Interesting point and thanks for raising, Saulius. :)
That specific grant actually hasn’t been made yet. Though we approved of it, I believe it’s waiting on the university to finalize something before the funds are allocated. So, I am going to strike it from the list of grants at the top of the report (I was meant to do this before but forgot to do this even though I removed it from the paragraphs of the payout report, my apologies).
To further address your point though, I think the counterfactuals here are tricky to think about and I wouldn’t confidently claim that wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes. Would be keen for folks to think about both of those more!
In terms of the quick case for the grant, I think it is more exploratory and probably helpful information to have in case there are significant increases in farmed carmine production in the future. Particularly, I thought that for carmine, it was like the case for wild-caught fish. As in, demand currently outstripes finite supply, so fluctuations in demand therefore mightn't impact current supply much. E.g.:
"However, demand is rising and because the supply is finite - it is difficult for Peruvian farmers to substantially boost supplies - the price has soared in recent years.
Back in 2013 Peru's exports of carmine totalled 531 tonnes, which was worth $22m. So over the past four years, the price per tonne has risen by 73%." (link)
Further to that, occasionally, I think there are big spikes in price when exogenous events constrain supply. (link)
And, if current demand were to sustain or increase it seems like a marginal increase in industry would come from the farmed side. E.g.,
“High demand is fuelling the search for innovative production techniques in order to move away from dependence on the prickly pear, which carries a number of limitations.” (link)
““Habitat for cacti is limited, growth of both host and parasite are slow, and extraction procedures are woefully inefficient,” Dapson says. “Improvements in extraction and purification have been made, but they don’t address the core problem, which is production of the insects.”” (link)
So, exploring alternatives now could more so contribute to reductions on the expansion on the farmed side in the future. Perhaps it, therefore, isn’t too dependent on views around whether wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes.
Fwiw, looks like rerunning the analysis with the relative bounds on chicken moral worth being a ten-billionth to a thousandth of a human, rather than a twenty thousandth to 10 humans, still outputs a mean cost-effectiveness ratio of CCCW to MIF of ~1.3.
So though it is a pretty significant factor, choosing different values there seems unlikely by themselves to directionally change the output.
I also don't think that the expected moral weight of more than twice that of a human is that intrinsic to Muehlhauser numbers. Seems like it is more like something of an artifact that comes from putting a log-normal distribution to that confidence interval.
But I also I think it is all somewhat beside the point that could really be at play:
It's unclear that one can compare the “near-termist, human-centric” worldview, to the “near-termist, animal-centric” worldview by just working to put them on the same metric, and then crunching the EV. And further, I don’t think subscribers to the “near-termist, human-centric” worldview will be swayed much (potentially at all) by analysis like that.
So idk and I am always confused by this but when I thought about this more a few years ago, I personally think the decision framework might be more along the lines of like: how much credence do I give to "near-term human-centric", and according to it how good is MIF. And how much credence do I give "near term animal-centric", and according to it centric how good is CCCW. And that is more how one gets at how one ought to allocate funds across them.
Some of the more outstanding bigger orgs can absorb much more funding, pretty productively (think e.g. THL, GFI, CIWF, MFA, etc.) Across those outstanding big groups alone, quite likely we could easily do an additional ~>$10M/yr on what we do right now.
Also, there are some programs that could be scaled up a lot. E.g., pumping further $’s into open access PB research.
As a concrete example, right now finding opps in parts of SE Asia or the Middle East seems much more of a bottleneck than finding the funding for that.
Similarly so, as you probably know, for work on invertebrates ;)
So both opportunity and funding bottlenecks apply at the movement level for farmed animal welfare. But, the nuance is that they really apply to quite differing extents to different parts of the movement.
First, I think this is a really good flag on an important issue and a great first post :)
As others mentioned CIWF have a good Octopus farming reporthighlighting the terrible consequences for animal welfare (underrated but I believe that Octopus could live 2-3 years in these conditions). I believe CIWF alsopresented the report to the Animal Welfare Intergroup of the European Parliament! They have also written to various places (governments, governors etc.) trying to have the practice outlawed or shut down.
Specifically within some of the key countries in Europe for this, namely Spain and Italy, Equalia and Essere Animali respectively might have interest in working on this. Though so far I am unsure how much either have worked on this.
However, I guess I’d say prospects for nipping this in the bud from a legislative perspective seem unclear to me. As in, say a country like Spain outlaws the practice of farming octopus (which in itself may be pretty unlikely), then I think a big multinational company like Nueva Pescanova (the company claiming to start the first commercial octopus farm) perhaps just goes to some other country they work in (and they are present in 20ish).
Further, research labs all over the world (US included) continue to chip away at farming octopus. And if one of the big seafood/fish farming countries in east asia (think Japan and/or China) takes up the helm, which they may as they have both big seafood companies and big domestic markets for octopus, I am really not sure we have the political power there yet (or will for some time) to try and nip it in the bud there.
A line of reasoning that I am maybe a bit more optimistic about is that perhaps we can nip this one in the bud from a capital perspective?
Nueva Pescanova (the company claiming they’ll be selling farmed octopus in 2023) has some seemingly poor financials. They went through a debt equity swap earlier this year and had basically declared bankruptcy and then restructured in ~2015.
