We do a lot of different things at ACE, from administering the Animal Advocacy Research Fund to holding conferences and research workshops. However, we’re best known for our charity evaluations. They’re a major project of ours throughout the year, and we’re proud of them. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already familiar with some of the charities we’re excited about—namely those that have received a recommendation from us recently, especially a Top Charity recommendation.
However, not every charity we’re enthusiastic about would necessarily be represented on that list. As individuals, we’re excited about a broad variety of charities—including some that are newer, smaller, and/or uninterested in being reviewed by ACE. Some might be future recommended charities; some might not. In this post, some of our staff share the charities that they are personally most excited about, with an emphasis on those not already recommended by ACE. Like our past posts on charities and interventions we’d like to see, we hope this gives you a sense of what we’re most hopeful about in the current animal advocacy movement, and how we’d like to see it grow.
We also hope this post will be useful for donors trying to decide between our Effective Animal Advocacy Fund (soon to be launched as an option for all donors) and other options (such as our Recommended Charity Fund or donating directly to a recommended charity). We’re excited about the Effective Animal Advocacy Fund because we think that a healthy animal advocacy movement consists of a wide range of organizations and programs, and that fund will allow us to help support high-priority programs from organizations that we are not able to highlight with a recommendation. Since we haven’t yet made any grants from that fund, we hope that the below will help inform donors of how their donations to the fund might be used, if not to support our Top and Standout Charities or ACE itself.
Jon Bockman, Executive Director
Right now there are a number of smaller charities that I’m particularly interested in.
Over my last 13 years in animal advocacy, I’ve come to believe that assigning more priority to diversity, equity, and inclusion is paramount to our success in changing views about animals. Ironically, I think the only reason that I didn’t come to this conclusion earlier was that I was surrounded by homogeneous thinking that told me that it wasn’t an issue we needed to prioritize. I have come to learn more from people with different backgrounds and experiences, and now think otherwise. As such, I’m keen on supporting organizations like Encompass and Critical Diversity Solutions for all of the great work that they do to help organizations and advocates improve in this area.
Although I’m admittedly biased toward humane education based on my own positive experiences with it, I do want to say that I’m excited about the work being done by Factory Farming Awareness Coalition. I haven’t had the chance to attend any of their presentations in person, but I’ve seen some of their work online and think they demonstrate an impressive, professional approach. I’ve also been impressed with some of the strategy at ACTAsia, a group that works to educate young children in China about viewing animals in a more compassionate and fully-considered light.
Because I am primarily concerned with reducing and eliminating as much suffering as possible, and given the fact that the vast majority of animals are in the wild, I’m keen to see more work from Wild-Animal Suffering Research. And since it’s clear that our movement needs more research to guide our work in all other arenas as well, I’m also interested to see more from Sentience Institute, a group dedicated to thinking about and researching the most effective ways to approach animal advocacy.
Finally, I’ve had tremendously positive experiences with Jo-Anne McArthur, an incredible advocate who works hard to create visual content that she generously shares with groups for their respective materials and campaigns. Her We Animals project doesn’t ask for much, but it does accept donations to help with administrative costs. I admire individuals and groups who find a way to leverage their work for the good of the movement, and Jo-Anne does just that.
Sofia Davis-Fogel, Managing Director
There are quite a number of charities I’m particularly excited about this year. To start, Encompass is filling an incredibly important gap in the movement—working not only to support advocates with marginalized identities but also to help organizations shift their perspectives and improve their processes so that they can better incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their approach to advocacy. In her interview with ACE, Founder and Executive Director Aryenish Birdie pointed out that “[d]iverse, equitable, and inclusive groups are more creative, insightful, and productive than homogenous ones” and that they “better reflect our evolving world—which means they are more adaptable, resilient, and successful.” With her numerous years of experience in the animal advocacy movement and her sharp and insightful contributions on a wide range of topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Birdie is a strong positive force pushing the needle on this issue, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Encompass’ work continue to bear fruit.
