Are China and India the most promising countries for animal advocacy? A systematic country comparison

When con­sid­er­ing a new char­ity to start, the ques­tion of which coun­try to tar­get is an im­por­tant one. This post ex­plains the pro­cess for pri­ori­tiz­ing coun­tries and how this sys­tem is ap­plied to differ­ent coun­tries.

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Most of the time, the de­ci­sion is not ob­vi­ous. For ex­am­ple, China ac­counts for ~48% of the to­tal global pro­duc­tion of farm an­i­mals but re­ceived only a small per­centage of fund­ing and at­ten­tion com­pared to the USA, which that ac­counts for only 1.95% of to­tal pro­duc­tion.

Global pro­duc­tion of farm animals

(FAO, 2016)

Does it mean that China should be pri­ori­tized over other coun­tries? Given the poli­ti­cal and le­gal situ­a­tion, such as strict gov­ern­men­tal reg­u­la­tion of NGOs or lack of an­i­mal pro­tec­tion laws, progress in this coun­try might be less tractable. Ad­di­tion­ally, with al­most all large prob­lems, the ab­solute scale of the prob­lem isn’t the most im­por­tant fac­tor to con­sider. That’s be­cause al­most always, the rel­a­tive im­pact of work in a given coun­try is not go­ing to be capped be­cause we reach the max­i­mum scale of an­i­mals that can be af­fected, but be­cause it is go­ing to be slowed down or stopped by other fac­tors much faster than they will by the to­tal ca­pac­ity of the prob­lem. For ex­am­ple, if in China there is only $100,000 of to­tal fund­ing for an­i­mal ac­tivism, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter how big the an­i­mal pro­duc­tion is from the scale per­spec­tive as long as it’s much larger than we are likely to help effec­tively with $100,000.

Another ex­am­ple would be In­dia. The coun­try is re­spon­si­ble for al­most 10% of the global an­i­mal pro­duc­tion due to its ex­tremely large pop­u­la­tion, and de­spite a high veg­e­tar­i­anism rate. It would be naive, how­ever, to in­fer that In­dia is highly promis­ing for an­i­mal ad­vo­cates purely based on this na­tional pro­duc­tion figure. Many poli­cies to im­prove the lives of an­i­mals in In­dia would be re­al­is­ti­cally im­ple­mented not on a na­tional level but on the level of in­di­vi­d­ual states; the same is true, of course, for large coun­tries like the United States. Chang­ing poli­cies at the level of the In­dian na­tional gov­ern­ment is im­mensely difficult and likely too in­tractable. In prac­tice, an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy groups op­er­at­ing in In­dia should there­fore mostly fo­cus on chang­ing state leg­is­la­tion, which is much more tractable. For this rea­son, figures on na­tional-level an­i­mal pro­duc­tion and hu­man pop­u­la­tion might be mis­lead­ing in cases like In­dia and the US, and state-level figures are much more mean­ingful. Im­por­tantly, not all In­dian states are cre­ated equal: After all, they vary in size from a large coun­try (200 mil­lion in Ut­tar Pradesh) to a medium-sized city (1.5 mil­lion in Goa). Th­ese con­sid­er­a­tions mat­ter a lot when we are com­par­ing In­dia to other coun­tries. No­body would think to com­pare Ger­many to Africa when choos­ing a coun­try to op­er­ate in, yet In­dia has a big­ger hu­man pop­u­la­tion than the whole Afri­can con­ti­nent. When con­sid­er­ing what lo­ca­tion to work in, of­ten there is more de­tail re­quired than na­tional pop­u­la­tion or an­i­mal pro­duc­tion num­bers. This is one of many ex­am­ples illus­trat­ing why we tried to look at many fac­tors si­mul­ta­neously when se­lect­ing a coun­try to work in.

Another is­sue when choos­ing the coun­try is the differ­ence be­tween the net pro­duc­tion of an­i­mal prod­ucts and net con­sump­tion. When we an­a­lyze the data, the re­sults show a cor­re­la­tion of only 0.35 be­tween pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of fish in a given coun­try. That means only 12% of con­sump­tion in the given coun­try is ex­plained by the pro­duc­tion. And in­deed, the list of pri­or­ity coun­tries is differ­ent for those two vari­ables. This means that a coun­try should be pri­ori­tized based on the ap­proach that is go­ing to be used there. For ex­am­ple, Bangladesh is the fourth most promis­ing coun­try (from the scale per­spec­tive) to work in when ad­dress­ing high pro­duc­tion. There­fore, higher welfare stan­dards for an­i­mals can be en­sured through cor­po­rate out­reach and gov­ern­men­tal lob­by­ing. How­ever, Bangladesh is in the 116th place when an­a­lyzed from the per­spec­tive of the over­all con­sump­tion of an­i­mal prod­ucts, so fo­cus­ing on in­di­vi­d­ual change to pro­mot­ing ve­g­anism or re­duc­etar­i­anism or in­creas­ing ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tives is much less promis­ing.

