybe it can be, say, intelligentism or whatever.
And we argue against this, we claim no-no that speciesism as well. And in order to reach this conclusion, what we do is we look at what happens in the case of, of, of human beings. So consider, say sexism, imagine the case of some sexist, people who discriminate against women, claiming that women don't have the same capacities that males have, claiming that they aren't as intelligent, their brain is different. So they, they aren't good at certain cognitive capacities. So they shouldn't be doing some jobs or, or, or whatever. We clearly see that this is a form of, of sexism. So it seems that if we are accepting this and we are not accepting similar definition in the case of speciesism, isn't that by doing this, we are being involved in a sort of meta discrimination that would occur when you are facing two discriminations.
And you think that one is more serious or more significant than the other. So you are actually discriminating against the second discrimination, right? So this is why this is a meta discrimination. So I believe that speciesism is the big thing of, uh, of many meta discrimination on solve these sort, even by people who claim to be anti-speciesist, they don't really take as seriously as they would consider speciesism. If it was some form of discrimination affecting, uh, a certain group of, of human people. And this happens both in practice in how, they behave towards non-human animals. And it also happens in the, in the theoretical arena when it comes to defining a specialism. So this is just an example of, of a type of debate that may, look a bit too theoretical at first, but that may have a significant implication when we look in detail at it.
And in addition to this, I think also that the language of suspicious, or some speaking about suspicious of some framing, our message in terms of speciesism, that can make a huge difference. We may think that well, after all, if you are advocating against a certain form of animal exploitation and you claim that this is an ethical does not really that different from claiming that it is a form of discrimination against non-human animals. That is an instance of speciesism, but it's not the same thing. The second thing is much more important in terms of shifting attitudes towards how we approach this. And it's not just important in how we are changing the views that the general public has about. This is also very important in terms of how animal activists or animal advocates, however you want to call them, see the kind of work they're carrying out.
Yeah. So this general topic of whether advocates should focus specifically on farmed animals, specifically on wild animals or on a broader anti speciesist framework is something that Sentience Institute has summarized some of the arguments and evidence about in a page on our website called a summary of evidence for foundational questions in effective animal advocacy. Um, the, one of the concerns I have is that anti speciesism, as a concept seems very broad and abstract as you kind of alluded to just there, it feels unclear what the call to action should be. In fact, animal ethics has a short double-sided leaflet called, have you ever heard of speciesism? And the suggestions in the, what can we do box are decide not to support animal exploitation, learn about veganism and spread concern for wild animals. And again, those all feel quite amorphous and abstract to me. Um, how can we, I guess the question is how can we make concrete progress on expanding moral consideration of non-humans if we use this fairly abstract terminology,
Maybe the term speciesism is very broad and abstract, but other concepts that we are familiar with, so animal rights, animal activism, animal advocacy are just as abstract and even less concrete. But the important thing is, is that you may go ahead and continue to do a similar work, but the language that you use, the way you present you frame the problem makes a lot of difference. Um, I don't think that campaigning for veganism really is that abstract, I think, is fairly concrete, but using a discourse that it is based on our moral considerations on the appeal to the unfairness, to the lack of justification of speciesism can have results that as I said on on the longer term can make them a much more significant difference. Also, something that is important here is that the approach that I'm advocating for, and actually the one that that animal ethics has is that we focus more on attitudes than on behavior. So we are much more interested in spreading certain memes, certain ideas in society that are more likely to in the long-term mean that there is more consideration in our societies for those forms of sentience of sentience are different from, from us with, we put much more value on that than on achieving certain behavioral changes in the short term. That will mean that yeah, maybe less animals are exploited, uh, next year. But yeah, I think those two things really define what's, uh, having, uh, an anti-speciesist focus on animal advocacy would amount to,
Yeah. Okay. So maybe I was being a little unkind with, with, um, implying that it is necessarily more abstracts because as you say, you can, it's a kind of a framing aspect. So in theory, you could offer the exact same interventions and then frame the, the motivation and the, the, the kind of bigger picture as being about anti species. And rather than something else, like you mentioned animal rights as example, that kind of then feels that the relevant consideration is the sort of concreteness or not concreteness, almost like the catchiness and the memorability and the, how, how far those different concepts resonate with people. So, yeah, I, I liked the idea of spreading certain ideas as being potentially just by getting them in people's understanding as a kind of reference point, being a potentially quite important way of having sort of medium to long-term effects that aren't immediately, that aren't particularly measurable in the next few years.
I'm interested if you well... So, so as a specific example, I've seen a short post by you from a few years ago where you argue that, where you argue that in lectures, you've given on anti-speciesism, the majority of people who attend those talks, accept the arguments for the rejection of speciesism, I'm just, I'm intrigued as well, whether you've sort of experimented much with framing it from these, these other concepts that you mentioned, like animal rights or, uh, an a welfare or whatever alternatives. And just like how, I guess that's the, maybe that's the trade off there in terms of the framing consideration is what is the bigger narrative that it plays into?
Well, first of all, I didn't do this in a, in a scientific way. So it's just, uh, kind of anecdotal evidence, but I've given many, many talks. I don't know, hundreds of them probably during the last decades. And the, and I've been testing these also different kinds of audiences I've done it, uh, uh, at the university I've been giving many lectures, also the teenagers and the, yeah, the contrast there, uh, that post that you mentioned was explaining what's the context, the, the contrast between addressing attitudes or behaviors. If I were speaking about the arguments against speciesism, then most people accepted the arguments and then we need, when it comes to presenting after this, the arguments for not exploiting animals then does when the objections appear, I've tried both approaches many times, but when I start by presenting the case against exploiting animals and then present the case against speciesism, yeah.