I’m also excited about some of the work being done for wild animals, especially at Wild-Animal Suffering Research (WASR) and Utility Farm. While it’s clear that the number of wild animals is astronomical, it’s far from clear that there are tractable ways to help alleviate their suffering on a meaningful scale. Although it seems difficult to know where to start working on such a massive problem, I am in agreement with WASR’s Executive Director Persis Eskander—who believes that we first need to build a robust understanding of how human activities interfere with ecosystems, as this will help us to determine the effects of those activities on wild animals. WASR is also doing some in-depth thinking about how to measure wild animal welfare. This means that once we do more precisely identify those effects, we will be better equipped to understand their consequences for animals—and can hopefully begin to reduce the stresses and suffering they cause. Utility Farm’s focus on social change has led them to do interesting work on effective communication strategies specific to the topic of wild animal suffering, and they also work to raise awareness of wild animal suffering by actively encouraging research in the field of welfare biology (partly through their Nature Ethics program). I am looking forward to seeing more work from them.
Internationally, there are two charities in which I’m particularly interested. The first is ACE Standout Charity L214 Éthique & Animaux in France. L214 does a number of things, but I’m most excited by their institutional campaigns and their investigations. They seem to have made an impressive amount of progress in a short amount of time. This—combined with the fact that animal advocacy seems to be somewhat neglected in France—leads me to believe that their work may be highly cost effective. Additionally, when I spoke to members of L214’s team during the 2017 charity review process, they impressed me: In addition to being passionate and directed, they demonstrated a firm understanding of the context in which their advocacy operates and a strong sense of the steps needed in order to achieve success.
The second international charity I’m excited about is WildAid. WildAid is an environmental organization whose primary focus is on reducing demand for wildlife products. Before discovering effective altruism I had wanted to work in wildlife conservation, specifically on policy around shark finning—so I have been aware of their work for many years and am impressed with their strong track record. I was pleased to learn that in last few years WildAid has begun to direct attention towards reducing meat consumption (under their Climate program). The organization has historically been successful in influencing attitudes and inspiring behavioral change, largely owing to their highly effective use of celebrity spokespeople—basketball star Yao Ming has been an excellent ambassador for WildAid’s ivory campaign, and so their use of model/actress/singer Angelababy for their Shu Shi meat reduction campaign inspires confidence. Another promising sign is that the Open Philanthropy Project granted WildAid $700,000 to support their campaign to reduce meat consumption in China in 2016, and recently granted them another $500,000 to continue this work. Because I’d like to see the animal advocacy movement continue to expand its reach into BRIC countries, I think it’s especially important to support organizations like WildAid and to encourage their further development of farmed animal welfare and meat reduction campaigns.
Allison Smith, former Director of Research1
I would like to see the animal advocacy movement as a whole devote more resources to capacity building—not just recruiting activists and vegans, but specifically providing them with the training and tools needed to make their work as impactful as possible. I think that some of our recommended charities, most notably Faunalytics and The Humane League, do prioritize this—in fact, it’s basically all Faunalytics does. The other organizations I’m most excited about also do various kinds of capacity-building work:
Wild-Animal Suffering Research and Animal Ethics are both small organizations for which a major goal is to build a field of research that will help tell us when and how it would be useful to intervene to reduce the suffering of animals in the wild. Wild animals are the largest population of animals there is, and we are currently severely limited in how we can help them because of our lack of understanding of how our actions would affect complex ecosystems—that is, when they would in fact be helpful, and when they would do as much or more harm than good. While I think we are a long way from knowing what works even on the initial problem of getting research done that will help us make decisions, I’m excited that both of these organizations are taking steps in such an important and potentially impactful direction.
Food Empowerment Project, Encompass, and Afro-Vegan Society exemplify another type of capacity building that I believe our movement needs—expanding the possibilities of the movement by creating bridges to other movements, ensuring that people of many backgrounds are welcomed in the movement and treated well, and actually inviting in and building spaces for people who don’t fit the stereotypical image of an animal advocate. All of this work positions animal advocates to succeed in a world that is much more diverse than most segments of our movement. It’s also work that feels right on many levels, addressing not only our concern for nonhuman animals but also concerns over justice in our communities and the way we treat those around us. I think this last point makes this work not only important for growing our numbers, but for making the movement a sustainable place for current animal advocates to continue working in the long term, keeping their skill and enthusiasm in the movement.
