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Neil_Dullaghan

2539 karmaJoined Coquitlam, BC, Canada

Bio

Dr. Neil Dullaghan is a senior research manager at Rethink Priorities. Rethink Priorities is a global priority think-and-do tank, aiming to do good at scale. We research and implement pressing opportunities to make the world better. We act upon these opportunities by developing and implementing strategies, projects, and solutions to key issues. We do this work in close partnership with foundations and impact-focused non-profits or other entities. Neil currently works in the animal welfare team, with an expertise in European Union policy.

Neil is also a fund manager on the EA animal welfare fund.

You can hear my takes here:

https://www.howilearnedtoloveshrimp.com/podcast/episode/7bd09f8a/neil-dullaghan-on-his-research-on-the-importance-of-influencing-eu-policy-and-other-important-research-topics-that-rethink-priorities-have-produced


 

 

 


He holds a PhD in Political & Social Science from the European University Institute, an MPhil in European Politics & Society from the University of Oxford and a BA in International Relations from Dublin City University.

He has volunteered for Charity Entrepreneurship & Animal Charity Evaluators. Before joining Rethink Priorities, he was a political data manager for WeVoteUSA while it participated in Fast Forward's accelerator for tech nonprofits, held numerous research assistant positions at the University of Oxford, and acted as Strategy Associate for a behavioural science think tank, The Decision Lab.

Comments
74

Topic contributions
1

Thanks for this!
Two small comments and I may come back with more substantive questions later

1. Downloadable version in pdf doesn't work for me (just redirects to a page saying forbidden). The PDF download link on the Animal Ask website works though

2. Perhaps I missed it, but do you intend to make a shareable version of this framework that allows users to plug in their own values (like a spreadsheet template with your toy example)? 

Thanks!
So, directionally if not literally, are you suggesting that in policy BOTECs, rather than assuming a policy will happen eventually and have indefinite impacts, so we only need add in how many extra years of impact occurred by the intervention succeeding now rather than later - we should be including a metric “how many years will this have impact for” and assigning ~100 years. And then take your data suggesting 80% of policies that barely passed were still in place 100 years later, but 40% of those that barely failed are. So should we be doing something like: That 100 year value (Probability of passing * 80%) - That 100 year value (probability of failing * 40%)

Based on the choice of words from the EU Commission President in her "state of the union" speech today, it seems as though the EU is indeed shelving the planned transition to cage-free hens supposed to be proposed this month, as part of a general change in strategic direction from it's top-down "Farm-to-Fork" strategy to some more bottom-up "strategic dialogue" approach.

If true, pretty big defeat for the EU animal movement. 

Probably a lot to do with current food inflation, prices, Ukraine war etc and pressure from industry and farmers

There's still some chance that they pick up some AW revisions as stand-alone items, set apart from the broader "Green Deal", or somehow civil society create enough pressure to rescue the Green Deal/Farm-to-Fork package as a whole. The President simply failed to mention animal welfare reform and instead focused on entering "the next phase of the European Green Deal" and in a letter of intent referring to launching "a strategic dialogue with the farming community". "While there'll be something on animal welfare (the Commission is obliged to reply to an ECI on it)" (Gerardo Fortuna, Agrifood Editor at EURACTIV) and Members of the European Parliament are directly asking her about why AW wasn't mentioned and that she should prioritise that. But there had been a lot of activity in the past week to pressure the President to include animal welfare revision in the State of the Union (suggesting they thought it was important) and part of the Theory of Victory/Change of the EU animal movement had been to tie animal welfare to the Green Deal & "Farm-to-Fork" and hope it got carried along the way. 

Here's some good coverage of the state of the union and what it might mean

https://twitter.com/gerardofortuna/status/1701878230448263251
https://www.ciwf.eu/news/eu-shelves-promised-ban-on-caged-farming/

Good sign.
Still has to go through a lot of negotiations and industry will obviously seek to water it down by claiming it's not economically feasible to do at all, or at least anytime soon. Also see the secondary Metaculus question- conditional on the European Union agreeing to ban cages, when will the phase out for cages end?

 

I think this is a really positive indication that builds on the many other positive indications we've had from the Commission that they will try push for an ambitious animal welfare reform, but I wouldn't want to overplay the EFSA opinion. It's harder to imagine a path to a cage-free transition in a world where EFSA came out against cage-free or was more muted in its support, but the fact that many EFSA opinions are ignored and watered down show that it is low down on the list of necessary but not sufficient factors.