The objections against the anti-speciesist arguments are a lot. It also makes sense to me to think that once they have accepted that speciesism is wrong, they may be more open to, to accept that animal exploitation is, is wrong. But, uh, but yeah, I haven't, I haven't really tested how it would work by not speaking about speciesism, but by just speaking about the moral consideration of animals or being compassionate towards animals and so on. But, uh, but I haven't done this because I believe that speaking of speciesism can make a more significant difference in the long-term. Even if it's an attitudinal focused message. If it's not really addressing speciesism as a discrimination, if it's just about giving a bit more consideration to non-human animals, I think that the potential of this message would be much more reduced.
So we spent most of the last episode talking about the case for animal advocates and effective altruists focusing their efforts on helping wild animals. I want to return to that topic now to ask about some practical and strategic questions about how we can actually do that and make progress. As part of this, a key goal of Animal Ethics, the nonprofit that you co-founded is to develop and support the academic field of welfare biology. Animal Ethics' online course, just to give a definition, refers to welfare biology as a proposed field of study, that will examine all the factors affecting the wellbeing of animals, especially those living outside human controls. In principle, this includes both animals in and outside of human captivity, but given the vast numbers and uncertainties, it mostly focuses on, on animals outside of human captivity. So, I mean, obviously as we've people would probably where there's there are fields like ecology and, uh, animal welfare science, and various things that, to some extent overlap with these goals. So the question is how; relevant is that existing research in fields like ecology into the proposed research field of welfare biology?
Yeah, so there is a lot of research that is very relevant. Um, we would need to, so to speak translat it in terms of, of, of, of welfare, because the focus of far has been on total different things. But if you consider for instance, research having to do with a specific mortality, uh, life history, uh, we mentioned before we talked about this before, how this is very relevant to welfare assessments or, in more concrete terms, when you consider research on the different causes of harm for animals, what is the limiting factor that is stopping a certain population from, from growing? So what are the main reasons basically why animals die in a certain population? Well, those are also factors that are very relevant to assessing the welfare of these animals. Then also a lot of research on behavioral ecology is also very relevant for, for this because how animals behave probably always is very closely related to how, how they're feeling.
So it seems that there is a huge amount of knowledge there of information. So it seems also to me, that due to this an important part of the, of the work that people are working in this field could do right now would have to do with, um, not, I mean, not just with research, but also with doing literature reviews, approaching the result of the existing literature from a new light. So this is why this type of research that has been called welfare biology could be seen as a cross-disciplinary field. And cross-disciplinary field is not exactly the same that interdisciplinary work is. So interdisciplinary work takes place when you combine work from different disciplines in an integrated way. So it goes a bit further than just multidisciplinary work, where you are just like putting it together, there is some integration here. But with cross-disciplinary work, what you are doing is that you are looking at work in a certain field from so-to-speak with the eyes with the, with the glasses that you use in a, in a, in another field.
So in this case, we want to, we want to look at, uh, research at work in, in, in ecology and maybe other related fields, wildlife management, for instance, but you want to look at that work with the eyes of animal welfare science, right? So all that research that is already done, you want to translate it in terms of how the animal is affected by all these that we have researched already. So, yeah, we've been promoting some, some work of the, of, of this kind. So for instance, animal ethics published a report, it was a literature review on how fires can affect non-human animals from the point of view of their welfare. And of course the whole body of the literature wasn't really concerned with the welfare of animals. It was concerned with something else, but nevertheless, the results can definitely be applied to inform interventions that that can be helpful for, for animals.
Animal Ethics' online video course mentions that to understand wild animals lives, we need one wild animal welfare science to the science of ecology and three, they have this category for other related fields. To what extent do you think more philosophy and ethics is needed for welfare biology as a field specifically? Uh, and how could it continue to contribute?
Yes. So to be sure the work of ethicists is important in that it, raises concern about this. And actually during the first, almost 10 years from the end of the decade of the two thousands, till very recently, I would say all, if not all, mostly, almost all that, uh, has been done on this, had to do with yeah. The ethical reasons to be concerned with the political reasons, to be concerned with wild animal suffering. Um, and for sure that's a role that we need to go on fulfilling. And also there could be some other philosophical work to be done there. So work for instance, in, uh, in the philosophy of welfare biology, right? Work on philosophy of science clarifying the concepts. So for instance, Asher Sorrell, who is a graduate student in New Zealand is doing work along these lines. But anyway, as, uh, as I said before, the, the main work that really needs to be carried out here is working the intersection of animal welfare science and the science of ecology and other, other fields in life science it's that is the actual work. The other is kind of meta work.
Yeah. I had a look at animal ethics has a great list of publications about wild animal suffering from a couple of years ago now. And my impression was that most of the works on there are mostly philosophy and ethics papers. Although analytics has also published a more recent library of scientific references, relevant to welfare biology, which has two or 300 references on there. Would you agree that most of the relevant work to date has been mostly philosophical?
Yeah. Yeah. So that, that needs to change. Um, the thing with that, what you mentioned the other library of references relevant to welfare biology, those were not really references in welfare biology. Those were references on previous work, on different sciences that, you know, those working on welfare biology could use.
So, so with that in mind, then what are the highest priority research questions that people should be working on? If they're interested in welfare biology,
We should make a distinction there between different, different questions, because some people sometimes get confused about what priority really means. They tend to think of priority in terms of the more like foundational questions. So this really doesn't need to be the case. So for instance, in welfare biology, the most foundational questions would be those related to how to, how to assess the total amount of positive and negative welfare in different populations and in different species and in different ecosystems. Again, as I said, mainly type of ecosystems, although in some cases talk in ecosystems as well, and then also on how, what are the best ways in which we can transform a certain situation, a certain clinical system, where there is a certain amount of suffering against wellbeing, positive wellbeing, how we can transform that into a situation in which there is less suffering. So those would be like the most basic questions, but those are not the ones that have more priority, because those are not the ones that we should be asking ourselves in order to further the field right now, then there are these other questions that are probably the ones that have more priority, but those aren't really questions in welfare biology.
