Archived Version: November, 2017
|Primary Work Area||Industrial Agriculture Capacity Building|
|Review Published||November, 2017|
|Archived Versions||December, 2015|
What does Animal Ethics do?
Animal Ethics works to spread anti-speciesist messages in academia and to a general audience. They research topics related to anti-speciesism and animal issues—particularly wild animal suffering—and they write up their findings in academic papers and essays aimed at a general audience. They also give talks, particularly in academic settings, distribute leaflets based on their work, and conduct online outreach and education through social media.
What are their strengths?
Animal Ethics works in a neglected and potentially very important area. Wild animal suffering, in particular, seems to be a neglected area of academic study. Animal advocates producing high-quality research in this area may help stimulate additional research in the field. Developing the field of wild animal research could lead to the development of effective interventions to address the large-scale problem of wild animal suffering. Animal Ethics has an international network of volunteers and has translated their content into several languages, expanding their reach significantly.
What are their weaknesses?
Because Animal Ethics is working towards relatively long-term goals, their impact is difficult to measure and highly speculative. Moreover, because their work is unique, there are few other organizations with which we (or they) can compare their strategy and progress. Relative to other advocacy groups, Animal Ethics may have to do more experimentation before discovering what works in their field. Even for an organization with primarily very distant and ambitious goals, we think that Animal Ethics has demonstrated relatively few meaningful steps showing that they are making progress towards their goals.
Why didn’t Animal Ethics receive our top recommendation?
Animal Ethics works in a very promising area, and so far their choices about what to prioritize make sense to us. However, neither Animal Ethics as an organization nor the particular interventions they employ have a long track record, so we aren’t as confident in them as we are in some more established organizations. Additionally, Animal Ethics has not made as much visible progress since our 2015 review as we would prefer to have seen in order to give us confidence that they are making strong steps towards their long-term goals.
Animal Ethics was a Standout Charity from December 2015 through November 2017.
Animal Ethics was a Standout Charity from December 2015 through November 2017.
Table of Contents
- How Animal Ethics Performs on our Criteria
- Criterion 1: The charity has room for more funding and concrete plans for growth.
- Criterion 2: The charity engages in programs that seem likely to be highly impactful.
- Criterion 3: The charity operates cost-effectively, according to our best estimates.
- Criterion 4: The charity possesses a strong track record of success.
- Criterion 5: The charity identifies areas of success and failure and responds appropriately.
- Criterion 6: The charity has strong leadership and a well-developed strategic vision.
- Criterion 7: The charity has a healthy culture and a sustainable structure.
- Questions for Further Consideration
- Supplementary Materials
How Animal Ethics Performs on our Criteria
Criterion 1: The charity has room for more funding and concrete plans for growth.
Before we can recommend a charity, we need to assess the extent to which they will be able to absorb and effectively utilize funding that the recommendation may bring in. Firstly, we look at existing programs that have need for additional funding to fulfil their existing purpose; secondly, we look at potential areas for growth and expansion. It is important to determine whether the barriers limiting progress in these areas are solely monetary, or whether there are other factors such as time or talent shortages. Since we can’t predict exactly how any organization will respond upon receiving more funds than they have planned for, this estimate is speculative, not definitive. It’s possible that a group could run out of room for funding more quickly than we expect, or come up with good ways to use funding beyond what we have suggested. Our estimates are indicators of the point at which we would want to check in with a group to ensure that they have used the funds they’ve received and are still able to absorb additional funding.
Recent Financial History
When we last reviewed Animal Ethics in 2015, we estimated they could use an additional $100,000–$150,0001 in funding, primarily for the hiring of three new staff members.2 In 2016 they had a revenue of $87,515 and expenses totalling $46,973. They estimate that their income for 2017 will be $45,000–$60,000 and that their expenses will total $62,000. It seems that their expenditure has mostly been determined by their income, which is a good indication that they will have room for more funding.