Con­sid­er­ing those fac­tors and other fac­tors, we came to the con­clu­sion that the most promis­ing coun­tries to re­search deeper are those char­ac­ter­ized by:

  1. A high num­ber of pri­or­ity an­i­mals pro­duced or a high num­ber of pri­or­ity an­i­mals con­sumed

  2. High ne­glect­ed­ness — Calcu­lated as a ra­tio of cur­rent fund­ing (or the­o­ret­i­cal $10,000) spent on an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy to the num­ber of an­i­mals pro­duced/​consumed

  3. High tractabil­ity

  4. Low-scale limit­ing fac­tors

  5. In the case of con­sump­tion: pop­u­la­tion size

For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to FAO’s data, Bangladesh seems to be one of the most promis­ing coun­tries. It ac­counts for 3.10% of the global pro­duc­tion of an­i­mals, much more than the USA or any Euro­pean coun­try, where most of the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions now op­er­ate. Ad­di­tion­ally, Bangladesh seems to be pro­gres­sive in its food policy. For ex­am­ple, Bangladesh was the first coun­try to be ap­proved for the com­mer­cial re­lease of GMO crops. Ap­proval was passed from the ministries of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests (MoEF) and Agri­cul­ture (MoA). This sug­gests that those ministries might be pro­gres­sive also on is­sues re­lated to other as­pects of agri­cul­ture.

Based on re­search into the above crite­ria, we’ve cho­sen 22 coun­tries for a deeper dive to de­ter­mine where we should start a char­ity. We re­searched each coun­try in­di­vi­d­u­ally and gave them a score on nine crite­ria:

  1. Govern­men­tal reg­u­la­tion of NGOs Govern­men­tal reg­u­la­tion of NGOs

  2. At­ti­tudes to­wards farmed animals

  3. Type of farm an­i­mal production

  4. Num­ber of com­pa­nies/​ farms con­trol­ling the market

  5. Pres­ence of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion(s)

  6. An­i­mal pro­tec­tion laws and enforcement

  7. At­ti­tudes to­ward eat­ing an­i­mal products

  8. Other poli­ti­cal and cul­tural challenges

  9. English profi­ciency

Based on this sys­tem, we think that:

  • The top pri­or­ity coun­tries to fo­cus on when fund­ing a new an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy char­ity re­gard­less of the ask or ap­proach are:

  1. Canada

  2. The USA

  3. Taiwan

  • Top pri­or­ity coun­tries to fo­cus on when ad­dress­ing prob­lems with pro­duc­tion are:

  1. Brazil

  2. Mexico

  3. Japan

  • Top pri­or­ity coun­tries to fo­cus on when ad­dress­ing prob­lems with con­sump­tion are:

  1. Australia

  2. Lithuania

Although this list offers us a good overview of how promis­ing a given coun­try is, it is not the ul­ti­mate in­for­ma­tion you should base your de­ci­sion on. It should be mod­ified if you are plan­ning to use a spe­cific ap­proach or an ask. For ex­am­ple, In­dia might score above av­er­age if you take into ac­count all the fac­tors, but the reg­u­la­tion of NGOs seems par­tic­u­larly limit­ing. If you are plan­ning to im­prove man­age­ment of dis­solved oxy­gen lev­els through gov­ern­men­tal reg­u­la­tion, then In­dia will be a par­tic­u­larly bad coun­try be­cause of rel­a­tively small fish pro­duc­tion and the hos­tile stand on non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions. Com­par­a­tively, Taiwan might only be 0.2 SD bet­ter than In­dia, but when we take into ac­count their po­si­tion on in­ter­na­tional NGOs, and more con­ducive reg­u­la­tions when it comes to policy-mak­ing com­bined with high fish pro­duc­tion, it makes Taiwan much more promis­ing. This re­search should be used as a start­ing point, not as an ul­ti­mate an­swer.

Our full spread­sheet, with all the rat­ings, as well as links to the 1-5-page sum­mary re­ports, gives spe­cific de­scrip­tions as to why cer­tain coun­tries re­ceived cer­tain rat­ings. Each full re­port is a sum­mary page with key in­for­ma­tion and is fol­lowed by a sec­tion of rough notes (gen­er­ally in the 10-20 page range). Each re­port was time capped at five hours, so they are limited in both scope and depth. There­fore, we are keen to get more in­for­ma­tion on any of these ar­eas that could change the pri­ori­ti­za­tion.

For some ap­proaches, such as cor­po­rate gov­ern­men­tal out­reach, the im­pact of asks that might be im­ple­mented could be in­creased by ex­pand­ing those new poli­cies to a co­op­er­at­ing coun­try, so we also grouped them based on the trad­ing agree­ment be­tween coun­tries to provide ad­di­tional in­put that will in­form our de­ci­sion and took an av­er­age score for the group.

Many of these coun­tries have a rel­a­tively limited an­i­mal char­ity pres­ence and a small chance of de­vel­op­ing it, which gives us more con­fi­dence there is room for ad­di­tional coun­ter­fac­tual im­pact-fo­cused char­i­ties to be founded. When con­sid­er­ing the most im­por­tant char­i­ties to found, we ex­pect many, al­though not all of them, will be best founded in pri­or­ity coun­tries. We also ex­pect some of these coun­tries to change over time. For ex­am­ple, if a large char­ity was founded in Viet­nam, that would change how promis­ing the coun­try is for new char­i­ties to be founded in the coun­try and thus lower its pri­or­ity.

Many thanks for Vicky Cox who con­tributed greatly to this re­search as a part of her in­tern­ship at Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship by re­search­ing all the in­for­ma­tion needed to rate the coun­tries on all crite­ria.