There are meta questions and the questions that we considered before, for instance, what are the forms of interventions that are more likely to be supported by the general public and by other targeted groups, such as scientist, life science students, animal advocates, what are the forms of interventions, or what are the lines of research concerning well, wild animal suffering and the welfare biology that are more likely to be interesting, appealing to scientists. And then, but then I say, as I say, these are medical questions. So the questions that have more priority for those wanting to work in natural welfare biology right now in actual work, in the intersection of animal welfare science, and ecology, those would be the questions that need to be asked in order to carry out the research that these meta questions point at as being particularly promising.
So, so if someone is a researcher in a relevant discipline and interested in supporting welfare biology, doing some of that more concrete research, what do they do now? What are the steps they should take in order to support the development of the field?
So the, the main thing they could do is to do actual actual research. It doesn't necessarily need to be field research. It could also be things like literature reviews, but to do research on the field and publish on the field, try to publish on good journals, influential journals in the area journals in ecology journals, in animal welfare science. So that would be the, the, the most important thing probably that they can do. Also try to spread concern about this in other ways. So they can help to organize things like seminars, speak with colleagues. And so on. Some of them may try to become influential in their area. So then when, when they speak about these issues, they'll have more power to influence other people. And something else they could do is they could collaborate with the organizations that are working on this field as well. They could collaborate with wild animal initiative and animal ethics because yeah, there, their help can be very valuable, even if they just spend a few hours and collaborating with us, that could be very helpful.
Are there any types of research that academics are not well incentivized to work on that nonprofits should focus on in order to fill those gaps in terms of the kind of foundations of this field of welfare biology?
Sure. So the fact that something is important doesn't mean that someone will work on it, and it definitely doesn't mean that academics will do work on it. So it seems to me that there is a clear set of questions that we should be doing research on, and that, eh, academics are not likely to do, uh, which are the meta questions about what are the most important issues that we could be researching right now. And also what are the research topics that academics themselves, um, will find interesting and useful to, uh, research that, uh, have to do with, with the development of the field. The former kind of questions are the foundational ones, but for the sake of the actual development of the field, the questions that are more relevant are those of the second type. This is because in order to end up attaining the highest impact for wild animals, the kind of research that we should be doing right now is not the one that addresses the most important issues rather is the one that is more likely to get attention by academics.
But this doesn't mean that if a topic is not worked on in academia, then the cause is hopeless. Well, um, even if it's not, uh, research, uh, right now, uh, maybe you can encourage, uh, researchers in academia to work on it. Maybe they could be happy to work on it. It just so happens that they haven't until now, because the prevalent, uh, paradigm in their field, uh, has an included the kind of problems that we want them to work on. But we need to be reminded that academics can have an impact that independent researchers can never have. Um, both because they have more resources to work on. And also because they have the capacity to influence other researchers and new generations of students. And also because they have more prestige in society, it is scientists that policy makers are going to pay attention to not, um, advocates generally, and certainly not independent researchers.
And the problem here is that academics, seldom pay attention to independent research. They are not really that impressed by research done outside academia. It has no prestige for them. And also the fact that things are discussed outside academia are no guarantee that they will have an impact there. So an example of this can be seen in the case of effective altruism, which has obviously reached a huge group of people. I mean, there are many, many people around the world who are aware of it, or if it's key ideas, but then if you do a search in Google Scholar, for instance, if you type at Google scholar effective altruism, you will find that there are not really that many academic references. This may not be a problem for effective altruism for instance, but it could be for welfare biology if it were to develop by the work of independent researchers, because that could, uh, put in serious risk, the options that this field could eventually develop in academia because, uh, scientists may identify with, um, yet discredited field, something that has no prestige and that could harm not just its present, but also its future development.
Yeah. Interesting. The comparison to effective altruism as well. I guess it depends the extent to which you think that this needs to be something driven by academia, as opposed to, by external forces and advocates and that sort of thing like effective altruism certainly has been growing and growing in interest in that more kind of public facing audience. But arguably that's a more important focus for effective altruism in the sort of short to medium term than it is for the field of welfare biology. So I can definitely see that that's either a much higher priority for the wild animal welfare movement.
Yep, I agree.
Okay. So imagine somebody is working in one of these adjacent disciplines. To what extent do you think that individuals should focus on research that is most likely to advance their academic credibility and influence relative to research that is directly relevant and useful to the needs of, uh, the, the growing field of welfare biology and the wild animal welfare community?
Yeah. This is a, an interesting and tricky question. And I will say that it really depends on what that person in particular can really to. And this is kind of, that's kind of problematic because you may not know, or you may misjudge what you can really achieve in, in academia. But if you are a graduate student at a top university, then it's probably going to be better if you established your career, because the, also that you will become a top scientist in your, in your field are going to be high enough to try. But if you have lots of uncertainty about that, if you think it's, it would be difficult to become that influential, then it's probably better to not try and just focus directly on, on doing research on this field. Of course you can try something kind of in between, which is you want to become established as a scientist by doing work that is mainstream, but you want that work that is mentioned to be relevant to welfare biology.
And then also, well, maybe you can't be influential at a world top university, but you may become very influential in your particular context. So for instance, you may be at the top university in Bulgaria, or maybe in the French speaking world or the Spanish speaking world. So you may have all these things in mind and make some trade off there. But yeah, I'm afraid that here there is no general rule. This needs to be decided on a case by case decision. If, if someone is in this situation and wants me to provide some feedback, I'll be happy to, or, or that person can contact any other of the people who are working on this field. But yeah, it's tough to give a general rule on that.
Yeah, that makes sense. Um, so you mentioned prestigious journals as a kind of target. Are there particular journals that you're thinking of that people should be looking to publish in or is it essentially just it's in order of prestige within the fields that they're most established in already?
Yeah, I would say the latter. Yeah, absolutely. Of course, I think it's going to be easier to publish papers about this in animal welfare science journals than in ecology journals, but we need to have papers in ecology journals as well. Prestige release is what matters here more than affinity.