They are reportedly planning to invest over 50M euro to create the farm. The farm will produce 2400 tonnes of finished product annually. The wholesale price for the wild type of this octopus product is ~11,000 euro/tonne (p.13). If that is the wholesale price, it gives ~26M euro turnover a year. I think it also takes more than a year to raise octopuses to be adults so they may not see that for 2-3 years, so maybe that should be modelled as being time discounted.
Then the running costs for the port facility would involve reportedly employing 450 staff (at ~20k euro each that would come to 9M euro/year). It will also take the equivalent of at least something like a few tonne’s of fishmeal per tonne of octopus (fishmeal at ~1250 euro per tonne) and would guess they have to use feed somewhat more expensive for octopus. Electricity sounds like a big factor too given they wanted to go ahead with the farm in the canary islands (rather than having the farm in Galicia, Spain the companies, headquarters, they looked to the canary islands because the electricity bill there would not be excessive). So might I’d tentatively guess they could be looking at millions of dollars per production cycle in electricity costs.
All that is probably why they are seeking a grant from the EU to fund this first farm. Otherwise they could be looking at least several years until getting a positive ROI on it. So I think that could be a good thing to target efforts against, as if the EU doesn’t offer funding, plausibly this farm doesn’t go ahead. But maybe Nueva Pescanova would just go ahead with it anyway though, and just absorb some greater initial losses though.
Same food for thought at least! I guess would be curious to find groups who might want to target that capital side of it now.
> Also, how do you judge their expected marginal cost-effectiveness? Do you do back-of-the-envelope calculations? Compare to previous projects with estimates? Check the project team's own estimates (and make adjustments as necessary)? All of the above? Any others?
It varies by project and depends on who the grant investigator is.
If a) the project is relatively well-suited to a back of the envelope and b) a back of the envelope seems decision-relevant, then we will engage in one. Right now, a) and b) seem true in a minority of cases, maybe ~10%-25% of applications depending on the round to give some rough sense. However, note that there tends to be some difference between projects in areas or by groups we have already evaluated vs projects/groups/areas that are newer to us. I’d say newer projects/groups areas are more likely to receive a back of the envelope style estimate. In cases where we do them, we generally look to compare to one’s we have previously done. If the project team submits an estimate (which tends to be relatively rare, again perhaps in that 10-25% range and they can be of varying quality), a fund manager will certainly review and note thoughts during the grant investigation.
More generally, here are some of the main general things that I’d say we like to look at to judge marginal cost-effectiveness (though note again the extent really depends on the fund manger and the specifics of the application):
Do they seem to be operating in an area that seems high-impact?
Things to look at include:
Is it work regarding a large scale and neglected animal population?
Or work in a neglected but large-scale geography?
Or does this seem like a promising addition to the philanthropic alt-protein ecosystem?
Or does this intervention have a relatively promising track record? E.g.,corporatecampaigns.
Also, do their plans in that area seem reasonable?
Things to look at include:
Do their plans seem detailed and concrete, and exhibit a relatively deep understanding of the relevant issues?
How well do they respond when some alternative approach is suggested?
Combining 1 and 2, when applicable, does some quantitative back-of-the-envelope calculation suggest they impact a high number of animals per dollar spent? Metrics include:
How many animal lives improved per dollar in expectation?
Or how many farmed animal lives averted per dollar spent in expectation?
Or perhaps how many $’s influenced per $ donated?
Are we aware of any going ons regarding that group that should give us pause?
Things to look at include:
What level of staff retention have they had recently?
Has someone reached out to report some infraction that (reportedly) hasn’t been dealt with properly by the group?
Are there credible reports of concerns about how the group interacts with other groups in the movement?
What is that group’s current financial position?
Things to look at include:
Relative to their annual budget, how much funding do they have in reserve?
What amount of funding are they expecting to raise from other sources?
The investigator produces a brief write-up summarizing their overall thinking, and assigns a vote to the application.
Good questions, and appreciate you raising them. I am going to split the responses because they’re somewhat long.
>How do you think the expected marginal cost-effectiveness of the grantees compares to the large effective animal advocacy charities like The Humane League?
Tl;dr: Main things I think about are i) the generally lacking evidence base leaves it unresolved, ii) risk and variance across the respective portfolios, iii) "big-picture" takes about the different portfolios, and iv) dynamics at the community level, as well as, what the community level portfolio should be. Spoiler: for those really interested in an explicit estimate, I don't give one but would be happy to connect if you would like to discuss it!
I would be pretty curious to hear your perspective on this (or that of others) :)
For those interested in delving deeper, it could be worth reaching out to a few sources regarding this. For instance, I think people from THL probably have some good thoughts, and I would be happy to introduce anyone who might be interested. Also, flagging that I really could be biased here, as I am chair of the EA AWF and so probably have some interest in claiming greater effectiveness of grantees! I think there could also be some variance in the opinions of different fund managers, and I am just reporting some of my thoughts here.
