Some brief thoughts on effective communication about veganism

Very often, people I meet at Effective Animal Altruism London events are keen to discuss how to make their communication with non-vegans effective. What should I say when somebody asks me why I have gone vegan? How can I discuss this issue with friends, family and strangers?

Before I share my “advice”, it’s important to put this question in context. Most researchers in the Effective Animal Advocacy community agree that focusing on individual vegan outreach probably isn’t the best use of our time and resources – see this summary of the points on either side of the debate. So I’d encourage you to make sure you’ve spent a little time planning how to maximise your overall impact. Additionally, make sure you aren’t burning out as an activist by forcing yourself to engage in individual outreach at every possible opportunity. Your long-term impact is more important than those individual conversations!

Nevertheless, every vegan will have this sort of conversation from time to time.

I’m not aware of any extremely strong evidence on the issue, but in general, there is a lot of evidence from outside the EAA community which has relevance to the topic:

  • An understanding of humans’ cognitive biases, and findings from psycholgy more generally, will inevitably help an understanding of what sorts of communication work well. The best practical summary of psychology for EAA purposes that I know of is this book by Nick Cooney.
  • Literature on negotiations and sales techniques will also be useful, as long as this is used cautiously, and you recognise the differences between the contexts that they were intended for, and an animal advocacy context. You might find my summary of Neil Rackham’s book, with (relevant) research-based sales advice, helpful.

Within animal advocacy, many people have written about the messages we should share, both from moral and effectiveness perspectives. A lot of this work is based on the intuitions of (experienced) activists; personally I would place less weight on any of this advice than on conclusions from external, specialised fields. Here are a few examples:

  • Tobias Leenaert’s book and blog; he argues vegans should be inclusive and empathetic in their approach.
  • Melanie Joy’s talks and books; she also argues for empathy, and has a few specific tips about language to support this.
  • Earthling Ed’s advice; like Joy and Leenaert, he advocates empathy. His socratic dialogue technique could be easily combined with the research-based sales advice of Neil Rackham.
  • Others (Gary Francione etc) would emphasise the need for expressing a consistent moral baseline of veganism, and taking an uncompromising position. I can see why consistency might be persuasive over time, but I’m not convinced this is the most important consideration. See here for a summary of the debate on this issue.
  • Plenty of other resources, I’m sure. Here are some other people’s suggestions, when I asked them about this question as I was brand new to the EAA community.

I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert on effective communication, but here’s a brief summary of the perspective I tend to take:

  • I’m wary of the backfire effect, so I tend to avoid challenging people without invitation, and only discuss veganism with people when they ask me, or seem interested.
  • I lead by example, rather than explicitly conducting outreach. So I try to present veganism as easy and enjoyable enough that becoming vegan doesn’t seem like a burden.
  • I try to be inclusive and empathetic (although I’m not necessarily great at this).
  •  I try to be sensitive to my context and to the person or people I am discussing the issue with: some people might be more or less receptive to logical arguments arguments; some people might be more persuaded by ethical arguments compared to environmental and health arguments (note, however, I think its important we emphasise an ethical argument where possible, and use other arguments as supplementary).

So if people ask me why I’m vegan, I usually say something like:

“Most of the animal products that we eat involve raising animals in terrible conditions and cause intense suffering. These days, there’s more and more vegan food available, so it’s relatively easy to avoid animal products entirely, and to prevent that suffering from happening.”

Then depending on how people react, I judge whether to a) stop talking about it (often this is the best response, to avoid the backfire effect), b) explain more in depth some of the negative consequences of eating animal products, or c) just focus on the positives of veganism.

I don’t have any evidence that this approach works better than any other beyond the anecdotal: out of people I have lived with in the past, 2 have gone vegan, 2 have become consciously reducetarian. So I don’t hold any of these views particularly strongly. At the CEVA training that I attended, Melanie Joy argued that it a productive approach is to lead by explaining your personal vegan journey, as a way to reduce defensiveness; I think I will try this out in future. I hope some of the links and reflections on this short post are useful for a few people, however.

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My areas of potential disagreement with other EAAs

Disclaimer: From 01/08/18, I will be working full-time for Sentience Institute. I was also considering a potential role at Veganuary and have been in regular contact with the co-founder. I hold both organisations in high regard; probably higher than average within the EAA community. Thanks to Connor Jackson, Vicky Bond and Matthew Glover for their feedback on the first draft. This post represents entirely my own views, rather than those of the commenters or of my new employers.

