Brad spent 35 years in the investment management business as Senior Vice President for Jennison Associates, a subsidiary of Prudential Financial, until his retirement in 2002. In 2001 he organized the Animal Welfare Trust (AWT) as a private operating foundation dedicated to animal protection and animal rights issues. AWT focuses on grant making and capacity building for the animal protection movement. In 2005 Brad became Chair of HEART which is a public charity originally sponsored by AWT that teaches youth compassion and respect for all living beings and the environment. He is also an officer of the Coalition for Healthy School Food which advocates for a plant based diet in schools and was co-founded by AWT.
Brad is a trustee of the Wildlife Conservation Society where he has been active in supporting programs in Africa including elephant and gorilla protection and habitat preservation. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in 1966 and an MBA from NYU in 1968. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
What is the Animal Welfare Trust? What kind of work do you support, and why?
We have given out about 200 grants over the past 12 years in a variety of areas. The majority of the grants have been given to projects focusing on farmed animal protection, humane education, and vegetarianism. When we started AWT, these were areas that were not receiving much attention from funders and where we felt we could make a real impact. One thing that sets us apart from other foundations is our willingness to fund early-stage organizations or projects with a high reward/high risk profile. This is somewhat unique. We also have a student internship grant program for graduate school students and a more recent fellowship grant program for recent law school and post doc graduates. Finally, we have sponsored two public charities: HEART, which is a humane education organization now reaching national scope, and the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, which has the mission of introducing plant-based foods and nutrition education in New York schools.
You donated $1 million to NYU to start an Animal Studies Initiative. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The Animal Studies Initiative is a program that develops and administers courses in animal studies, supports graduate and post-doctoral research and teaching, and runs a rich program of lectures, conferences, and workshops. It is one of the few such programs that offers an undergraduate minor degree in animal studies. Importantly, it is an interdisciplinary program that draws faculty members and students from many other departments at NYU.
How would you define Animal Studies as a field? Why is it important?
Animal Studies should be identified as an interdisciplinary academic program that includes the relationship with food, law, public policy, the arts, ethics—and I could go on. I believe how society treats animals is a global social justice movement. I can’t think of another major social justice movement that does not have representation at our colleges and universities. Animal issues touch on virtually every aspect of human life, and the moral status of animals should be of great universal concern.
Why did you decide to fund the program? And how did you choose NYU?
The program was started because of the belief that Animal Studies programs deserve to be represented broadly in academia, and establishing such a program at a major university such as NYU would not only provide an important educational experience for NYU students but also help establish the merits of such a program at other universities.
The NYU Animal Studies Initiative is now about 6 years old. What outcomes have you seen during that time?
The first six years of the program have been very successful. The course work has been in great demand, and the lectures and conferences have been largely at capacity and attended by a broad range of students throughout the school as well as the public. Also, the program has been enthusiastically embraced by other departments within the university. The number of students signing up for the program is virtually at capacity levels. I am hopeful that at some point in the not too distant future there will also be a Masters program in Animal Studies.
More recently, you donated money to start a similar program at Harvard Law School. How does this program compare to the NYU program?
The Harvard program is similar in that in addition to academic course work there is also a program of scholarly gatherings including conferences, lectures and forums for discussion, and the establishment of an Academic Fellows program. The difference, of course, is this is at the law school level and offers the opportunity to bring issues concerning the ethics and legal status of animals to a group of students who will soon be the future leaders in all spheres of society.
What do you think is most important about the work that Animal Studies programs do?
Animal Studies programs give young people a moral compass as to how animals should be treated in society that will stay with them throughout their careers and in life as they raise their families and become productive members of society.
Many people are wary about the idea of donating money to wealthy private universities such as NYU or Harvard. For example, last year Malcolm Gladwell took John A. Paulson to task for donating $400 million to the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, claiming that he might as well volunteer at the Hermes store on Madison avenue or work the coat check at Art Basel. Do you think these critiques are valid?
Even well-endowed universities do not usually invest in new programs or coursework ideas with their endowment funds. It usually falls to private philanthropists to sponsor such initiatives. In the area of Animal Studies programs, for example, it is not realistic to think they will suddenly be initiated by a University without new sources of funding. There is significant opportunity for private philanthropy to make an impact in growing academic programs important to them, and the generalization that donors should avoid giving to Universities because they are well endowed is just not valid.
Effective altruists think that we should use evidence and reason to do the most good that we can. Do you agree with this mission, and do you see your work as in alignment with it?
I agree that we should do as much good as we can do with our donations. However, I also believe that funders should not back away from projects that are promising just because their outcomes can’t easily be measured. If measurability is given too strong of a focus, many potentially high-impact opportunities to help animals will be overlooked.
What types of approaches do you think philanthropists could be missing out on by focusing on measurability?
The key to that answer is how one thinks about measurement. Very few areas in animal advocacy lend themselves to quantitative measurement, in terms of how many animals might be saved per dollar. There are many unquantifiable factors, and an array of time frames that need to be considered. Humane education is a great example of an intervention that is very difficult to measure because of the need for longer term longitudinal studies, but there are many others. For example, it is easy to calculate how much a farm sanctuary might spend on rescuing an animal, which may not seem like effective philanthropy. But how do you calculate the secondary outcomes from all of the visitors and messaging outreach campaigns? There is no substitute for having a real life experience with these beautiful and peaceful animals, yet it is very difficult to measure the outcomes from these interactions which also could have a multiplier effect.
In contrast, many advocacy organizations doing leafleting, ads, and one-shot lectures on veganism measure the success of their programs by polling students on expected changes in diet. However, they are measuring intentions at a given point in time. This may have little relevance for the longer term, given studies on recidivism.
Donors should understand that measurability is not black and white, and be aware of the pitfalls of being too focused on short term results when comparing philanthropic opportunities.
With interventions that are difficult to measure, what are some things we can look for as indicators of success, even if quantitative analysis is not possible?
The answer is highly dependent on the specific project or activity that is being funded. As an example, Animal Welfare Trust has run both a summer internship program for undergraduates and a two-year fellowship program for recent law school graduates. In each case, the projects the interns and fellows are working on may or may not be measurable. However, an important goal of these fellowships is to identify talented and passionate young people, and give them a pathway to employment in the animal protection field. Therefore, even if a project’s outcomes cannot be measured, we would consider it a success if the intern/fellow ended up working in the animal protection field.
At the other end of the spectrum are large animal protection organizations like HSUS. There is no other organization that has done more to advance farmed animal protection in the United States. Their overall macro impact of driving farm animal welfare to the forefront of our movement should be counted as one of their indicators of success.
What are your plans moving forward?
I will continue to support the projects I am currently involved with and always keep an open mind about new project ideas. I am particularly involved with expanding the humane education organization I chair, HEART, to a national reach.