Part of how I think about it is, the relatively lacking evidence base we have definitely contributes to it being difficult and I think leaves it all fairly unresolved. To help put the evidence base size in perspective, the total size of our animal sectors (FAW and WAW) is well south of 10% of the annual public global health r & d. Perhaps 5-10% of our sector’s resources (c. ~$200M/yr) could be categorized as research and development right now. So each year, we are looking at an evidence base, that measured by $ size, seems to grow at < 1% of the evidence base for global health. Furthermore, global health has been around much longer, so plausibly the difference in sizes of the respective evidence bases could be on the order of a thousand times. (Sidenote: I am glad to see groups like RP working towards making the evidence base from which we operate better)
Another part of how I think about it is that right now at least, there seems to be clearly greater levels of risk and variance in the ROI associated with the AWF grantees compared to THL. In fact, I’d say perhaps the main distinguishing factor between the two options’ marginal cost-effectiveness is there appears to be much greater risk and variance in good/marginal $ associated with the AWF grantees. A big part of that is, relative to THL’s programmatic portfolio, the AWF grantees’ programmatic portfolio seems much riskier, and embraces some areas that are less proven, or have relatively long pathways to impact such as research, farmed fish, wild animals, invertebrates, or early-stage seed funding. The geographic portfolio of AWF grantees in sum also seems somewhat more risk-tolerant to me too (e.g., slightly more of a % focus on parts of the globe where there’s little or no organized animal advocacy).
I think then combining the above two points we all then quickly end up in this position where it is i) to an extent importantly unresolved due to lacking evidence, and ii) it seems like a main distinguishing factor in the marginal cost-effectiveness estimate could be the variance and risk in AWF grantees. I think probably given i) and ii), different reasonable people can have different reasonable-sounding takes here with regards to which is more effective on the margin. Probably a lot of it will come down to some “big-picture takes” on the promisingness of some quite different approaches. E.g., degree of sentience across different species, priors on different approaches, the weight to give different evidence, and the value/risk of early-stage funding for promising areas/groups/locations.
Without revealing too much, one thing I would say is that I have personally come to feel more risk-tolerant over the years. However, I am still pretty hesitant to give a direct estimate or strongly indicate my preferences because some interested parties might skip straight to that, regardless of how many caveats I put on it or nuance I add. Honestly, I also have some sense that doing so publicly may also result in losing credibility in the eyes of some important stakeholders too. That said, I would be more than happy to personally chat and connect with anyone who is thinking through this question!
Relatedly, another layer to it all is, as a community that is looking to most help animals, to what extent does it make sense for representatives to publicly weigh in on how promising "their" option is specifically relative to some other competitive option. Another part of that is, perhaps what is quite important is what is above the bar for funding from the community, what ought the community level portfolio look like, and how would additional donations to various options most bring us in line with the optimal portfolio. Within that community portfolio lens, I think that both options (EA AWF and THL) really firmly land above the bar for funding. Another thing I’d say is that I think there can be an underrated degree of fungibility within EA-aligned funding within the animal sector. That is, some EA-aligned donor/funder A deciding to give less or not giving at all to one promising option, often importantly resulting in some EA-aligned donor/funder B giving more to that option.
One quick observation that is probably a small thing or not right:
For the 8 fields that reached establishment, the median time between a field’s origin year and establishment yearwas 18 years, with the quickest field (Genetic Circuits) becoming established after 5 years, and the slowest (Clean Meat) becoming established after 63 years (the full list of times to establishment for the 8 fields, in years, is: 5, 16, 16, 17, 19, 26, 26, 63).
For Clean meat it looks like you use something like the date of postulation as the initial time point to measure the length of time to field establishment.
I don’t have a great understanding but have a feeling that for Genetic Circuits something like the date of postulation point maybe isn’t the initial time point used when measuring the length of time to field establishment?
If so, that might be doing most of the work in setting Genetic Circuits as the quickest and Clean Meat as the slowest.
This round, we report five anonymous grants after receiving advice from internal and external advisors, and further weighing the pros and cons of public reporting. We consider these grants to have a high expected impact, and report that there were no conflicts of interest in evaluating them.
Thanks for this post! I believe this is the first time that the Animal Welfare Fund is giving anonymous grants, but someone can correct me if I'm wrong. I was aware that the EAIF and LTFF are now able to do this, but I wasn't aware that the AWF is now able to do this too.
Thanks! Yeah, that is right, this is the first time.
Anyway, maybe EA Funds should indicate in their Apply for Funding page and the application form that the AWF will consider funding applications from grantseekers who wish to remain anonymous in public reporting? It currently says that only the EAIF and LTFF do this.
Somewhat building on one that is currently mentioned on the page. Advocates have secured thousands of corporate pledges for cage-free eggs globally since 2015. That’s built global pressure for legislation, e.g. the European Commission, UK governments, and various US states have cited corporate progress as a major motivator for them to act. (I think as of latest figures about ~100M (?) US hens were cage-free vs. about 20M in 2015, when the campaigns started ramping up.) In the US, the cage-free flock size has dramatically increased in size these past few years. See, e.g., p.4.
Right. So I still might not be fully understanding.
I guess it seems hard for me to understand thinking both:
A) Diet change has more negative effects on wild animals than positive effects on farmed animals.
And B) Diet changes’ negative effects on wild animals are in expectation greater than the positive effects from further work on wild animal welfare (e.g., of the sort WAI completes).
But maybe I am misunderstanding. Do you think both of those?