Recently, Jacy Reese of Sentience Institute posted a blog post on “3 Big Changes We Need in the Farmed Animal Movement”. It seemed like a useful post for members of the Effective Animal Advocacy movement, in that it clearly outlines three suggestions for major reforms. I would encourage all readers of this blog to read that post. It has also inspired me to create a similar list of areas where I suspect I disagree with others in the EAA community, broadly defined. This is less of a confident, well-informed plea to those involved in EAA organisations (which is broadly how I see Reese’s post) and more of an attempt to draw attention to some potentially important issues. These issues might potentially meet Reese’s criteria of being “important” and “under-discussed”, although I am not yet particularly confident about any of my own thoughts about the long-term implications of animal advocacy strategies, and I can’t claim that my reflections here have as extensive a research basis as those in Reese’s post.

This post may generate useful feedback for myself, so that I can update my own views, but may also encourage others to change their own views and behaviours.

For simplicity’s sake, I have focused on three issues. For those interested in wider debates within EAA, some of the best resources are Sentience Institute’s list of foundational questions, and Animal Charity Evaluators’ intervention reports, plus materials on cause prioritisation.

The three focus areas are:                     

    1. High profile vegan pledge campaigns have been relatively under-utilised as a method of taking some of the low-hanging fruit of individual transitions towards veganism, but also as a method of generating momentum for corporate outreach. This view comes with some important caveats, however.
    2. Animal advocates should start explicitly paving the way for wide-reaching legislation to restrict factory farming. This is more tractable than we might assume, and potentially more desirable, although there are risks involved.
    3. Some EAA efforts are close to saturation in developed, Western countries, and greater effort should be placed on expanding into countries with less of an EAA presence. This must be done in a very careful manner, which is considerate to varying cultures and conditions.

 

 

High profile vegan pledge campaigns have been relatively under-utilised

Description

Supporting individuals to reduce their consumption of animal products has short-term benefits by reducing the demand for animal products, and therefore reducing the number of animals suffering in factory farms. Reduced use of a particular behaviour can correlate to (and may directly lead to) reduced support for a wider practice; reducing animal product consumption might therefore help to challenge speciesism and encourage wider moral circle expansion. Where it is cost-effective to do so, this is therefore a useful intervention.

Proactive, individual vegan outreach is difficult, for a number of reasons. Vegan pledges are more “reactive” in the sense that they support individuals who are already close to making the switch to veganism to do so. They essentially pick the low-hanging fruit of potential vegans. I suspect that the main benefit of widespread publicity of pledges is in redirecting people towards the pledge itself and its supporting resources, rather than in independently changing people’s attitudes. Even if the EAA movement de-emphasises a vegan ask, there will likely be those who wish to personally abstain from cruelty, as discussion of animal issues becomes more widespread and pledge campaigns support those individuals to do so.

Perhaps most importantly, high-profile pledge campaigns have the potential to have a large indirect impact by provoking businesses to perceive there to be an increase in demand for vegan products. Rather than simply encouraging veganism among the low-hanging fruit, high-profile pledge campaigns may therefore also drive corporate and institutional change which makes consumption of plant-based foods instead of animal products easier and more widespread.

An important caveat, however, is that there are a number of ways in which pledge programmes could fail to be effective, thereby wasting resources, or could even be counter-productive. Although far from failing completely, other charities in the UK (see here and here as examples) have run vegan pledges which have never achieved the same publicity or success as Veganuary has. This suggests that the specific planning and marketing of the campaigns could be crucial, although the differences in success may partially reflect differing levels of resource input. For an example of a potentially counterproductive pledge, see this one, which encourages reductions in red meat consumption, which could potentially lead to increased consumption of chicken meat and therefore an increase in total animal suffering (for an estimate of the suffering caused by different animal products, see here). Furthermore, there may be some dangers of encouraging veganism, and it may be better for the EAA movement to focus primarily on institutional messaging. See a summary of that debate here.

The potential for more widespread change arising from vegan pledge programmes is untested at this point. This seems like a promising avenue to explore, however. I would encourage those looking to found new charities outside of the UK to consider focusing on a pledge programme, and those who are happier to donate to riskier intervention types to consider funding pledge programmes.  

Evidence

In support of the claim that reducing animal product consumption will possibly challenge speciesism more widely, this study, though with a small sample size, suggests that those who consume animal products extend compassion to a smaller “moral circle” than those who do not. Psychological understanding of cognitive dissonance more widely makes this seem plausible, although I am not aware of more conclusive evidence that this process is inevitable.  

