Why and how to use your career to end factory farming

We’ve released a new problem profile on factory farming.

50,000,000,000 animals are raised and slaughtered in factory farms globally each year. Most experience extreme levels of suffering over the course of their lives. But there are promising paths to improving the conditions of factory farmed animals and to reducing meat consumption.

In the profile we cover:

  • The main reasons for and against thinking that factory farming is a highly pressing problem.
  • How to use your career to work on ending factory farming.

Read our profile on factory farming.

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Which cause is most effective?

In previous posts, we explained what causes are and presented a method for assessing them in terms of expected effectiveness.

In this post, we apply this method to identify a list of causes that we think represent some particularly promising opportunities for having a social impact in your career (though there are many others we don’t cover!).

We’d like to emphasise that these are just informed guesses over which there’s disagreement. We don’t expect the results to be highly robust. However, you have to choose something to work on, so we think it’ll be useful to share our guesses to give you ideas and so we can get feedback on our reasoning – we’ve certainly had lots of requests to do so. In the future, we’d like more people to independently apply the methodology to a wider range of causes and do more research into the biggest uncertainties.

The following is intended to be a list of some of the most effective causes in general to work on, based on broad human values. Which cause is most effective for an individual to work on also depends on what resources they have (money, skills, experience), their comparative advantages and how motivated they are. This list is just intended as a starting point, which needs to be combined with individual considerations. An individual’s list may differ due also to differences in values. After we present the list, we go over some of the key assumptions we made and how these assumptions affect the rankings.

We intend to update the list significantly over time as more research is done into these issues. Fortunately, more and more cause prioritisation research is being done, so we’re optimistic our answers will become more solid over the next couple of years. This also means we think it’s highly important to stay flexible, build career capital, and keep your options open.

In the rest of this post we:
1. Provide a summary list of high priority causes
2. Explain what each cause is and overview our reasons for including it
3. Explain how key judgement calls alter the ranking
4. Overview how we came up with the list and how we’ll take it forward
5. Answer other common questions

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Vegetarian Research

For-profit companies (including the meat, egg, and dairy industries) spend countless
dollars each year on market research to figure out the best ways to persuade
the public to consume their products. Vegetarian advocacy organizations have
until recently spent virtually nothing to determine the best ways to persuade the
public, despite the fact that their entire success as a movement depends on getting
individual members of the public to change their dietary behavior. Until things
began to change this past year, there had been virtually no research on the impact of
various programs (i.e., no formal comparing of veg advocacy programs against one
another to determine which are most cost-effective), and also no component testing
of specific aspects of a program (for example, does video A or video B persuade
more people to go vegetarian?).

Cow_image

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Project Launch: Effective Animal Activism

Among the goals of 80,000 hours is to provide resources to our community on the issues that matter most to us. As a result, we took the initiative to launch a new web-page dedicated to Effective Animal Activism: http://effectiveanimalactivism.org/, as a part of 80,000 hours, for our members to research, share, and act upon the most effective forms of giving our time or money to help animals.

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