I guess we we've met, we've checked out a couple of ideas of most relevant academic disciplines. Wild Animal Initiative has a short post about careers in wild animal welfare, where they recommend several. Let me just list out in case there's any that you'd add. Uh, they've got wildlife management, restoration, ecology, community-based conservation, natural resource management, animal welfare science, evolutionary biology, urban ecology, stress physiology, comparative epidemiology, or immunology. God. There's a lot of allergies, disease, ecology, comparative neuroscience, remote monitoring, there's tons. Uh, do you have any thoughts on that list? Like anything you'd add or anything like that?
I mean, ecology has lots of different branches. Many of these branches will have in different degrees relevance to the field. So if someone is already a scholar in this field or a graduate student in some of these fields and that person can have an impact in helping welfare biology to develop and not just in ecology, I mean, in animal welfare science, same happens. And also in, in other, in other related fields like some of the ones that you mentioned. So yeah, there's plenty of room. And also bear in mind that you just mentioned scientific branches, scientific work. You could also build a career, not, not as a scientist, but say in public administration or government or whatever, and you can reach a position in which, in policy making that that can be relevant for, for, for the field as well. So yeah, there are plenty of different options there.
Cool. Yeah. I recently wrote a skills profile for the other organization I work at, Animal Advocacy Careers, about policy, politics, and lobbying. And in theory, lots of the arguments that I outlined there and the same logic, although the focus was on farmed animals there, much of it would apply to wild animal stuff as well. Actually one of my interviewees was an interviewee who worked for the USDA and they mentioned that the wildlife services branch of the USDA could be a really promising place saying that they're very thoughtful about welfare impacts to wild animals. They kill a lot of animals, but they also do things that cause animals to be killed in more humane ways than they otherwise would be killed. I guess I I'm interested if you've got any further thoughts on that sort of policy option and whether it's -- especially given the sort of need for more research -- is it, is it premature to take these kinds of policy options or is there substantial value in getting people with that sort of policy expertise, even if it's unclear what the asks should be at the moment?
Well, lots of things to say about this, so I'll have to summarize a bit, so yes, I agreed that, um, um, that this is really relevant for, for, for, for wild animals as well. The different organizations that have been doing lobby work concerning wild animals. The other thing is that they have been focusing on how animals are harmed rather than on how we could help wild animals or how we could reduce natural harms that animals are suffering. Um, but sometimes the, the border is, is thin between, between, you know, preventing harms done to them or, or, or helping them. And there can be cases where things overlsp. Remember the example I gave before when it comes to either killing or vaccinating animals seem Yellow Stone, but vaccinating them against brucellosis, or badgers against tuberculosis, it's either killing them, or vaccinating them.
So it's either harming them or not just leaving them alone, but actually doing something that helps them. Those are cases where it may be particularly interesting to do some lobby work at the beginning and actually at animal ethics. We are, we are considering these cases and are actually looking for similar cases. So if someone else is someone that is aware of similar cases and they can get in touch with us, we would appreciate that. And this is just in the immediate future. And further in time, of course, getting other interventions accepted and implemented would require a significant lobby work. And that's why having people, for instance, if you have people who are sympathetic to this and they are working in say national parks administration or whatever, the people working in key specific positions, working in with the agricultural authorities, forest authorities or whatever, these people could really make a significant difference there in making lobby efforts of, of animal organizations and others are much more likely to succeed.
If somebody already works at an animal advocacy organization that isn't focused on wild animals, is there anything that they can do to help at the moment?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, of course that depends on whether it's, um, you know, um, under their control to decide what, uh, campaigns they could be, they could be doing, but, um, we definitely need more mainstream animal organizations, so to speak, to start doing things, even if the tiniest things only,, about wild animal suffering. And I think where the most interesting opportunities for campaigns there could be. It's where there are conflicts between for instance, the interests of, of human beings and the interests of, of certain animals and the different solutions, uh, at hand are either you harm the animals or you do something that may end up being beneficial for it, for the animals. So for instance, but vaccination against tuberculosis among, among badgers. Yeah. So these being one option and the other option being killing those badgers as, as it has been debated in the, in the UK, these are a clear example of a campaign in which if your organization is against hunting and having actually been doing work against hunting here, you have an excellent opportunity of presenting an alternative to hunting, which is vaccination.
And it's going to be a good example of how I campaign towards reducing wild animal suffering would look like, and there are other similar examples. So this is something that, yeah, you could be doing. If you are in an animal organisation that hasn't done anything about wild animal suffering so far, also, even if you are not involved in any campaign in your messaging, you could also, uh, start to introduce ideas that let people think a bit more about this. Even if you don't explain the whole case for wild animal suffering, or against wild animal suffering, you could start to convey the idea that it's not just that we should stop harming animals, but that helping animals is also important. You could also spread more widely concern about wild animals as individuals, because many people tend to think of wild animals just as representative of their species, even people who can recognize domesticated or exploited animals as individuals fail to do so in the case of wild animals.
So even if you're an organization that's not gonna be working on wild animal suffering, you could nevertheless in your messaging, try to stress these tiny pieces of information that can eventually help people to be more, more concerned about wild animal suffering. Also my last piece of advice here would be, um, yeah, I would encourage those people to just get in touch with other people who are working on wild animal suffering. It can be Animal Ethics, or it can be any other people who are involved in the field and ask them for, for ideas, for advice because yeah. And maybe depending on what your organization is doing, there can be other, other ideas that you could develop.
Yeah. Okay, so that's exciting opportunities there potentially and farmed animal groups. Another potentially adjacent question, especially given the, the relative lack of funding at the moment and the lack of nonprofit roles in this space. If somebody is keen on a nonprofit path in general, for instance, do you think there's value of seeking work at conservationist organizations that do work sort of compatible with wild animal welfare, but don't prioritize it. It seems there could be some advocacy value of taking roles at those organizations. Uh, but you could also just end up wasting time working at an organization that does work that is essentially unrelated to wild animal work.
