saulius

5742 karmaJoined Dec 2015Bow Rd, London E3, UK

Bio

My name is Saulius Šimčikas. I spent the last year on a career break and now I'm looking for new opportunities. Previously, I worked as an animal advocacy researcher at Rethink Priorities for four years. I also did some earning-to-give as a programmer, did some EA community building, and was a research intern at Animal Charity Evaluators. I love meditation and talking about emotions.

Personal feedback form: https://forms.gle/3QBCJ3wsJnjPPWqF6 It can be anonymous. I especially welcome negative feedback.

How others can help me

Tell me what you want me to do with my life, especially if you can pay me for it.

Comments
397

Topic contributions
5

Feed costs usually constitute between 50% to 70% of the total livestock production costs. Reducing the costs of farming crops used for feed (like soybeans and corn) would likely make animal farming more efficient and hence increase the number of farmed animals. 

I guess that increasing the efficiency of crops farmed directly for human consumption would barely impact the number of farmed animals. Maybe people would produce and consume more non-meat products because they are more profitable and/or cheaper. Hence, they might consume a bit fewer animal products. But maybe people would afford to buy more animal products because other food is cheaper. I guess that the former effect would be a bit higher but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Whether it's net-positive would likely mostly depend on other factors that have little to do with the welfare of farmed animals in the short term. E.g., it might increase the human population a little bit.

I see. In that case, it might be good for someone else to do the project of determining what weights for your pain categories would be most reasonable, and perhaps you could review that. I'm now considering doing it but it's unlikely that I will.

I see why you made your decisions, but I still think that it would be very useful if people could cite you to say stuff like “According to Welfare Footprint Project, broiler reforms decrease chicken suffering by very roughly 40%-60%”. It’s not for researchers at places like OpenPhil to decide what should be the next welfare ask. It’s for donors, volunteers, researchers who want to mention your conclusions in passing, and even retailers considering whether to sign the Better Chicken Commitment. I don’t know if animal charities would do it, but such a sentence could even be included in petitions urging retailers and restaurants to implement welfare reforms. Yes, it would be more accurate to write that according to your research, “broiler reforms increase annoying pain by 4.5% but decrease hurtful pain by….” But that is clunky and then the reader might be confused about whether the welfare reform are even good because there is more annoying pain. So it’s more difficult to make a point that these reforms are very impactful using your research. Hence, your great work is cited less and has less impact than it could have. And yes, you can’t accurately say whether the reform decreases suffering by 30% or 60% because it might depend on what weights for different categories of pain you will use. But I think that many people assume that it’s more like 5% so whatever you write on the subject, I think it would be useful. 

Also, if you don’t do it well, someone else will do it poorly. I wrote sentences based on your research like “broiler reforms avert 50% of suffering” in this comment but I had to use my own weights for categories of pain. But your weights would be much better than mine because clearly you thought about it more. I think I later saw my weights being used in some serious cost-effectiveness estimate, but I don’t remember where.

Also, I want to say that I really appreciate and respect your work, thank you for doing it :)

Thanks for the post, it's an interesting idea. I slightly worry about corruption in "unannounced animal welfare audits by accredited and independent third parties". Someone told me years ago that such audits by government agents in Lithuania were a farce. Do you know if such audits work well in practice? One way I see it working is if the auditor is an animal advocate. Is that what tends to happen in practice?

Answer by sauliusJan 31, 202427
0
0

TLDR: Former animal advocacy researcher and programmer looking for part-time or contractor work. 

Skills & background: generalist research, cost-effectiveness estimates, knowledge about animal advocacy, programming. See my EA forum profile for work examples.

Location/remote: I live in London, can work in an office or remotely, somewhat open to relocating

Availability & type of work: part-time or contractor work. Might be open to a full-time job for an exceptionally good fit. Can start whenever. 

Resume/CV/LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/saulius-%C5%A1im%C4%8Dikas-0867b4a6/ 

Email/contact: sauliussimcikas@gmail.com

Other notes: I’m interested in animal welfare or longtermist research and some roles in animal advocacy organisations like corporate campaigns manager. Open to other suggestions too if you think I’d be a good fit. Also, tell me if there are things you think I should research or do and I might try to get funding from elsewhere.

Answer by sauliusJan 31, 20244
0
0

I'll provide some quick thoughts in case no one else answers in a better way.

I don't know anything about farming in Pakistan in particular, but I'd be surprised if there weren't the same welfare issues as elsewhere. E.g., egg-laying hens are probably raised in cages which is very bad for them. So by being vegan, you would save tens or hundreds of animals per year from suffering in expectation. It's particularly important for animal welfare to avoid eating chicken, eggs, some types of fish, and other small animals. 

