How much do Europeans care about fish welfare? (An analysis of relevant surveys)
score: 18 (6 votes) ·
Thanks Saulius for this, as always a spectacular job, like always from Rethink Priorities.
Few questions or comments.
Just like you hinted it looks like people asked about the welfare of fish (or any welfare issue) are possibly not thinking about welfare itself, but trying to use some broad mental model to guess the correct answer that is aligned with their self-identity. It looks like "Salmon" being so high may correspond to the environmental topics. I would be interested in seeing how much people understand the difference between "wild" and "farmed" in general. My intuition is it may be quite blurry.
Have you ever wondered to check for any effects on the consumption of certain animal products in the country and the answers on surveys? I wonder whether people may respond they care for fish welfare if the country's consumption of fish is high. Maybe they associate welfare with a higher standard of the food they eat and provide for their families. I'm personally not thinking it's likely, but reading your post made me wonder about such a link.
I like your point about humane washing. I think it should be more emphasized how a good sign it is.
I'm personally quite unsure how much
a) we can inference about public opinion caring morally about fish, b) we can use it as a good indicator of whether some types of campaigns will be successful.
To elaborate there is a difference between:
- being against cage eggs (80% in 2016),
- caring or being in favor of improving the welfare of animals (72% in 2016),
- being in favor of commitments to resign from selling certain low-welfare products (41% in 2016).
My intuition is that people will be more in support of abolishing cage-egg production than other types of improvements, and, simplifying, it's not necessarily related to how much they care for chickens.
Being against cage-egg is essential for some of the campaigns and it doesn't translate directly to increased moral consideration for hens. The more popular this topic the more it is a reflex to be against it than some careful consideration. Right now, cage eggs after years of investigations, work with media, etc. are linked in public discourse to everything: welfare, health implications, environment, the taste, biohazard, etc. so basically it has label "BAD" and the social norm is to be instinctively against it. The stronger the norm the more it is out of control of activists. I think this is a quite common phenomenon, but I concluded it may be worth pointing out that we don't talk only about support for animal welfare here, not to mention moral status.
We survey attitudes regularly and they are informative and important, but it's just a piece of the puzzle. Historically (for over 10 years) it was hard to pressure for fish welfare commitments and support still isn't that high (45% of Poles quite strongly against it). Recently advocates managed to secure them from the biggest retailers. This is because of various factors aligning (more on this below).
The results of Eurobarometer (2016) and Eurobarometer (2007) suggest that people in most European countries on average care about animal welfare more than people in Lithuania and Poland
While this is a good point, what matters for campaign wins is hard to measure, to name some factors:
- what is the economic state of the country,
- what is the perceived role of the industry for the government (import/export, unique position, the electorate, etc.)
- is the topic present in society for a longer period,
- is the topic linked to political affiliation,
- is the topic linked to some customs,
- how much change affects people behavior (is product disappearing, increases costs or the effort),
- who are the spokespeople in the society on the issue,
- who are the decisionmakers and what stakes do they have,
- what is the state of industry connected to the issue,
- how informed and organized the industry and their lobby is,
- historical and cultural context,
- perceived support in society by decision-makers,
- is there a link to technology,
- connection to other industries,
- what is the call to action,
I can't speak of Lithuania that well (I assume you know better :P), but to put Poland as an example the protests for better fish protection were happening at least 11 years ago, there were quite loud campaigns about it since 2010, conservative politicians were advocating for stronger protection of fish, celebrities were singing sometimes cringy songs, people would buy and release carps during Christmas and consumption of fish is linked both to atheistic communist totalitarian government and Catholic Church? This is all messy and cannot be ignored in using Poland as an example.
Public support is a tricky piece of the puzzle and we need to be careful interpreting or using it. It’s often instrumental, but not always. And if done wrong or focused on too much wrong, it may backfire or deplete resources better spent elsewhere. Interventions are employed by the activists always in the context. Activists should understand what to use when and form some robust theory of change about it, preferably work with other groups employing diverse approaches. And watch out for overconfidence.
Of course, your work is super important for the animal advocacy movement. I just wanted to emphasize challenges in scrutinizing the view of fish welfare work and to shed some light on how activists think of public support. Hopefully it’s helpful to you.
All that said, I'm quite optimistic about potential wins and progress in fish welfare (I also agree with the comment there on perception of fish). I think there is a lot to be done, but I'm not a campaigner, so maybe it's just Dunning–Kruger effect.
Volunteering isn't free
score: 4 (3 votes) ·
Thanks for sharing this.
I think these downsides of having volunteers are well presented and correct from my experience. I think there is not enough discussion about what does it mean to have a volunteer base and manage it for the organization, especially about the downsides, so I appreciate this post even more.
I think I'm slightly worried about how strong the claim in the linked comment may sound that volunteers are in many cases a net cost (even though later it's stated that it's not a net disadvantage). I would say that in most cases volunteers are beneficial for the organization and worth investing your resources.
You can mitigate a lot of highlighted problems and costs quite easily* by developing adequate structure within your organization, investing in organizational culture, emphasizing independence and proper decision making. This would at least partially mitigate problems like training, reporting, no-shows, volunteer appreciation, turnover, etc.
I think the norms leaders establish in the organization are the most important factor here. I have first-hand experience of the same people coming to volunteer in a similar group, but with different volunteering norms, and while in one group they were not motivated, hard to instruct and encourage to do meaningful work, in the new one the problem perished to my big surprise.
For us, in the organization I'm in the management, the biggest asset to have a big and effective volunteer base and structure our work accordingly was the model presented by Rick Falkvinge in Swarmwise, modeled after Pirate Party he established.
I heavily recommend getting familiar with it. I think it increases organizational capacity and robustness. And even it may not be adequate for every organization I think it's worth to steal from it as much as you can.
To give a perspective on this - in June 2019 - last time we collected data on this - we had 639 active volunteers in the organization with a median of 4 hours per week spent on charity work. This is accomplished with ~1 - 1.5 full-time volunteer management position equivalent.
I won't go into particular pros and cons of this model as this comment proved to be longer than planned, but I appreciate what was posted already by cafelow and Linch (like filters being important or increasing pool of future employes).
*Note that my experience is limited, as I worked with volunteers only in 2 organizations and don't have a good picture of how operations of other groups look like. Take this ignorance into account.