The two Metaculus questions I set up on the cage-free reform have been pretty steady for a while now (and less optimistic than my median forecast), and I would be slightly surprised if they massively updated based on the EFSA opinion

Will the current European Commission make a proposal before the end of its term in November 2024 to phase out remaining hen cages? 

If the EU bans caged-housing for egg-laying hens, what date will be set as the phase out deadline?.

Just copy-pasting general comments I made on EFSA opinions from my long report on the EU farmed animal revision:

>"Most of the existing EU farmed animal welfare directives have been preceded by a report from an EU scientific committee (which proposes recommendations based on animal welfare considerations and often includes socio-economic impact assessments). There are certainly many cases of scientific reports that have not led to legislation (see the final section in the case studies), so although they may be necessary, they are not sufficient. My rough estimate is that four to six of the 22 to 59 reports since the 1980s on farmed animals that plausibly had species-specific welfare recommendations were used as the basis for legislation (depending on what you count as a relevant recommendation).  On average, when a report was produced and a law proposed by the Commission, then such a proposal came 32 months after the scientific report was completed, but this gap has been as quick as 2 months and as long as 63 months in past animal welfare directives. A baseline might be to expect that with the submission of a scientific report there is a 4%-27% chance it becomes a proposal in the short-term (within 5 years)."


There have been many instances where EFSA recommendations were ignored or severely  watered down. A relevant example being in March 2000, the EU scientific committee produced a report, “The Welfare of Chickens Kept for Meat Production (Broilers)”, and noted problems when densities exceeded 30kg/m2 [. . .] The Commission’s original May 2005 proposal hewed to the 2000 scientific report setting a maximum of 30kg/m2, with exceptional circumstances allowing a limit of 3kg/m2 if the cumulative daily mortality rate was  1%+ 0.06% *" . But the eventual  2007 compromise reached was 33kg/m2-39kg/m2 with a bonus up to 42kg/m2  if certain conditions were met. 

This is why I put a lot of attention of shaping the political landscape of the reform to increase the odds that any positive EFSA opinion turns into real results for animals.


 

You can read what Jason Crawford had to say on the topic here when 
Peter Wildeford  asked:
https://twitter.com/peterwildeford/status/1520911804288966656

Peter:  What do progress studies people think about nonhuman animals?
Jason : It's not discussed much. There are probably a range of views. Personally, my current position is that we shouldn't be inhumane or needlessly cruel, but that animals aren't on the same moral level as humans

Peter: Do you think modern factory farming is inhumane?
Jason: I've only read a little bit about it, and what I read was pretty bad. But the topic is controversial enough that I'd want to hear multiple takes (ideally from different sides) before having a real opinion

Also mentions that he doesn't see factory farming of animals as  one of the biggest problems/negatives caused by progress.

OurWorldinData also wrote something like this and had a visualization too
Growth needed to reach denmark
https://ourworldindata.org/poverty-minimum-growth-needed

They also write

"If we want to know how much the distribution of Ethiopia would need to change to reduce the share in poverty to Denmark’s level we can read it off the two parameters that describe the distribution – the average level of income and the inequality of those incomes.

Ethiopia has a much lower average income: an increase of average incomes is called economic growth and to increase the average from $3.30 per day to $55 would mean that Ethiopia would need to increase its income 16.7-fold (because $55 is 16.7-times higher than $3.30).8
[. . .]
A more than 16-fold increase in average incomes is certainly not easy to achieve, but it is also not impossible. The average income in Denmark grew by more than that over the last few generations, and such growth is not rare in recent economic history. 

[. . .]
The minimum necessary growth to reduce global poverty to the level of poverty in Denmark is 410%.10

An increase by 100% would mean that the size of the economy would double. A 410% increase is therefore a 5.1-fold increase of the global economy.

Or put differently, a world economy with substantially less poverty is at a minimum 5-times bigger than today’s global economy."

Hi Stijn,
Interesting post!
I have a few questions about your meat-to-animal conversions.

1. In the "Deathprint of meat" section you clearly cite the sources for the meat-to-emissions conversions, but not the meat-to-animal conversions. From reading further down the piece it seems they probably come from Saja, K. (2013). Is that correct?

2. Saja (2013) seems to calculate 2 kg of chicken meat for "Average animal products per one animal life", which would be 0.5 chickens per 1kg though in your table you have 0.667 for animals killed per kg meat for chicken meat. I think that 0.667 is Saja's figure for Fish (1.5kg of meat per 1 fish)?

