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Animal Welfare Series

In 2017, an estimated 70 billion land animals were slaughtered for meat globally. The rearing of farm animals today is dominated by factory farming: the majority of global pork and broiler meat is produced in industrialised facilities (FAO, 2008). Factory farms involves raising livestock in densely populated environments, with common practices that induce stress, and involve the frustration of the animals' natural instincts (Anomaly, 2015).

Many experts now believe that non-human animals have conscious experiences (Low et al., 2012). Moreover, empirical evidence suggests that many mammals and birds typically produced in agriculture, as well as fish, have the capacity feel pain (Sneddon et al., 2014). Hence, various animal welfare advocates are concerned that industrial farming practices creates widespread suffering.

In this series, we ask you to imagine different future scenarios and the roles of animals therein. Doubtlessly, the future is large and complicated. So we cast a wide net, and invite you to predict questions on a variety of different topics.

1. Industrial farming and agricultural production practices

In this part of the question series we take a broad view of the farming of livestock animals in the world over the medium to long-term future. In it, we ask you to forecast the agricultural output of various animals and animal products, such as the numbers of hogs, cattle, fish, poultry and eggs produced in the United States and globally.

In addition to production quantities, this part also features questions on farming practices relevant to the quality of the lives of farm animals, such as whether the the practise of stunning fish prior to slaughter will become more common; whether free-range hens will produce more eggs in the U.S.; and whether hen hatcheries will adopt the procedure of in ovo sexing of eggs for layer hen production as a method to prevent the culling of male chicks.

2. Clean meat

The questions in this section are on the commercial launch of clean meat products, such as when these will be served at restaurants, and when these will hit the shelves of supermarkets. We ask you to predict how widespread these products will be available, in terms of how many supermarkets will have such products on offer, and how affordable such products will be. Also featured are questions that intend to help clarify what the clean meat industry will look like in the next decade: how large will the market be, how many companies will compete in capturing this market, and what valuations will these have?

3. Plant-based meat

In this section, we ask how the market for plant-based meat in the U.S., China and Europe will scale, and when these markets will mature. In light of Beyond Meat's meteoric rise, we ask how many companies can follow in its footsteps and achieve a $1bn valuation.

4. Genetic editing and its proposed regulations

We also focus our attention on the use of genetic editing of livestock used in food production will be regulated; such as whether the FDA's controversial proposed regulatory framework will come into force, and if so, what that would mean for the chances of companies bringing innovations to market. Also featured are questions on when we can expect to see various innovations intended to enhance farm animal welfare and production efficiency reaching commercial farms, such as genetic edits that make dairy cows hornless, and those resulting in cows being only able to have physiologically male calves.

5. Legislative efforts and industry standards

This section focusses on the role of legislative efforts, policy, and corporate social responsibility to the protections of animal welfare. It includes questions on how various countries will rank on an index of farm animal welfare protection, and animal sentience recognition. Moreover, we ask how many companies publicly commit to promoting animal welfare, such as by pledging to the removal of cages from their egg supply chains, and pledging to source broiler chickens raised under conditions conducive to their welfare.

6. Changes in consumption patterns

Here we ask you to predict how widespread vegetarian and vegan diets will be in the U.S., and whether we can expect to see drifts and shifts in consumption patterns and the popularity of vegetarianism. Moreover, we ask whether entomophagy, i.e. the consumption of insects, will become sufficiently common in the U.S. to bring into existence large insect-based food companies.


Partnered with the Open Philanthropy Project These questions are supported through a partnership with the Open Philanthropy Project. Open Philanthropy identifies outstanding giving opportunities, makes grants, follows the results, and publishes its findings. Its mission is to give as effectively as it can and share the findings openly so that anyone can build on them.


Acknowledgements: I'm grateful to Carl Shulman, Anthony Aguirre, Lewis Bollard, Brian Tomasik, user @Jgalt and Zakee Ulhaq.