Planned Future Expenses
Animal Ethics currently sees themselves as being in a transitional period, with projects that will not come to fruition until around two years from now. Through 2017 they have started establishing groups in new countries—such as Brazil—and are trying to develop relationships with other organizations in Latin America. They plan on making further progress in this area through 2018 when they hope to see further increases in their Spanish and Portuguese social media pages, amongst other benefits of this work. In 2018 they also aim to achieve their first step in their plan to find ways to introduce wild animal studies in academia. Initially they are hoping to carry out a qualitative stage of this plan using interviews and discussion groups before performing a quantitative study with students. Finally they are continuing their aim to have their website be a major resource for animal activists. To this end they intend to expand their content into new areas.
In general we think that, given additional funding, Animal Ethics would benefit from the hiring of additional staff members to help improve the efficiency at which the aforementioned areas of work can be carried out. Initially this would be for their main work in the U.S., but given enough funding they believe there is room for further hires in Latin America, India, and China. They do not currently invest a lot of money in fundraising, and we think there is potential for more investment in this area. They would also intend to use additional funding for academic projects related to welfare biology—however, we are uncertain about the extent to which they would be able to achieve this.
Overall we think that Animal Ethics could use $200,000–$400,000 in additional funding over the next year, primarily for staff hires.3, 4, 5 Fundraising has never been a major focus for them and we therefore expect that the majority of this funding gap will not be filled over the next year.
Criterion 2: The charity engages in programs that seem likely to be highly impactful.
Before investigating the way a charity’s programs are implemented or the outcomes they’ve achieved, we consider the charity’s overall approach to animal advocacy. We expect effective charities to pursue approaches that seem likely to produce significant positive change for animals, though we note that there is significant uncertainty regarding the long-term effects of many interventions.
Animal Ethics focuses on reducing the suffering of wild animals in the long term, which we believe is a potentially high-impact cause area, though it currently seems less tractable than farmed animal advocacy. Animal Ethics pursues two primary avenues for creating change for animals: they work to influence public opinion and to build the capacity of the movement. In the long term, we think that their work could indirectly lead to animal-friendly changes in the law. Pursuing more than one avenue for change seems to be a good idea because, if one proves to be ineffective, Animal Ethics still might be impactful. However, we don’t think that charities that pursue multiple avenues for change are necessarily more impactful than charities that focus on one.
To communicate the process by which we believe a charity creates change for animals, we use theory of change diagrams. It is important to note that these diagrams are not necessarily complete representations of real-world mechanisms of change. Rather, they are simplified models that ACE uses to represent our beliefs about mechanisms of change. For the sake of simplicity, some diagrams may not include relatively small or uncertain effects.
Influencing Public Opinion
Animal Ethics works to influence individuals to adopt more animal-friendly attitudes and behaviors. We think that the impact of such work may be relatively limited compared to the impact of efforts to influence industry or law. However, we still think it’s important for the animal movement to target some outreach toward individuals, as a shift in public attitudes could lead to greater support for new animal-friendly policies. Public outreach might even be a necessary precursor to achieving institutional change.
Animal Ethics works to influence public opinion through “street outreach,” e.g., leafleting and tabling. They also invest in online outreach, including online ads. While there is little evidence available about the effectiveness of these interventions, we do not currently recommend the use of leafleting or online ads as we suspect that they are not as effective as some other means of public outreach.
Working to build the capacity of the animal advocacy movement can have a far-reaching impact. While capacity-building projects may not always help animals directly, they can help animals indirectly by increasing the effectiveness of other projects.
Animal Ethics conducts original research and promotes existing research focused on the conditions of animals in the wild, which is a particularly neglected area of study.6 They encourage other advocates to focus more on wild animal suffering, and their research in this area may help stimulate additional academic research, which could, in turn, guide the development of additional programs that can effectively help animals in the wild and elsewhere. Animal Ethics does not limit their impact by working only in one single country; they collaborate with advocates and Researchers internationally, including advocacy and effective altruist groups.