3. If you did use Saja (2013), I wonder if you could elaborate on why, especially since as you note it "excludes the animals used as feed (e.g. fish meal and insect meal given to farm animals)." One could also use the conversion factors from Faunalytics (2020) which I believe do include feed fish (here 1kg of chicken meat would be associated with 0.87 animal deaths). There are of course also other more recent conversions Warren (2018), Hurford (2014) for number of animal deaths, and for days of life (or suffering) e.g. Drescher (2017), Tomasik (2007).

Thanks for this,
Just wanted to note a misframing of the slaughterhouse ban post.  You have written
 "found ~40% supported banning slaughterhouses or said ‘don’t know / no opinion’ to questions, highlighting a large discrepancy"-which I think is taken directly from the latest "EA & LW Forums Weekly Summary"  rather than the slaughterhouse ban post.
This makes it seem like 60% opposed and then 40% combined EITHER supported or had no opinion, when in fact the 2017 Sentience Institute result was 43% supported, 11% chose don't know,  46% opposed.

I realise this misunderstanding comes from my phrasing in the summary
"(~39-43% support when including those who chose no opinion/don't know)" 

I added the "when including those who chose no opinion/don't know" clause because  Sentience Institute's 2017 summary only reports the percentages agreeing out of those who either agreed or disagreed (47% agree with the ban, 53% disagree). But since many respondents selected “Don’t know” regarding the bans on slaughterhouses (11%), the overall percentages supporting these ban is slightly lower than their headline summary: 43% rather than 47%. In their 2020 replication, the same issue appears again when SI report a headline result of "44.8% are in favor of banning slaughterhouses" but this excludes the "don't know", so the actual support is 39.5%.

Sorry for causing confusion. I have now edited the original post to avoid this so it just reads "(~39-43% support).

Also you only mention the results from survey 1, the survey experiment of N=700, and I think a fairer comparison to the Sentience Institute figure is from survey 2 of  15.7% (95% CI [13%-18.8%]) support because both of these use weighting to represent the US public's opinion and are of a larger sample size.

We should also note that Norwood (one of the authors who replicated SI’s original 2017 study) this year ran a new slaughterhouse ban survey experiment  ([Britton & Norwood 2022](https://doi.org/10.1017/aae.2022.17)) and found lower support. (I only just received the data from them so I couldn’t include it in the post).

Here is my summary from just skimming the article and quickly aggregating the data.

They test a hypothesis that the question ordering in the 2017 SI study cued respondents' ideal self (like whether voting is a moral virtue) rather than their common self (like whether they actually voted). Their theory is that by asking respondents first whether they agreed with statements about meat reduction, discomfort with the way animals are used in the food industry, and animal sentience it cued their ideal self so that “the desire to not appear hypocritical induced them to activate a mixture of their ideal and common self” when answering questions about bans on animal farming, factory farming, and slaughterhouses.


The actual design of their study is a little too complicated to explain here (involving four treatments that altered the order and wording of ideal and common self questions, some food-related and some non-food related, as well as inserting buffer questions), but basically some respondents saw the ban questions before the ideal self questions, and others saw them in the same order as in the original 2017 SI study. Furthermore, to build on their tests about whether respondents understood the implications of bans,  "roughly half of the subjects are given the [common self] statements exactly as they appeared on the Animal Sentience survey, while the other half contain an addition [. . .] For example, some see the statement “I support a ban on slaughterhouses” while others see the statement “I support a ban on slaughterhouses and will stop eating meat”. "

While the primary aim of their study was to test something they call “identity inertia” and they fail to find convincing evidence of it, their finding on the slaughterhouse ban issue was "once individuals are informed about the implications of actions like banning slaughterhouses, they are less eager to do so." 

Data were collected via an online survey through Qualtrics from August to October 2019 of a representative sample of nearly 2600 drawn from the U.S. population. A subset of the results (N=1528) show

  • 26.48% "agreed" with the statement "I support a ban on slaughterhouses" (36.5% disagreed, 37.02% no opinion) (N=759)
  • 18.21% "Agreed" with the statement "I support a ban on slaughterhouses and will stop eating meat." (58.13% disagreed, 23.67% no opinion (N=769)

(Though Norwood say they couldn’t confirm this was correct since they never went into the data to get raw numbers like that, and I couldn't see an easy way to break these results down according to whether respondents saw the ideal-self or common-self questions first- though that probably doesn't matter since Norwood didn't find a lot of evidence that it matters)


 

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