Separately, and another quick thought, it could be helpful to more formally model it, as that could help with intuitions here.
Part of what seems to be going on in my head is very roughly something like, some diet change CEE gives say a 95% CI [60,140] utils/$, excluding impacts on wild animals. So say mu=100, sigma=20(?)
Then impacts specifically on wild animals cause the estimate to shift somewhat downward. Impacts on wild animals may be, say, [-1000, 900]. Say, mu=-50, sigma=~450
In my head that additional consideration on wild animals just doesn’t shift the mean util/$ estimate much. That is because the variance on that estimate is so large compared to the variance on the original.
I think what may end up mattering a lot for this type of thing is the ratio of the variance on the cee for utils/$ of diet change intervention for farmed animals, compared to the variance on the impact of diet change on wild animals.
Very quickly, here are a few ideas/interventions that seem interesting to me:
Helping scope whether large and respected enviro groups may lobby on this if funding was available
Helping establish additional university-affiliated research centers that focus on research into pb alts
Helping establish trade associations in important places that don’t really have them right now
Honestly, I think there’s just a lot of underexplored territory in the area. To some extent it is now about us diversifying somewhat, trying a number of different approaches, and then re-evaluating as to what has traction. The value of information from exploring some different interventions feels like it could be pretty high to me.
Yeah, I think your impression of the ratio is correct.
Briefly, as Michael St Jules notes, AWF interfaces with a much bigger community/movement than the LTFF currently does. I think that goes some of the way to explaining the difference in the ratio. Within the respective remits of each fund, it seems the AWF just generally has a more developed movement that it can grant to. The total FAW movement is > $100M per year. My guess is the total EA-aligned LTF movement is now just a pretty small fraction compared to that total.
I think the research point is also important. My impression is that they tend to have a higher % of grantees focused on research than we do, and that in general, a higher number of research projects tend to be by individuals.
>What processes do you have for monitoring the outcome/impact of grants?
We have a ~10 question questionnaire that we send grantees. We send these out 6 months after the grant's starting date - which coincides with the payment date usually. We then send them out every six months and then a final report at the grant’s end date. E.g., if the grant was for an 18-month project, we would send the progress report to that grantee at the 6-month mark, 12 months, and then 18 months.
I feel like I am also just fairly regularly in touch with a lot of grantees in addition to that. Or across all of us we usually have a pretty good sense of where things are at.
> Relatedly, do the AWF fund managers make forecasts about potential outcomes of grants?
Not as of now. I would like us to use forecasts more often and think there might be some low effort ways where we could get most of the value out of them.
>And/or do you write down in advance what sort of proxies you'd want to see from this grant after x amount of time?
We haven’t historically done this. But again, I am interested in possibly adopting in future rounds.
1) I think that trying to take into account the flow-through effects of just about everything will make you more skeptical of just about everything. Stated differently, I am not sure there is much in particular about diet change and flow effects from it which leads to this being a particular problem for it.
So I think that if you apply that lens elsewhere you’ll run into similar issues. Reality is just really complicated and it’s nigh on impossible to truly know how our actions reverberate throughout. Fwiw, I often find myself identifying with some sort of clueless skeptic position.
2) I feel one solution to this line of analysis was put forward in this comment several years ago. That solution seems appealing to me. Basically, for farmed animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts, which would be for farmed animals. For wild-animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts on wild animals.
So I guess I don’t think this is a strong factor in decisions about interventions that impact diet, and I probably wouldn’t prioritize it. But if you do look into it, I would be pretty interested to see what you come up with. :)
Briefly, the EA AWF is a regranting mechanism for donors interested in maximizing their impact on non-human animal welfare. Contributions to it are allocated out to grantees by fund managers three times per year.
> How does it work and how does it make decisions?
As outlined in another question by Karolina. We solicit applications via an open process advertised on relevant sites, Facebook groups, and by individually reaching out to promising candidates. Additionally, we create an RFP and distribute it accordingly. AWF applications are initially triaged, rejecting applications that are out of scope or clearly below the bar for funding, we reject <5. The remaining applications are assigned to a primary and secondary fund manager with relevant, compatible expertise.
The assigned fund manager will read the application in detail, and often reaches out to interview the applicant or ask clarifying questions. In addition, they may read prior work produced by the applicant, reach out to the applicant's references, or consult external experts in the area. They produce a brief write-up summarizing their thinking.
What follows is voting by all fund managers. As outlined in another question by Marcus, we grade all applications with the same scoring system. For the prior round, after the review of the primary and secondary investigator and we've all read their conclusions, each grant manager gave a score (excluding cases of conflict of interests) of +5 to -5, with +5 being the strongest possible endorsement of positive impact, and -5 being a grant with an anti-endorsement that's actively harmful to a significant degree. We then averaged across scores, approving those at the very top, and dismissing those at the bottom, largely discussing only those grants that are around the threshold of 2.5 unless anyone wanted to actively make the case for or against something outside of these bounds (the size and scope of other grants, particularly the large grants we approve, is also discussed).
We provide feedback to a subset of applications (both approved and rejected) where we believe our perspective could be particularly beneficial for the applicant's work in the future, however, we only provide feedback if asked by a grantee.
> And finally, how does its focus differ from ACE's Movement Grants?
