What’s the argument I’m not seeing for assigning EA-weight to the deaths of chickens? It has its own slider on 80,000 Hours asking how many chicken lives you would rate a human life as worth, and that continues to baffle me; subtracting the wider problems it would cause, I would delete every chicken from Earth today to bring one person back to life.
I can understand some squeamishness over treating them badly, but if you’re going to break their necks and eat them I see something silly in protesting their cage sizes, especially compared to something like children dying of malaria. This is also the reason why beastiality does not register very high on my list of immoral actions. The only other arguments that come to me are that some people have chickens as pets, or that there are analogous cases involving other animals that get stronger reactions and prove some hypocrisy.
For the first, the key purpose of pet ownership is the emotional satisfaction of the owner, and possibly the imparting of lessons on responsibility, so it’s just using the resource more creatively than as food. That is, I’d be reluctant to kill a chicken someone owned and loved, but not for the chicken’s sake. For the second, I agree there are some animals that are worth going out of way to treat well, but this is determined either by sentimental value or their potential for upliftability; very few people would care if grasshoppers or rainbow trout vanished from the Earth tomorrow compared to the people who would care if housecats or gorillas did. Chickens are much more like rainbow trout than housecats.