ACE constantly seeks to conduct research to ground our evaluations of charities and interventions in empirical findings. If you are interested in helping with a current or planned research study, please contact us. We are especially happy to hear from professional researchers and organizations engaged in the activities we are currently studying. This page lists highlights of our planned and completed research, beyond the charity evaluations we conduct annually. We will update this page with a list of planned projects from our Advocacy Research Program Officer when it becomes available.
Highlights for 2016
Social justice movement research: This project will draw on the historical and sociological literature surrounding several social justice movements in an attempt to establish relationships between the tactics employed by a movement and the success of that movement. This could offer provisional insights into the varying efficacy of different tactics employed by the animal advocacy movement. We have already completed some case studies; in 2016 we expect to complete around four more case studies and a round of planning that will help guide decisions on what case studies to pursue and when to begin an analysis combining the results of various case studies.
Legal work report: After conducting interviews with advocates engaged in legal work and reviewing the outcomes of various programs, we will summarize our findings using our intervention report template. Our report will likely focus primarily on work that has been done to promote humane reform, because there are many examples of cases in this area which have been decided and whose outcomes we can consider. We may also consider work aiming to secure legal rights for animals, but expect to find fewer examples and less direct evidence in this area.
Online ads report: We will update our report on the use of online ads by animal advocacy organizations. After conducting interviews and reviewing additional data (including the study we expect Mercy For Animals to release in early 2016), we will summarize our findings using our intervention report template.
Updates to charity evaluation process: Before beginning our charity evaluation process for 2016, we will review our methodology and criteria to identify any areas where we can make the evaluation process more effective. In particular, we will look for ways to avoid work that is not likely to lead to new insights regarding which groups are particularly effective and to improve our communication with charities and donors, making our reviews more useful to them.
Addressing foundational questions: We will publish a series of blog posts addressing foundational questions (those that affect our opinions of multiple advocacy groups or interventions), beginning with questions that were relevant to our 2015 charity evaluation process. If we find some questions especially important to consider in more detail than is possible within the blog series, we will address them with longer reports.
Animal Advocacy Research Program
More than ever before, individuals and institutions are taking action to establish a new kind of relationship between humans and animals. Change is happening, but there is still work to be done, and hurdles to overcome.
When it comes to helping animals, one critical issue is that we currently lack evidence to know which interventions or strategies work best. Advocacy interventions can differ greatly in terms of the methods they use, the messages they convey, the resources they require, and most importantly, the extent to which they lead to positive outcomes for animals. Without rigorous evidence, it can be difficult to ensure that we are using our limited resources in ways that help animals as much as possible.
To this goal, we are pleased to introduce the Animal Advocacy Research Program. The purpose of this program is to support research that contributes to an understanding of effective animal advocacy. A generous benefactor has committed $1,000,000 to be used for this program over the next three years.
This program will provide grants to academics and advocacy groups to support high-quality animal advocacy research. We are particularly interested in funding proposals relevant to two broad focus areas:
Field experiments to understand the impact of various animal advocacy interventions (e.g., leafleting campaigns) and messages (e.g., health benefits, environmental impact).
Basic research to advance a scientific understanding of animal advocacy (e.g., identifying motivations for adopting a plant-based diet).
Over the next three years, we will host several call-for-proposals open to both academics and advocacy groups. The first call-for-proposals will be held this summer, with more details to be announced late-April.
Blog post introducing the Animal Advocacy Research Program Officer, Greg Boese
Past Research Highlights
Cause prioritization project: We considered prioritization among animal causes in detail and wrote up our conclusions. This provided a check on the intuitions and shallow analysis we previously used to compare causes, and should allow our audience to better understand the overall priorities that guide our work.
Undercover investigations report: We investigated undercover investigations, open rescues, and related activities conducted by animal advocacy organizations. After conducting interviews with advocates engaged in investigations and reviewing the outcomes of various programs, we summarized our findings using our intervention report template, with a focus on undercover investigations, the type of investigation which is most common among organizations we evaluate. We believe that undercover investigations have had significant direct effects in reducing farm animal suffering through corporate policy change. We think they also have major effects, in expectation, on consumption choices and some long-term outcomes such as increasing the likelihood of future corporate policy change, although the size of long-term effects is much more uncertain.
Corporate outreach report: After conducting interviews with advocates engaged in corporate outreach and reviewing the outcomes of various programs, we summarized our findings using our intervention report template. We found that corporate outreach has had significant short-term effects in reducing farm animal suffering and is highly efficient in achieving this goal. However, because it can act to reduce the perception that animals suffer in the production of certain products, we weren’t certain about its long-term effects.
Leafleting study: This study analyzed the medium-term dietary effects of receiving a leaflet about factory farming and diet change as compared to the effects of receiving a leaflet about companion animals or of not receiving a leaflet. We found an effect on the probability that a participant would give up red meat or poultry entirely, but were unable to detect an effect on the overall meat consumption of the sample population.
Humane education study: This study analyzed the medium-term dietary effects of viewing an in-class humane education presentation on factory farming. We employed a control group of students at the same schools who did not see the lecture because enrolment in the class that receives the lecture is taken to be uncorrelated to relevant attitudes before the lecture. We did not find statistically significant effects of the presentations on diet.