Comment author: Austen_Forrester 18 July 2017 07:04:23PM *  0 points [-]

My point was that EAs probably should exclusively promote full-blown EA, because that has a good chance of leading to more uptake of both full-blown and weak EA. Ball's issue with the effect of people choosing to go part-way after hearing the veg message is that it often leads to more animals being killed due to people replacing beef and pork with chicken. That's a major impetus for his direct “cut out chicken before pork and beef” message. It doesn't undermine veganism because chicken-reducers are more likely to continue on towards that lifestyle, probably more so even than someone who went vegetarian right away Vegetarians have a very high drop out rate, but many believe that those who transitioned gradually last longer.

I think that promoting effectively giving 10% of one's time and/or income (for the gainfully employed) is a good balance between promoting a high impact lifestyle and being rejected due to high demandingness. I don't think it would be productive to lower the bar on that (ie. By saying cause neutrality is optional).

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 20 July 2017 06:28:08AM *  0 points [-]

On the face of it, the idea does sound quite good. However, we need to place it into a broader movement context and look at how it has been evaluated to consider how effective it is likely to be, and what other impacts the approach has that aren’t immediately clear.

A central issue with EA is that it says for instance, that we need to consider scope, neglectedness and tractability, but meeting this criteria doesn’t then lead to effectiveness, or optimal outcomes, it just flags that it is an approach worth more consideration.

Consequently, we can note the ‘pragmatic’ trend in EA support for animal related groups, but this trend isn’t well understood, and neither is it contextualised. Where we are trying to be inclusive and encourage more people into EA then this is the type of thing we need to consider, so we need to consider things like ideology and organisational / movement culture when determining how groups inter-relate and what impact this has. I think for many people who are looking at different aspects of EA, they don’t have the time to do this, and expect EAAs to do this work, but there isn’t any evidence this form of evaluation has been taking place up to now. My own observation of the movement is that this is a neglected area, and will likely be quite important in terms of inclusion.

In terms of EA, the trade off would be making EA look more appealing by diminishing it in terms of elitism, specifically where a certain ‘lower’ section of EAs were to say they aren’t like the ‘higher’ ones. The corollary in the animal movement is to claim veganism is extreme, all or nothing, fundamentalist, angry, crazy, puritan, dogmatic, absolutist, hardline and so on. These are stereotypes that Matt Ball, Tobias Leenaert and Brian Kateman have played on in order to centre their pragmatic (or not vegan) approach. I think people who have paid attention to what they say are likely to recognise this (see in particular Matt Ball’s recent Vox video), it is just that rights activists are more sensitive to it because it infringes on our work.

I think it is possible to claim the work of the mainstream groups hasn’t been contextualised, or even criticised from within EA, it has largely been encouraged and supported by EAs and other mainstream animal activists because it either sounds good on the face of it, or it hasn’t caused any issues for the work they are doing, or it is simply expedient to go along with that flow. We can also look at the divisions created and perpetuated and ask whether we really want to replicate the behaviour of some EAs within the animal movement and transfer that into EA. I think the answer would be no, however, we would then still need to consider whether we ought to be validating that work in the organisations that EAs support, and I would say no to that as well.


Disrupting the animal movement:

Focus on Fish: A Call to Effective Altruists:

Utilitarian equivocation and moral consistency:

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 18 July 2017 02:25:59AM 0 points [-]

One thing to keep in mind is that people often (or usually, even) choose the middle ground by themselves. Matt Ball often mentions how this happens in animal rights with people deciding to reduce meat after learning about the merits vegetarianism and mentions that Nobel laureate Herb Simon is known for this realization of people opting for sub-optimal decisions.

Thus, I think that in promoting pure EA, most people will practice weak EA (ie. not cause neutral) on their own accord, so perhaps the best way to proliferate weak EA is by promoting strong EA.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 18 July 2017 08:23:48AM 0 points [-]

This can be an issue, but i think Matt Ball has chosen not to present a strong position because he believes that is offputting, instead he undermines the strong position and presents a sub optimal one. However, he says this is in fact optimal as it reduces more harm.

If applied to EA we would undermine a position we believe might put people off, because it is too complicated / esoteric, and present a first step that will do more good.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 17 July 2017 11:36:24AM *  0 points [-]

I think first we would need to ascertain whether low level (maybe foundational) EA were taking place, otherwise we could risk creating a divide within the movement around consistency. So we would need to see the evidence for where process has been applied. Perhaps there could be a scheme that could grade how much EA process has been applied, and direct us to where we could locate that information. Maybe it could also be undertaken by an external group that is neutral to EA.