Yeah, I think the latter rather. So, but it really depends on where to, what do you mean by organizations if you mean like, um, a private organization as against for instance, um, a governmental body. So if it's a governmental body where you can influence policy and so on, then I would say, yeah, definitely go ahead. Even if that body is mainly concerned about conservation, your being there may influence on policies that can be beneficial for animals and that can, uh, spreading interest in, in wild animal welfare. But, uh, if it's just a private and independent animal organs, um, sorry conservation is organization, uh, I think that, um, yeah, the amount of good that you can do there is not going to be worth the time you're gonna be spending doing all the things that are not going to be going in there in the, in the right direction. So yeah, I think it's better to do other kinds of work. Yeah.
All right, so beyond policy then, do you have any other recommendations of non-research careers or at least non-academic careers that people can take? For instance, uh, if somebody is a nonspecialist, but they want to help in growing the community of people interested in wild animal welfare or developing the field of welfare biology, are there full-time opportunities in this space?
Well, I wouldn't say that there are a lot mainly because, because there is no money basically because well, at animal ethics, as I said before, we have very little money is very tough to do fundraising for this cause because it's relatively unknown because animal advocates tend to donate to, to other other areas of work and other people who, for instance, among effective altruists they have other concerns. And especially it's actually difficult in the case of animal ethics, because we have this very pragmatic approach. So even though we have this very like hardcore longtermist viewpoint and hardcore antispeciesist viewpoint, and we would never do anything in the short term that can be harmful for our long-term goals. I mean, we may, but not. If we know of... We put our considerations for the longterm evolve, our considerations for what can be successful on the short term, but we have these very strategic approach.
So we want to be very pragmatic in full going step by step, step by step in thing in following our theory of change towards our final goal. So that leads us to work on things that people like effective altruist concerned with more abstract themes may not recognize as being especially important, even if they really are. And I see this for instance, when we publish stuff about particular interventions. So for instance, reducing the harm of animals in fires, people who are interested in abstract idea of prioritization and so on, tend to think, well, this is not something very important. It will be much more important if they published something about... "aggregate estimation of suffering"...
So we sometimes are tempted to do some of these other work just for the sake of getting more funding, because people who care about these abstract things are not really aware that that's not really the most effective thing, but because in order to be effective, you need funding. You need to do these things in the issue. Anyway, the conclusion is that we don't really have a lot of funding to hire people who are really already very well-prepared in this field. So yeah, in our end, not lots of career opportunities, just because there is a lack of funding, but there is a lack of work as well. So if we did have the funding, there are a lot of things that people could be doing if there were people who, with a background in science, for sure that would be optimal, but even if they don't have that background, if they are people who are, who have some experience, for instance, in, in animal advocacy, in other, in other organizations, there is a lot that they could do, uh, focusing on wild animals.
Then of course, there is something else that they could do for instance, they could work in other animal organizations. So this is another challenge we have here, which is to get people working in other animal organizations to be concerned about this and to recognize that wild animal suffering is an issue that deserves attention and to encourage them to work on this. And then, um, if we are talking about here is not working opportunities, but just volunteer work. There is a lot that people can do. So people could just collaborate with animal organizations, could help to spread their publications, could speak with, with other influential people to get them on board. So, well, nothing really special here, the kind of work that they could do for, for, for other causes as well, only that in this case, it could be more, more helpful because this, uh, this is a field that is less known.
I was planning to ask you about the, the extent of the funding constraints anyway, and that, I think that's a pretty resounding answer that the priority to make this work happen on a larger scale is give money to the relevant nonprofits, um, if you're in the position to do so. So that's useful as well. All right. So for impact focused animal advocates in 2020, or the coming few years, what proportion of resources do you think should be spent on research or academic field building and what proportion should be spent on actually directly implementing interventions that help wild animals, maybe on some of the sort of smaller scale movement-building type interventions that we were speaking about?
Well, the problem with that question is that, uh, is one that is, um, it's an interesting question, but I don't think it has practical meaning for, for one reason, which is we are not in this God-like position to determine this. So unfortunately what's going to happen is that there will be certain funding available for some things on certain funding available for other things. And even if you are an organization that has a certain focus and would like, for instance, to focus exclusively in one of those things, you may not be able to do it because in order to get the funding to do that, you are, you are going to need to do some of, some of the others of the other things. Having said this, I think that the amount of, of resources that are going to be used in creating a new field of study on this are going to be less undesirables. But I also think that where we would
Need more money right now, and we are not going to get enough money for that, wouldn't be for directly creating a new field of research here, but to raise concern about the importance of creating such a field of study.
Okay. That's interesting. Yeah. So a couple of thoughts. One is that like, if there is a situation where we have the, the godlike control of a movement's resources, the wild animal, the growing wild animal movement is probably pretty close in the sense that it's a small number of organizations that are quite effectiveness focused, thinking about where to allocate their resources. But the other thing is, I'm also just interested in, on that practical side. If you mentioned that funding is going to be more or less available, do you have a, are you comfortable talking about in a general sense of which of those, which of those types of intervention you think funding is more readily available for?
Yeah. So I would say that, uh, right now, if you apply for funding for, I dunno, the studying how well the animals suffer under certain conditions is going to be easier for you to get funding for that than for raising awareness about the issue among those who are more likely to, to, to join the cause. So to speak,
I guess, given the funding constraints are available, how many staff are actually working at animal ethics at the moment?
We're a small group of people and most people are working part-time. And one of the things, because our budget is very low, it's much lower than that of other animal organizations. What we do have is lots of volunteer work. So for instance, I have my own job outside of animal ethics, but I volunteer a lot of hours there. And so do other people, I think we have five people working part-time at the moment if I recall correctly.