Animal Ethics recruits and trains new activists each year. They also attend conferences and give talks in the U.S. and abroad, which might allow them to reach new audiences and bring new people into the movement. There is little evidence available about the impact of these interventions.
Criterion 3: The charity operates cost-effectively, according to our best estimates.
We think quantitative cost-effectiveness estimates are often useful as factors in charity evaluations, but we are concerned that assigning specific figures can be misleading and appear as more important in our evaluation than we intended. For Animal Ethics in particular, we believe that our back-of-the-envelope calculation of their cost-effectiveness is too speculative to feature in our review or include as a significant factor in our evaluation of their effectiveness. For instance, in thinking about their impact we considered the probability of Animal Ethics causing wild animal suffering to be more seriously considered by animal advocates and how good that outcome would be. Our estimates for those factors were very speculative; we considered other unknowns as well, and we omitted many possible scenarios for simplicity.
Additionally, Animal Ethics is focused on helping animals in the medium and long term, and we have not evaluated the medium- or long-term impacts of any other charities, so we worry including this cost-effectiveness calculation would be unfair to those other organizations.7 That being said, our lack of a cost-effectiveness estimate doesn’t necessarily indicate that this charity has lower overall cost-effectiveness than the charities for which we have completed a cost-effectiveness estimate.
In the future, we hope to have better ways of evaluating medium- and long-term impacts, which could lead to publishing a cost-effectiveness estimate for Animal Ethics. However, we think cost-effectiveness calculations will still be most useful as one small component in our overall understanding of charity effectiveness.
Criterion 4: The charity possesses a strong track record of success.
Have programs been well executed?
Animal Ethics is a relatively young organization, founded in 2012; as such, their track record is shorter than those of some of the other organizations we have evaluated. They have continued to make progress in programs that further their long-term goal of spreading information about anti-speciesism and wild animal suffering, both in academia and among the general public. In general, their goals are long-term, so we have looked at the more incremental progress they’ve made towards achieving them.
They have made improvements to their website, adding 92 new articles since the beginning of 2016 to make a total of 127 available articles on the topics of animal ethics, defense, and exploitation, as well as veganism and wild animals. They claim to be the only source offering the information that they do about wild animals, and after performing searches for some of their content, this seems to be the case. In order to increase the reach of their material, they have doubled the number of available languages on their website; they now offer content in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and French, and they intend to complete Chinese and Polish by the end of 2017. It is unclear whether all of these languages will lead to substantial increases in audience size; however, their increased Facebook following over the last two years, particularly in Brazil, is a good indication that at least some will.8
Animal Ethics has also increased the amount of leafleting they can carry out. They are spending less on leaflets both in absolute terms and as a percentage of their budget, but they have increased distribution to hundreds of thousands of leaflets per year, not only in the U.S. but also in Spain and Brazil. Given that they have increased their leaflet production by this magnitude and kept costs similar, it is unclear whether they have sourced cheaper production or sacrificed some leafleting quality in order to achieve this. They have increased the number of talks they give, having given 40 in the first 8 months of 2017—including some at academic conferences, which has helped them make progress on their goal of establishing welfare biology in academia. The outcomes of these programs are not clear; most of the available research on leaflets, for example, is inconclusive regarding their effect, and focuses on changes in attitude that are different from the changes Animal Ethics is aiming for. However, as they have increased both their leafleting capacity and their talk frequency over the last year while maintaining a relatively constant budget,9 they seem to be carrying out this work efficiently.
Have programs led to change for animals?
Since Animal Ethics is working on goals that are rather different from those of other organizations we’ve evaluated, it is particularly difficult to understand their ultimate impact upon animals. They hope to have impact through reaching both general and influential (especially, academic) audiences with anti-speciesist arguments that address the condition of all animals, including animals in the wild as well as farmed animals and other groups more typically addressed by animal advocates. Ultimately, their impact on animals would occur through cultural change, as more people seriously consider the welfare of all animals. This cultural change could lead to changes in practical behavior towards animals, including both more measurable animal advocacy goals (such as decreased consumption of animal products) and more long-term aims (such as increased research on how to prevent or reduce suffering in the wild). Ultimately, it could also lead to the implementation of programs intended to affect that behavior.