There is a wide variety of evidence showing that individual outreach is difficult. Some of this will be considered in more depth in the second section, below, but a speculative cost-effectiveness comparison makes the basic point. Individual outreach can often be costly to lead to meaningful change for animals, when advocates are seeking to proactively reach out to potential vegans. One of the most promising interventions in this area has turned out to be disappointing. Recently, Peter Hurford and Marcus Davis’ reanalysis of the study by Faunalytics and Animal Equality into individual video outreach “points to an estimate of $310 per pig year saved (90% interval: $46 to $1100)”, which is incredibly expensive compared to other intervention types, such as corporate outreach or undercover investigations. Although their cost effectiveness estimates are speculative, and they don’t place much weight on them, Animal Charity Evaluators estimate that undercover investigations might spare between 0.15 and 820 animals from living through factory farming conditions per dollar spent (with their “realistic” estimate being 210 lives). By comparison, Hurford and Davis’ analysis suggests that, if applied to chickens and converted into a lives per dollar figure, video outreach might spare between 0.03 and 1.4 animal lives (with a manipulating of their main estimate suggesting 0.18 lives). Although we shouldn’t take such cost-effectiveness comparisons as particularly reliable, the figures here would suggest that undercover investigations were over 1000 times more cost-effective than individual (video) outreach at sparing animals from living through factory farming. 

In contrast to this expensive form of outreach, a relatively thorough evaluation by Veganuary suggests that their pledge programme is sufficiently cost-efficient to make their impact per dollar comparable to ACE top charities, and could spare between 5 and 20 animal lives per pound, which translates to between 3.8 an 15.2 animal lives per dollar, at current exchange rates. They are currently seeking fuller evidence and external review from ACE to corroborate this, but this could suggest that their pledge programme is well over an order of magnitude more impactful than individual video outreach, if we compare the figures to those from Hurford and Davis’ reanalysis of the Faunalytics study.

 Veganuary’s experience has shown that their pledge programme has led companies to provide more plant-based foods and sometimes to actively promote plant-based foods and diets. The pledge campaign has also led to opportunities for direct corporate outreach. Although Veganuary’s success in these areas has been mostly confined to the UK, it seems possible that success with highly-publicised pledge programmes could drive momentum for wider corporate and institutional change in other countries too, whether through Veganuary or other charities.

Animal advocates should start explicitly paving the way for wide-reaching legislation to restrict factory farming

Description

Although there are a variety of different forms of individual vegan outreach, as noted above, this does not seem to be a particularly tractable area for reducing animal suffering in many cases. This suggests that a shift towards institutional interventions and messaging would be more impactful. A shift from individual to institutional interventions is advocated by Jacy Reese, Tobias Leenaert and other EAA researchers, whilst the wider debate is summarised here.

Political and legislative efforts are a particular type of institutional intervention. There is evidence that wide-reaching legislation to restrict factory farming is more tractable than common sense would suggest (see below).

Efforts to implement such radical legislation to reduce animal suffering are high-risk, but potentially offer high-rewards.

They are high risk in the sense that they seem ambitious and difficult, and could fail. This would drain significant resources from the EAA movement, that could otherwise have made a huge amount of difference for animals. Perhaps worse than the resource cost, however, is the risk that failed efforts could set a dangerous precedent or perhaps lead to a backlash effect, either in terms of legislation or in terms of changed public perceptions of animal advocacy. This might make further victories for animals more difficult.

Radical legislative efforts would, however, probably have an extremely high impact for animals, if successful. Such legislation could not only make significant improvements in animal welfare in the short-term, but would cripple the profitability of the animal agriculture industry by forcing businesses to use less efficient practices and may therefore help to make widespread animal agriculture impractical.

The closest effort that I know of to the sort of far-reaching legislation that I am proposing here is being pushed by Sentience Politics in Switzerland; read more here.

Evidence

As noted in the first section of this post, efforts at proactive vegan outreach can be expensive. This study by Animal Welfare Action Lab seems to suggest that a reducetarian ask is not significantly more cost-effective than a vegan ask. The differences were not statistically significant between the treatment groups; compared to a control group, those exposed to an “eliminate” appeal reported to have reduced their meat consumption by around half a portion over 30 days on average, whilst those exposed to a “reduce” appeal reported an average reduction of around three-quarters.