I think we ought to be fairly uncertain around how much process is presently applied by EA backed organisations (particularly in EAA, i don't know so much about other areas), and be cautious about getting too far ahead when groups may have further to go in order to meet what may reasonably be considered a foundational level.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 11 July 2017 11:19:03AM *  1 point [-]

I favour the idea of inclusivity, and being upfront about the different areas that are prioritised. I think within these areas, there are certain ideas that could be held back, that people might think are fairly unusual issues of consideration. However, this does also mean that if an idea is put forward it doesn't then become a priority in itself. For example, where factory farming is put forward, not factory farming isn't necessarily the most effective way to reduce harm, instead harm can be shifted onto non-factory farming, which is another form of animal exploitation (often with a different set of harms) that would then need to be addressed. However, at that point it might fall off the EA radar, or be a reduced cause option because of a perceived decline in suffering has meant another general cause is more important.

However, the impact of animal consumption on the environment and human health are also strong reasons for prioritising the animal issue, and are even exacerbated by non-factory farming, particularly on the issue of the environment. So it might appear that reduction of animal consumption overall ought to be the priority. Then it might be more realistic to say that EA is interested in reducing harm to other animals, but this can also frame the issue in the harms that take place, and this can be notable in terms of further normalising those harms through trading one off for another, particularly when some people in the animal movement are ideologically opposed to the responsible systems.

However, I think it is ok to introduce the idea of factory farming, as long as the variety of approaches within the animal movement that address this issue are articulated later on (within EAA). Other issues such as wild animal suffering are also given time here. However, this brings up the issue of inclusivity of ideas, and i think it is fairly recognised that EAA is dominated by utilitarian thinking on the issue of animal exploitation. I think this is a cause of some concern because it tends to lead to a certain interpretation of ideas that are consequently prioritised over others, seemingly because they might fit with the idea the group has of itself, rather than because they have been thoroughly evaluated.

It seems to begin with EAA drew its expertise from a not particularly diverse form of 'mainstream' thinking that exists within the animal movement, and henceforth struggled (or uncharitably has been disinclined) to include different perspectives. This could largely be the result of traditional leaders in the animal movement having little incentive to include areas they know little about, or that would suggest their work may need to be adjusted in order to be more amenable to a more inclusive EAA. This also includes the concern that other perspectives may become increasingly favoured and their position diminished, or their favoured groups receive less funding overall.

In this sense an ingroup / outgroup situation can be created and perpetuated. So i would say the idea of being more inclusive is a good thing, but whether the idea of including is one that people want to engage in is another. In this sense it could highlight a previous (and ongoing) less than optimal approach, and this is quite a difficult situation to deal with. Both for people within EAA and for those who are interested in EAA but don't see their ideas included in conterfactual considerations, instead they might be generally ignored or dismissed because they don't fit with the view the organisation has constructed.

I think that going forward there need to be some changes in the way EAA works in order for it to grow, and for it to claim that it is indeed doing the most effective thing. As it stands there are too many ideologically similar groups whose ideas are prioritised and perpetuated and that have either resisted scrutiny, or the consequences of scrutiny. So it seems to me there is quite a challenge ahead if inclusivity is going to be the path people wish to take.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 05 July 2017 12:06:02AM 2 points [-]

I don't see how TYLCS is selling out at all. They have the same maximizing impact message as other EA groups, just with a more engaging feel that also appeals to emotions (the only driver of action in almost all people).

Matt Ball is more learned and impact-focused than anyone in the animal rights field. One Step for Animals, and the Reducetarian Foundation were formed to save as many animals as possible -- complementing, not replacing, vegan advocacy. Far from selling out, One Step and Reducetarian are the exceptions from most in animal rights who have traded their compassion for animals for feelings of superiority.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 05 July 2017 10:10:50AM *  1 point [-]

Maximising impact wouldn't necessarily rely on messaging that undermines other groups in the broader animal movement. I don't think it is a good thing to take such an approach either in relation to Effective Altruism or in the broader animal movement.

Matt Ball's recent vox article stated that people love animals and hate vegans and that we need to act on this. I think this isn't a good thing, particularly where someone as respected as Matt Ball is equating vegans to hezbollah through someone as dedicated to animal exploitation as Bourdain. This of course is quite an extreme example compared to what many 'pragmatists' (for instance Tobias Leenaert) have been doing for some time. Yet it has become a dominant theme in Effective Altruism, and it isn't justified. Instead, i would argue it is actually quite harmful.