Toni Adleberg, Director of Research
One group I’m excited about is A Well-Fed World. I believe they play an important role in the movement that is distinct from—and complementary to—the role of ACE. A Well-Fed World helps to support those newer and smaller groups that are unlikely to be reviewed by ACE because it’s not always clear whether they could effectively use a substantial amount of funding. Often, however, just a small amount of funding (e.g., a grant from A Well-Fed World) can make a huge difference for these groups. Additionally, I believe that A Well-Fed World’s dual-focus on helping people and animals is both important and neglected.
Another group I’m excited about (which, incidentally, is temporarily sponsored by A Well-Fed World) is Encompass. Encompass provides valuable support for other animal charities and for animal advocates. I believe they will help build a more effective movement by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Having recently completed a project on the effectiveness of various types of protests, I think it’s likely that The Save Movement is a particularly effective movement-building organization. Our research indicates that protests draw some activists to the cause who would not necessarily have gotten involved in other ways. Participation in “Save” vigils seems to have grown steadily since the organization’s founding in 2010.
I would love to see more organizations that are focused on political lobbying and/or legal work for animals. One group that I am following with interest is Voters for Animal Rights. According to their website, they “help elect candidates who support animal protection, lobby for strong laws to stop animal cruelty, and hold elected officials accountable to humane voters.” They are fairly new and only active in New York, but I hope that they will both make progress and inspire similar groups in other states.
Finally, I’d like to give a nod to Better Eating International. While they are relatively young and therefore have a limited track record, I’m excited about their leadership structure, team, and their (as far as I can tell) inclusive culture. Whereas most groups have one President or Executive Director, Better Eating’s leadership responsibilities are distributed amongst three people. I hope that we can evaluate them in the future so we can learn more about how that structure is working for them. I’m impressed by Better Eating’s team because I see that many of them are passionate and experienced activists who are involved in multiple social justice movements. Finally, I appreciate that Better Eating is active on social media and uses their online presence to support a range of causes.
Kieran Greig, Researcher
I am excited about the three charities currently working on wild animal suffering: Wild-Animal Suffering Research, Utility Farm, and Animal Ethics. Some of their research that I think is particularly exciting is on humane insecticides because it seems quite possible that substantial numbers of insects ought to be included within our circle of compassion. For instance, Klein & Barron (2016) and Feinberg & Mallat (2016) contend that insects possess the capacity for subjective experience. The large number of insects (by one estimate for every farmed animal there could be 100 million insects) combined with the plausibility that they have moral status results in a strong possibility that humane insecticides are quite important. I don’t have a great sense of how tractable that intervention will be but from what I have heard of soon to be published research from Utility Farm, farmers seem quite open to switching between insecticides. In addition, I think that work by all three of these organizations to establish welfare biology as an academic field seems exciting. I currently see establishing an academic field as a likely prerequisite to many possible future large-scale interventions to reduce wild animal suffering.
It now seems probable there are more farmed fish than there are combined numbers of farmed birds and farmed mammals, and the welfare levels of farmed fish seem comparable to the poor welfare levels experienced by most farmed birds. Corporate campaigns have been very successful at generating pledges from organizations to switch industrial agriculture practices from caged to cage-free laying hens and improved conditions for broilers. I think this relatively strong track record and the large numbers of farmed fish who seem to experience low welfare levels helps make corporate campaigns aimed at improving the welfare of farmed fish a very promising intervention. On this front, I have found Fair Fish’s work exciting. In particular I think their compiling of research relevant to farmed fish welfare is important preliminary work for future corporate campaigns to improve farmed fish welfare. I am also excited by Dyrevernalliansen’s work to improve farmed fish welfare in Norway. This is in large part because their welfare recommendations seem quite reasonable, they are one of the few groups now quite directly pursuing changes to the farming conditions for fish, and Norway produces the majority of the world’s farmed Atlantic salmon.