More widely, there is a range of psychological biases and effects that reduce the tractability of efforts to systematically change individuals’ behaviour. Many of these are listed here and here. Efforts at vegan outreach have been ongoing for decades, and yet have had extremely limited success. Animal product consumption continues to rise, both globally and, in some cases, within developed countries, whilst the proportion of vegans has not risen substantially.

There is a range of evidence from social movements showing that efforts to change individual consumption habits have not played a significant role in wider successes for social movements, except where it has been used in a targeted way to facilitate wider political campaigns. As an example, one historian of the Free Produce Movement to boycott slave-made items in the USA has written that “there is little evidence that slaveholders or their political representatives paid much attention to [the free produce movement] and no evidence that it had a discernible economic impact on them” (I’ve cited them second-hand from here). In the British anti-slavery movement, there was a boycott of West Indian sugar, but this only reached 4-6% of the population, and yet slavery was abolished in 1833, after being severely damaged by legislation that ended the slave trade in Britain in 1807.

Furthermore, the historical success of this movement suggests that a single piece of significant legislation, which fundamentally weakened the institution and industry of slavery helped to lead to its eventual full, formal abolition (at least in that country). Legislation banning factory farming, or perhaps even slaughterhouses, could have a similar effect on ending animal agriculture. Other historical social movements, such children’s rights, also suggest that legislation can be successfully implemented without full public support for an issue, but can subsequently shape both attitudes and behaviour.

The best evidence that wide-reaching legislation to restrict factory farming is surprisingly tractable is that in a recent survey (which has been replicated, and its findings confirmed), 49% of US adults said that they support a ban on factory farming, 47% said that they support a ban on slaughterhouses, and 33% said that they support a ban on animal farming. That said, some countries are probably more amenable to such legislation than others. In Canada, modest animal welfare measures (against practices which are unpopular and illegal in other countries) were rejected in 2016, for example, suggesting that more radical reforms are not tractable there, unless political circumstances change.

One benchmark for how much such a campaign might cost in a developed, Western country could be a comparison to the campaign costs for the Brexit referendum, which were limited to £7 million. Clearly costs could be far higher, or somewhat lower than this, however. Given that Open Philanthropy Project has recommended grants totalling over $48 million in the past few years towards animal welfare causes, such costs seem large but achievable, if the EAA movement prioritises legislative efforts enough.

Many examples could probably be found of times where failed legislation either has or hasn’t delayed progress of a social movement or popular goal. An intuitive political analogy is how in the UK, in 2011, the issue of electoral reform was shaped by the Liberal Democrat Party into a referendum on the issue of whether or not to changed the voting system from First Past The Post to Alternative Vote. AV was an unpopular system, and the public rejected the change; voting reform has not been discussed much in the UK since, and I suspect that the political campaign has delayed progress on the issue by many years. One example which serves as counter-evidence is that in the late 18th century, several abolition bills were suggested and rejected, and yet the slave trade was abolished in 1807.

Greater effort should be placed on expanding into countries with less of an EAA presence

Description

Many developed, Western countries have had animal advocacy movements for decades, and this has combined with Effective Altruism ideas to develop the EAA movement in recent years. There are, however, many countries in the world which have not had substantial animal advocacy movements and are comparatively disconnected from the developments in the EAA movement. Some of these countries are also countries with incredibly high use of animals for food (in total, if not per capita), or are currently on a trajectory towards increasing use of animals as food. This website is useful for easily visualising and comparing countries’ animal product use, and comes from UN FAO data. Note how China produced 18.19 million tonnes of poultry meat in 2014, second only to the USA. Brazil produced 13 million tonnes, while even India, known for relatively widespread vegetarianism, produced 2.76 million tonnes. See Lewis Bollard’s newsletters for excellent summaries of both the problems and opportunities in China and India.

These countries with high total animal product use have had various forms of animal advocacy; see PETA India as one example. Nevertheless, my impression is that the proportion of people working on animal advocacy in some of these countries is far smaller than in much of the developed, Western world and that this is even more the case for those connected to EAA research and ideas. Given the huge scale of (potential) animal suffering, and the relative neglectedness of advocacy in such countries, the EAA community should be focusing its resources, where possible on exploring opportunities for action there.

This will almost always involve trade-offs for organisations, and will often be a relatively “risky” opportunity. But the expected value of seeking to expand into countries with a lower track record of animal advocacy seems higher.

The leadership of multiple charities have expressed explicitly to me that fundraising reasons at least partially underpin their expansion into the UK or USA. But by entering such countries, charities are essentially trying to compete with other animal advocacy charities already in that country. This may still be beneficial overall, if the charity is more impactful than other animal charities. However, by entering countries with less of a track record of animal advocacy, I suspect that animal charities are more likely to locate and open up new sources of funding for the movement, which may be small at first but may grow over time.

