Assessing biomarkers of aging as measures of cumulative animal welfare

Recent academic work has suggested that measures of biological ageing could provide a highly promising alternative measure of cumulative welfare, which comes much closer to meeting these ideal goals. Here, I review the existing empirical support for the use of biomarkers of ageing as a measure of cumulative welfare, discuss the prerequisites of applying the method, and explore a number of important caveats that may limit its applicability.

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Wild Animal Initiative
Opinion: Extreme Uncertainty Requires Resilient Model-Building

Uncertainty about fundamental ethics is, in my view, the greatest roadblock to large-scale intervention for wild animal welfare. However, there is also plenty of uncertainty on more empirical questions. Fortunately, these questions seem much more tractable, and answers to some may reveal actions we can take that are robustly good under a range of ethics. Here I will summarize the major points of moral and practical uncertainty that impact my own research at Wild Animal Initiative and how I think uncertainty should be addressed in this kind of work going forward. 

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Wild Animal Initiative
Opinion: Handling Uncertainty About Moral Patienthood

In this opinion piece, I explore an important area of uncertainty in wild-animal welfare research: determining who is a moral patient, using insects as a case study. A moral patient is one whose well-being deserves moral consideration. I take welfare to be intrinsically valuable; I also think that only (and all) sentient individuals have welfare. The definition of sentience I use is primary or phenomenal consciousness: the capacity to experience good or bad mental states. Sentience can occur in the absence of secondary (or access) consciousness: the ability to reflect upon or report those experiences. 

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Wild Animal Initiative
Opinion: Uncertainty in Wild Animal Welfare is Not an Intractable Problem and Welfare Biology is Well-Positioned to Tackle It

Uncertainty is not an intractable problem nor should uncertainty necessarily stop us from studying interventions to improve wild animal welfare. Restoration ecology has a long history of environmental interventions from which animal welfare advocates can draw to reduce uncertainty in interventions. One such tool is the reference system. Another is adaptive management. Ultimately, if interventions are designed as experiments in nature, then even failed interventions will generate knowledge to help animals in the future.

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Wild Animal Initiative
Opinion: Wild Animal Welfare and Uncertainty

Critiques based on nontarget uncertainty should not be viewed as unique to wild animal welfare. If there is a strong case for dismissing a cause area on the basis of nontarget uncertainty, then we’d have good reason to dismiss many large-scale charitable projects, including addressing global health and factory farming. Although this critique fails to apply exclusively to wild animal welfare, we should still strive to improve our ability to predict nontarget consequences of our interventions in all cause areas, and work to resolve some types of uncertainty that are particularly relevant to wild animal welfare.

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Abraham Rowe
Six Month Progress Update

As a growing nonprofit, we continue to look to the effective altruist community for support. We estimate that our staff’s work is around one-half the hours dedicated to these issues globally, which demonstrates the degree of its neglectedness. To that end, this summer we are raising $50,000 to continue our work. Please continue to follow our progress, and donate today to help us reach this goal.

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Abraham Rowe
Wild Animal Initiative Board of Directors names Michelle Graham Executive Director

After a thorough search process and thoughtful consideration, the Board of Directors has selected Michelle Graham as the next Executive Director of Wild Animal Initiative. “The hiring committee was deeply impressed by Michelle's exceptional research experience, dedication to our mission, strategic vision, and leadership ability,” said Emily Hatch, president of Wild Animal Initiative’s board.

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Abraham Rowe
Applying the Conservation Evidence Database to Wild Animal Welfare

One of Wild Animal Initiative’s foundational questions is: “what can we do to improve the welfare of wild animals?” Currently, we are reviewing and summarizing relevant literature from restoration and conservation ecology, as these fields often evaluate the impacts and effectiveness of wildlife interventions. Even if conservation ecologists are not necessarily value-aligned with animal welfare advocates, impact assessments from conservation are still useful to wild animal welfare. Reviews of conservation evidence increase our understanding of the outcomes of interventions in nature and enables us to apply these interventions to welfare causes.

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Wild Animal Initiative
Beausoleil Et Al. Show the Value of Collaboration Between Wild Animal Welfare Advocates and Conservationists

Historically there has been little overlap between effective altruist interested in improving wild animal welfare and conservationists. But conservation offers insight, approaches, and tools that are incredibly valuable to the work of reducing wild animal suffering. It would be highly productive for wild animal welfare advocates to actively work with conservationists on research projects, both to encourage a collaborative relationship between our fields, and to find allies for our work.

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Abraham Rowe
Wild Animal Initiative's Research Agenda

Today, Wild Animal Initiative released the research agenda that will shape our work over the next 12 to 18 months. The full research agenda can be found here. But, we also wanted to take some time to outline our approach to designing the agenda and prioritizing projects.

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Abraham Rowe
WAI's Equity Statement

In our commitment to fulfill our mission for wild animals, we must also commit ourselves to honoring and upholding the inherent and tremendous value of all humans that we work alongside.

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Chloe Cudaback
Humane Insecticides - Four Month Update

Previously, we proposed a research project investigating the feasibility of a humane insecticides program. Near-term interventions to improve the welfare of wild insects are a priority because invertebrate welfare, like wild animal welfare in general, is a neglected cause area, and the enormous number of insects together with the likelihood that their welfare is poor means that the potential impact of such interventions is high. We are going to be posting regular updates on the progress of this project.

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Hollis Howe
Our Strategic Plan, 2019-2020

Today, Wild Animal Initiative released its strategic plan for 2019 and 2020. While the full plan can be found here, we wanted to provide some top level highlights of what we will focus on, and how we envision the future of advocating to improve wild animal welfare.

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Abraham Rowe
Announcing Wild Animal Initiative

Today, we are pleased to announce that Wild-Animal Suffering Research (WASR) and Utility Farm (UF) are merging together to form a new organization focused solely on wild animal welfare — Wild Animal Initiative.

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Abraham Rowe