In terms of where we should be aiming, then i believe we ought not be undermining veganism on an institutional basis, as Reducetarianism and One Step put forward (so they shouldn't utilise a misrepresentation of veganism to privilege their approach). Neither would recycling anti-vegan rhetoric or irrational justifications for animal consumption reflect well on the integrity of Effective Altruism, nor is there any evidence for it being a particularly 'effective' approach, beside it being popular among people who have been conditioned to exploit animals. However, popularity need not be pursued through the replication of carnism, or the utility of the carnist system, there are other values and methods with which to make appeals.

It's also really not a question of superiority, this is something which is generally brought up to dismiss the issue. Instead it is a question of integrity, responsibility and consideration. I think these are all central values of Effective Altruism, and they need to be applied.

Comment author: DonyChristie 02 July 2017 11:22:45PM 1 point [-]

What empirical tests can we make to measure which approach is more effective? What predictions can be made in advance of those tests?

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 03 July 2017 02:09:49PM *  2 points [-]

First of all we would need to accept there are different approaches, and consider what they are before evaluating effectiveness.

The issue with Effective Altruism is that it is fairly one dimensional when it comes to animal advocacy. That is it works with the system of animal exploitation rather than counter to it, so primarily welfarism and reducetarianism. In relation to these ideas we need to view the subsequent counterfactual analysis, and yet where is it? I've asked these sorts of questions and it seems that people haven't applied some fundamental aspects of Effective Altruism to these issues. They are merely assumed.

For some time it has appeared as if EA has been working off a strictly utilitarian script, and has ignored or marginalised other ideas. Partly this has arisen because of the limited pool of expertise that EA has chosen to draw upon, and this has had a self replicating effect.

Recently i read through some of Holden Karnofsky's thoughts on Hits-based Giving and something particularly chimed towards the end of the essay.

"Respecting those we interact with and avoiding deception, coercion, and other behavior that violates common-sense ethics. In my view, arrogance is at its most damaging when it involves “ends justify the means” thinking. I believe a great deal of harm has been done by people who were so convinced of their contrarian ideas that they were willing to violate common-sense ethics for them (in the worst cases, even using violence).

As stated above, I’d rather live in a world of individuals pursuing ideas that they’re excited about, with the better ideas gaining traction as more work is done and value is demonstrated, than a world of individuals reaching consensus on which ideas to pursue. That’s some justification for a hits-based approach. But with that said, I’d also rather live in a world where individuals pursue their own ideas while adhering to a baseline of good behavior and everyday ethics than a world of individuals lying to each other, coercing each other, and actively interfering with each other to the point where coordination, communication and exchange break down.

On this front, I think our commitment to being honest in our communications is important. It reflects that we don’t think we have all the answers, and we aren’t interested in being manipulative in pursuit of our views; instead, we want others to freely decide, on the merits, whether and how they want to help us in our pursuit of our mission. We aspire to simultaneously pursue bold ideas and remember how easy it would be for us to be wrong."

I think in time we will view the present EAA approach as having commonalities with Karnofsky's concerns, and steps will be taken to broaden the EAA agenda to be more inclusive. I think it is unlikely however, that these changes will be sought or encouraged by movement leaders, and even within groups such as ACE i remain concerned about bias within leadership toward the 'mainstream' approach. Unfortunately, ACE has historically been underfunded, and has not received the support it has needed to properly account for movement issues, or to increase the range of the work it undertakes. I think this is partly a leadership issue in that aims and goals have not been reasonably set and pursued, and also an EA movement issue, where a certain complacency has set in.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 02 July 2017 10:13:54PM 0 points [-]

I have some doubts generally about the principle of mainstreaming. It seems to me that it utilises dominant ideologies 'strategically', thus reifying them. In terms of the animal movement this is very much the case in regard to One Step for Animals, Pro-Veg and The Vegan Strategist. All these groups and organisations have adopted a mainstream 'pragmatic' approach which concurrently undermines social justice.

This is of course one approach, but i do not believe there is sufficient evidence to pursue it, or that it stands to reason. It would be far better for these mainstream groups to avoid social justice issues completely, so that would include rights and veganism (the cessation of exploitation), rather than essentially undermining them to privilege their approach.

For example, i think it is deeply unfortunate Matt Ball recently said that we need to utilise the idea that people hate vegans in order to appeal to non-vegans and 'help' animals. I would question the ethics of this, and also whether it is in fact true that 'people' hate vegans, or that forming and perpetuating this idea would be a good thing anyway. This is one example, but in my view mainstreaming sets forth a cascade against people that are trying to do good pro-intersectional social justice work, and it is i believe also true that groups involved in 'mainstreaming' have not sufficiently evaluated their approach, so it seems unworthwhile to support it, even whilst many EAs seem to do just that.