I would be keen for someone from ACE to comment on this further, but I would note ACE’s Movement Grants focus on a wider-range of interventions that aim to build a more pluralistic farmed animal advocacy movement. The fund managers are different too. ACE’s fund is somewhat newer, tends towards smaller grant sizes, and they also have one grant round per year.
I think those factors lead to most of the difference between the two funds.
Would be happy to further expand on this if you would like!
Haven’t really thought much about doing it. But I think a lot of that is because I have not really come across anyone who has expressed this desire. It seems interesting, though, and could be worth exploring further.
If someone is curious about doing something like this, I think it is worth reaching out to either me or Jonas.
> To what extent do you worry that we're underinvesting in approaches outside of incremental welfare reform work right now?
Hmmm… I think it is fair to say that this isn’t in my top-tier of worries. Some things that inform that take are:
Some other major funders, that I am aware of through FAF, focus more on non-incremental welfare stuff but at the same time seem aligned with some principles of EA
As other funders focus more on it, the movement as a whole seems to adequately experiment with and explore some things that look promising from that perspective. E.g., I have been somewhat interested in institutional meat reduction work, or on more generalized field-building stuff, and some documentary efforts.
Even within EA aligned funders/ orgs a significant amount of that focused on alt-proteins.
Underappreciated but welfare stuff should increase price which can be useful for longer term decreases in demand
A decent number of the now welfaristy groups seem interested in doing some more abolitionist things, but we just haven’t identified much with a proven track record outside of corporate welfare reforms right now. If we were, I would expect them to be interested in doing that.
I would add that under your definition we have historically funded some of those efforts abolitionist efforts, eg. Crustacean Compassion working on legal recognition of sentience of some crustacean, or legal ban on cages for eggs-laying hens are good examples of more "abolition-like" approaches that we still consider good opportunities.
> Do you have any sense for when (if not now) we might reach that point where it makes more sense to invest in more abolitionist approaches?
To some extent, this whole endeavor is like a multi-armed bandit. Using that analogy, I feelacross the movement we are adequately pulling on the abolitionist levers. But we are just yet to see much in terms of payouts or signs of payouts from them. If we were to see better payouts or signs of, then EA aligned funding should be more keen to allocate towards them! I could imagine this happening if there were to see further promising signs on alternative proteins or meat reduction work but I think we are yet to see those signs. Particularly on institutional meat reduction work, I think that could be internationally scaled if the evidence base were stronger.
One complicating factor I’d quickly flag is that my impression is compared to animal rights groups, animal welfare groups tend to place relatively more epistemic weight on quantitative/ scientific evidence whereas abolitionists focus more on specific theories regarding the dynamics of past societal changes. I think this has something to do with our abolitionists reason about evidence that has historically made it hard for me to get quite excited about their approach.
It could also be worth saying that I do get pretty excited about some notable exceptions to this, like, cage-free bans, or even fur bans. Note too, that a lot of the “welfarey” cage-free work seems a necessary precursor to the “abolitionisty” cage bans.
I would be pretty surprised if I was somehow resurrected, or otherwise able to observe, millions of years from now and factory farming was still happening!
In terms of probabilistic predictions as to the chance that factory farming is still around x years from now, I think mine pretty roughly looks like some exponentially decaying function. If you want to model it, I would put P0 at 1 and alpha at ~0.988.
So, I’d guess there are decent chances forms of it are still around at the end of this century, but 200 years from now, I think there are pretty good chances that we will have ended it :)
Not strongly considered longer write-ups at this point. Basically, it takes a lot of work to publicly and extensively communicate our views in the form of longer-write ups. We generally don’t think that work adds much value to our primary output; it’s not a big part of how we make grant decisions, and donors rarely ask about it. So we usually prefer to focus our time on other parts of grant reporting, as well all the other work the Fund requires.
That said, if you have any questions about any of the decisions we’ve made, please feel free to contact us.
Fwiw, we are doing somewhat longer write-ups for our biggest grantees of the round. However, these are more like a page or a bit over a page rather than a paragraph, but in the scheme of things, that may not be that much longer of a write-up.
>A similar idea would be to sometimes investigate a smaller funding opportunity or set of opportunities in detail as a sort of exemplar of a certain type of funding opportunity, and produce a write-up on that.
Yeah, that feels pretty interesting to me. I won’t make any commitments but I could see us doing more of that in the future. It could be worth experimenting with that.
To some extent, we are only able to work with what is available to grant to. And I think we have been pretty good at granting to things as soon as they’re ready. But we could probably have done more to get some projects/NGOs ready for grants.
So the main thing that comes to mind when I think about this, is I thinkwe probably should have started doing more active grantmaking sooner. That would look like us more actively trying to bring new promising projects into existence. And note that could be either through seeding new groups or having existing groups further incorporate certain considerations into their efforts. In doing so, perhaps we could have been a bit more ahead of the curve on fish, crustaceans, wild animals, and invertebrates, as well as some of the international groups, or even some alt-protein items.
Separately, I think we also probably could have been better in referring funding opportunities to other funders or in further providing support, connections, and guidance for our grantees.
In short, I think it may be important but I feel pretty unsure about what the implications are. I guess it generally updates me somewhat towards some of the more speculative things that fall inside our remit, including wild animals and invertebrate welfare.
