Last updated May 1, 2021.
Table of contents
Foundational questions for effective animal advocacy
The existing evidence on most of these topics is summarized in our Summary of Evidence for Foundational Questions for Effective Animal Advocacy. We prioritize research projects, in part, based on to what extent they will inform these debates.
- Animal protection vs. environmental vs. human health messaging
- Broad vs. animal focus
- Confrontation vs. nonconfrontation
- Consistent vs. varying messaging
- Controversial publicity stunts vs. other tactics
- Corporate vs. government policy change
- Few large vs. many small advocacy events
- Individual vs. institutional interventions and messaging
- Influencer vs. mass outreach
- Left-wing vs. nonpartisan focus
- Momentum vs. complacency from welfare reforms
- Moral licensing vs. moral consistency
- Multi-issue vs. animal focus
- Reducetarianism vs. veganism
- Rights/autonomy vs. welfare/suffering messaging
- Social change vs. food technology
- [meta] Farmed animal vs. wild animals vs. general antispeciesism focus
- [meta] Long-term vs. short-term focus
- [meta] Social movements vs. randomized controlled trials vs. intuition/speculation/anecdotes vs. external findings evidence
In-progress research projects
Animals, Food, and Technology survey
This project collects data on attitudes towards animal farming and animal product alternatives in the US. Since our 2017 survey, we have collected data in 2019 and 2020 and are in the process of publishing an analysis and discussion of the results. The raw survey data and preregistration for 2019 are available in this OSF directory. Our paper is under review at a journal.
Moral Circle Expansion paper
This project seeks to explicate and evidence the project of moral circle expansion from a philosophical perspective, drawing on evidence from history and social science. What does it mean to expand humanity’s moral circle? What crucial considerations affect the prioritization of moral circle expansion? Our paper has been accepted by a journal and will hopefully be published in 2021.
Consciousness Eliminativism paper
We present a novel argument for and formulation of consciousness eliminativism, which can help us understand nonhuman minds.
We discuss COVID-19 as a compelling example of global catastrophic risks (GCRs). We argue that there is strong evidence that factory farming contributes to spark and spread risks of zoonotic disease outbreaks. COVID-19 gives us yet another reason to oppose factory farming, as well as reason to transition to a more risk-conscious, GCR-focused society.
Moral Consideration of Artificial Entities literature review
We review scholarly discussions of the moral consideration of artificial entities across philosophy, ethics, law, policy, computer science, and social science.
Perspective Taking experiment
Taking the perspective of another sentient being is an important social phenomenon. In this study, we explore the relationship between perspective taking, moral consideration, and the moral circle. How does the effect of perspective taking on moral consideration change if beings are more psychologically distant?
Predictors of the Moral Inclusion of Artificial Entities survey
This project seeks to build knowledge about how humans include artificial entities in their moral circle. We collect and analyze survey data to illustrate the psychological predictors of the moral inclusion of artificial entities. What aspects of human psychology predict inclusion? Are certain dimensions of moral inclusion more meaningful than others?
Features of Artificial Entities and Moral Consideration experiment
Artificial entities can be designed with a range of features, such as a humanlike appearance, language abilities, or emotional expression. This study uses conjoint analysis to estimate the effects of a range of features on the moral consideration of artificial entities?
Priority research projects
Cultured meat moral messaging experiment
How does telling people that cultured meat is morally driven vs. not morally driven affect its favorability? How does knowledge of a moral opposition to it affect this?
Dietary asks and cognitive dissonance RCT
How strong of a “denial of mind” effect do eggs, milk, and cheese or other derivative products have compared to meat? This study may be accompanied by other explorations of the degree to which vegetarianism captures the speciesism-mitigation value of veganism.
Environmentalism case study
Animal Charity Evaluators conducted a partial case study of the environmentalist movement looking at the book Silent Spring, the event 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. Due to the scope of environmentalism, this project would probably focus on a particular relevant submovement, such as climate change, anti-pollution, or wildlife preservation.
Humane myth persistence attribution study
Around half of people think farmed animals are treated well. Is this because of a knowledge deficit, or denial/cognitive dissonance? (E.g. have they not seen investigations, or do they dismiss investigation coverage as being of bad apples?)
Reform messaging and counter-messaging effects study
How do reform campaign messaging and industry counter-messaging (e.g. “Chicken Check-In,” humanewashing labels) affect consumer understanding of animal farming, attitudes towards animal farming, and/or willingness to pay or use alternatives?
Support for bans on producing vs. consuming meat survey
How does support for a ban on meat vary between the framings of a ban on production/selling vs. a ban on consumption/purchasing? They theoretically have the same end, but their efficacy in reaching that end may vary.
Varied victim experiences messaging RCT
How does discomfort with, concern about, or opposition to egg farming compare across external framings of battery cage conditions, free range conditions, pasture conditions, and internal framings of hen health conditions with and without mention of external conditions? This study aims to test which animal welfare harms are most compelling.
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.