The strongest argument that Animal Ethics may have a significant impact on animals is their focus on anti-speciesist messaging. Firstly, this kind of messaging contributes to the shift in perspective around how we should consider animals—such as not using them for our own needs—which will be necessary to end human-caused animal suffering in the long term. The second result of this is that they are one of very few groups that truly focus upon all animals in their major programs. Their materials regularly address the situation of wild animals, including small wild animals with which humans do not typically sympathize. This significantly increases the potential scope of their impact, since small wild animals are by far the majority of animals on the planet. (There are about one billion times as many animals in the wild as on farms when insects are included in the numbers, and one thousand times as many if only vertebrates are counted.)10 However, the case for Animal Ethics’ impact is extremely speculative, due to the joint uncertainty caused by their own short history and the diffuse way in which their programs intend to create impact. Their potential impact is very great, but the evidence that they will actually have that impact is significantly more uncertain than for many other groups we’ve considered.
Criterion 5: The charity identifies areas of success and failure and responds appropriately.
As they are a relatively young organization11 working on efforts with long-term payoffs, Animal Ethics has some difficulty evaluating their progress in the short term, especially in terms of the benefits to animals. However, they do seek out relevant information regarding the success of their projects at raising awareness among animal advocates and academics. While they track some basic metrics relevant to their programs, their main measure of success is simply how much progress they make on the tasks they set for themselves.12 We believe their goal-setting and self-evaluation processes are reasonable, but are concerned that in several years of operation we have not yet seen evidence of how they respond to indicators of success and failure.
Animal Ethics appears to set short-term goals very systematically, dividing their longer-term goals into projects with specified subtasks to be completed on a particular timeline. This seems to yield short-term targets which are both measurable and relevant to their goals, making it reasonable for them to judge their success or failure based on their ability to complete these tasks.13
They also hope to evaluate their overall efforts by studying changes in opinion among target groups, including by surveying animal advocates. They plan to eventually judge the success of their research in part by the number of citations it acquires, though they believe they need more publications before citation count would be a meaningful assessment of the organization as a whole.14 We think their plans for evaluating their scholarly work using citations make sense; citation counts reflect the degree to which research has been used or responded to by others, and hence could provide a measure for Animal Ethics’ progress in influencing academic research. Unfortunately, because of the pace of academic publishing, these numbers aren’t reliable until a body of work has been around for a few years.
While anti-speciesist leafleting is still a major part of Animal Ethics’ work, they do not currently measure or estimate the effects of this program. They feel that their leaflets are different enough from leaflets about diet change that the existing data on the latter does not provide good grounds for estimating their own programs’ potential effects. We agree with this reasoning, but feel that Animal Ethics should consider studying the effects of their leafleting program—for example, by surveying recipients’ attitudes towards animals before and after receiving a leaflet—if they want to continue putting significant effort towards it.
We are not aware of examples of Animal Ethics changing their programs significantly in response to evidence about their success and failure, although the organization counts a willingness to do this as being among their main values.15 This may be due to the organization being relatively young and small, rather than because they do not react appropriately when encountering such evidence. Still, it is concerning that after several years of operation we do not have examples of their ability to act according to one of their key values.
Criterion 6: The charity has strong leadership and a well-developed strategic vision.
Animal Ethics’ work is focused in large part on providing useful information and expertise for animal advocates, which we think is potentially highly valuable for the movement as a whole. They also appear to be strongly committed to effectively helping animals, a goal which should help keep them oriented towards impactful work in the future. They collaborate with a number of organizations in different countries, as well as conducting outreach in neglected countries—thus supporting the animal advocacy movement as a whole. We think that the level of detail in their annual goals indicates a strong planning process.
