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Adriano Mannino GBS Schweiz
www.gbs-schweiz.org	 Effective Altruism for Animals
Effective Altruism for Animals
How can we ...
Outline
1) What is Effective Altruism (EA)?

2) Why EA? Which arguments speak in its favour?

3) Is there a reason vs. emot...
What is EA?
A philosophy and a social movement

Working out the most effective ways to improve the
world, in an evidence-ba...
What is EA?
Helping others → helping the worse off in our society

But: Does this really help the greatest number of
others...
Empirical evidence
How much does a quality-adjusted life year
(QALY) cost in developing countries? How
much to save a life...
Quality adjusted life years (QALY)
XGBS Schweiz
	 Effective Altruism for Animals
0
25
50
75
100
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
No ...
Empirical evidence
Cost of one quality-adjusted life year: ~$100

Health care economics: save a life = add 30-50 QALYs

Re...
Estimation is the best we have
Don’t take expected value estimates literally, but seriously still:

Many significant uncert...
Empirical evidence
XGBS Schweiz
	 Effective Altruism for Animals
Baird, Sarah, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer, and Edwa...
Empirical evidence
A randomised controlled trial in Kenya found
that school-based deworming5:

- reduces school absenteeis...
Global vs. local
Globally: 1 QALY = ~$100, ~$4,000 save a life

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

1 QALY = $55,0006
, $1,650,000 ...
Why EA?
Two components:

1) Why help others at all?

2) Why help the greatest number of others (to
the greatest extent)?
9...
Why help others at all?
1) Peter Singer’s “Drowning Child Argument”7:

Would you sacrifice $3,000 in order to save a
child ...
The greatest number?
1) Peter Singer’s “Drowning Child Argument”
modified:

10 drowning children – either save 9 or 1:
What...
Why EA?
Two components:

1) Why help others at all?

2) Why help the greatest number of others (to
the greatest extent)?

...
Reason vs. emotion?
Mathematics with lives, putting a dollar value on a life – “cold
and calculating”?

Dollar value = mor...
Reason vs. emotion?
Is the EA-approach anti-emotion?

1) Anti immediate emotion / intuition / gut feeling

2) Pro deep emo...
Reason vs. emotion?
1)Anti immediate emotion / intuition / gut feeling:

Cognitive psychology has uncovered lots of framin...
Reason vs. emotion?
2)Pro deep emotion:

Underlying empathy and universal
compassion – for all lives equally – that
motiva...
Why EA extends to animals
Helping others

Are animals ethically relevant “others”?

Golden Rule: What’s ethically relevant...
Why EA extends to animals
Are animals sentient? Evidence9:

- behavioural

- neurobiological

- evolutionary

Uncertainty ...
Effective strategies for animals
Traditional focus on “lab animals”: More (stringent) laws
protecting “lab animals” than “...
Effective strategies for animals
Farm animals:
20GBS Schweiz
	 Effective Altruism for Animals
http://blogs.scientificameric...
Effective strategies for animals
ACE: animalcharityevaluators.org
21GBS Schweiz
	 Effective Altruism for Animals
The importance of effective donation
Donation to a shelter for a rescued cow:

~$5,000/y → ~$50,000 for 10y – “identifiable...
EA vs. “consumer ethics”
Ethical vegetarians would be willing to pay an
additional $1,000 in order to avoid meat

= paying...
EA vs. “consumer ethics”
The decision whether to consume at all (or to donate money
instead) has higher stakes than the de...
The animal cause: A political priority?
Reducing absolute poverty vs. reducing animal suffering?

Effectiveness not just wit...
EA’s political contribution
Better Prioritisation through greater awareness of

relevant normative arguments

relevant emp...
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Effective Altruism for Animals: How can we help the most animals with our limited resources?

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This talk presents arguments for the conclusion that we should, rationally, donate our money/time so as to save hundreds of thousands of animals. (As science shows, they are beings capable of experiencing pleasure and pain, just like humans). Astonishingly, the empirical data suggests that saving hundreds of thousands of animals (or not) is a decisional situation that everyone earning an average salary in a developed country is in.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Effective Altruism for Animals: How can we help the most animals with our limited resources?

