How to make an impact in animal advocacy, a survey.

Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship con­ducted a sur­vey of 30 lead­ers and re­searchers in the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment to try to get a sense of what cause ar­eas have been work­ing well, and, more speci­fi­cally, what ar­eas might be most promis­ing for found­ing new or­ga­ni­za­tions. The in­di­vi­d­u­als were se­lected by speak­ing to EA-in­volved an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy ac­tivists and by then work­ing out­wards based on their recom­men­da­tions of who to speak to.

In­ter­views lasted be­tween 30 and 120 min­utes and most ex­perts were asked fairly similar ques­tions. The two num­bers beside each in­ter­ven­tion are av­er­age rat­ing and weighted weight­ing. Aver­age rat­ing is just a straight­for­ward av­er­age of what each leader thought: a score of 1 was con­sid­ered low promis­ing­ness, 2 mid-promis­ing­ness, 3 high promis­ing­ness, and 4 high­est promis­ing­ness. The weighted re­sults de­pend on how many years of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy ex­pe­rience some­one had, how util­i­tar­ian/​EA their mind­set was, and their depth of knowl­edge in com­par­ing differ­ent, broad top­ics. For ex­am­ple, some­one who knew a lot, but only about one area, would get a lower weight­ing than some­one who had deep knowl­edge of sev­eral ar­eas. The range in views rep­re­sents how con­tro­ver­sial an is­sue was among lead­ers.

Th­ese are the re­sults I am most con­fi­dent in, as I was able to ask al­most all in­ter­vie­wees about most broad ar­eas. For the more de­tailed sub-ar­eas, I was not able to ask about all 100+ in­ter­ven­tions. I was only able to ask “in the broad area of Events, what might be the best/​worst things”, and up­date the in­ter­ven­tions in that area based on the per­son’s re­sponse. For ex­am­ple, if some­one gave Events an over­all score of 2 (mid promis­ing­ness), but men­tioned one in­ter­ven­tion they felt was less promis­ing and one in­ter­ven­tion they thought was more promis­ing, those two scores would be ad­justed (e.g. re­spec­tively to a 1 and 3), but the other un­men­tioned in­ter­ven­tions would be given the rank­ing they have in the broad area (in this case a 2). This could lead to ideas that are less well-known re­ceiv­ing rat­ings closer to the area-av­er­age due to peo­ple men­tion­ing it less.

Full re­sults spread­sheet for all areas

The safest way, there­fore, to in­ter­pret data on in­di­vi­d­ual in­ter­ven­tions is to limit it to com­par­i­sons within a sub-area. For ex­am­ple, you might be con­fi­dent that con­fer­ences are more promis­ing than veg-fests. I do think some judge­ments can also be made across ar­eas, al­though they should be made with lower con­fi­dence.

Ad­di­tional Details

The num­bers tell us a lot, but it’s hard to get ev­ery­thing across with them. There­fore, the fol­low­ing para­graphs sum­ma­rize what I learned or found sur­pris­ing within each broad area.

Cor­po­rate Outreach

Cor­po­rate out­reach was gen­er­ally agreed upon as a his­tor­i­cally suc­cess­ful cause area. Some peo­ple thought that now was the time to start plan­ning for the next cam­paigns to be con­ducted (e.g. on fish). Others thought it would be bet­ter to con­tinue fo­cus­ing on the cur­rent egg/​chicken cam­paigns to guaran­tee fol­low through and ex­pan­sion to in­ter­na­tional level. There was some con­cern that this cause area was fairly full, with strong or­ga­ni­za­tions already work­ing on it, while oth­ers ar­gued that very high im­pact gaps were yet to be filled.

Research

Re­search, al­though it had a high av­er­age, was more di­vi­sive, with many peo­ple think­ing it was the most im­por­tant thing to work on, while oth­ers be­lieved that re­search did not gen­er­ally af­fect an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions and ac­tivist ac­tions. Opinions differed on what re­search is high­est im­pact: move­ment build­ing, fun­da­men­tal cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tions, and prac­ti­cal in­ter­ven­tions each had strong sup­port­ers. Peo­ple men­tioned en­sur­ing that re­search has a clear path to mak­ing an im­pact, as it seems easy to get lost in ab­strac­tion. Many peo­ple were con­cerned that, even if re­search was well con­ducted, it would not in­fluence or­ga­ni­za­tions un­less it first in­fluenced fun­ders who then in­fluenced or­ga­ni­za­tions via their grant­ing choices.

Product Creation

Akin to re­search, the av­er­age score ended up be­ing high with a lot of mixed views thrown in. Many peo­ple saw it as the most promis­ing area, with the po­ten­tial to shock the whole in­dus­try. How­ever, ex­pected timelines and mar­ket share es­ti­mates varied widely be­tween ex­perts, lead­ing to very differ­ent op­ti­mism/​pes­simism lev­els. Opinions were also fairly split on whether plant based or clean meat was the more promis­ing sub-area. Peo­ple seemed to agree, how­ever, that over­all the area has lots of fund­ing and tal­ent pour­ing in and, hence, is less ne­glected. Some ar­gued that the right amount of at­ten­tion had been paid to the area already, while oth­ers sug­gested that too many ac­tivists were join­ing the cause and that non-ac­tivist, pay-mo­ti­vated ac­tors would prob­a­bly jump on the op­por­tu­nity if there ap­peared a promis­ing one.

