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AviN comments on ACE's Response to John Halstead - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: AviN 09 September 2018 10:03:15PM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for the informative post, Toni!

With regard to:

We do search online for evidence in the news of each charity's achievements. The problem is: there usually is no such evidence, particularly in the field of corporate outreach. Of course, the absence of evidence of a charity's involvement in a corporate campaign is not evidence that the charity was not involved. We've also looked up corporations' press releases announcing their commitments, but these generally do not mention animal charities. (As far as I can remember, I've never seen one that does.) We have little reason to believe that a corporation could or would share detailed information about their decisions with us if we asked them. I don't know who Mr. Halstead has in mind when he mentions checking with "experts," though we've certainly spoken with many experts in corporate campaigning, if that is what he means.

I've found that the causal role of animal charities in corporate commitments is often supported by publicly available evidence. This evidence generally takes one of two forms:

  • Some corporations do name animal charities in their press releases. This often occurs when the charity secured the commitment through a cooperative approach, though it also sometimes occurs after a public campaign.

  • In cases of public campaigns, the timeline of events often provides some evidence of causality. I've found that the following pattern is typical: An animal charity launches a public campaign, leaving historical evidence in the form of a petition, tweets, media coverage, etc. Weeks or months later, the corporation publishes a press release agreeing to the commitment. (For reference, I've found Twitter to be a helpful resource for establishing these timelines.)

For example, here's is a list of corporate commitments that CIWF USA was allegedly involved in for the period from January 2016 to March 2017. (I had originally compiled this back in March 2017.) In 15 of the 22 cases, I found that their causal role was supported by publicly available evidence.

Comment author: ToniA 11 September 2018 05:40:45PM 1 point [-]

Hi Avi,

Thanks for your comment!

I think you’re right that some corporations do name organizations in their press releases, and it seems more likely that groups will be named if they are using a more collaborative approach. For what it's worth, in the paragraph you quoted, I now think that I anchored too heavily on my impression that groups such as THL, Mercy For Animals, and Animal Equality are quite rarely (if ever) named in the news or press releases associated with the welfare policy statements, or in the welfare policy statements themselves. As the majority of the organizations we evaluate usually use a less collaborative approach, I think the paragraph you quote will usually hold for the groups that we evaluate.

Still, even in those cases, I think that you’re also right and there should often still be some indirect evidence available from the timeline. That is, evidence of an organization campaigning at t1 and then, usually a short time later, at t2 evidence of a corporation making a commitment to the related welfare standards. For particularly important commitments we do look at this evidence but for the majority of commitments we don’t.

I think that your comment helps provide some important nuance to this discussion and I have left a link to this comment in the piece itself. Thank you again for the comment!

Best, Toni