What Animal Ethics is currently working on October 2021

19 Oct 2021

At Animal Ethics we are continuing our work to educate and spread awareness about the natural harms that wild animals suffer. We also produce content about ways we can help animals in the wild and why we should. We don’t do original scientific research, but rather we gather hard-to-find information from existing research and present it from an antispeciesist perspective. We have a longtermist focus, which means we try to work on activities that will have the greatest impact over the longest period of time. We create materials for academics, students, animal advocates, and the general public.

Here’s an overview of the major projects we are currently working on.

Wild animal suffering

Paper about the lives of wild animals in urban areas

Background: Scientific studies focused on the welfare of urban wild animals have been limited so far. Urban animals have been given increasing attention over the past few decades, but not for the purpose of better understanding their wellbeing. Instead, the studies have considered animal behavior, conservation, landscape ecology, and population ecology. However, much of this research provides information that is relevant to urban wild animal wellbeing, and the information can be evaluated from that perspective.

This paper sheds light on what the lives of urban wild animals are like and the factors that affect their welfare. For our purposes, “urban” wild animals include animals in areas occupied by humans such as cities, suburbs, and industrial areas. The paper examines four of the major factors that affect the welfare of urban animals belonging to five species. The animals who are considered include striped field mice, house sparrows, urban pigeons, black flying foxes (fruit bats), and green iguanas. Based on the knowledge we currently have, the paper discusses some of the ways we could currently help. It also recommends areas future research could focus on.

Literature review about using thermal imaging to learn about wild animals

Background: There is a lack of curated information about using technology to help wild animals cope with natural harms in the wild. There are numerous tools, both low tech and high tech, that can help us to observe, monitor, analyze massive amounts of data, and implement automated ways of helping animals in need, such as providing vaccinations and rescuing animals during natural disasters without putting humans at risk of harm. Drawing attention to how these technologies work will increase awareness and make people better able to make informed decisions about their use in the future.

This literature review focuses on thermal imaging technology. It covers how thermal imaging can be used to non-invasively observe and monitor the wellbeing of nonhuman animals. Thermal imaging can be used to collect data to determine population numbers, detect small and cryptic animals, and find indicators of physical stress. The review discusses effective methods of data collection and what kinds of data are best captured using thermal imaging.

Our team in India is also working on two papers, one about what we can learn from elephant vocalizations and the other about the impact of floods on animals in India.

Interventions to help wild animals

Report about the feasibility of a Brucellosis vaccination program for bison

Background: Vaccinations of wild animals have been practiced for decades, usually with high success rates. Contraception is another method that can help prevent the spread of disease to large numbers of animals. Often government agencies choose to kill sick animals instead, even when this method is ineffective at preventing or reducing the impact of the disease.

This report details the situation in the Greater Yellowstone Area in the USA. Bison are being killed because of the belief that infected bison spread the brucellosis disease to cows in the region. Genetic analysis of brucellosis suggests that elks are a much greater source of brucellosis transmission to cows than bisons are to cows, yet it’s bisons who are targeted in the attempts to control the disease. Research into better vaccines has been severely hampered by government regulations, which give greater priority to the interests of farmers than to the wellbeing of the animals themselves.

Strategic considerations

Strategic considerations for effective wild animal suffering work

Background: Wild animal suffering has been studied very little relative to its vast scale. This means that work in this area could potentially have very high impact. To be most effective, we need to figure out the best way to prioritize the different kinds of work we could be doing.

This article examines courses of action that will help us (1) gain more knowledge about helping wild animals and (2) raise awareness about the issue. It lays out a case for why some courses of action are higher priority than others and why researching foundational issues may not be the best place to start. Some promising areas of research are outlined. The paper also considers the importance of framing messages for different audiences. In addition, it recommends ways people and organizations can get involved depending on their backgrounds and interests.


Background: Longtermism is a position in moral philosophy that advocates increasing concern for the long-term future. The main motivation for the view is the simple fact that the future has the potential to be very long. If we are concerned with doing as much good as we can, then the best actions we can take today are those which will help to ensure that this long future goes as well as possible.

The aim of this paper is to consider the various possible futures for nonhuman animals, and to think about what actions we can take today that will steer us towards the best long-term future possible.

Earth will be inhabitable for approximately another billion years, and if humanity expands into space, then the number of sentient beings in the far future may be trillions of times greater than the number who exist today. We can take actions now that will make the long-term future better, or worse, for nonhuman animals. The paper considers these issues and examines several promising courses of action.


Classroom materials to introduce high school students to speciesism

Background: Animal ethics is not commonly discussed in high school classes, and most students have not heard of the concept of speciesism or thought about how their actions could harm or help nonhuman animals. It might never have occurred to them that they could do anything that would make a difference for most animals. Teachers who might want to teach about animal ethics lack the materials to do so in an engaging way.

This project is creating a unit about speciesism and will implement it in schools within Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. The project was generously funded by VegFund. Animal Ethics and the organization Aula Animal are collaborating to produce five 3-minute videos in Spanish describing speciesism, presenting moral dilemmas, and showing what students can do to make a difference. Additional classroom materials will include worksheets, Kahoot games, and Anki decks. The initial classes will be taught by teachers who have contributed to developing the materials and then the materials will be made freely available to other teachers.

We are continuing our academic research around the world. We will continue attending conferences, giving talks, and teaching courses in Spain and Brazil. In addition, we are continuing our translations activities in French, Russian, Polish, Hindi, and Telegu.