Poli­ti­cal Outreach

The con­sen­sus was that this is an area with a lot of gaps and ne­glect. Some thought this was due to prag­matic con­cerns. For ex­am­ple, it will always be hard to com­pete with high bud­get an­i­mal agri­cul­ture lob­bies. Others thought it was more due to the mo­men­tum of the move­ment and the lack of ex­per­tise of cur­rent an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy ac­tivists. Views on how to act were mixed but gen­er­ally peo­ple thought that fo­cus­ing on the small scale (e.g. state or city) and on coun­tries other than the US might be more promis­ing. At the very least, there is room for re­search to iden­tify the most promis­ing in­ter­ven­tions in this area, as it cur­rently proves to be a very low in­for­ma­tion space.

Welfare Con­di­tion Improvements

Some­what like poli­ti­cal out­reach, this was a lower in­for­ma­tion space. Peo­ple thought some work could be done, par­tic­u­larly when paired with other in­ter­ven­tions. For ex­am­ple, in­vent­ing a bet­ter pro­cess for stun­ning fish and then lob­by­ing com­pa­nies to ap­ply it. Some of the more far-fetched ideas seemed promis­ing to peo­ple ini­tially, al­though few peo­ple were well-in­formed enough to have strong views on, for in­stance, GMO an­i­mals. Most peo­ple were fairly neu­tral and un­sure about this class of in­ter­ven­tions.

Wild An­i­mal Suffering

Wild an­i­mal suffer­ing was the most con­tro­ver­sial is­sue on this list, with many peo­ple sug­gest­ing that al­though it was an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion, it was just too early for se­ri­ous work on the is­sue. Others pointed out the very high num­bers of in­di­vi­d­u­als af­fected vs the very low num­ber of peo­ple cur­rently in the area. Al­most ev­ery­one agreed that re­search had to be con­ducted and in­ter­ven­tions, if ap­plied, had to be very care­fully ex­e­cuted. Nearly ev­ery­one seemed to be against in­ter­ven­tions that would come into ma­jor con­flict with differ­ent value sys­tems. Gen­er­ally, the peo­ple who thought this cause was promis­ing be­lieved also that much more re­search needed to be done be­fore in­ter­ven­tions could be effec­tively ap­plied.

A re­lated is­sue that peo­ple were gen­er­ally more pos­i­tive about was in­ter­ven­ing on be­half of in­sects (e.g. lob­by­ing against silk or for hu­mane in­sec­ti­cide). Nev­er­the­less, con­cerns about it be­ing too early to fo­cus on such is­sues were also preva­lent.

Im­prov­ing Ex­ist­ing NGOs

Views varied about the op­por­tu­ni­ties in this area. Co­or­di­na­tion and tal­ent gap im­prove­ment were men­tioned by a lot of peo­ple, with mar­ket­ing, ap­plied re­search, and di­ver­sity be­ing men­tioned by some. Over­all, even the peo­ple who thought this area had promise had ma­jor con­cerns about its tractabil­ity. One ac­tivist worded it as fol­lows: “Many of the lead­ers in an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy where pro­moted due to ded­i­ca­tion to their ideals and stub­born­ness; those are hard minds to change”. Others found the idea great in prin­ci­ple, while re­main­ing un­sure on how to re­al­ise it. The one large ex­cep­tion that many peo­ple were ex­cited about was the pos­si­bil­ity of in­creas­ing the tal­ent pool in the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment on the whole, par­tic­u­larly in coun­tries like In­dia and China, who cur­rently have a less es­tab­lished move­ment. Gen­er­ally, this area seemed tricky to do well, but if the tal­ent gap prob­lem could be re­duced it could be of very high im­pact. Work­ing on teach­ing an­i­mal ac­tivists to be more effec­tive and then pairing them with or­ga­ni­za­tions in need could be one pos­si­ble ap­proach.

Events

Events were gen­er­ally seen as mildly pos­i­tive but low on cost-effec­tive­ness. Many peo­ple thought there was room for more and/​or im­proved con­fer­ences. Some men­tioned events which fo­cused on re­ten­tion. Event cat­e­gories like protests raised many peo­ple’s con­cerns over be­ing net nega­tive, while oth­ers thought protests were promis­ing but ne­glected.

In­di­vi­d­ual Ve­gan Outreach

At the bot­tom of the rank­ings was ve­gan out­reach. It was once seen as the most promis­ing way for­ward, but many peo­ple have ob­tained quite nega­tive views on it now. Gen­er­ally, peo­ple thought just the right amount or too many re­sources were be­ing in­vested into this area. Many peo­ple were more pos­i­tive about long form and in-depth me­dia (e.g. doc­u­men­taries and hu­mane ed­u­ca­tion) than they were about short form out­reach (e.g. fly­ers and on­line ads). Peo­ple thought fo­cus­ing on coun­tries out­side of the EU and the US could be some­what promis­ing, given that these mar­kets are gen­er­ally less sat­u­rated.

Other

Sadly, I was not able to get enough peo­ple’s views on the in­ter­ven­tions that fell out­side of these broad cat­e­gories and thus, it’s ranked at an av­er­age score of mid­dle effec­tive­ness.

Conclusion

Although there are lots of differ­ent views in the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment, there are some shared views across many in the move­ment. The views listed here will help di­rect fu­ture Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship re­search and even­tu­ally help lead to some recom­mended char­i­ties that the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment might want to start. If you want to keep up with other Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship re­search or might be in­ter­ested in found­ing an an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy char­ity in the fu­ture more de­tails can be found at the CE web­site.