Okay. That's interesting. Yeah. And by comparison, I think wild animal initiative, looking at their website, it looks like there's about nine people involved in that organization. And given that these are essentially the two main organizations working on this field, I guess it just emphasizes just how small this is and how much extra funding in this space could be really foundational and driving that work.
Yeah, sure. I mean, well there, um, all other other groups that, um, have expressed some interest on this and for instance, Rethink Priorities, they have done some research on wild animals, even though, you know, it's just a small part of, of, of their work. And I hope we will manage to get other, other people involved. Um, and, and we hope to get other organizations to start doing what rethink priorities does, which is, you know, start doing some work, even if it's just a minority of what you do. But, um, yeah, that shows how really, I mean, neglected the, the, the field is, and then it's interesting because I don't think that this is a proportional to the interest on, on the field. So 10 years ago, for sure. We just a small group of people interested in wild animals at all. And most people didn't know about wild animal suffering, but at this point, I think even if it's not mainstream, this is something that many animal advocates know about and I'm for sure many effective altruists as well. So I don't, I don't think that these small attention that the field eventually gets it's. Yeah. It's just proportional to awareness about this at this moment.
Yeah. Interesting. I guess we could sort of hypothesize lots of reasons why that may or may not be the case, but probably not worth doing now. Um, yeah, really interesting. Yeah. You mentioned before rethink rethink priorities and the work they've been doing on this one thing that they have been working on, which is adjacent, if not the, the key focus is some of their work on the topic of consciousness and sentience of various animals, how high priority do you think that that work is for the kind of overall understanding of, of what? Well, I guess non-profits, and also just the sorts of interventions that we need to do, uh, in, in how to help wild animals in the future need to be like, how urgent is it to work on those sorts of tasks?
Right, so here I am more agnostic and my position is not really representative of animal ethics, because I tend to think that this kind of work is not really, shouldn't be really a priority for us. And there is a reason for this, which is that at this point, uh, we are in a position that is similar to the one that maybe the ancient Greeks had, uh, concerning, uh, astronomical problems. So they could only make some guesses informed guesses on the basis of a very rough observations. And the same happens in the case of consciousness. And until we are able to solve the hard problem of consciousness, there is no way we can, we can get a, um, some knowledge of about which animals really are sentient. We are just going to be providing more evidences that some people are going to take more seriously than others.
And, and also, I don't think that the probabilities that you may assign to animals being sentient or not to, I mean, to certain animals being sentient or not, I don't think that those probabilities will shift, will change a lot, on the basis of new pieces of evidence or, or on the basis of the new, I dunno, literature review on one issue or another, as I say, this is my own position. I think that maybe animal ethics or such has a less agnostic or skeptical view on this. So because of this, I think that there are resources that are being used now to address this question of should be used to for, for other purposes. There is something that I do think it's, it's, it's interesting, uh, which is learning a bit more
About the development of, of animals when they are very young to learn a bit more about the probabilities that animals are sentient when they are very young, but still, I mean, even in this case, I am quite skeptical about this. We are not gonna get any, any conclusive results, but then, and this relates to something that you were asking before concerning in funding. I think that it's going to be easier for an organization to get funding, to address this question than to address other issues that for me, have more priority. And that is probably because if we were able to solve the question, the first thing would be very important, but that's not really what's at stake here. What's at stake here is whether at the end of the day, we're gonna get some, uh, information that will allow you to make a difference in the, in the policy and in the, in the practical advocacy you would carry out.
Yeah. So more of an argument for not getting too hung up on the potential theoretical importance of discoveries. If the, if making further discoveries is quite intractable in general, I guess another question that's that some people may be interested in is if you have any particular advice for that kind of how people can most effectively build support for this as a priority amongst other, either other animal advocates or amongst effective altruists, or just generally, if you've got any advice about how best to build support for this area,
Different things, there, there are two different ways of responding to your question. So one has to do with what is the best way maybe to argue for this. So people get on board and the other has to do with more strategic ways of getting people to actually support it, not just to agree with it, but to actually support it. So I will say that in general, people wanted to express concern about this would better frame their message in terms of helping animals in terms of looking at concrete cases as well, rather than an abstract case for intervention. So I don't think that the term intervention is very good here, and I think there are alternatives to that. Yeah. Helping, reducing the suffering, um, improving the situation of animals. That's something that most people agree with. Then also, as I said before, look at the concrete.
So this is something that is very interesting. And again, this is anecdotal evidence where I'm going to say, but something we've seen is that you will ask someone, okay. So would you agree with helping wild animals and changing the situation in which they are to reduce their suffering and they are kind of reluctant or they disagree with it, but then you come up with this specific intervention. Okay. We're going to vaccinate wild animals, for instance, against Corona viruses that may potentially harm humans, not necessarily SARS cov two. I mean, some other Corona viruses that haven't jumped yet to humans, but that could in the future, but that is very, very harmful for those animals. Would you agree with this? And most people will say, well, yeah, I think that's a great idea. Okay. Do you agree with rescuing these animals that have been affected by, I don't know this fire or these floods and many people say, yeah, yeah, totally agree with that.
Do you agree with rescuing these orphan animals? There is this rescue center where they are, you know, providing them help and so on. Oh yeah. Yeah, totally agree with that. And you go on and on and on and on. And the same people who objected to the abstract idea will agree to every single example that you give to them. So single example, and try off course to choose them less controversial. Examples seem to be a good way of promoting concern about this as for getting people, not just to agree, but to consider seriously getting involved. And especially I'm thinking, not just off individual people, but groups of people. So for instance, animal organizations or other organizations, well, I will say first, it's very important to be able to communicate that this is not an idea we want to address just directly that there is some strategic thinking, some theory of change behind that and that it's driven by the practical importance of each step.
