Burning Questions Fellowships – Past Recipients

Past Fellowship Award Winners and Their Reports (Guidance Memos)

What are Guidance Memos?

  • At the end of their four-month award period, fellowship winners provide their reports to Tiny Beam Fund.
  • We call these reports Guidance Memos because they offer practical guidance to advocates who asked “burning questions” about tackling industrial animal agriculture in low- and middle-income countries, and they are presented in easy-read form and language.
  • All Guidance Memos are:
    • Nuanced: No naive, simplistic, one-dimensional answers. No shying away from complexities which are explained clearly and succinctly.
    • Evidence-backed: Based on reliable sources of information, PhD-level fieldwork and academic research.
    • Readable: Easy-to-follow reasoning and narratives. No academic jargons, no long, incomprehensible sentences.
    • Actionable: Real-life issues and challenges are addressed. Concrete, practical suggestions and steps one can take are offered.
  • We can’t emphasize enough that Guidance Memos are only meant to serve as jumping-off points for further explorations. They are not the final word. Guidance Memos have placed some food for thought and suggestions for actions on a dining table that is pretty bare at present. But they only represent the findings and perspectives of certain individual academics.
  • We are keen to supplement the Guidance Memos with experiences of advocates. We invite all advocates to share with us their own insights on the topics addressed in the Guidance Memos. Please contact us!

2019 Spring/Summer Fellowship Award Recipients

Ioulia Fenton

Location: United States
Academic field: Anthropology
Award category: PhD Candidate

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “Changing chicken in Guatemala: Relevance of poultry to income generation, food security, health and nutrition”
  • Keywords: Guatemala. Chickens and eggs. Industrial production. Consumption. Businesses and brands. International trade.
  • What We Learned From It:
    • It explains the major role played by a few powerful home-grown businesses and brands in flooding Guatemala with industrially-produced chickens.
    • It calls attention to the centrality of cross-border and international trade and treatises in making possible the ascendancy of “industrial chickens” in Guatemala.
    • It brings to the fore public health, food justice, and other significant issues that really matter in the Guatemalan context.
    • It exposes various key assertions and myths that help to hold in place chickens’ current popularity with consumers.
    • It offers practical strategies and actions one can take to turn things round (e.g. challenge industry through newspaper articles and on social media, work on passing Guatemalan laws on transparency in chicken production and on truthful advertising, valorize indigenous culinary knowledge).

Links

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • Tackling the hugely complex issue of drivers of industrial food animal production in a particular country in a clear and measured way, focusing on several key factors and developments.
  • The Guidance Memo will be informed by the extensive interviews of persons in Guatemala working to improve the country’s food system that Ioulia conducted over 16 months.
  • The Guidance Memo will provide useful information that can be hard to obtain, for example:
    – Synthesis of studies as well as gray literature on industrial and backyard poultry production, distribution, and consumption in Guatemala.
    – Review of existing government laws and policies on the industrial poultry industry in Guatemala.
    – Consolidating examples of poultry industry’s self-proclaimed national health, social and economic goals.
  • Ioulia’s commitment to sharing her research with local advocates in Guatemala.

What Fenton says about the award:
“I applied for the Tiny Beam Fund fellowship because it was a rare opportunity to help deepen scientific “The call for applications to the Burning Questions Fellowship proved a serendipitous moment for me. I had been looking for ways to disseminate my research in more accessible forms for both front line persons and the general public. The Fellowship provides the support that I need to write about the under-researched and underreported topic of industrial chicken in Guatemala.” (Ioulia Fenton)

Kate Hartcher

Location: Australia
Academic field: Veterinary science
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “Supporting higher welfare cage-free egg production in China”
  • Keywords: China. Cage-free eggs. Farmers and producers. Animal welfare
  • What We Learned From It:
    • Improving cage-free layer hen welfare in China is feasible and desirable.
    • The three most pressing and practical issues to address are: 1) Diseases (especially concerning biosecurity, vaccination, euthanasia). 2) Optimizing egg production, bird and shed management (especially concerning severe feather pecking, environment to allow natural behaviors, floor eggs). 3) Managing modern commercial breeds. These issues are considered by Chinese cage-free eggs producers to be very important.
    • The critical importance of involving and listening to the producers themselves when trying to raise animal welfare standards.

Links

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • Consultation with local Chinese producers and animal welfare experts when gathering information and doing the research.
  • The work done with the fellowship award directly enhances Chinese farmers’ knowledge of best practice, and provides them with the training and information so they can do it themselves.
  • The Guidance Memo will be translated into Chinese.

What Hartcher says about the award:
“The Burning Questions Fellowship highlights the importance of both researching real-world problems as well as communicating these to the people on the ground, the end-users – an important and often overlooked aspect of research. I am honoured to be one of the recipients of the fellowship. It is an invaluable opportunity to broaden the scope of my work and affect change in animal welfare internationally. My research looks to develop resources with Chinese producers and researchers to improve the living conditions for millions of layer hens in China, and empower local producers to make change.” (Kate Hartcher)

Matthew Hayek

Location: United States
Academic field: Environmental science and engineering
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “Underestimates of US emissions and global implications for industrializing animal agriculture”
  • Keywords: GHG emissions. Industrial-scale food animal production. Extensive animal agriculture systems.
  • What We Learned From It:
    • Will intensifying animal agriculture significantly limit global GHG emissions as many experts and policy-makers believe?
    • Probably not. One key reason is that animal emissions are estimated using complex models, and these models contain multiple errors that often go unreported. And one should be careful not to jump to the conclusion that extensive, pastoral systems is the perfect answer.

