In principle, ACE would consider evaluating and recommending any charity working to help nonhuman animals. However, for practical reasons, we focus on cause areas that we believe are especially promising: those that are large in scope, highly tractable, and relatively neglected. On this page, we describe some common animal advocacy cause areas. We begin with those that we prioritize and close with some that we do not prioritize—usually because they are smaller in scope, less tractable, and/or less neglected. For a more detailed discussion of which causes we find promising and why, see this page.
High-Priority Cause Areas
We currently prioritize the following cause areas:
Causes ACE Does Not Prioritize
There are some cause areas that we generally don’t prioritize, usually because they are smaller in scale, less neglected, or less tractable than the cause areas listed above. Importantly, whether we prioritize a cause is a different question than whether we support that cause. We support any cause area aimed at improving the welfare of nonhuman animals. However, given that the animal advocacy movement has limited time and funding, we prioritize only the cause areas that we believe can make the most efficient use of those resources.
We continually reevaluate our priorities. If there is ever a shift in the movement such that far more money is going to support farmed animals rather than companion animals, for example, we might shift our priorities towards helping companion animals. However, based on the current state of the movement, we support but do not prioritize the following areas:
According to the U.S. Census’s International Database, the world midyear population for 2015 is estimated to be 7,256,490,000. —U.S. Census Bureau. (July 9, 2015). International Database. Version: Data:12.0625 Code:12.0321
While tracking is done in a variety of ways for different types of animals in different countries, very little attention is paid to non-vertebrates used in research. For example, one U.S. report states: “In this report, animal is defined as any nonhuman member of the five classes of vertebrates: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish…. Other creatures customarily included in the animal kingdom, such as invertebrates (e.g., worms, insects, and crustaceans), are excluded by this definition. The use of human subjects is not examined in this assessment.” —U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. (February 1986). Alternatives to Animal Use in Research, Testing, and Education. Washington, D.C.
“While growth has leveled off and there have been significant reductions in some countries, the number of animals used in research globally still totals almost 100 million a year.” —Hunter, Robert G. (January 1, 2014). Alternatives to Animal Testing Drive Market. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News. Vol. 34, No. 1.
This estimate does not include farmed fish. It includes all categories of livestock tracked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT) except for beehives. Their estimate for the total world livestock population in 2013 is 32,669,958,965. —FAOSTAT Database. Production: Live Animals.
Estimates of the total population of wild animals are in general very rough. However, the total appears to be at least 1013.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT) has estimated that the world annual capture of fish averaged between 9.7 x 1011 and 2.7 x 1012 by aggregating data from a variety of sources. Clearly the fish population alone must be well over 1012 in order to support this rate of capture. This data provides a way to convert estimated biomass of fish to estimated numbers of fish; this results in an estimate of around 1.3 x 1013 fish in the wild, in total. —Tomasik, Brian. (November 9, 2013). One Trillion Fish. Reducing Suffering.
We can also use counts of the density of land animals in various environments to estimate their global populations. This results in estimates of around 1011 birds, 1011-1012 land mammals, and 1012-1013 each of reptiles and amphibians. Combining these with even the smallest plausible numbers of fish results in a total of around 1013 wild animals. —Tomasik, Brian. (June 5, 2015). How Many Wild Animals Are There? Reducing Suffering.
The number of insects is so large that for the purposes of estimation it is probably reasonable to use as the total number of animals. “Insects also probably have the largest biomass of the terrestrial animals. At any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive.” —Smithsonian Institution. Information Sheet Number 18.
Estimates for the number of companion animals in various parts of the world include:
“In the EU there are more than 200 million pets in total (204,947,400) and 72 million homes have companion animals…. Worldwide there are 223 million dogs and 220 million cats (excluding strays).” —IFAH Europe. About Pets.
“Pet ownership in the U.S. has more than tripled from the 1970s, when approximately 67 million households had pets, to 2012, when there were 164 million owned pets.” —Humane Society of the United States. (January 30, 2014). Pets by the Numbers.
“Add in Australia and New Zealand, where pets outnumber humans, and Asia’s aggregate pet population now exceeds 488 million, according to Euromonitor.” —Montlake, Simon. (October 21, 2011). Animal Spirits Drive Asia’s Booming Pet Industry. Forbes.
Considering all these estimates, it’s likely that the number of companion animals worldwide, including strays, is near 1 billion.
Most animals are accounted for in one of the groups in this chart. For the purposes of estimation, the total number of animals counted in the chart is very close to the total number of wild animals, around 1019.
For more information on reducing wild animal suffering, we recommend:
McMahan, J. (September 19, 2010). The Meat Eaters.
Horta, O. (January 29, 2013). Why Animal Suffering is Overwhelmingly Prevalent in Nature.
For more detailed thoughts on farmed animal sanctuaries, including their values and how to maximize their impact, see our blog entry from September 24, 2015.