Interspecies Comparisons of Welfare

April 28, 2022 - April 29, 2022
London School of Economics

United Kingdom

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The London School of Economics and Political Science Foundations of Animal Sentience(ASENT) Project and Rethink Prioritiesare sponsoring an interdisciplinary, in-person conference on the problems and prospects for making interspecies welfare comparisons, which will be held at the LSE on 28-29 April 2022.

Comparisons across species are not straightforward because there are significant differences between animals with respect to their cognitive, affective, and sensory capabilities. Such comparisons require input from many fields, including animal welfare science, evolutionary biology, comparative cognition, neuroethology, ecology, economics, philosophy, and others. This breadth of perspective is essential to understand the differences between species, the relevance of those differences for welfare, and how we can both quantify and aggregate welfare to address practical problems. For instance:

  1. Food production: When, if ever, is it better to replace the consumption of larger animals (cattle, pigs) with smaller ones (chicken, fish), resulting in harm to a greater number of animals for the same amount of meat?

  2. Animal use in research: When animal care and use committees are assessing research protocols, how should the harms to animals be quantified and compared to the expected human benefit of those research efforts? Relatedly, how should harms to different model organisms be compared? Is it acceptable to harm a greater number of invertebrates to avoid harming a smaller number of vertebrates?

  3. Allocation of resources: How should governments allocate scarce resources to address the suffering of the members of different species in the wake of devastating natural disasters, such as the 2020 wildfires in Australia? For instance, should euthanizing severely injured mammals be a higher priority than euthanizing severely injured avian species?

  4. Animal welfare interventions: Major charitable organizations want to invest in improving animal welfare. As insect farming takes off, these organizations have to decide whether they should fund interventions that aim to improve the welfare of crickets and black soldier flies. Should they? If so, how should they prioritize those causes relative to others?

Confirmed speakers include Anil Seth, Marc Bracke, Liz Paul, and Heather Browning.

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