Links

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • One of the most potent claims that is often used to justify operating animal agriculture on an industrial scale and which front-line persons have a hard time refuting is that “sustainable intensification” causes less climate change impacts than raising animals in other ways. The Guidance Memo aims to show that this may not always be true. It “will use clear, non-technical language to show how rarely-discussed atmospheric measurements can cast doubt on widely-accepted modeled estimates of GHG emissions, and what the implications are for the expansion of industrial animal agriculture in many countries”.
  • Synthesis of relevant scientific literature for front-line persons is very valuable.

What Hayek says about the award:
“I applied for the Tiny Beam Fund fellowship because it was a rare opportunity to help deepen scientific understanding for people working toward more sustainable and humane food systems, allowing my research to make a tangible impact. The fellowship is also structured to support ongoing research activities for investigators. Few opportunities as robust as this exist that can empower stakeholders with that knowledge directly, while simultaneously advancing scientific discourse.” (Matthew Hayek)

Aaron Kingsbury, Ho Ngoc Son, Ha Thi Hoa, Kieu Thi Thu Huong

Location: United States (Kingsbury), Vietnam (Ho, Ha, Kieu)
Academic field: Human geography (Kingsbury), Environment (Ho), Agriculture (Ha), Rural development (Kieu)
Award category: PhD Team

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “An analysis of value-chains and market development to support the smaller-scale production of pork by ethnic minority women in the Northern Mountainous Region of Vietnam”
  • Keywords: Vietnam. Pigs. Small-scale producers. Women producers.
  • What We Learned From It:
    • Socially and economically-marginalized women in Vietnam’s Northern Mountainous Region (NMR) raise local or heritage pigs on small-scales to supplement their family income.
    • These women farmers are greatly affected by recent growth of industrial pork production in Vietnam.
    • There is clear evidence that small-scale pork production in NMR is viable and is good socially, economically, environmentally, and for animal welfare.
    • But small-scale producers need to be supported. A number of concrete, practical ways to do so are explained in the Guidance Memo. They range from providing training in pig breeding to simple steps like teaching the small producers how to use Facebook to attract customers. (Urban customers are willing to pay more for meat from local/heritage pigs, and mobile phone use is not uncommon in NMR.)
    • The African Swine Fever crisis in northern Vietnam in mid/late 2019 threatens to put an end to raising local/heritage breeds on small scales in NMR.

Links

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • The involvement of academic researchers in Vietnam as team members.
  • The research work is to be informed directly by the opinions of small-scale farmers (specifically rural marginalized ethnic minority women farmers).
  • The Guidance Memo will give its readers a real-life illustration of the interrelationship between small and industrial producers, of how far one can go with the strategy of limiting industrial production by supporting small local producers.

What the Kingsbury team says about the award:
“As a team, we care about how changes in animal production affect both the animals and members of rural communities. As academics, we aim to use our positions to make progressive changes in the world. The firsthand data we gather and the results it produces will provide needed voices for more marginalized communities globally as part of a larger effort to limit the spread of industrial livestock production. We aim to have a meaningful impact on the lives of members in local communities, on the efforts of advocates, and on the decisions of policy makers.” (Aaron Kingsbury, Ho Ngoc Son, Ha Thi Hoa, Kieu Thi Thu Huong)

Rachel Mason

Location: United States
Academic field: Plant and soil science
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “Cattle and climate: Why industrial production is not the solution to emissions from beef and dairy farms”
  • Keywords: Beef and dairy production systems. GHG emissions. Literature review. Science-based communication.
  • What We Learned From It:
    • The Guidance Memo provides user-friendly explanation of basic concepts and terminology as well as summaries of current scientific thinking related to GHG emissions of different beef and dairy production systems around the world. It focuses on giving readers a clear understanding of these complex and confusing issues, supplying them with a solid foundation on which to build their case against industrializing cattle production in low- and middle-income countries. For example, it explains the difference between “intensification” and “industrialization”, and why understanding the difference is critically important.
    • It makes suggestions on how to counter certain prevalent arguments in favor of industrialization (e.g. it is often asserted that industrialization is essential in order to reduce GHG emission because non-industrial systems generate too much greenhouse gases and do not produce enough meat and dairy to meet global demands). For instance, it makes the point that farms in low- and middle-income countries that have low climate footprints already exist, and it is quite possible to bring more such farms on board rather than go the route of industrialization.

Links

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • The Guidance Memo will give more clarity to an important issue that advocates often find confusing, namely, whether or not there is consensus among scientists that industrially-produced cattle in LMICs have more or have less climate change impacts than other production systems. This confusion makes it difficult to voice support for non-industrial systems forcefully and confidently.
  • The Guidance Memo will aim at providing very practical and concrete information (e.g. there will be “talking points” for activists).

What Mason says about the award:
“For the last few years I’ve been thinking more and more about how we can have good food, happy people and animals, and functioning ecosystems, all at the same time. Although I originally trained as an astronomer, I decided to make a radical career change, going back to school to learn as much as possible about sustainable agriculture. The Burning Questions Fellowship links my abilities as a researcher with the needs of people who are doing vital work in the field, and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to help make a difference.” (Rachel Mason)