What Is Utility Farm Up To Right Now?
2018 has been a busy year for Utility Farm, but we haven’t published much research recently. So, we thought we’d provide updates on a few of the ongoing research projects that we have in the works, as well as some of the more casual blog posts we are working on. A note—this post doesn’t contain any new information on wild animal suffering or social change for wild animal suffering. It’s more for people interested in what Utility Farm is doing these days—we aren’t always the best at telling the world and are trying to get better!
First off, we will be at EA Global in San Francisco in June. If you’re going, come say hi!
We recently broke our work down into three divisions—research, outreach, and stewardship. These categories have a lot of overlap, but in general, research refers to our studies into social change and attitudes toward wild animal suffering, outreach to our efforts to grow interest in these issues and in welfare biology as a field, and stewardship to our efforts to evaluate the potential cost-effectiveness of what we see as promising projects to steward nature and improve animal welfare in the wild.
Currently, our research work is constrained in both funding and time. However, we are close to releasing two new studies, and are excited to share the results. We’ve also spent some time improving our data collection processes, and improving our understanding of the issues that similar studies in the farmed animal advocacy movement have had to improve our survey design.
- A study on the impact of priming people with a pro-conservation message before introducing them to pro-nature stewardship content.
- A second study on effective communication strategies for advocating for wild animals.
Studies we'd like to begin soon:
- A study on general attitudes toward wild animals and our moral attitudes toward them.
- A longitudinal study on the impact of different kinds of RWAS outreach.
- More effective communication strategy studies.
We’ve begun an aggressive outreach program. We’ve taken two approaches to our outreach—using our Nature Ethics platform to reach audiences through advertising, and reaching out directly to researchers that we’ve identified as potentially doing related research and talking to them about the need for contributions to welfare biology.
We are also working with researchers on a few editorials on welfare biology that we are hoping to place in science journals.
We’ve begun projects to estimate the cost-effectiveness of three promising nature stewardship projects—indoor cat / TNR advocacy, humane insecticide advocacy, and dietary change advocacy. While we are optimistic but neutral about the impact of these interventions on the welfare of wild animals, we’d like to learn more about the cost-effectiveness of efforts to reduce wild animal suffering in the future. We’ve also begun research into gene drives, but have not advanced this work as much as our other research and stewardship programs.
What are our organizers up to and excited about?
Ari has been working on a review of research on acute physiological responses to traumatic injury in nonhuman vertebrates and an analysis of their implications for welfare biology and wild animal advocacy. Many human survivors of serious physical violence (including predatory attacks by wild animals) report having had a diminished sense or total absence of conscious fear and pain before they were removed from danger. The presence or absence of similar adaptations in other animals has significant implications for how we should think about predation, including its priority as a focal point in research and advocacy, and the relative amounts of suffering involved in different kinds of predatory attacks.
Abraham Rowe has been busy organizing our growing network of volunteers, and working on research into how the priorities of funders of biology and ecology research have been shaped in the past. He is also working on rubrics to evaluate the likelihood that a given funder in this field would fund this type of research, in order to prioritize outreach. He is attending EA Global in San Francisco in June—find him there if you’d like to chat more about our work!
Right now, we are raising $4,000 to expand our programs, and continue this work. As a volunteer driven organization, our expenses are generally low, but our capacity to fundraise is also low. Every dollar makes a meaningful difference to our ability to continue this work.