The State of Reducing Wild Animal Suffering

Note: this post was originally written with those organizations and projects in mind originating from within the effective altruism (EA) movement. These organizations are those exclusively focused on reducing the suffering of wild animals from naturogenic causes, i.e., sources of suffering originating in nature itself, as opposed to anthropogenic sources, i.e., caused by human action. Multiple people have pointed out to me there are of course many people working on reducing wild animal suffering from all manner of causes. Were this community to expand, what types of wilderness interventions from both within and outside the EA movement would need to be fleshed out.

This is the state of the community as of July 2017.

In the effective animal activism/advocacy (EAA) movement, there have been some organizations born out of effective altruism that didn’t prior exist before in the broader animal welfare/rights/liberation movement. There are lots of good projects, but it seems these organizations were uniquely suited to making a real go out of reducing wild animal suffering (RWAS) as a cause at a time when it seemed most possible. In the meantime, though, multiple organizations have deprioritized RWAS as changes in EAA have occurred. While there are many great organizations which continue to focus on farmed animal welfare out of EAA, at first glance it seems like virtually none are prioritizing RWAS. This is concerning, so I’m making a summary for everyone of as far I can tell what organizations still do or don’t focus on RWAS.

I’ve talked to Brian Tomasik, and he told me the Foundational Research Institute is no longer doing research on wild animal suffering. I learned in post introducing Sentience Institute, a research-focused think tank, written by Jacy Reese that they’ll be splitting from Sentience Politics, which is prioritizing initiatives in the German-speaking world, which is in turn splitting from the Effective Altruism Foundation (EAF). Sentience Institute and Sentience Politics will be focusing on farmed animal welfare for the foreseeable future, although focusing on wild animal suffering is still part of their respective missions as a potential future focus. EAF has two researchers focused RWAS at present. EAF and Raising for Effective Giving continue to recommend charities in any cause that’s evaluated by effective altruists, such as Animal Charity Evaluators. So, if a charity focusing on RWAS somehow stands out among all the other charities EAs focus on, I’m sure they’ll recommend it too.

Animal Ethics is an organization focusing on RWAS. Sentience Politics also employs two researchers as part of an ongoing RWAS research project. Andres Gomez Emilsson organizes the movement around the Hedonistic Imperative, as laid out by David Pearce, which certainly focuses on RWAS. However, a lot of the groundwork to organize the movement to reduce wild animal suffering; to build its capacity to research, prioritize and evaluate; and to raise awareness and generate resources remains to be done. Small-scale research analysis, which is the greatest extent of real RWAS activity, doesn’t lend itself to the galvanization of what seems like more effective altruists and effective animal advocates taking the issue seriously than ever before. I think it’s several hundred people, or maybe even a couple thousand. That’s been enough to launch any other cause in EA to vaunted or central status in the movement, and thus moreso in the world around it.

What’s more, there is lots of existing knowledge on RWAS that, while in need of being compiled into a neat reading list, can be acted upon. While there is need to fund knowledge production on RWAS, taking this cause beyond theory is something that can be done but nobody has a roadmap to. The current landscape of RWAS is very small, and is too small to grow on its own. There are a few Facebook groups focused on it (feel free to link them in the comments). If there is any organization or project focusing on reducing wild animal suffering I missed, please let me know.

Otherwise, as far as I know, that’s it. There is no other coordination or organization of efforts to reduce wild animal suffering. I guess this post is a warning signal that if there isn’t some community investment in the cause now, it will never happen. If you’re still reading this, there are so few of us left input from anyone is valuable and necessary. Feel free to share and use this post as a tentpole for figuring out where we can go from here.

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