However, we are somewhat concerned that although their Board Members have relevant backgrounds, the board is relatively small and two of its three members are Animal Ethics leadership staff. Given their current small staff size, this setup may be reasonable for Animal Ethics. If the organization underwent their planned growth without changing these practices, we would be considerably more concerned.
The charity’s mission emphasizes effectively reducing suffering/helping animals.
Our understanding is that Animal Ethics’ overarching mission is to achieve a world where all sentient beings are given full moral consideration, and as many harms suffered by sentient beings are eliminated as is possible. They describe finding the most efficient tactics to do so as a core value of theirs, and analyzing research on cost-effectively reducing harm to animals as one of the major parts of their work.16 As mentioned in Criterion 4, Animal Ethics is unusual in considering ways to reduce the suffering of all animals—they include the suffering of wild animals, which is likely to be much more vast than that of farmed animals, though more difficult to influence. They are also committed to doing research and supporting work that can help many other advocates work more effectively. Given their mission and their history of focusing on neglected areas of animal advocacy, we expect Animal Ethics to remain committed to effectively helping animals.
The strategy of the charity supports the growth of the animal advocacy movement as a whole.
A large portion of Animal Ethics’ work involves attempting to share knowledge with animal advocates and relevant academics to make them better informed and more effective. In many ways, they act as a “meta” organization that helps others help animals, and they aim to be a central hub for reliable information. In the future, they plan to offer help to activists designing research studies or individual outreach content. They provide online content and leaflets written in many languages, distribute leaflets in relatively neglected countries like Brazil, and plan to expand their operations to other Latin American countries—as well as to China and India.
They also collaborate with a number of other charities, particularly outside the U.S. They’ve collaborated with local groups in Europe and Latin America, as well as with bigger groups such as ProVeg. They’ve also done some work with local effective altruist groups. In the future, they would like to collaborate with local groups in China and India who know the situations there better, providing these groups with money and materials as needed.
The board of the charity includes members with diverse occupational backgrounds and experiences.
Animal Ethics has a three-person board composed of Oscar Horta, a moral philosopher interested in animal ethics; Daniel Dorado, a lawyer specializing in animal law; and Leah McKelvie, an operations specialist with experience at think tanks and tech startups.17 Horta and McKelvie both occupy leadership positions at Animal Ethics.
According to U.S. best practices, nonprofit boards should be comprised of at least five people who have little overlap with an organization’s staff or other related parties.18 However, there is only weak evidence that following these best practices is correlated with success, and if they are correlated, that may be because more competent organizations are more likely to both follow best practices and to succeed—rather than because following best practices leads to success. Given that the organization’s staff is so small, we believe it is not unreasonable for them to largely take the reins when it comes to setting goals, rather than focusing on their own particular tasks and delegating more decision making to a board (as might happen in a larger organization with a greater division of labor).
The evidence for the importance of board diversity is somewhat stronger than the evidence recommending board sizes of five or greater, in large part because there is a significant body of literature indicating that team diversity generally improves performance. However, the evidence we are aware of for the importance of board diversity on organizational performance specifically is less strong.19 We are thus slightly concerned at the lack of occupational diversity among Animal Ethics’ Board Members, although they do each bring specialized knowledge and experience that is likely to be relevant to Animal Ethics’ decision making.
The board of the charity participates regularly in formal strategic planning on behalf of the charity, and involves other stakeholders in that process.
Animal Ethics creates annual strategic plans which are revised six months into the year. Decision making is primarily carried out by Board Members, though they consult staff and involved volunteers regarding the fields they work on. They have told us that they wouldn’t plan to do something in an area where they have a coordinator if the coordinator didn’t agree with it.20 Animal Ethics also has a ten-year strategic plan which they revise while making the annual strategic plans; so far, they haven’t made major changes to their ten-year goals.
Criterion 7: The charity has a healthy culture and a sustainable structure.
Animal Ethics operates on a very small budget, with volunteers deeply involved in every aspect of their organization. A large fraction of their staff is composed of volunteer coordinators who work with volunteers in different linguistic communities to achieve Animal Ethics’ goals. This reliance on volunteers has helped Animal Ethics work cheaply, but we would expect it to lead to some difficult transitions as the organization grows and its programs evolve.