But basically, I think that longtermism is still way underexplored... so when we start talking about longtermism’s intersection with something like animal welfare, I think it is just really really underexplored. At this point, there may have been a few blog posts looking at that intersection.
So yes, I would be interested in potentially supporting someone to look further into this intersection and believe we mentioned a point on that in our RFP.
Quick thoughts, in terms of subtopics that could be interesting (only if the right person(s) were to do it):
Further examine, from a longtermist perspective, to what extent is wild animal welfare or invertebrate welfare important
Further examine plausible ways emerging tech may entrench bad practices for animals
Explore how likely animal friendly values are to be adopted/accounted for by an AI (obviously do so in a way that isn’t going to put any AI folks offside)
Doing some initial scoping out of possible ways a philanthropist might give if they were interested in building a field/subfield around AW and longtermism
That said, I don’t feel I have particularly well developed thoughts on what subtopics look most promising at this intersection. I would also be keen to further hear from the community what sub-topics may seem promising, and if anyone is interested in completing work/research at this intersection, please reach out!
Great question! Multi-decade forecasts are hard, so take all these quick thoughts with some salt :)
Amount of funding in our space increases significantly. Sometimes I find it pretty inspiring to think that over the past decade or so, we have almost gone from no field really existing to a budding one. It has gone from <$20M/yr to ~$200M/yr. Predict (75%) that positive trend continues and we would be at >$500M/yr by 2040.
Alt-proteins have significant progress and are really important. Again, it can be inspiring to look back on our progress. Circa ~2015, GFI didn’t exist, alt-proteins were barely a thing. Now GFI is one of (if not the biggest) group in our space. Since, ~2015 we have also seen the 2.0 of PB alts. The likes of Beyond and Impossible suggest that taste and price-competitive alternatives for some animal products are likely, and we are actually now quite close to (if not at) parity for some product categories like beef patties. I predict that we would see this trend continue and there would be at least a couple of other product categories where we reach parity. I think 65% chance that we will see >5% of meat consumption be from alt-proteins. I am hopeful that we may even see some big government funding (scale: tens or hundreds of millions) in open access-research on pb alts, and think that the folks at Mobius have been doing some great work on this recently!
Movement becomes even more global. Again, past progress seems inspiring. We have gone from basically not much happening throughout large parts of Asia to now a number of groups active there. I would expect that general trend to continue and we will significantly scale up in the likes of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle-East, too.
Continue to expand on the neglected animal frontier. To an extent, I think that over twenty years for our movement we will see: fish become the new chicken, crustaceans the new fish, invertebrates the new crustaceans, wild animals as being established, etc. To flesh that out a bit I think that over that time we will see big groups (e.g., THL, MFA, CIWF, etc.) increasingly focus on fish through their corporate outreach efforts, and hopefully also a significant shift to also include farmed shrimp/prawns. Other farmed invertebrate’s welfare will also significantly move from the fringe to mainstream and some large groups will also incorporate that into their programmatic portfolio. Regarding wild animals, it feels a bit harder to say. On quick reflection, I would predict (75%) that area has at least 10 EA aligned NGOs active in it, with total size of the area at >$5M.
Smallest grant we can do through the EA Fund is $1k. If you are interested in something smaller than that, please get in touch and I might be interested in funding in order to reach my personal giving pledge.
I think I would name the categories a bit differently but your point still stands. Fwiw, I would name the categories:
Large-scale and neglected animal populations (for instance, farmed fish and wild animals)
Large-scale and neglected geographies (for instance, China and India)
On THL UK and OBRAZ being exceptions, briefly, a few thoughts:
We think THL UK has been instrumental to the successes of the broiler movement.
The THL UK team plays a major role in OWA’s global & European progress (e.g., last years helped with training in eastern Europe.
Pretty interested in the specific ways that they are expanding, with more work on fish and legislative efforts.
Generally less concerned about funging with them than we are for some of the other bigger groups in Europe or the US.
They do seem to have made, relatively speaking, quite good progress on cage-free. Honestly, to an extent, we have been blown away by the progress they have made on cage-free.
This group has won two major victories in Czechia in recent years. In 2017, the group achieved a ban on fur farming that went into effect in 2019; more recently, they successfully pushed for a ban on cages for laying hens that will become effective in 2027. The recent ban on cages was preceded by successful corporate campaigning efforts led by OBRAZ in partnership with the Open Wing Alliance.
Yeah, I feel uncertain about how to weigh these. Here are some things that feel important:
What feels like one of the stronger considerations for me, is I am generally more excited about the EA AWF taking on some of the more high-risk stuff given that it's easier for Open Phil and others to pick up the proven stuff. It’s also easier for the more proven stuff to fundraise from non-EA sources. E.g., with a group like Crustacean Compassion we gave them a few smaller grants, prior to them getting significant Open Phil funding.
All else equal, we look to explore and vet projects that donors to the AWF are less familiar with. At least two reasons as to why: so we can add value over what their counterfactual donations may have been, and the AWF can play an important role in signalling the quality of groups to other donors, or in pioneering certain areas or subfields (somewhat like what we’ve done in invertebrate welfare) for others then to hopefully take up in future.
