Over 60 billion land-dwelling animals are killed each year. The overwhelming majority of these animals are raised in factory farms, where conditions can involve “intense confinement, inhibition of natural behaviors, untreated health issues, and numerous other causes of suffering” (Reese 2016). Although it is difficult to quantify farmed animal welfare, a variety of considerations suggest that the lives of many of these animals are net-negative (Tomasik 2007; Norwood & Lusk 2011).
There are a number of promising ways to improve farmed animal welfare (Open Philanthropy 2013). One approach is reduce the number of farm animals, by persuading the public to reduce consumption of animal products or by facilitating the development of animal product alternatives (Open Philanthropy 2015). Another approach is to reduce the suffering farm animals experience, by improving the conditions under which these animals live. Open Philanthropy estimates that corporate cage-free campaigns have spared about 250 hens a year of confinement in a cage per each dollar spent. They also claim that the cost-effectiveness of these campaigns is higher than any of the other approaches they have investigated (Bollard 2016).
Bollard, Lewis (2016) Initial grants to support corporate cage-free reforms, Open Philanthropy, March 31.
A report estimating the cost-effectiveness of corporate cage-free reforms.
MacAskill, William & Darius Meissner (2020) Cause prioritization: Farm animal welfare, in ‘Acting on utilitarianism’, Utilitarianism.
Norwood, F. Bailey & Jayson L. Lusk (2011) Compassion, by the Pound: The Economics of Farm Animal Welfare, New York: Oxford University Press.
An attempt to apply economic principles to illuminate various moral and practical issues surounding farm animals.
Open Philanthropy (2013) Treatment of animals in industrial agriculture, Open Philanthropy, September.
An overview of possible interventions to address the harms associated to factory farming.
Open Philanthropy (2015) Animal product alternatives, Open Philanthropy, December.
An investigation of animal product alternatives as a possible intervention for reducing animal suffering.
Reese, Jacy (2016) Why animals matter for effective altruism, Effective Altruism Forum, August 22.
An essay making the case for animal welfare as a top focus area of the effective altruism community.
Whittlestone, Jess (2017) Animal welfare, Effective Altruism, November 16.