Comment author: jayquigley 20 April 2018 10:42:40PM *  1 point [-]

Another useful, well-writtten statement of this argument is in Brian Tomasik's "Does Vegetarianism Make a Difference?":

Suppose that a supermarket currently purchases three big cases per week of factory-farmed chickens, with each case containing 25 birds. The store does not purchase fractions of cases, so even if several surplus chickens remain each week, the supermarket will continue to buy three cases. This is what the anti-vegetarian means by "subsisting off of surplus animal products that would otherwise go to waste": the three cases are purchased anyway, so consuming one or two more chickens simply attenuates the surplus.

What would happen, though, if 25 customers decided to buy tempeh or beans instead of chickens? The purchasing agent who orders weekly cases of chickens would probably buy two cases instead of three. But any given consumer can't tell how far the store is from that cutoff point between three vs. two cases. The probability that any given chicken is the chicken that causes two cases instead of three to be purchased is 1/25. If you do avoid the chicken at the cutoff point, you prevent a whole case -- 25 chickens -- from being ordered next week. Thus, the expected value of any given chicken is (1/25) * 25 = 1 chicken, just like common sense would suggest.

Comment author: jayquigley 28 August 2017 04:31:45PM 4 points [-]

Joey, do you think you would adjust this for different circumstances---say, if living in a more expensive region, facing medical hardship, or having to support an elderly family member? For example, assuming you're renting a room for $440 USD, rents in the Bay Area would be anywhere from 200% to 500% more. If for some reason you wound up here, would you take the price difference into account, or still try to go with the global average?

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 12 August 2017 09:40:09AM 0 points [-]

Fair point. You seem to be opening up the way to show what's possible to larger organisations.

Having said that, can't you connect these two? Can't you one one end take practical steps to showing that real legal progress is possible while at the other end show the big picture that you're working towards and why?

Thinking big around a shared goal could the increase cohesion and ambition of the idealistic people you're connected with and work with on each new project from now on (this reminds me of Elon Musk's leadership approach, who unfortunately doesn't seem to care much about animal issues).

Comment author: jayquigley 13 August 2017 10:43:13PM 2 points [-]

Your point is well taken. Indeed, the goal is a world where everyone's interest is given the same weight as equivalent interests, regardless of species.

It is probable that lofty philosophical visions motivate and inspire people, just as you indicate.

I suppose the reason we don't always lead with that kind of messaging is that it can scare away opponents who aren't ready to dare challenging the "meat" industry and worry about slippery slopes. Including lawmakers whose constituents include scores of entrepreneurs who sell animal bodies as food.

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 11 August 2017 04:57:18PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the explanation for your decision to focus on fur at this point.

a form of animal farming that people can thoroughly sympathize with, encouraging further sympathies with other varieties of farmed animals, including the massive classes of individuals you mention

I'm curious – if you see this particular ban as a stepping stone to larger behavioural change in the state of California – how are you using your success here as leverage to make citizens become aware of the suffering happening on a much larger scale in intensive factory farms?

I saw this article on extending your progress to other animals. But, to be fair, it isn't clear to me yet how you're prioritising these areas.

In the Netherlands, I have seen a tendency amongst animal welfare charities to run around and try to do something about every incidence of suffering they see. While I understand this and admire these efforts, I try to bring across to them that becoming really good at one or two areas would make them capable of helping more animals overall, even by virtue of specialisation.

Comment author: jayquigley 11 August 2017 10:07:10PM 2 points [-]

If BCA were a major animal protection organization such as HSUS or PETA, I would mostly agree with you. But we are an all-volunteer force of around 4 dedicated members in one of the very most progressive cities in the U.S. What we should prioritize is not the building of awareness but rather the accumulation of inspiring legislative victories which will help mobilize the rest of those who are already aware of animal issues.

Rather than "run[ning] around and try[ing] to do something about every incidence of suffering [we] see", we are prioritizing attainable, potentially replicable, key legislative victories.

Incidentally, we've begun to think that if we run out of such potential initiatives, we should switch focus to educating local progressive political leaders about farmed animal issues.

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 06 August 2017 01:55:44PM *  6 points [-]

This looks like a well-structured analysis. My respect for the successful lobby work in California. I was curious how you would place interventions on helping fur-bearing animals in an overall strategy to reduce the most animal suffering.

It makes intuitive sense to me that these animals (as well as dogs traded for meat) live decidedly miserable lives. The case made by organisations like Animal Charity Evaluators though is that the suffering of livestock animals like broiler chickens should be prioritised because they occur on a massive scale and tend to get even less attention from people.

