Wild-Animal Suffering: A Primer

Wild animals significantly outnumber the population of other animals. They  experience intense and prolonged suffering on an enormous scale. Doing nothing means ignoring the plight of an extremely large number of sentient beings. Advocacy for wild animals has traditionally focused on species conservation, only helping individual animals who belong to an endangered species. However, a common deer starving to death suffers in the same way as an endangered black rhino who has lost her habitat. Our goal is to investigate the opportunities available to us and better understand the experiences of all types of animals in the wild. We’re launching this request for proposals (RFP)  to gauge interest in this cause area from independent researchers. There may also be opportunities for high quality applicants to join the WASR team as full-time researchers. For a more complete understanding of our views please refer to our mission and strategic plan.

The Wild-Animal Suffering Research (WASR) project began in mid 2017 with two research goals:

  1. To better understand wild-animal suffering; and
  2. To identify viable policies to reduce this suffering.

Our research plan through 2020 focuses on a variety of areas of investigation including: fostering wild animal welfare research in academia; better understanding positive and negative experiences in the wild; and a better understanding of wildlife management practices. Our overarching goal is to determine how we can reduce suffering in the wild. We caution against assumptions that an ecosystem without human participation is necessarily the best way to maximize welfare in these populations. In particular, we are not looking for projects related to species conservation, nor biodiversity preservation if these projects do not focus on  individual wellbeing.

Proposals

With the above goals in mind, we are launching a small scale grants competition. We plan to disburse $35,000 in total among a small number of proposals. Proposals should be relevant to our mission and written in English. We can only award grants to individuals at this time.

The ideal grantseeker is:

  • A skilled researcher comfortable working in areas related to animal welfare, biology, or ecology. Domain expertise (all else equal) is a plus.
  • Highly motivated to reduce the suffering of wild animals.

Given our grants will be small, we expect successful proposals will be based on descriptive research with sufficient available data. The outline and budget should be clear and reasonable. Most importantly, the project should have the potential to reduce suffering either:

  • directly because the intervention that is being researched has a high likelihood of being adopted, or
  • indirectly because the research will help identify the most important areas to work in, give us better tools, or help us understand negative experiences in the wild.

We favor projects in line with our research agenda so we recommend applicants read it prior to developing their proposals.

We encourage individuals to apply even if they do not necessarily fall within the above guidelines. We especially encourage applications from underrepresented groups. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or any other basis protected by law.

If in doubt about whether to apply, we encourage you to contact josh.jacobson@was-research.org

Submission Process

Applications should be submitted here by Sunday, 16 September 2018. Please include the following in your application:

  1. Research proposal using this template; and
  2. Brief CV or resume.

If you have any questions, please e-mail josh.jacobson@was-research.org

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We’re grateful to Marianne van der Werf and Josh Jacobson for their outstanding work managing this WASR project.