In addition, I am excited by Rethink Priorities and Charity Entrepreneurship. However, please note I have personal relationships with most of the people involved in those two charities, one of the people involved with Rethink Priorities is on ACE’s board, and I hold a board position with the Rethink Charity Foundation—the organization that Rethink Priorities is currently a division of.2 Still, I think I am excited by those two charities because there is now annually tens of millions of dollars in the movement seeking high-impact, evidence-based donation selections, and I think funding the research by these two charities has the potential to cause significantly more effective allocations of those donations. I think that the research these two groups complete will likely be of high-quality because of the impressive track record of those involved and the promising focus areas of their research. The key Researchers involved with Rethink Priorities have completed a number of well researched and reasoned articles on the Effective Altruism Forum and were heavily involved in Charity Entrepreneurship’s work on global poverty charities. One project of Rethink Priorities that I am excited by is their plan to compile information relevant to assessing the likelihood of insect sentience,3 and I think that project could be quite helpful in assessing how many resources to allocate to potential improvements to insect welfare. I am also impressed by the track record of key Researchers involved in Charity Entrepreneurship, particularly with both the way Charity Science was run and the outcomes of Charity Entrepreneurship’s work in the global poverty cause area. I think that there is a reasonable chance Charity Entrepreneurship’s animal advocacy work will yield multiple high-impact charities and I find that exciting!
I am also generally quite excited by (i) efforts to help the most numerous and neglected farmed animals, (ii) feature-length animal advocacy documentaries, and (iii) research regarding the use of genome editing to improve the welfare of a large number of animals. However, I don’t currently know of promising donation opportunities to support these interventions. As an example of numerous and neglected farmed animals, Table 4 of the most recent U.S. Census of Aquaculture suggests that, excluding crawfish, goldfish and baitfish categorized as other baitfish, at least 1.16 billion farmed baitfish were sold in the United States in 2013. Similarly, by one rough estimate there are something like 900 billion farmed honey bee years annually. Only a trivial amount if any resources at all go towards directly attempting to improve the welfare of those animals. Regarding feature-length documentaries, there is correlational evidence suggesting that a large proportion of people who have become vegetarian or vegan did so after watching a documentary (Humane League Labs, 2014) and Blackfish is widely recognized as having a substantial effect on SeaWorld and public perceptions of using animals as entertainment. Finally, genome editing could have truly colossal consequences for animals. For example, Ruan et al (2017) note it may cause a revolution in the animal breeding industry and already there have been reports of the production of hornless dairy cattle or pigs with reduced susceptibility to disease from genome edited cell lines. More radically, genome editing may be able to knock out pain in farmed animals or even significantly increase the net-welfare of wild animals.
Please do contact me if you know of some relevant giving opportunities!
Jamie Spurgeon, Research Associate
I share a great deal of excitement for many of the charities already mentioned in this post so far (shoutout to Wild-Animal Suffering Research and Encompass in particular!), and there are two more charities that have piqued my interest this year that I would like to draw attention to.
Firstly, I am optimistic that technological change will play a significant role in the ending of factory farming, and so charities involved in the cultured meat space are always of particular interest. After attending a Q&A session with the Cellular Agriculture Society earlier this year, I am excited by the novel way in which they seem to operate—brainstorming ideas to fill knowledge gaps in the cellular agriculture movement, and then running a crowdsourcing platform to help see those projects get completed. It is early days for them yet, but I’m intrigued to see how well this system works out.
Secondly, following the announcement of the EA Animal Welfare Fund’s first 2018 grant round, my attention was drawn to the organization Dharma Voices for Animals, who are attempting to spread veganism to the Theravada Buddhist population in Sri Lanka. Buddhism is the world’s fourth largest religion and seems to be strongly aligned with the principle of reducing suffering to animals. While we currently don’t recommend any charities that are primarily involved in religious advocacy, these factors lead me to be somewhat optimistic that this could be impactful. If they were to develop a successful model for change that could be implemented in other Buddhist countries, it could have far reaching success.