However, you could potentially help millions of animals by becoming an animal advocate. I don't know about Pakistan in particular, but in most Asian countries animal advocacy movements are very small or non-existent and people who would start such movements and think about cost-effectiveness would be extremely valuable. I see there's an article about it here.

Also, Our World in Data's assessment you cite is about fossil emissions. It mostly depends on industries. It doesn't include cow burps which are a big contributor to climate change. I don't see much reason to think that choosing a vegan option for a meal in Pakistan would have less impact on climate change than doing it in a Western country. But this is not my area so I don't know. 

Hi Nathalie. Thank you for engaging with my post. I’ll clarify my thinking.

As I clarified here, I do think that humane slaughter reforms for wild-caught fish and invertebrates are promising. This type of work preceded the WAW movement so I didn’t really associate the two. 

Also, removing wild animals in large quantities from its environment has severe ripple effects to its environment and all other animals (and humans)

I agree. Also, humans reduce animal populations way more with things like habitat destruction. According to this report, “population sizes of wildlife decreased by 60% globally between 1970 and 2014”. But when it comes to the welfare of animals, I think that these effects are more likely positive. I think (with about 60% confidence) that animals are more likely to experience more suffering than happiness in the wild. Hence, reducing their populations is good for the animals themselves. Yes, it’s bad for humans and causes many other complications. But that’s the concern for the sustainability and environmental protection movements, not the animal advocacy movement which is what WAW is part of. 

So if we talk about lives saved, you have a winner in WAW.

I think you are comparing very different things when you say “lives saved”. For farmed animals, you probably mean saving animals from being alive on farms where they suffer a lot. For wild animals, you probably mean allowing animals to be alive and live lives that may or may not involve more suffering than happiness. I think these things are too different for the comparison to work. 

Personally, I just care about decreasing suffering and increasing happiness. By the way, I did try to estimate how many hours fish suffer due to fishing processes here. It’s a very incomplete estimate but my impression is that the numbers are much lower than the numbers of farmed animals, although the intensity of suffering is obviously higher. But as I said, I think that wild fish slaughter reforms are worth pursuing.

I hope this is helpful, let me know if you still disagree with any of my points.

This kurzgesagt video argues against anti-natlism in a way that was convincing to me. It says that fewer babies eventually lead to an ageing population where a small number of working-age people have to support a lot of pensioners and that this is already happening. This can cause loads of problems, like poverty and democraticly-elected governments representing pensioners leading to focus on short-term thinking. That does not sound like the kind of population that would deal well with the effects of climate change because it needs massive investment and fresh ideas. It also claims that having fewer children would shrink the population too slowly for climate change because the world population is going to grow for at least 60 more years.

No, sorry, I wasn't saying that. My manager was Jacob Peacock, he was a great manager. He didn't put any unwelcome pressure and wasn't the one who talked to me about the email to OpenPhil. He said that I can publish my WAW articles on behalf of RP but then Marcus disagreed.

It sounds like Rethink stopped Saulius from posting a WAW post (within a work context) and it also looks like there was a potential conflict of interest here for senior staff as posting could affect funding

It is true that I wasn’t allowed to publish some of my WAW work on behalf of RP. Note that this WAW work includes not only the short summary Why I No Longer Prioritize Wild Animal Welfare (which got a lot of upvotes) but also three longer articles that it summarises (this, this, and this). Some of these do not threaten RP’s funding in any way. That said, I was allowed to work on these articles in my work time which should count for something.

Let me give a bit of context because it might not make sense without it. My project was finding the best WAW intervention. I struggled with it a lot. Instead of doing what I was supposed to, I started writing about why I was struggling, which eventually turned into all those posts. I asked my manager (who was quite new to RP) if I could continue working on those posts and publish them on behalf of RP. My manager allowed it. Then Marcus read some of my drafts and gave detailed useful feedback. He said that while he was happy that I looked into this stuff, these articles couldn't be published on behalf of RP. As I remember it, the reason was that they were basically opinion pieces. He wanted RP to only post stuff that is closer to an academic publication. I asked why but I don’t want to share his answer publicly in case what he told me wasn’t public. I disagreed with his position but it’s the sort of thing that reasonable people can disagree on. We both thought that it wasn’t worth trying to bring my articles to the degree of polish (and perhaps rigour) that would meet RP’s publishing standards but that they were still worth publishing. Marcus said that I’m free to finish my posts in my work time, which was very kind of him. Note that this was financially disadvantageous for RP. I felt uncomfortable spending more time on non-RP stuff in my work time so I took an unpaid leave to finish my posts, but it was my own idea and Marcus explicitly told me that I don’t need to do that.

Load more