So it's not out of curiosity that we are gonna research about how we can help wild animals. No, we're gonna research how each step is going to best promote that end. And we can also let or people can also let others know that there has been some work done already. So for instance, these studies that I mentioned before concerning the attitudes of scientists towards different ways of helping animals. I mentioned that the w the ways of helping animals, that they favor where vaccination, helping animals affected by weather events and urban animals. But then that study also showed that a majority of scientists were favorable to us researching these things. So against what people may think, we have some pieces of evidence supporting that, the view that this is something feasible. So the idea of feasibility and presenting a concrete strategy to achieve that aim and showing that that goes in line with the values that these people have and showing that in doing some work in well, animal advocacy, and you wouldn't really be and do something that different from what you've been doing so far. That's how I think you can build more, more support for the cause among animal advocates, but also among other people as well.
Cool, that's really exciting. Um, concreteness being the, the, the, the, the summary takeaway, I think they're really focus on the specific things that people would agree with and, um, showing how that can lead to outcomes that they also agree with, I guess, also on that topic of, of strategy. And actually you mentioned that the idea, like kind of each step of how to promote the outcomes that we care about. One important thing that I feel uncertain about is the strategy for actually creating and growing an academic field from scratch, and this applies to welfare biology, but it also applies to other things we might care about. Like for instance, we mentioned artificial sentience stuff before, like a research field around that other people in effective altruism, very interested in developing a research field around global priorities research, and the same considerations might apply, I guess, do you have much, do we have much of a sense of what the optimal strategy for building an academic field should be?
So I can think of, for example, plausible priorities might be putting on conferences, setting up a dedicated research Institute within a prestigious university, creating specific, academic journals to publish relevant studies, publishing handbooks for students creating a grant making body that offers funding for relevant research. I'm trying to write some kind of foundational public facing academic book, uh, along the lines of Peter Singers', animal liberation, or Rachel Carson's silent spring, or just working on concrete publications relevant to the topic like we were talking about before. I guess there's so many different options. It's unclear to me how important these different factors should be. Do you have any thoughts about what the focus needs to be, or, or if we have any evidence about which of these strategies is most important?
Yeah, so actually that connects also with some other work that at Animal Ethics we have been doing, and it's been very disappointing. So we were studying different ways in which academic research academic fields were created in recent decades. So we consider different fields. And then we focus on three that would be close to welfare biology, such as animal welfare science, conservation biology, and the cognitive ethology. So these are fields with different degrees of success and we totally different stories. And what we found is that there is no like magical recipe or favorite strategy. So it seems that there are many different factors involved. And depending on what the field is, you may want to promote something rather than all the things. So for instance, in the case of animal welfare science, what you find is that there weren't really scientists or many scientists interested in this.
So why did animal welfare science appear? Just as a result of public pressure. So public pressure triggered, um, political action, and these eventually drove significant amounts of funding to get into, into the area. And now it's already a well established field in the case of conservation biology. For instance, there were lots of different things together. So there were lots of scientists, or at least a significant group of scientists relevant enough interested in the, in the area, in different fields. But then there were lots of external support. So the strategy there is not too different from the first one. Then in the case of cognitive ethology, you have certain scientists interested in this, but they failed to communicate to the public, how this is relevant, so they don't have external support. So it's just, they, you know, doing their thing, what academics typically do, which is something that you mentioned, publish certain books relevant within the field, you know, organizing conferences and so on, so on, but we didn't get any clear idea of what, of all these things were more useful really.
And it seems that it depends really on the level of kind of support that the field is getting. So it may well be that in the case of say, I don't know, AI alignment, for instance, what you need, or the best strategy would be totally different from the one in the case of, of welfare biology. So, yeah, we don't know really. So that's why we are, we are trying different things. Also different people are working on this are also working in, in, in different ways. So for instance, um, Wild Animal Initiative is focusing their work, getting people who are already working in the relevant fields for, for welfare biology to do work, that is closer to welfare biology. Animal Ethics is doing lots of educational work, for instance, our video course. And we also publish this e-book, which is called introduction to wild animal suffering.
I gave to the issue. And we're investing a lot, not just on promoting welfare biology, but on growing awareness about this issue, because we think that among other things, this can also lead us to reach scientists, for instance, that are interested in animal advocacy and to get them to do some work on this. So there is not the only reason why we're doing this, but we think that it can also have this effect. And then there are other people who are working or who have done working in Wild Animal Suffering. For instance, Rethink Priorities has been doing some research that I think their research is especially influential among effective altruists. So it can raise some concern. Maybe if someone is interested in is into effective altruism. And it happens to be that person who is a, I don't know, a science student that can also help help this to take place, or it can encourage people to donate and donations can, can be used to encourage people to work on this via grant.
So as you can see, yeah, I don't have, or we don't have any, any particular suggestions of what can work best because there is a lot of uncertainty here. Uh, but there is something though I would like to say, just so people don't get the wrong impression, even though we have this step by step approach, there are moments at which you have to make a decision. And sometimes there can be ways in which you can encourage more scientists to work on a certain problem. And in this way, you can accelerate the speed at which the field is growing, but the way in which you do this would imply also increasing the risks that in the future, you are not going to be able to succeed in the way you want. So for instance, suppose that we presented welfare biology as something that goes in line with conservationists ideals, that would allow us to present our case in a more successful way in the short term, but in the, in the longer term, it could be problematic in that it could help to establish this work in a way that would make it more, less likely to support interventions.
That for instance mean changes in the way in which ecosystems are. So when we have to make these decisions, we always prioritize at Animal Ethics what the long-term expected effects will be rather than what seems to be more practical in the short-term.
I've been enjoying following the videos of a YouTuber called Humane Hancock, who is a sort of Earthing Ed style, vegan activist, who debates meat-eaters and tries to create viral videos. But he also has a few videos about specifically about the need to consider wild animal suffering, such as one called the vegan blind spot, which has around 14,000 views. At the moment, I thought that the arguments were pretty well summarized and articulated, but a lot of the comment responses are really negative on the video. One of the most liked comments, from someone who I know is vegan, reads, "Conclusion: species going extinct, reduces overall animal suffering." And I took that comment as trying to suggest that if Humane Hancock's perspective is carried to its logical conclusion, that it seems counter-intuitive. And another highly liked comment reads, did you actually just propose contraception for wild animals, like birth control for tigers? So I guess with these sorts of risks, as of, of backlash and surprise and all those sorts of things, the question I'm getting at is to what extent do you think public facing advocacy, even if quite well articulated is desirable at all at this point?
