Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Counting Animals site about?

It is a blog that aims to collect, generate, analyze, organize, present and interpret quantitative information related to the animal advocacy movement. Occasionally, it will employ tools and insights from computer science and mathematics to discover facts pertinent to the animal advocacy movement. From time to time, it may also make number-related nerdy observations of no use to anybody.

How does quantitative data help anyone?

Numbers have a way of cutting through hype, myths and dogmas whether generated by elements within the animal advocacy movement or promoted by the opponents of the movement. Well-sourced quantitative information has a role to play in building convincing arguments, producing dependable literature, choosing effective forms of activism and promoting a credible image of the movement in the public sphere. For example, numbers alone may not persuade an individual to cause less animal suffering but they can guide an animal advocacy organization in developing effective strategies to persuade individuals to cause less animal suffering.

What do you mean by the animal advocacy movement?

I am using the term ‘animal advocacy’ broadly to include everything that may be described by people as animal welfare, animal protection, animal liberation or animal rights.

Is your blog a neutral look at the animal advocacy movement? Or, does it have a point of view?

It has a point of view.

But, data is data and bias cannot change well-sourced quantitative data. So, your blog cannot be said to have a bias or a point of view.

Not really. A collection of data is almost always biased by the means used to collect, filter, and organize it even before it is presented and interpreted. For example, in my post on vegan and vegetarian book titles, I made the decision to not count as books research reports that each cost $795. I decided to not count bound volumes of magazines. In my mind, these are not what people normally mean when they use the term ‘book’. However, someone else with a different set of prejudices about what counts as a book may have decided differently. So, there is usually bias in any collection of data. No interpretation of data can be entirely relied upon without understanding the bias behind the data.

How can anybody avoid such bias?

You cannot avoid bias in data but you can do your best to be aware of it. There are prejudices you know you have, there are prejudices you know you don’t have and there are prejudices you don’t know you have (thank you, Rummy!). Each post in this blog will declare all the prejudices I know I have when I present the data in the post (for example, about what I count as a book). My hope is that the readers of this blog will enlighten me on the prejudices I do not know I have.

Now, about what is on the site. Is there a pattern to the numbers on the banner of the web site?

Yes!

I love the quote you have at the bottom on the left side of the blog. It is a strange quote on a blog that declares a love of numbers.

Yes, because there is a limit to how much numbers can help us understand things we want to understand. Quantification can sometimes oversimplify complex pieces of information in ways that can be misleading. The quote is a caution against over-interpreting quantitative data.

So, I can see why, not everything that can be counted counts. But, what is an example of something that counts but cannot be counted?

I have the help of my best friend, Denise, in more ways than I know how to count.

Is there a way you can be reached?

I can be reached at junkjunkCountingAnimals.junk.

Comments

Have Gone Vegan

Excellent! The more hard data we have the better. And you're so right about bias because even deciding what to investigate or what questions to ask isn't bias-free. Looking forward to your posts.

Dave

Very interesting blog. But please add an RSS feed! Many people (like me) won't end up following it unless they can hook it up into their RSS reader.

Mick

Love your blog! Please keep the content reflecting quality over quantity to start out. It's always a beautiful thing to find something actually worth reading. Keep it up!

Jen

Great blog! Also looking for an RSS feed. :)

Harish

Thank you all for the kind comments! Also, I just added an RSS feed and an e-mail subscription option.

Mark

Love the blog. Here's my selfish question for a future post: How many cows are killed a year because of the dairy industry?

I've got an idea for my first tattoo: a cow with a number on her side. It's intended to be a conversation starter? "What's that?" "Oh, it's the number of cows killed each year for milk and cheese." People often still think no one dies for dairy.

So anyway, I figure this number would include veal calves and spent dairy cows. But I don't see these numbers in any obvious place so this would perhaps be great fodder for a post!

Harish

Thanks for that question, Mark. Yes, I will plan a post around your question. Coincidentally, my latest (third) post happens to also be on cows used for dairy!

Joel

Thank you for this new blog, Harish. What a wonderful idea. And you are executing it admirably. Now, here's an issue I hope you will take up -- really the most obvious one, although not at all a simple one. Just how many nonhuman animals are we talking about? Total. That would include worldwide, of course, and in categories such as food, experimentation, hunting, clothing, puppy mills and kill shelters, habitat destruction (tough one!), etc. ad inf. There are many occasions when I want to cite figures about these things -- especially re eating animals and animal products. And I have found a number of Websites which give statistics. But most useful, for both scholarly purposes and impressing critical thinkers of all stripes in legislatures, journalism, etc., would be not only the numbers but also the sources of those numbers (and some analysis, of course). Some of the sites I use do also give sources, but they usually do not make it Internet-easy to check the sources themselves. So this is both a huge project and one that needs to be carried out with precision and an eye to user-friendliness. You may be just the person to do it! Thanks -- Joel

Mick

I've had to do a little finangling to get these posts to print. Could you including a "print it" button? Another option would be to make .pdf's of your posts and have the graphs in those.

John Maher

Excelent start. This blog looks like it will fast become one of my favorites for the complete lack of bullshit. Stay on course and deliver the goods

Harish

Mick, I am sorry I may not be able to add a print button. I have not yet found any software library that reliably converts JavaScript code on a web site into pdf. Even Adobe's Acrobat, which claims to capture web sites into pdf files, fails on most JavaScript code. Since I am expecting many of my graphics to be interactive (especially in future posts), I have to use JavaScript instead of static image files.

As of now, good old screen capture seems like is the best option. If I run into a better solution, I will be sure to add the print button!

HT

Congratulations!! The concept is just wonderfully unique. You are getting deep emotional points across with graphs. WOW. I can't properly say how impressed I am. WOW again.

Sandeep Sibal

Terrific work. Through this website, we take a step closer to what da Vinci envisioned: "The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men."

Charlie Talbert

Thanks for using your gifts on the side of Good!

Eddie R

Great site Harish. It's Eddie from Woodstock (WARM). Excellent research and observations. I'm hooked.

Rachel

Holy heck I just now found this site. I LOVE IT!!

Penny

An interesting numbers question came to mind while at breakfast the other day.
The couple next to me each had a breakfast consisting of: French toast, eggs, sausage, ham and bacon. Yes, unbelievable but true.
They both ordered multi grain toast which was a bit of a chuckle for me, but didn't eat it until they had buttered it with 'cretons' (a French Canadian fatty meat spread.)
They had butter on the toast and milk in their coffee.
My question is : between the dairy, egg and meat products, how many different animals might have involved in this breakfast they ate?

Karen Johnson - The Elated Vegan

Hello Harish, I know you try to limit your posts to only have quality content, but I'm really looking forward to the next one! When do you plan to bring out another one? Thanks for everything you do. I always share your articles they are excellent!

Harish

Thank you, Karen, for noticing the 6-month hiatus! Day jobs can be such a drag!

Yes, many new posts are in the works—some which have required far more research than others—but, they are coming!

Please add your comment below. Both of the two fields below, your name and your comment, are required.