The charity receives support from multiple and varied funding sources.
Animal Ethics is entirely supported by donations. They have a small budget, in part because they have devoted very limited time to fundraising thus far and have a small donor base. They have told us that one thing they would do with more funding is expand their fundraising efforts. We think a broader donor base would be very helpful in allowing Animal Ethics to operate freely, as they currently make a number of choices that seem strongly driven by the need to conserve funding, such as the degree of their reliance on volunteers and the geographic locations they look to hire in.
The charity provides staff and volunteers with opportunities for training and skill development, helping them grow as advocates.
Animal Ethics provides formal training for volunteers, and a limited array of more informal training options for staff. One reason that they invest less time in training for staff is that their staff tend to be more experienced advocates. However, somewhat more investment in training staff might be helpful; if paying for staff to attend external trainings is outside Animal Ethics’ budget, staff could benefit from more formal or organized trainings internally.
The charity has staff from diverse backgrounds and with diverse personal characteristics (e.g., race, gender, age), and views diversity as a resource that can improve its performance.
Animal Ethics has a lot of diversity among staff and volunteers, particularly in terms of gender and national origin.21 This is in part due to the international nature of the organization, and partly due to a deliberate choice to promote women into visible leadership roles.22 They see the diversity of their team as particularly helpful in allowing them to disseminate their materials as widely as possible while continuing to convey the intended message. In addition to actually translating materials, their international team allows them to identify situations where a particular phrasing or graphic choice won’t work in a new context: for example, they plan to change their blue branding to red for materials in Chinese, because a member of their team pointed out that blue will have the wrong cultural connotations. While Animal Ethics seems to value the diversity of their staff, they might benefit from more training on how to support team members from marginalized groups.
The charity works to protect employees from harassment and discrimination.
Animal Ethics has an anti-discrimination policy about which they train staff. They also have an “internal communication and antidiscrimination officer” who is in charge of ensuring this policy is respected and who addresses issues of harassment or discrimination. We have spoken confidentially with two non-leadership staff members and performed some additional due diligence searches, and are not aware of any reports of harassment or discrimination at Animal Ethics.23, 24
Questions for Further Consideration
Has Animal Ethics had any effect on public attitudes towards wild animals?
Wild animal suffering is an area that is not often considered by many in the animal advocacy movement, nor the general public. We are concerned that the general public has strong intuitions against intervention in the wild, and it’s not clear how easily these intuitions can be overcome through thoughtful advocacy—so convincing others to join in helping wild animals might be particularly difficult.25 Some critics have argued that, given the general public’s current attitudes towards the use of animals for food, the problem of industrial agriculture would have to largely be solved before wild animal suffering will become a major cause area.
Animal Ethics has talked about animal suffering in nature and helping wild animals to a variety of audiences, including the general public, students, academics, animal activists, effective altruists, and animal organizations. They find that people tend to be receptive to this idea and that it is more acceptable than veganism as it seems less demanding. They also find that animal organizations are typically more resistant to these ideas as they fear that people will react negatively. Animal Ethics claim these fears are not backed by empirical evidence and that their experience has led them to different conclusions.26
Animal Ethics believe that it’s too soon to assess the extent to which the general public’s attitudes towards this have changed. They feel that they have succeeded in changing the minds of many of the people they have reached, but that the number of people reached is very small, in relation to the general public as a whole. They have observed a change among certain key groups where they believe their impact has been proportionally much more important—this includes animal advocates, effective altruists, and academics.27
Animal Ethics does not expect that the general public’s attitudes towards wild animals will change much in the next few years. However, if they are successful, we may see a big change in the next few decades. They also believe that other animal organizations, including some of the largest ones, will eventually get involved in this cause also—once they see that the issue can be well accepted by the general public. In addition, they think that academic research assessing the best ways to intervene to aid animals in the wild will eventually develop as a new field. They do not expect this to happen in the next few years, but they think it can happen within a decade.28
Some might say that, before working to promote concern for wild animal suffering, we should do more research on effective interventions for promoting concern for wild animal suffering. Why is Animal Ethics focusing on education first?