  1. 1. Adriano Mannino GBS Schweiz www.gbs-schweiz.org Effective Altruism for Animals Effective Altruism for Animals How can we help the most animals with our limited resources? 1
  2. 2. Outline 1) What is Effective Altruism (EA)? 2) Why EA? Which arguments speak in its favour? 3) Is there a reason vs. emotion conflict? 4) Why EA extends to animals 5) Which strategies can be expected to help the most animals? 6) Why EA necessitates “cause prioritisation” and why the animal cause should probably be a political priority 2GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  3. 3. What is EA? A philosophy and a social movement Working out the most effective ways to improve the world, in an evidence-based way “Altruism”: helping others for their own sake “Effective”: as much as possible – optimize output / input Involves taking actions that may not be intuitively salient Informed by cognitive psychology: biased intuition GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 3
  4. 4. What is EA? Helping others → helping the worse off in our society But: Does this really help the greatest number of others to the greatest extent? Or could we achieve more with our resources? Globally, about one billion people live on less than $1.25/day, 20,000 children die every day1 Money has diminishing marginal utility Should we rather donate towards/be active for the reduction of global poverty? “Distance bias”? 4GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 1 http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1870/USAID-Extreme- Poverty-Discussion-Paper.pdf, http://www.unicef.org/childsurvival/
  5. 5. Empirical evidence How much does a quality-adjusted life year (QALY) cost in developing countries? How much to save a life? Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) needed – pioneered by development economists such as Esther Duflo2 Scientific charity evaluators: givewell.org 5GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 2 http://www.povertyactionlab.org/methodology
  6. 6. Quality adjusted life years (QALY) XGBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 0 25 50 75 100 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 No Intervention: ~40 QALYs Intervention: +20 QALYs (Life Expectancy) Intervention: +10 QALYs (Quality of Life) Age Quality of Life (%)
  7. 7. Empirical evidence Cost of one quality-adjusted life year: ~$100 Health care economics: save a life = add 30-50 QALYs Result: ~$4,000 = one life saved 3 Best interventions 4 : - anti-malaria bed nets - deworming (parasitic intestinal worms) Intuition: What’s the most effective way to promote education, i.e. to buy additional school days? RCTs: Deworming! 6GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 3 http://www.givewell.org/giving101/Your-dollar-goes-further-overseas 4 http://www.givewell.org/international/technical/programs
  8. 8. Estimation is the best we have Don’t take expected value estimates literally, but seriously still: Many significant uncertainties involved But: Estimation is the best we have And: It gives us an idea of the order of magnitude of the effect of an intervention (one result being: giving globally can be roughly two orders of magnitude = 100 times more impactful than giving locally) It thus allows us to better compare different decisional options, which we inevitably have to do: We cannot not- decide what to do with our time / money XGBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  9. 9. Empirical evidence XGBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals Baird, Sarah, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer, and Edward Miguel. 2011. “Worms at Work: Long-Run Impacts of Child Health Gains.” Working paper, Harvard University * *even more effective with respect to additional school years gained alone, but has no health effects
  10. 10. Empirical evidence A randomised controlled trial in Kenya found that school-based deworming5: - reduces school absenteeism by 25% - increases hours worked as adults by 12 - increases future wage earnings by 23% Try to find the “best buy” for your money / time / energy = EA 7GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 5 http://www.povertyactionlab.org/publication/deworming-best-buy- development
  11. 11. Global vs. local Globally: 1 QALY = ~$100, ~$4,000 save a life ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:
 1 QALY = $55,0006 , $1,650,000 save a life Decision: Save 1 or 100+ with the same resources? Ethically problematic because all lives count equally, regardless of geographical / social / emotional distance? http://reg-charity.org/giving-locally-vs-globally- where-can-we-do-the-most-good/ 8GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 6 http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta20/resources/ta20-motor-neurone- disease-riluzole-guidance-html
  12. 12. Why EA? Two components: 1) Why help others at all? 2) Why help the greatest number of others (to the greatest extent)? 9GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  13. 13. Why help others at all? 1) Peter Singer’s “Drowning Child Argument”7: Would you sacrifice $3,000 in order to save a child drowning in front of you? 2) The rationale for duties not to harm 3) The Golden Rule / Impartial Perspective / Veil of Ignorance 10GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 7 Singer, Peter (2009). The Life You Can Save. New York: Random House.
  14. 14. The greatest number? 1) Peter Singer’s “Drowning Child Argument” modified: 10 drowning children – either save 9 or 1: What to do? 2) Health care systems, traffic laws, triage 3) Probabilities for each individual to stay safe behind the Veil of Ignorance 11GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  15. 15. Why EA? Two components: 1) Why help others at all? 2) Why help the greatest number of others (to the greatest extent)? In practice: Donate >10% of what you earn to the most effective interventions; build up a societal movement with this mindset. 12GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  16. 16. Reason vs. emotion? Mathematics with lives, putting a dollar value on a life – “cold and calculating”? Dollar value = more transparent, honest, also emotionally informed choices “Human Life Currency”: This car cost x human lives.
