Morality is Hard podcast episode 6 – Elie Hassenfeld of GiveWell

After a short hiatus, the Morality is Hard podcast is back with a new interview featuring Elie Hassenfeld, one of the co-founders of GiveWell. Find the interview on iTunes, below or here!

Elie Hassenfeld and I spoke about the charity he co-founded with Holden Karnofsky, GiveWell, and how it analyses charities to determine how effective they are at alleviating suffering.

We also spoke about Open Philanthropy Project, a sister organisation of GiveWell, which started with the question of “How can we accomplish as much good as possible with our giving?”

Unfortunately due to venue and time constraints, we had the record the interview in the back room of a restaurant, and you can heard some of the chatter in the background. I hope that doesn’t take away from the content too much!

If you’re interested in finding out how to make sure your charitable donations are having as much impact as possible, this is the interview for you.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with the podcast and to join the discussion.

Melbourne steakhouse protest – acceptable in what circumstance?

Several days ago, a group of activists peacefully (by all accounts) entered a Melbourne, Australia, steakhouse restaurant with signs, and began repeating phrases relating to the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses. The aim: to show the diners what had happened to the food on their plate while it was still sentient.

I wanted to weigh in on this, but not for the same reason many other animal advocates are. There has certainly been a general divide among the animal advocacy community regarding whether this was an effective way of achieving our ultimate goal – reducing suffering and/or exploitation of all sentient beings.

I actually don’t know whether this was effective. It has been a good platform for raising awareness and may show that a lot of people take this seriously (pros), but it may backfire, as it seems to have already done, and make people think those who care about all non-human animals are ‘crazy’ (con). Both sides are true. Which one outweighs the other? I don’t know.

The point I want to get to here is this: I think that a lot of non-vegans who are opposed to this protest aren’t actually opposed to the means as they say, but to the message behind the protest. Let me give you a thought experiment.

Suppose a new restaurant opened up in your neighborhood, and you find out they serve human. Humans who did not want to killed for the enjoyment of others. You might feel compelled to go and protest at this restaurant. You might feel a duty to educate the diners there on what the humans went through during their final days; the pain, the fear. I’m willing to go out on a limb and suggest that you would feel comfortable with the exact same peaceful protest that took place in Melbourne. If not you personally, you would surely be in support of the protest.

This is why I believe that many people opposed to this protest are opposed to it for different reasons than they claim. Not all, of course, and maybe not even most. After all, there are many vegans who opposed the protest. But I would ask you, dear reader, to make sure you ask yourself exactly why you are against the protest. Is it because you think the protest was harmful, or disrespectful? Or is it because you don’t really agree with the message behind it?