Wild Animal Initiative is a special case right now. Namely, so far, WAI hasn’t received much support from major individual donors focused on animal suffering. As they are a quite promising and relatively established group that major donors such as the Open Phil don’t yet fund (though they recommend others do), that creates somewhat of a unique comparative advantage for the AWF, and results in our presently being the major wild animal welfare funder. If that situation were to change, our level of support may also change.
In some cases, I am wary of us funging Open Phil or OWA or some other funder. E.g., potentially at times with some corporate chicken campaigns in a neglected region, or even with larger promising groups based in Europe or the US.
Larger groups often are active in a variety of locations and do a number of different programs. I can be pretty wary of us just getting funged within their overall budget.
> I’d certainly rather save a hundred duck-sized horses. It’s hard to know how to compare the moral importance of different creatures’ experiences. How many happy chicken-days is as good as a happy chimp-day? The best guess I currently have is to use the logarithm of neural mass. And I think that the total log(neural mass) of a hundred duck-sized horses is much greater than that of one horse-sized duck. There’s just a lot more experiencing entities, and even if the horse-sized duck’s experiences are a bit more valuable in light of greater computational resources powering them, it’s not that much greater.Moreover, horses live a little longer than ducks (25-30 years compared to about 20 years, according to a quick google). Insofar as I think we should care not about number of lives saved, but number of quality-adjusted life-years saved, then saving the duck-sized horses is clearly going to have the bigger impact.
Not sure logarithm of neural mass is the best way to approach this... but the selection seems right to me!
For those interested, stay tuned, as RP has some really exciting work upcoming on moral weights that I think may help give a truly cutting edge response to this age old question :)
For the counterfactual that someone unknown to me dropped ~$17.5M in the fund only a few weeks out from the payout, I think this round we would have perhaps would have given something like $3M-$4M out. This is because due diligence for larger grants takes longer than only a few weeks for us to do. However, in the round following we would look to do ~2.5-3.5X that $3-4M for something like $7M-$14M next round.
Alternatively, if, instead, we knew that 6 months in advance there would be a sum like that (~$20M), then I would imagine we would be in a much better position to significantly scale our giving and likely would have given something like ~$12M out in this round. Importantly, I think we’d push to give it to some of the outstanding bigger orgs (e.g. THL and GFI). Another way to put this would be: the Fund's current strategy (mostly smaller orgs / mostly things Open Phil & other big funders aren't funding) is constrained by applicants & our capacity (though those constraints have gotten better over time). But that doesn't constrain total funding in the space. I think that point is worth emphasizing because I think our field as a whole could easily absorb >$20M annually (and really needs it if we're to make major progress). Further, to the extent that the AWF were to have significantly more funds in it, then we would somewhat shift our strategy towards funding more established groups who are able to productively take on >$M per grant.
Actually, for ~$5M a few weeks out from payout or several months in advance, I think we would have given out ~$3M now.
One important factor that ties into the above; we aim to grant out all that we get in a calendar year in that same calendar year.
Another is some of the grantees from this round could certainly absorb more funding in a pretty productive fashion. To briefly gesture at some groups, my view is that Rethink Priorities still has at least several hundred k of RFMF and Global Food Partners, too.
There are some other promising grantees that we pushed to the next round in order to further evaluate them (e.g., Equalia and Good Food Fund). I think that the entire set of promising grantees from this last round that we pushed to the next round could take on ~$1M now. With further funding, we would also look to further push some promising groups, say Fish Welfare Initiative, who may not have a tonne of RFMF right now, to further develop plans for what they could do if we were to 2-3X our grant to them in this round.
Responding to your points, Michael:
I think good applicants with good proposals for implementing good project ideas and grantmaker capacity to solicit or generate new project ideas, are more our bottlenecks for the current AWF strategy (but as I mentioned above, I could see our strategy shifting towards more established groups if we were to have much more in the AWF) as opposed to grantmaker capacity to evaluate project ideas.
Thanks for your further distinctions, too.
My quickish take is: I think now there are too few applications in general on some promising ideas (hence our RFP) and the applications that we have which aren’t sufficiently high quality, are more due to the quality of the idea.
I think we have too few applications on quality ideas, because there are now too few such people interested in effective animal advocacy, to a greater extent than there are such people who are in EAA but they’re applying less often than would be ideal.
Thanks, Ben! That all seems fair enough for these purposes.
Fwiw, I think that number might be more the arithmetic mean of some observations. Interpreting it as a geometric mean seems like it doesn’t strongly violate much, but I think the geometric mean is going to be a little bit lower.
But yeah, I doubt it makes much of a difference in the scheme of things!
Thanks for writing this! I found it a really interesting series and kudos to you for sharing earlier-stage thinking publicly. I definitely know that I can find sharing such thinking pretty daunting!
>ACE estimates that the average vegetarian stays vegetarian for 3.9-7.2 years, implying a five-year dropout rate of 53%-77%.
I think that 3.9-7.2 is their estimate for (i) the averagevegetarian adherence length, but you might be interpreting that here as more like (ii) the medianlength of vegetarian adherence?
From that ACE report:
> We can see in the Guesstimate model that after multiplying, the length of adherence for current vegetarians is 32–49 years.