Note: The following projects are described in less detail, but are not necessarily lower priority
Social movement case studies
- Anti-slavery beyond the UK
- Rights of the mentally disabled
- Anti-prison and prison reform (beyond the US)
- Anti-abortion (beyond the US)
- Animals (lab)
- Animals (entertainment)
- Animals (food)
- US welfare reforms
- EU welfare reforms
- History of vegetarianism
- Animals (shelters)
- Healthy eating
- Aggregation and analysis of existing case studies
We are also interested in the aggregation and analysis of existing case studies, given there have now been several published.
Other case studies
- Past technologies with relevance to animal product alternatives (i.e. plant-based and cultured meat, dairy, and eggs)
- Past technologies with relevance to artificial sentience
- Past technologies with relevance to general moral circle expansion
- Past intellectual and field-building movements with relevance to the fields of effective altruism, longtermism, global priorities research, welfare biology (i.e. wild animal welfare), or artificial sentience (i.e. AI welfare science)
- Past examples of moral circle expansion or contraction
- The general nature of historical trajectory (example)
- Anti-substance abuse
- Consumer environmentalism interventions
- Major US public opinion changes
- The importance of public opinion to institutional change
- Causes of public opinion change
- Quantitative social movement studies
- Social movement recruitment and mobilization
- The causes and consequences of legislative change
- The causes and consequences of executive orders
- The causes and consequences of algorithmic bias
- 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 do variations in framing of news and opinion articles about animal product alternatives change their effects on animal farming opposition?
- Does awareness of animal product alternatives...
- encourage perceptions of the end of animal farming as inevitable?
- strengthen justifications for animal product consumption (e.g. the 4 N’s, whether it is natural, normal, necessary, and nice)?
- encourage a perception that animal product alternatives are currently low quality?
- increase the association of animals with food?
- How does discussing the concept of a moral circle affect someone’s moral circle?
- How does discussing speciesism affect someone’s speciesism?
- How does compassion for other humans correlate with and relate to compassion for nonhumans?
- How do changes in attitudes towards particular species of farmed animals affect attitudes towards other species of farmed animals?
- How do changes in attitudes towards farmed animals affect attitudes towards other entities?
- How is moral consideration affected by the subject’s...
- similarity to human appearance
- similarity to human behavior
- similarity to human genetics
- mental and emotional capacities
- degree of current exploitation by humans
- state of being (current or hypothesized)
- embodiment (digital or physical)
- origin (evolved or made by humans)
- representation in various media (e.g. children’s stories, religious texts, news articles, science fiction)
- How is moral consideration affected by the considerer’s…
- political identity
- race and ethnicity
- regional location (e.g. urban, rural)
- moral views
- preference for naturalness
- pet ownership
- childhood experiences
- Which messages (e.g. texts, video) most effectively encourage moral consideration of farmed animals, wild animals, and artificial sentience?
- Which messages most effectively encourage activist mobilization?
- Which messages most effectively encourage support for specific, high-priority institutional demands (e.g. ban on factory farming)?
Polls and surveys
- Do people have a coherent, consistent moral circle?
- Views of animal sentience, moral worth of insects, wild animals, digital sentience, etc and the associations between these views
- Support for transition towards animal-free foods
- Do people think they purchase factory farmed or “humane” animal products?
- Which policy changes relating to the moral consideration of artificial sentience have the highest public support?
- Artificial intelligence values survey
- What values would people load into an artificial intelligence?
- What moral circle would people load into an artificial intelligence?
- Happiness vs. suffering (moderate vs. extreme, emotional vs. physical)
- Net happiness vs. other outcomes (e.g. autonomy, beauty)
- Willingness to try cultured meat (presented with various framings and question types)
- Replications of the Animals, Food, and Technology poll with non-US participants
- Surveys before and after major animal advocacy initiatives for longitudinal comparison
- Construction of measurement scales for important constructs (e.g. sentientism, substratism)
- Philosophers/neuroscientists who focus on sentience, biological or artificial
- Farmed animal treatment specialists
- Psychologists studying relevant topics (e.g. “moral licensing,” “collapse of compassion”)
- AI researchers and roboticists
- Stakeholders in AI governance
- Advocates with expertise on specific topics (e.g. corporate outreach, online ads)
- Cost analysis of lives-worth-living animal farming. How expensive is it to have a system of animal agriculture with animals who, on average, have lives worth living?
- Quantitative models of animal advocacy interventions that account for various indirect and long-term effects
- Summary of health arguments for/against animal farming
- Summary of environmental arguments for/against animal farming
- Review of the different ways to utilize grazable non-arable land (which would no longer be used for grazing in an animal-free food system) and the implications for the global food system
- Quantitative models of the welfare of various animal farm populations and practices
- Quantitative models of the welfare of various wild animal populations
- Review of cultural and social features that correlate with or cause wider moral circles
- Third-party expert evaluations of legal personhood arguments used by animal advocates in court cases
- Aggregation of predictions on the timelines of the development of artificial sentience
- Aggregation of predictions on the timelines of the end of animal farming
- Map of the various stakeholders and social domains relevant to artificial sentience