Research Agenda
photo_camera Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Calves In A Sale Yard

Table of Contents

Research Topics

Priority research projects

British anti-slavery case study (in progress)

The End of Animal Farming (in progress)

Moral circle survey

Voter turnout literature review

Environmentalism case study

Controversial technologies case study

Messaging Strategies RCT

Lower priority research projects

Social movement case studies

Literature reviews

Randomized controlled trials

Polls and surveys

Expert interviews

Other

Research Topics

The existing evidence on most of these topics is summarized in our Summary of Evidence for Foundational Questions for Effective Animal Advocacy.

Confrontation vs. nonconfrontation

Consistent vs. varying messaging

Individual vs. institutional interventions and messaging

Influencer vs. mass outreach

Multi-issue vs. animal focus

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 messaging

Farmed animal vs. wild animals vs. general antispeciesism focus

Long-term vs. short-term focus

Social movements vs. randomized controlled trials vs. intuition/speculation/anecdotes vs. external findings evidence

Corporate vs. government policy change

Rights/autonomy vs. welfare/suffering messaging

Moral licensing vs. moral consistency

Few large vs. many small advocacy events

Priority research projects

British anti-slavery case study (in progress)

There has been relatively little examination of historical social movements from an effectiveness-focused perspective, even though such study seems to be able to yield significant evidence for a relatively limited time investment and cost. Animal advocacy researchers see the movement to abolish the transatlantic slave trade as one of the most useful social movements to examine. This project examines the movement’s timeline and historical accounts to estimate what strategies and circumstances were most responsible for the movement’s successes.

The End of Animal Farming (in progress)

This book, our Research Director Jacy Reese’s main project through November, will aggregate existing and original research to outline the most important strategic conclusions for reducing and ending animal farming. For example, it will look at business strategies currently being implemented to see which ones are generating the best results, discuss tentative conclusions for effective social change like this discussed in our Foundational Questions Summaries, and discuss how the animal-free food movement can broaden horizons across cultures and regions.

Moral circle survey

This poll will assess the current level of concern in the US for beings on the fringes of or outside our moral circle, such as looking at how many people support a shift towards animal-free animal products and to what extent respondents believe insects, wild animals, and artificial sentient beings deserve moral consideration. While surveys are limited in their ability to establish causation, their results can inform our beliefs about effective strategies. By running the first iteration of this survey soon, we can have a longer timeframe to compare future results over. We hope to repeat this survey every 2-5 years.

Voter turnout literature review

There have been few if any formal literature reviews done in the effective animal advocacy community, which attempt to aggregate existing evidence in a different advocacy field and draw any conclusions possible for helping animals in particular. The literature on increasing voter turnout, such as through mail and door-to-door canvassing, is particularly robust, so we plan to work on this as an exploration of the value of literature reviews.

Environmentalism case study

Animal Charity Evaluators conducted a partial case study of the environmentalist movement looking at Silent Spring, Earth Day, and some recycling campaigns. The results were useful, such as the potential impact of well-timed book launches and large public events. Given environmentalism’s significantly shared interests with farmed animal advocacy and the significant overlap between the two communities, we expect more research could be fruitful.

Controversial technologies case study

Some technologies might not have been developed or adopted to the full extent possible because of ethical controversy, such as GMOs and nuclear energy. Given that there could be very promising animal-free food technologies in the next few years, we will examine past examples of technologies that were not fully adopted to see how we can mitigate that risk in our situation.

Messaging Strategies RCT

There is a gap in the effective animal advocacy literature for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) measuring the very-short-term effects of different advocacy message. If another group doesn’t fill that gap in the near future, we will consider doing so. We usually prioritize research on longer-term effects, but short-term effects can still provide useful indications of those long-term effects. This RCT would vary messages in different ways (e.g. reducetarian/vegan/activism ask, environmental/health/animal harm) and measure the short-term outcomes that seem most useful to farmed animal advocates (e.g. acceptance of animal farming, perception of vegans, assignment of sentience to farmed animals).

Lower priority research projects

Social movement case studies

Environmentalism

Climate change

Anti-pollution

Wildlife preservation

Children’s rights

Child labor

Anti-slavery

Early British (in progress)

Early US

Rights of the mentally disabled

Anti-prison and prison reform

Anti-abortion

Animals (lab)

Animals (entertainment)

Animals (food)

US welfare reforms

EU welfare reforms

History of vegetarianism

Animals (shelters)

Anti-smoking

Healthy eating

Literature reviews

Voter turnout

Anti-substance abuse

Environmentalism

Healthy eating

Exercise

Anti-violence

Anti-discrimination/bias

Randomized controlled trials

Test short-term effects of different advocacy messages (e.g. vegan/reducetarian/petition, justice/environmental/welfare reforms) with an animal attitudes questionnaire.

Does discussing future animal-free food technology lead to complacency, e.g. “I don’t need to make changes now because it’ll be easier later,” or momentum, e.g. “I want to be on the right side of history”?

How does discussing the concept of a moral circle affect someone’s moral circle?

How does compassion for other humans correlate with and relate to compassion for nonhumans?

Polls and surveys

Moral circle survey

Do people have a coherent, consistent moral circle?

Views of animal sentience, moral worth of insects, wild animals, digital sentience, etc.

Support for transition towards animal-free foods

Do people think they purchase factory farmed or “humane” animal products?

Artificial intelligence values survey

What values would people load into an artificial intelligence?

What moral circle would people load into an artificial intelligence?

Ethical trade-offs

Happiness vs. suffering (moderate vs. extreme, emotional vs. physical)

Net happiness vs. other outcomes (e.g. autonomy, beauty)

Expert interviews

Philosophers/neuroscientists who focus on sentience

Farmed animal treatment specialists

Psychologists studying relevant topics (e.g. moral licensing, collapse of compassion)

Advocates with expertise on specific topics (e.g. corporate outreach, online ads)

Other

Cost analysis of lives-worth-living animal farming

Summary of health arguments for/against animal farming

Summary of environmental arguments for/against animal farming

How to utilize grazable non-arable land and how much it matters to our food system

Technologies that have expanded the moral circle

What led to the tech developing more quickly

What led to the tech developing at all

Welfare of various animal farm populations and practices

Welfare of various wild animal populations

Cultural and social features that correlate with or cause wider moral circles

Demographics that lead moral circle expansion

Third-party evaluation of legal personhood arguments used in court


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