 This fancy vacation cost y human lives. Calculation: Implication of the numbers counting – all lives counting equally and deserving equal emotional concern Moral uncertainty: Err on the safe side and let the numbers count 13GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  17. 17. Reason vs. emotion? Is the EA-approach anti-emotion? 1) Anti immediate emotion / intuition / gut feeling 2) Pro deep emotion 14GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  18. 18. Reason vs. emotion? 1)Anti immediate emotion / intuition / gut feeling: Cognitive psychology has uncovered lots of framing effects and inconsistencies in our moral judgements, too E.g. “distance bias”: Would you donate at the site of a disaster (70% yes) vs. at home on the couch (35% yes), with identical information? 8 Historical experience: Immediate emotional support for (racist) slavery, homophobia, unnecessarily cruel punishment, or indeed the view that humans count for (infinitely) more than non-human animals 15GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 8 Greene, J.D. (2014) Beyond point-and-shoot morality: Why cognitive (neuro)science matters for ethics. Ethics, 124(4), 695-726.
  19. 19. Reason vs. emotion? 2)Pro deep emotion: Underlying empathy and universal compassion – for all lives equally – that motivates action Coupled with rational choice, compassion is most effective / helpful to these lives 16GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  20. 20. Why EA extends to animals Helping others Are animals ethically relevant “others”? Golden Rule: What’s ethically relevant about me? How am I relevantly different from a rock? 1) I’m human, belong to the human species 2) I’m particularly intelligent 3) I’m a moral agent, can be held responsible 4) I’m a sentient being, capable of experiencing suffering and happiness 5) I’m a living being (metabolism, growth, reproduction) 17GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  21. 21. Why EA extends to animals Are animals sentient? Evidence9: - behavioural - neurobiological - evolutionary Uncertainty → err on the safe side by granting animals (some) moral importance 18GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 9 http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf
  22. 22. Effective strategies for animals Traditional focus on “lab animals”: More (stringent) laws protecting “lab animals” than “farm animals” 3R in the lab, but not on the farm Ineffective focus: - Lab: 2 million to 0.5 million/y in the last 30y - Farm: 40 to 60 million/y in the last 10y - Lab more controversial: Existential hunting? - Farm: Just a bit of gastronomic pleasure - Going veg = helping 1,000 animals* 19GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 10 http://www.animalcharityevaluators.org/research/foundational-research/ effects-of-diet-choices-on-animals/
  23. 23. Effective strategies for animals Farm animals: 20GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/08/11/want-to-kill-fewer- animals-give-up-eggs-not-meat/
  24. 24. Effective strategies for animals ACE: animalcharityevaluators.org 21GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  25. 25. The importance of effective donation Donation to a shelter for a rescued cow:
 ~$5,000/y → ~$50,000 for 10y – “identifiable victim” Opportunity costs: - ~500,000 leaflets or online ads - 1-2 people working on the cause full-time for 1 year Just one person convinced = ~1,000 animals saved Likelier: many more ACE: 3 animals per dollar10 (!) 22GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals 10 http://www.animalcharityevaluators.org/research/foundational-research/ impact-donations/
  26. 26. EA vs. “consumer ethics” Ethical vegetarians would be willing to pay an additional $1,000 in order to avoid meat
 = paying $1,000 in order to save 15 animals Most vegetarians could afford to donate $1,000 (more) and don’t intuitively feel it’s problematic not to, although
 = not saving hundreds of animals Stopping active harm vs. helping?
 But: Paying $1,000 to help 10 drowning piglets? 23GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  27. 27. EA vs. “consumer ethics” The decision whether to consume at all (or to donate money instead) has higher stakes than the decision what we consume, if we consume We can donate the money to organisations that are pushing for societal / political change Active harm vs. non-help: Buying laptops in order to end the slavery that enters laptops? Political work: Many people interested in doing it, too little money → coordination problem, some should Earn to Give:
 Instead of doing direct work oneself, one can try and fund several direct jobs that would not have existed otherwise 24GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  28. 28. The animal cause: A political priority? Reducing absolute poverty vs. reducing animal suffering? Effectiveness not just within causes, but among causes: Cause Prioritisation GiveWell: ~$4,000 can save a human
 ACE: $4,000 can save ~12,000 animals If what is happening to animals were happening to humans, the priorities would be uncontroversial How to compare human suffering and animal suffering? Say you’re certain animals only count 10% as much as humans (or only 10% confident that they count equally) – given their numbers, they should probably still be a candidate for priority! 25GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals
  29. 29. EA’s political contribution Better Prioritisation through greater awareness of relevant normative arguments relevant empirical data about cost-effectiveness One probable conclusion: non-human animals have much greater political priority than traditionally assumed no major political force currently agrees, and the forces that do mostly don’t make a careful normative and empirical case 26GBS Schweiz Effective Altruism for Animals

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