Payout Date: August 1, 2018
Total grants: $1,205,000
Number of grantees: 15
Thank you for donating to the EA Animal Welfare Fund. I’m recommending new disbursements of $1.2M to 15 groups and projects and want to provide some explanation. I anticipate recommending another set of disbursements in the next three months. This month’s disbursements fit roughly into three categories:
Research and EA movement building
Animal Charity Evaluators: $500K
Rethink Priorities: $85K
Animal Welfare Action Lab: $75K
Animal Liberation translation fund: $50K
Cellular Agriculture Society: $50K
Wild animal welfare
Animal Ethics: $70K
Utility Farm: $40K
Wild-Animal Suffering Research: $30K
International grassroots groups
Essere Animali (Italy): $75K
Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira: $60K
Vegans of Shanghai (China): $50K
Bangladesh Animal Welfare Society: $50K
Vege Project (Japan): $25K
Obraz (Czech Republic): $25K
Hong Kong Veg Society: $20K
Research and EA movement building
Animal Charity Evaluators ($500K)
Evaluating charities and promoting effectiveness in the animal movement. This is an unusually large and conventional grant for the EA Fund. But the EA Fund raised over $2M last year — thank you for your generosity! — and I don’t want it to sit idle while I identify more small and unique funding opportunities. I think ACE: (1) serves a critical role in the farm animal movement in promoting EA values (transparency, use of data, constant reflection on what works), (2) has room for more funding and good plans for spending additional funds, and (3) will raise more funds for its recommended charities if it can wrap up fundraising for itself earlier in the year, which it will do once it hits its self-imposed cap of $1.25M to support ACE’s operations. Because I’m confident that ACE will ultimately raise that $1.25M, the practical effect of this grant may be to just increase by $500K the funds that go to its recommended charities. That’s fine: I’m very excited about the work of its three top charities — The Humane League, Animal Equality, and the Good Food Institute — and generally excited about its standout charities. And I see additional benefits to giving ACE greater financial security sooner and more influence over the distribution of funds in the movement.
Rethink Priorities ($85K)
Prioritization and research into animal welfare interventions. Peter Hurford and Marcus A. Davis want to assess current and potential animal welfare interventions as part of their trial project to generate actionable new insights across EA causes (budget here). For example, they want to vet claims about the efficacy of corporate campaigns and assess plausibly impactful work on wild animal welfare. I think these projects are worthwhile, but this is more a bet on the people and their method than on specific projects: I see value to two experienced EA researchers approaching existing and new animal welfare interventions with a fresh and critical eye.
Animal Welfare Action Lab ($75K)
Replicating surveys on clean meat opinion. Eva Vivalt and Bobbie MacDonald recently conducted two M-Turk surveys on the impact of clean meat on ethical beliefs and how to overcome naturalistic resistance to clean meat. They want to replicate these surveys on a more reliable platform, likely YouGov. I’m excited about this because I think (a) we need more data on potential acceptance and impacts of clean meat, (b) the researchers have a track record of good research that follows best practices (e.g., pre-registration, open data), and (c) replication on different platforms is useful for assessing the robustness of findings.
Animal Liberation Translation Fund ($50K)
Translating the seminal work on animal welfare to new languages. Peter Singer has generously offered to waive all royalties for publishers open to translating Animal Liberation into new languages. He’s talking with publishers interested in translating the work into Hindi, Ukrainian, Romanian, Georgian, and Swahili (Animal Liberation has already been translated into more common languages like Mandarin and Spanish). This fund will cover costs of translating the work whenever Peter approves its translation — the first $2K will pay to translate the work into Icelandic.
Cellular Agriculture Society ($50K)
Building the field of academic research on clean meat. I remain unsure about the future cost-competitiveness of clean meat, and skeptical about the timelines of boosters. I also think that promising clean meat startups currently have no trouble raising private funds. But I do think that academic clean meat research is neglected, and could be more important if optimistic timelines don’t come to be (since academics are better positioned than startups to work on a decades-long timeline). The Good Food Institute and New Harvest are working in this space, but I think there’s scope for a variety of approaches. I’m not sure if the Cellular Agriculture Society will pursue the right approach, and I’m concerned that they’re trying to do too many things. But I also think they’ve assembled an impressive team with the right scientific expertise and deserve a chance to see what they can achieve with some funding.
Wild animal welfare
Academic field-building on wild animal welfare. Potential interventions to aid wild animals remain limited, and may be unwise, so I think it makes sense to build an academic field that can better research this problem and potential approaches to addressing it. The three primary groups in this space have all converged around the academic field-building strategy, though they have different approaches. Given the magnitude of the problem, my uncertainty over which approach is likely to be most effective, and my sense that all three groups are well-run, I’m proposing funding all three. The sums I’m proposing are based on my perception of their current room for more funding: Animal Ethics ($70K), Utility Farm ($40K), and Wild-Animal Suffering Research ($30K).