Yeah, so there are two different types of considerations there. So the thing is that, um, the, the kind of language that is going to be, uh, good for certain people is not going to be good for, for others. So I would say that when you are addressing the general public, you should be stressing. Yeah. Non-controversial interventions, and you should be pointing out ways in which we are already helping wild animals, things that most people will agree with rather than the abstract case. And also rather than presenting them very controversial, uh, false directions. However, when you are speaking with other people, like, I don't know people who are already into, into advocacy, people who have been thinking about these issues for a long time, it may work best to get a bit deeper into, into other arguments that, that, um, nevertheless may not work for the general public.
So, so that's, that's one consideration that when you are addressing the general public, do you have to be extremely careful because otherwise you may be doing more, more harm than, than Gooding in terms of public support for the cost. On the other hand, of course, there is always a risk when you are addressing a certain group of people that others will also join the debate. So there, you may want to do some calculations, so maybe it's worth it, that some people from the general public will dislike what you say and will oppose what you say, if that's the price to pay in order to reach some other people who will agree with you. So whether just a minority of them and maybe a tiny minority of them get an impression of what health wild animals is. It's not really that problematic. If on the other hand, that's that allows you to reach a significant, uh, group of, of people among those who are more ready to listen to a bit more nuanced and undeveloped, uh, arguments.
Yeah. So no hard and fast rule there. I guess you have a sense to which, I mean, obviously the field is fairly small at the moment, but do you, do you think it's, the field is operating about, right. In terms of the degree to which people are doing public facing advocacy at the moment, or do you think we should be a bit more risk averse or a bit less risk averse? There is more public advocacy needed now, or is, uh, are we getting the balance about right for the time being?
No. Well, first of all, I don't think that there is any significant public outreach. So I don't think that's really problematic. I think that most discussions, most of the discussions about this really, I mean, there may be some exceptions, of course, but most of them are addressing people who are already into animal advocacy or effective altruism or, or, you know, related areas. I do think though that nevertheless and most people who are interested in wild animal suffering have not been thinking a lot about what their arguments towards the general public should be. And aren't really that trained into what kind of interventions are non-controversial and, and all this kind of stuff. So, yeah, I don't think that there is a huge risk at the moment, but nevertheless, I think that there should be more training into the different sort of messaging that we should be using. Yeah.
On that note, my impression is that there hasn't been any research testing, various messages to see, which is most effective at encouraging moral consideration of wild animals or systematic efforts to help wild animals. But the topic of wild animal welfare is one that seems especially susceptible to these sorts of framing variations by audience as well that we've been talking about, some of the arguments seem highly counter-intuitive and some of them seem pretty uncontroversial. Does that suggest that more empirical research on the optimal message framing is a high priority?
Maybe doing this kind of research is not the top priority right now, because right now the top priority is not to reach the general public, but it's nevertheless something that would be, yeah. Definitely useful to do. If not right now, a few years from now, we've done this with scientists but we need to do this, or someone else needs to do it with other groups, either different groups within the general public, like students, young people also having, uh, animal advocates in general as a target group, yet they should be more worried about this.
Yeah. So something that has been done in sort of related to this topic is that a few years ago, animal charity evaluators ran a online experiment that suggested that rather than thinking of attitudes towards wild animal suffering as a uni-dimensional construct, where people either support or oppose reducing wild animal suffering, it's more accurate to consider that multiple distinct dimensions, underlying attitudes towards actions that reduce wild animal suffering. Do you think that sort of further empirical testing to tease apart those different dimensions would be helpful or does that fit into that same category of potentially really useful, but not the highest priority?
Yeah. So these results make perfect sense and I would be very surprised if they had been different. And then they also go in line with things we've been speaking about. So for instance, with this distinction in the attitudes of people, when you present to them, the abstract case of registering wild animal suffering and concrete ways in which this can be done, I think that, uh, yes, uh, doing research on this is important, but I will qualify these this answer because, um, yes, as we also spoke about before is simply that addressing the general public doesn't seem to be the best strategy right now, rather than that, we should be addressing specific target groups like, uh, scientists, um, and also animal advocates and others. But yeah, it would be very useful to learn more about what are the attitudes that people in these different groups have about, about, um, the topic that depending on how you presenting. So the research we've done about the attitudes of scientists and students about this goes in line with this, but, um, more work on this would be, would be surely a useful, so not all work on this would necessarily be a priority. As I said before, it depends on what is the group of people that you are actually researching
As usual with these podcast episodes, I have about a hundred questions I could keep peppering you with, but, uh, in the interest of not making this interview last all day, I think I'll just say thanks very much for, for joining us Oscar.
Yeah. Thank you very much for having me, for being interested in this topic.
Great. And just any, have you got any final requests or suggestions for how people can get involved and support your work and Animal Ethics' work?
Yeah. Well, I think I, um, that, uh, during the conversation we've covered most of them, I would suggest that people get informed, uh, about this don't rush to make your mind about wild animal suffering and the importance of wild animal suffering, uh, before you've gone a bit deep. So I, I suggest you read more about the issue. You read more about what, not just animal ethics, but other organizations have published about this. If you want a useful resource that will suggest the texts that I mentioned before that you can find on our website, you can just Google it, this introduction to wild animal suffering, a guide to the issues, which has different parts on wild animal suffering ways to help animals, the ethics of helping animals in the wild, and also how to encourage work in academia about this. Or you can just watch the video course on YouTube. So yeah, I think that would be it and. thank you very much. Again.
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