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Jacy Reese is a writer, researcher, and co-founder of Sentience Institute. He previously worked as a Senior Fellow at Sentience Politics, and before that at Animal Charity Evaluators as chair of the board of directors and then as a full-time researcher.
His research focuses on effective altruism, anti-speciesism, and plant-based and cellular agriculture. Reese was recognized as one of Vice’s “Humans of the Year” in December 2017 along with his co-founder Kelly Witwicki. His latest book, The End of Animal Farming, argues that animal farming will end by 2100.
Before he graduated from college, Reese was working on the Animal Charity Evaluators Board of Directors and then joined as a full-time researcher after graduation. Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE, formerly called Effective Animal Activism) is an organization within the effective altruism movement that evaluates and compares various animal charities based on their cost-effectiveness and transparency, particularly those that are tackling factory farming. While at ACE, Reese published a number of articles for media outlets like HuffPost. One such article addressed the issue of wild animal suffering, arguing that humans should act on behalf of wild animals to alleviate their suffering if it can be done safely and effectively. His 2015 Vox article on the topic was criticized by writers who argued we shouldn’t intervene or that we should instead focus on helping domestic animals.
After a year and a half at Animal Charity Evaluators, Reese briefly worked with Sentience Politics, a project of the Effective Altruism Foundation. Sentience Politics then split into two organizations, one of which was Sentience Institute, co-founded by Reese and his now-fiancee Kelly Witwicki in June 2017. Sentience Institute is an effective altruism think tank working to understand and facilitate the expansion of humanity’s moral circle to all sentient beings. The ‘moral circle’ is the boundary drawn around those entities in the world deemed worthy of moral consideration. They have published several research reports including a study of the British antislavery movement, a study of the French nuclear power movement, a study of genetically modified food, and a poll of American attitudes towards “animal farming and animal-free food.” The poll was done in collaboration with Ipsos Group and found that 47% of Americans support “a ban on slaughterhouses.”
In The End of Animal Farming, Reese “outlines an evidence-based roadmap to a humane, ethical, efficient food system where slaughterhouses are obsolete.” Reese wrote this book from the perspective of effective altruism because there is already much content explaining the problems of animal agriculture, but he perceived a need for a book to guide the “farmed animal movement” towards its long-term goal. Near the end of the book, Reese concludes that, “if I had to speculate, I would say by 2100 all forms of farming will seem outdated and barbaric.”
The book discusses human history as a series of expansions of humanity’s moral circle, arguing that due to trends such as globalization, feminization, and a newfound scientific consensus on animal consciousness, moral progress “has eradicated animal cruelty in a wide range of industries and is already banging on the locked doors of factory farms.” Reese attributes the progress so far of the farmed animal movement mostly to undercover investigations and policy change such as cage-free eggs. He then discusses the most promising technological solutions to factory farming, such as plant-based and cellular agriculture, and argues for various practical strategies such as focusing on dairy products and omnivorous consumers, instead of artisan vegan products. The final chapters of the book discuss social strategies. Reese argues for a focus on institutions like businesses and governments and argues against “humane” animal agriculture. He argues against the “gimmick” approach of PETA. In the final chapter, he returns to moral circle expansion, arguing that advocates should work to ensure that the moral circle expands to one day include all sentient beings such as wild animals and beings with artificial consciousness.