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Effective Animal Advocacy: Roots And Practice

Effective Altruism advocates believe there is a false dichotomy between welfarist and abolitionist animal advocacy, claiming to support whatever methods the data claims work best.

OWEN ROGERS: Inspired by the utilitarian philosophy of Peter Singer, who himself was inspired by figures like John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, the Effective Altruism (EA) movement has emerged in the past decade as a major force in philanthropy. The underlying principle is simple: maximize the good done with every dollar… This involves focusing on underreported problems that cause major suffering, but often have cheap or simple solutions…

To determine the effectiveness of a given charity, EAs create data models that attempt to quantify the “good” done by each dollar. The movement tries to serve as an antidote to what they see as an overly-sentimental charity industry, which focuses more on problems that tug at our heartstrings, instead of those most deserving…

However, the EA movement is not without its critics. Some believe it to be not radical enough, satisfied with milquetoast change within the system rather than full revolution. In the vegan community specifically, some like PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk dislike the movement’s quantification of suffering, arguing that it undermines the fight to have animals seen as individual beings…

This study interviewed nineteen animal advocates who identify as effective altruists and 25 key figures within the EA animal advocacy community, in an attempt to examine their motivations and tactics. Many choose to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet in an attempt to limit their personal suffering footprint, but are in agreement that personal choices alone are not enough. Some EAAs (effective animal advocates) claimed that animal advocacy was the least-respected subgroup of EA, due to factors like ingrained speciesism and the stigma that animal advocates are less utilitarian and more emotional…

EAAs have a common distaste of what they see as a false dichotomy between welfarist and abolitionist animal advocacy, claiming to support whatever methods the data claims work best. There is some disagreement within the EA community about how to best measure animal suffering, and whether some common welfare goals like removing cages for chickens or gestation crates for pigs actually improves welfare to a significant degree…

There is a general feeling that radical or attention-grabbing methods do more harm than good, and fail to bring enough people into the fold to have a major impact. However, many conceded that if the data showed these tactics to be useful, they should be used. Furthermore, most EAAs interviewed said they believed reduction of farm animal suffering to be a neglected field of charity. SOURCE…

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