Hello everyone! I’m Samantha Berscht and I would like to introduce myself as the new Program Officer for ACE’s Animal Advocacy Research Fund (AARF).
With a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology, a master’s degree in educational research, and an Associate Diploma from The Royal Conservatory of Music, my background is quite diverse. Add to this a lifelong love of animals, and you can see why I was so keen to become involved with ACE and the Research Fund—this opportunity allows for the joint pursuit of two of my passions: academic research and animal advocacy.
Over the past ten years I have volunteered with several animal-focused nonprofits doing everything from working at free spay-neuter clinics to meeting with federal government representatives to protesting fur products and retail pet sales. These experiences have made me appreciate that there are many ways in which one can advocate for animals.
I am both honored and excited to be involved with the Research Fund, and I look forward to seeing all the unique approaches to animal advocacy as we evaluate future proposals.
Updates from Round 1
The AARF was created in 2016, and the first round of funding was completed in fall of the same year. The seven funded projects from Round 1 are currently in various stages of completion, and as studies wrap up, their results will be uploaded to an open-source format for public viewing.
Dr. Eva Vivalt (Australian National University) and Bobbie Macdonald (Stanford University) recently completed their study on cultured meat, entitled: The Impact of New Products on Ethical Beliefs.
More information about Round 1 projects is available here.
Updates from Round 2
At the beginning of 2017, the oversight committee evaluated 21 proposals and ultimately funded seven of these projects.
Two of these projects focus on studying ways to increase consumer acceptance of cultured meat.1 A team led by Jo Anderson (Faunalytics) will be testing ways to mitigate concerns about the “unnaturalness” of cultured meat, while Noah Castelo (Columbia University) will be exploring improving consumer attitudes towards cultured meat.
Another three projects will focus on testing messages to promote dietary and attitude changes towards veganism. In a series of lab and field experiments, Michal Tagar (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya) and colleagues will be testing how messages that evoke a sense of moral blame influence attitudes and behaviors towards animals. Lisa Kramer (University of Toronto) will be evaluating the relative efficacy of a large number of messages aimed at reducing meat consumption. Looking specifically at factory farms, Josh Tasoff (Claremont Graduate University) will explore how aversion to images and messages from these institutions relates to an individual’s willingness to change their lifestyle.
Emma Thomas (Flinders University) and colleagues will investigate the impact of conventional versus confrontational forms of animal advocacy. Finally, Steven Rouk (Mercy For Animals) will conduct a replication and extension of their 2015 study examining which characteristics of social media posts are associated with the highest number of impressions.
As these projects progress, more details about them will be posted on our website. For now, you can see an overview of each one here.
Updates from Round 3
In the third round of research funding a total of 20 applications were reviewed and eight of these projects were funded.
Three projects in this round are relevant to specific animal advocacy interventions. Kristof Dhont (University of Kent) will investigate the short- and long-term effects on people’s attitudes towards animals after reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Jared Piazza (Lancaster University) will study the outcome of a 30 day meat-free pledge, which utilizes the smartphones of omnivorous participants. Adam Feltz (Michigan Technological University) will compare three educational interventions (classroom instruction, educational pamphlets, and graphic images) on animal consumption.
Persis Eskander (Wild-Animal Suffering Research) will conduct a foundational research project which aims to examine the mortality rates of vertebrate wild animals due to agricultural practices in the United States. An ethnographic study was also selected in which Steven Rouk (Mercy For Animals) will examine the unique challenges of transitioning to a plant based diet in Latin America. Wiebke Bleidorn (UC Davis) will develop a model for speaking to people based on their specific concerns regarding animal products, using the three major motives for vegetarianism—morality, health, and environment—as a starting point. João Graça (University of Lisbon) will lead an international study to determine which messages about plant-based eating lead to changes in intention and behavior, based on personality.
Finally, Andrew Jalil (Occidental College) is conducting research on food choices, but would prefer to keep the aims of the study confidential until more information has been collected.
A brief summary of these projects—along with some related publications—will be posted to the AARF website shortly.
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