I hold the views expressed in this section slightly less strongly than those in the previous sections, however. This is because there are still intervention types which have not come anywhere close to saturation in many developed, Western countries. I also suspect it is possible that the leadership of EAA organisations also share my priorities longer-term, but that they are simply being relatively cautious, and focusing on expanding their successful programmes into culturally similar countries before they attempt to expand them elsewhere.  

If you agree that more neglected areas should be a higher priority, even if the tractability of interventions there is unclear, then there is still a need for caution. We don’t want organisations to take action in a culturally insensitive manner, which could potentially reduce the tractability of future actions, by alienating the governments or wider populations of those countries. Some relevant concerns are listed here, such as the danger of creating bad first impressions, although I’d suggest that some of the concerns about Effective Altruism there apply less to EAA specifically; there is less of a requirement for specific, complex concepts, for example.

For further reflections on a related issue, see Max Harris’ recent post on But Can They Suffer: “Effective Animal Advocacy in China: Perspectives from a UK Activist and Tourist”.

Evidence

In the past year or so, I have seen The Humane League and Open Cages expand into the UK. Veganuary are currently hiring to expand into the USA. I have also seen several new EAA groups spring up in the USA, such as Better Eating. I use these examples not to criticise the specific organisations or decisions, but merely to point out that EAA organisations are continuing to focus significant efforts and resouorces on expanding further through developed, Western countries. In some expansions of EAA organisations within Western, developed countries, a niche is being filled that other organisations have either neglected or lacked the resources to fill. Whilst Compassion In World Farming have been working on chicken welfare for decades, the rapid rate of success achieved by The Humane League in the UK proves that they have made a valuable contribution. Similarly, even if PETA have been working on banning fur in the UK for decades, Open Cages have brought an EAA perspective and a different campaigning style.

There have been some efforts to expand into areas where animal advocacy is neglected and potentially highly important; ProVeg have a team focusing on China, for example. The Humane League have staff in Mexico, and Animal Equality is active in South America more widely. Lewis Bollard has been keen to fund work in countries in Asia and South America, both with EA Grants and Open Philanthropy Project. Excluding money given to international meta groups (you might disagree with my categorisation here),  69% of the money from 2018 animal welfare EA Funds grants have been to “international grassroots groups” or groups in Asia and Latin America. For OPP, the figure is 32% (see my quick calculations here).

Nevertheless, the growing number of groups active in western, developed countries and the relatively small number of groups active in Asia, South America and Africa suggests to me that there is still an imbalance to be addressed. Whilst Lewis Bollard is funding groups outside of North America and Europe, the main focus of most of Animal Charity Evaluators’ top recommended charities and standout charities remains in those areas, and so I suspect that most money from smaller donors in the western, developed world is still focusing on causes closer to home.

Book review: Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich (2009) The Animal Activist’s Handbook: Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today’s World (Lantern Books: New York)

Price: ***
Ease of use: *****
Value for EAA beginners: ***
Value for EAA pros: *

This short book (89 small pages, if you exclude the various introductions and appendices) is interesting perhaps mostly as a historical document for the Effective Animal Advocacy Movement, rather than as an up-to-date resource for research-based advice. It may still serve as a great introduction to the topic for some newer advocates, as long as they are aware of its pitfalls, but for those who are already more engaged in the movement, I would recommend more specific resources, like Animal Charity Evaluator’s advice on cause prioritisation and their intervention reports, or Cooney’s book on social change (review coming soon).

The book was written in 2009, by two of the Good Food Institute’s current leadership team, long before GFI was created. At the time, Bruce Friedrich was senior director for strategic initiatives at Farm Sanctuary, having previously worked at PETA, whilst Matt Ball was co-founder and Executive Directors of Vegan Outreach. The preface begins with a description of their personal journeys and careers.