And then they calculate the length for former vegetarians using the following as a basis:
I’d say the underlying distribution here is pretty skewed, so the difference between that average vegetarian length and median vegetarian length might be pretty significant.
So I guess my pretty quick sense is that the median vegetarian adherence length may be a fair bit shorter than 3.9 - 7.2 years. And if you are interpreting that 3.9-7.2 as being more about the median length, and it was in fact a fair bit shorter, then that could meaningfully change some of your conclusions here.
I think that is all somewhat nitpicky though, and I could certainly be wrong about it! Regardless, thanks again for sharing all of this. :)
Here’s a relevant thread from ~5 years ago(!) when some people were briefly discussing points along these lines. I think it illustrates both some similar points and also offers some quick responses to them.
Please do hit see in context to see some further responses there!
And agree, I would also like to further understand the arguments here :)
Sure! Here are some of my quick(ish) thoughts that don’t necessarily represent those of others on the fund:
Generally not wanting the fund to be more than ~50% of any group's budget. That could cause over-reliance on the fund, hurt their fundraising efforts with other funders, and possibly disincentivize other funders from contributing to promising groups.
Larger groups often do a variety of programs, some of which may be much less impactful. There’s some reason to be wary of funging less impactful programs and that may generally lean one away from funding larger groups who are capable of easily absorbing grants of more than say $100k.
My sense is that smaller and medium sized groups aren’t able to absorb a significant amount of additional funding without significant diminishing returns. E.g., it seems that a lot of groups in our space have experienced really significant growing pains from trying to scale too quickly.
Believing a number of promising opportunities are in low and middle income countries. Dollars can quite go far overseas and RFMF of small-medium size international group can easily be significantly filled by a $10-$30k grant. It also seems important to build up a now nascent movement in a large number of countries.
Our granting cycle is every four months and we often fund some groups in multiple payouts over a year. E.g., while the meta fund may only make essentially one grant per group in a 12monthgranting cycle, we might make 2-3 grants to numerous groups over thesameperiod. Looking at individual payout reports might give the impression we are inclined to split funding across a large number of groups, perhaps significantly more so than viewing grant totals over a 12 month period.
I think there’s some comparative advantage reasoning going on, because we want to add value to what can easily be achieved elsewhere. For instance, it is much easier for us to fund international groups than it is for small individual donors. We might also be more risk-neutral than a lot of other funders in the space, which can lend itself to funding less-established groups. Some other funds and funders also seem to focus more on promising groups that have scaled, and given their allocation of funding it can make most sense for us to focus on smaller opportunities.
I think all those thoughts might go some way in explaining the apparent split of funds across a relatively large number of grantees.
Thanks for writing this up Saulius! I think it is a really useful addition to the literature on EAA and I could see myself returning to it multiple times in future. You seem good at writing such content! :)
Some thoughts that I had after reading this piece:
- I think there’s a decent chance that if one were to dive deeper into captive invertebrates then this could lead to discoveries of tens of billions of animals that are in captivity that the movement currently largely neglects
- One important point I think worth highlighting about the numbers is their differential growth rates. That is, for instance, not only are there many more farmed fish than pigs or cows but the annual increase in the number of farmed fish is much greater than that for pigs or cows
- “Captivity” seems a binary distinction applied to an underlying continuum of something like “the degree to which people control an animal’s habitat.” I wonder if there are some edge cases that could significantly impact the numbers reported here. For instance, and this could certainly be stretching the definition of “captivity” but if fish ladder-type structures were included then that could be another significant source of fish in captivity, even if each fish only spends a small amount of time in them
- I agree with the update towards China being even more important than previously thought given numbers of quail, frogs, and turtles. Relatedly, something that feels important is most, if not all, of the five countries with the most farmed vertebrate animals are Asian countries
Sorry for my slow reply! I think that I missed the notification for this.
You’re right I accidentally linked the wrong article. IIRC, this was the article that I should have linked. I believe that it outlines the high-moisture twin-screw extrusion method, a method which decades later proved important for the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger.
I hope this helps! Would be curious about any takes you have in this area.
[Fwiw: I previously worked at ACE and now work at Farmed Animal Funders. I'm also on the committee for EA Animal Welfare Fund]
Thanks for writing this, Ben! It is an interesting analysis. Here are some thoughts that I had while reading:
What could also be interesting would be looking at the concordance/ disconcordance between some of the regranting funds in this area (e.g., EAA fund, EA Animal Welfare Fund, and OWA.)
What could also be interesting for Open Phil and ACE is comparing and contrasting the funding allocations across the concordant groups.
Some of the discordance between Open Phil and ACE might also be explained by different views about the potential of cultivated meat, different overall capacities for funding, and different approaches on restricting funding.
Lastly, two quick notes:
Three charities which were named “Standout Charities” by ACE but did not receive Open Phil grants did receive grants from the Centre for Effective Altruism’s Animal Welfare Fund (Animal Ethics, Faunalytics, and Compassion in World Farming - USA).
I think Compassion in World Farming - USA has received three Open Phil grants.
None of the charities ACE comprehensively reviewed but did not recommend have received a grant from Open Phil.
I think Compassion in World Farming International has been comprehensively reviewed by ACE and then not recommended but have received several Open Phil grants.