As a quick comparison, each year roughly 25 million dogs are killed for food worldwide, 100 million animals for their fur, compared to about 53 billion chickens (at least 500x as much).

What are your views on this? How much is the strong statement that banning fur makes against speciesism part of Berkeley Coalition for Animals' strategy? How do you think to continue from here? I'm generally curious here to learn about your organisation's reasoning process for concentrating on a specific area.

Comment author: jayquigley 09 August 2017 04:38:15AM *  4 points [-]

Speaking specifically for Fur Free Berkeley, and speculating on behalf of Fur Free West Hollywood, the reasons for focusing on banning fur were that it was:

  • attainable yet challenging

  • a meaningful step in an incremental progression toward further, more all-encompassing reforms

  • a farmed animal issue with which the general public has substantial sympathy

  • an industry wherein welfare misdeeds are egregious and relatively well-understood

  • an issue on which both welfare reformers and staunch abolitionists can agree (because it is a form of outright prohibition rather than welfare-oriented reform)

  • a form of animal farming that people can thoroughly sympathize with, encouraging further sympathies with other varieties of farmed animals, including the massive classes of individuals you mention

Specifically in the case of going for a second ban, there were additional advantages:

  • The legal language was already formulated

  • The WeHo law had already been successfully defended in federal court

As for the reasoning process for pursuing a given item, our unofficial criteria tend to be related to attainability (especially, in talking with legislators, do they feel excited enough about an idea to sponsor the item), defensibility (how worried would the bill's backer be about backlash), and momentum for the broader animal advocacy movement.

We do have further legislation ideas, some of which would make Berkeley the first to accomplish a particular feat. While we're not ready to announce anything yet, you can stay tuned on what we're up to by following us on Facebook:


How We Banned Fur in Berkeley

Cross-posted from Medium . Late last month, the City Council of Berkeley, California banned the sale of new fur apparel items within city limits. The ban is the second of its kind in the United States, following a 2013 ban in West Hollywood, California.  The group responsible for the ban... Read More
Comment author: jayquigley 08 June 2017 11:29:45PM 0 points [-]

I worry that SI will delineate lots of research questions usefully, but that it will be harder to make needed progress on those questions. Are you worried about this as well, and if so, are there steps to be taken here? One idea is promoting the research projects to graduate students in the social sciences, such as via grants or scholarships.

In response to Why I left EA
Comment author: jayquigley 21 February 2017 01:58:19AM *  2 points [-]

Lila, thanks for sharing. You've made it clear that you've left the EA movement, but I'm wondering whether and, if so, why, your arguments also have pushed you away from being committed to "lowercase effective altruism"---that is, altruism which is effective, but isn't necessarily associated with this movement.

Are you still an altruist? If so, do you think altruism is better engaged in with careful attention put to the effectiveness of the endeavors?

Thanks in advance.

Comment author: casebash 28 August 2016 04:40:32PM 6 points [-]

There has been some criticism of the accuracy of Cowspiracy's facts - ie. 15% of emissions instead of 51% of emissions as claimed. I think it is important to be aware of this, because if Cowspiracy is used as an outreach tool, then it might damage our credibility (especially given that the name makes it sound like a conspiracy theory).

Comment author: jayquigley 28 August 2016 05:14:01PM *  4 points [-]

The larger point---that film can be a compelling vehicle for important ideas---stands regardless whether Cowspiracy was fully accurate or unbiased in its selection of figures.

That said, I agree that we should be cautious about endorsing Cowspiracy in particular, since certain key numbers on which it rests its arguments and emphases are disputed (good discussion and links on wikipedia). That said, it's a bit unfortunate if discussion surrounding the film centers only around fact checking--e.g., 15% vs. 51%--when in most any case there is an important, oft-overlooked environmental rationale for a shift toward cutting livestock out of the world's food system.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 27 August 2016 02:11:09AM 2 points [-]

EA started pulling additional mixed or negative reactions after moving into AI safety, such as the Dylan Matthews article or all the people who had prior familiarity with LessWrong and thought the whole thing was kooky.

Also, people's reactions to wild animal suffering proposals seem to be substantially more negative than reactions to AI safety work (dataset: comment replies to McMahan and MacAskill's articles, comment replies to AI safety editorials, several thousands of Reddit comments).

Comment author: jayquigley 28 August 2016 04:37:29PM 0 points [-]

Which McMahan and MacAskill articles?

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