While there is no single academic field of study that might be called “effective altruism studies” or “effective animal advocacy studies,” this certainly does not mean there is no published research relevant to the work of animal advocates. ACE pays close attention to new publications that have a bearing on animal welfare issues, and compiling an annotated research library to post on the website is a project that we’ve undertaken this year. This project substantially overlaps with ACE’s other research goals, such as our social justice movement research and animal welfare research projects, insofar as many of the library entries cover the field of social movement studies as well as the latest animal welfare science.
Ultimately, we plan to create a searchable and filterable database on the ACE website covering key studies, a resource for animal advocates as well as those who research animal advocacy as a field and social movement. The library in its current form contains around 100 entries—academic papers and books, as well as some blog and news articles—with links to the content and, when available, direct links to PDF copies of the studies. As we move toward evolving the library into a more sophisticated database, we would love any feedback on the entries listed, topics we could add, or future directions we could take the project.
What Does the Research Library Cover?
The Effective Animal Advocacy Research Library is an attempt at filling some of the gaps in our current understanding of charitable giving and animal advocacy. While the effective altruism movement in general continues to make inroads in academic circles, there is as of yet no unified academic field of study that best represents the science of effective advocacy and charity. However, there is a wealth of studies which do have implications for charitable givers, charity organizations, and organizations like ACE which study effective giving. Fields like social psychology and sociology, social movement studies, human-animal studies, animal welfare science, and political science are increasingly studying animal advocacy methods and the movement as a whole as a legitimate and worthwhile object for academic study and controlled experiment. The featured studies seek to answer questions such as:
- What leads individuals to give to charities, and give to some types rather than others?
- What sociological, psychological, and situational factors affect giving rates?
- What comparisons can be made between the animal activism movement and other social movements, such as civil rights and environmental movements?
- What are the latest demographics of veg*nism in the US and internationally?
- How do psychological phenomena such as cognitive dissonance, attitude-behavior inconsistency, and heuristics & biases affect the work of animal advocates?
- How can the effectiveness of animal charities best be measured, and how do traditional targets of animal advocacy—such as farmed animals—compare with other potential targets such as wild animal suffering?
Instead of attempting to be an exhaustive bibliography listing every study of possible interest to animal advocates, the Effective Animal Advocacy Library focuses on including representative studies in a field, such as by featuring classic or foundational studies on a topic, large-scale meta-analyses combining many studies, or very recent publications of note. We have also tried to include open access or publicly available studies as much as possible and avoid studies locked behind a paywall, and we provide links to the full papers whenever applicable.
It’s also worth mentioning how ACE’s collection of literature differs from the Faunalytics library—an incredibly useful research tool. The Faunalytics library is an extensive database of research on issues relating to animal advocacy and protection, while the ACE research library is a much more specialized collection focusing specifically on key or representative studies with the most bearing on advocate decision-making. Furthermore, the Faunalytics library covers any research relevant to animal welfare and advocacy, while the ACE library is often more focused on “meta-” level questions that help us think about how to measure and analyze animal advocacy organizations and strategies. For instance, some of the studies featured in the ACE library don’t even directly cover animal issues (true of some Faunalytics library entries as well, in a limited fashion), but cover other social movements or relevant experiments in social psychology on charitable giving. The studies listed are the ones staff and research interns have found most helpful or relevant in thinking about how to critically analyze animal advocacy methods and organizations.
How Is the Research Library Organized?
We link to the journal article, book, or online resource as well as, when possible, direct PDFs for papers. The description is meant to be a condensed abstract highlighting the argument or experiment finding—certainly not covering all of the nuances of each piece. The discussion section occasionally links to blog posts or magazine articles discussing the publication. While the research library currently lacks some functionality we plan to add later, such as better filtering tools and ways of searching the library by keyword or topic, we wanted to release an early version as soon as would could. Improvements are in the works for the website as a whole, but until that point the entries can be filtered by field of research.
How You Can Help
Given that the spirit of the effective animal advocacy research library is an evolving and collaborative project, we are open to any feedback on the future of the library. If there are entries that could be added, or ways the library could be improved for ease of use, we would certainly like to know! Leave a comment below or send feedback to Allison Smith or any of the research staff at ACE.