Outdated

In broad terms the book is devoted towards encouraging people to engage in individual advocacy to spread awareness of veganism, concluding with the remark that “animal liberation will be achieved… through person-by-person outreach, progressing hand-in-hand with advances in technology”. This is no longer the view of effective animal advocacy researchers. According to a 2017 survey of researchers, conducted by Sentience Institute, there is over 80% agreement that institutional advocacy is more effective than individual advocacy. Indeed, Friedrich and Ball themselves have shifted their personal efforts from supporting individual outreach to supporting supply-side change, now both working for GFI. When advising me on this blog post, Ball personally wrote “I worked on the demand side of things for almost 30 years, and in that time, we’ve accomplished very little other than welfare reforms… per-capita consumption of animals is at an all-time high. The overall failure of demand-side advocacy (evidence here) is what led me to want to work on the supply side, helping GFI advance everything in the plant-based and clean fields and markets.” Although Ball may be putting his earlier efforts down excessively harshly in the sense that, though meat consumption has continued to grow, it might be higher were it not for animal advocacy efforts, it is hard to argue with the suggestion that so far, individual advocacy efforts (and perhaps even demand-side interventions more widely) have not succeeded in radically reducing animal product consumption.

More specifically, the book consistently encourages the use of leaflets as a method of individual activism, with pages 78-82 being dedicated specifically to advice on techniques to become a more effective pamphleteer. Although, several years ago, Animal Charity Evaluators was optimistic about the effectiveness of leafleting, they have become much less confident. Although they continue to consider it a “promising volunteering activity”, their analysis suggests that, in the short-term, “leafleting is about as likely—or perhaps even more likely—to actually cause increases in animal product consumption” as decreases.

Continued primary use – great introduction to individual outreach

Nevertheless, the book still has potential as a great short introduction to effective individual outreach. Many activists continued to be interested in how to conduct individual outreach effectively – for many of those coming to Effective Animal Altruism London socials, it is the first question that they ask. As well as discussing the idea that other methods of outreach may actually be more efficient, I think I will now recommend this book to them (previously I have recommended Cooney’s book on social change – review coming soon – and SPIN Selling).

In the first chapter, the book essentially lays out a justification for focusing on reducing animal suffering by noting that the cause area is neglected (page 9) but has huge scale and tractability (both pages 15-17).  This summary is valuable for all animal advocates, though I would strongly encourage them to read ACE’s consideration of cause prioritisation too. Though “scale” is subdivided into “the sheer number of animals” and “the enormous amount of suffering involved”, this reasoning follows common Effective Altruism cause prioritisation logic. The fascinating thing is that this book was published in 2009, whereas the Centre for Effective Altruism, 80,000 Hours and Open Philanthropy Project, the three main EA organisations conducting cause prioritisation research, were all founded in 2011! I’d encourage everyone to consider how far animal advocacy should be prioritised compared to other cause areas too, using their research – this page is likely the best place to start.

Chapters 2 and 3 lay out a case for a more respectful and empathetic approach to animal advocacy than many vegans are tempted to engage in. This advice is based primarily on an understanding of persuasion and pop-psychology works like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, rather than on animal advocacy-specific advice. In many ways, the book gives similar arguments to those of Tobias Leenaert, though in a more condensed format than Leenaert’s book.

Other uses and limitations

Although largely agreeing with the subsequent conclusions of researchers in the Effective Altruism community and Effective Animal Advocacy movement, the book itself does not place these ideas within a research framework, using instead primarily a rational common-sense approach, combined with some wider popular (partially research-based) advice books. Aside from the fact that it is superseded by more in depth research and advice in many ways, the relative lack of specific references to research makes the case less plausible overall.

Additionally, the book is couched within a slightly odd framework of Friedrich and Ball’s ideas about “the joy of a meaningful life”. In some ways, this matches to later conclusions of 80,000 Hours, the Effective Altruism movement’s research-based careers advice organisation, such as when they note that “Happiness does not come from an easy or materially ‘rich’ life. It comes from a thoughtful, meaningful life dedicated to changing the world for the better”. In other instances, it seems to contradict 80,000 Hours’ advice, such as when encouraging individuals to follow their passion for animals. The conclusions are drawn from rational thinking combined with their own personal experiences and world views. I found many of the conclusions agreeable, but this approach leads the book to begin with a slightly hippy-ish vibe which I found off-putting, and which doesn’t match up to the evidence-focused approach of the Effective Animal Advocacy movement today.

There are other gems of advice within the book. I found the advice on “effective time management” on pages 26 to 29 helpful, for example, largely because it referred to some works I have not heard of before, such as Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1990) which sounds like it largely corroborates the implications of Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

Although cheap, the book is very short, so in terms of specific information, the value for money is not necessarily fantastic. Organised clearly by chapter heading and with subheadings, it would be very easy for an advocate to use the book to skim through the elements which seemed most useful to them in 30 minutes to an hour, or just to read the whole thing in only a few hours.