International grassroots groups
Essere Animali ($75K)
Fish + pig advocacy and investigations in Italy. This grassroots Italian group (~€270/year) has secured significant publicity with its investigations, e.g. into the abuse of pigs for parma ham and octopus fishing. I’ve also been very impressed by Animal Equality’s corporate campaign successes in Italy, but think there’s scope for supporting more than one group in this country of ~260M land farm animals and ~150M farmed fish. These funds would allow Essere Animali to hire corporate campaigners on fish farming and gestation crates for a year, as well as supporting campaign costs. (Essere Animali proposed three more roles it wanted funded, but I don’t want to overcommit and have the group lack funds for the roles next year. If these roles go well, we’ll likely consider the group for more funding from Open Phil.)
Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira ($60K)
Meat reduction outreach in Brazil. A number of advocates recommended we consider this grassroots group in Brazil, which they say played a role in recent institutional Meatless Monday pledges that are claimed (link in Portuguese) to have resulted in 47M more vegetarian meals served in 2017. (Note that I haven’t yet verified these claims, and that multiple groups claim to have played a role in these purported successes.) These funds will cover some combination of expanding the institutional Meatless Monday campaigns and hiring a fundraiser. (I’m less excited about the Society’s plans to boost vegan labeling, which may be counterproductive, and its Vegetarianism Against Cancer campaign, which may just contribute to the shift from red to white meat.)
Vegans of Shanghai ($50K)
Restaurant outreach in Shanghai. Eve Samyuktha Thyagarajan launched this group to promote veganism in China’s commercial capital. She says she has worked with 30+ restaurants to replace some non-vegan items with vegan items on their menus. I don’t have any way to verify this, but someone familiar with the Chinese grassroots activism scene recommended Eve, and I was impressed by her on our call. Given the scarcity of grassroots farm animal or vegan activists in China, I see value in supporting all the promising activists we can find. These funds would pay for outreach expenses and Eve’s time (she currently self-funds from her full-time job).
Bangladesh Animal Welfare Society ($50K)
Factory farm documentary in Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh has the world’s lowest per capita meat consumption by some measures, it’s fast increasing, driven by a new urban middle class. And due to the country’s size, Bangladesh already has the world’s fifth largest farmed fish and 13th largest land farm animal populations. Yet there’s almost no farm animal welfare or veg advocacy in Bangladesh. Rubaiya Ahmad is the one exception I’m aware of: she founded and runs the Bangladesh Animal Welfare Society, which has traditionally focused on street dog welfare, but which Rubaiya wants to focus more on farm animal and veg advocacy. She thinks that producing the first Bangladeshi documentary on factory farming (including securing the first local footage) will help both in recruiting new Bangladeshi activists and in her meat reduction advocacy. I also view this funding as a way to support her activism, which she is otherwise largely unpaid for.
Vege Project ($25K)
Veg outreach in Japan. Haruko Kawano leads this effort to build a grassroots vegan advocacy movement in a country that has the world’s third-highest level of egg consumption and ninth-highest level of fish consumption per capita (though low meat consumption rates). Her group has created a VegeMap for Kyoto and is preparing one for Tokyo, has organized community events to showcase vegan food, and is trying to work with institutions and restaurants to increase vegan options. I’m not sure how effective these tasks will be, but see significant value to supporting a grassroots movement in Japan. The funds would allow Haruko to hire her first paid employee to help her.
Movement building in the Czech Republic. This grassroots Czech group appears to have achieved significant traction in the last two years: successfully lobbying for a national ban on fur farming, securing national news coverage(link in Czech) for its investigations into battery cage operations, and securing cage-free pledges from major retailers. Its corporate campaigns and investigations are already funded, but it’s seeking funding to convert a volunteer organizer into a full-time organizer. The Czech Republic is not a high priority due to its size (11M people and 31M land farm animals alive at any time), and I’m not sure about all the planned activities, e.g. the organizer will spend some of her time organizing vegan food tastings. But I’m excited to support a promising grassroots group that is achieving wins.
Hong Kong Veg Society ($20K)
Veg outreach in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a relatively small region to target (7.3M people) with few farm animals (1.7M land animals). But it has the world’s highest rate of meat and seafood consumption and, as part of China, offers an opening into the most important country in the world for the future of farm animal welfare. There are multiple groups working to promote veg eating and farm animal welfare in Hong Kong, and we plan to investigate them more thoroughly soon. In the meantime, this grant will help a group recommended by several people familiar with the Hong Kong scene to extend its grassroots activism.