Critics have argued that before promoting a concern such as wild animal suffering, we should first look into the most effective way to achieve this. They argue that this would help prevent the potential waste of the limited resources the movement has, by using interventions that are the most effective at creating change.
Animal Ethics believes that the education they are doing is effective. They do not claim that it is the most effective that it could be, but they believe that they do not have the resources to carry out a large study to assess whether there are more cost-effective courses of action. They think that, currently, their resources are best used working towards what they believe to be highly effective—based on the current information available. They say they make use of current research about attitudinal change in general as well as research that is at least somewhat relevant to the problems towards which they draw attention.29 They also conduct some research themselves. They are currently designing a study to learn more about the different views students and academics have about helping wild animals.
In addition to working to promote concern for wild animals, it seems we as a movement also need to do some work to figure out which interventions would best help wild animals. Which type of work should come first, or should we be doing both at once?
Currently, the animal advocacy movement as a whole is not very focused on the problem of wild animal suffering. As the idea of working in this area becomes more familiar, it’s important to begin to consider what areas the movement should focus on. Promotion of the cause will help build capacity, through increasing both funding and the number of people working on the problem. However, ultimately we will need to research the best interventions in order to help wild animals. Some may argue that this should happen alongside this promotion.
According to Animal Ethics, most people have never considered that what happens to animals in the wild might pose a serious cause for concern. Thus the main obstacle they face in changing the situation of these animals is not ignorance about how to help them, but lack of concern about it. This is why they believe that promoting concern about this issue is key and that currently, raising concern should take priority. They argue that by doing this they will be able to get many new people on board (including Researchers interested in this issue) which will help them to gain better knowledge about how best to intervene.30
One of Animal Ethics’ aims is to try to introduce the issue of wild animal suffering among scientists, so that it eventually becomes a respected field of research in academia. They think it’s crucial to do this for several reasons. One is that they believe academics are in a much better situation to do research on how to best intervene to aid wild animals than they or other animal activists are. If they succeed in making animal welfare ecology a respected scientific field, they would be making it possible for a huge amount of research to be carried out. They believe that this level and amount of research could not be carried out with the resources animal organizations currently have.31
In addition, Animal Ethics feels that research done outside academia tends to be considered by key influencers (such as academics, politicians, and educators) as not authoritative enough—and not suitable for informing new lines of research, policy making, or student curricula. They believe that carrying out some research on specific points may be useful to achieving their goals. But the aim of the research should be to raise concern about this issue and to encourage more interest in it. That’s why they have the texts on their website about the situation of animals in the wild, the reasons why wild animals matter and how to aid them. Their point is not to answer the complex questions that need to be addressed in order to figure out the main interventions that should be furthered. Rather, it is to increase concern about this issue as much as possible.32
Note: this is not a 90% Subjective Confidence Interval.
“We think it’s likely that Animal Ethics could expand to fill the three roles mentioned with three new staff members in the coming year.” —ACE’s 2015 review of Animal Ethics
This estimate is based on our room for more funding Guesstimate model.
This range is a subjective confidence interval (SCI). An SCI is a range of values that communicates a subjective estimate of an unknown quantity at a particular confidence level (expressed as a percentage). We generally use 90% SCIs, which we construct such that we believe the unknown quantity is 90% likely to be within the given interval and equally likely to be above or below the given interval.
The method we use does calculations using Monte Carlo sampling. This means that results can vary slightly based on the sample drawn. Unless otherwise noted, we have run the calculations five times and rounded to the point needed to provide consistent results. For instance, if sometimes a value appears as 28 and sometimes it appears as 29, our review gives it as 30.
While there has been academic research on the welfare of wild animals, little work has been done to investigate effective interventions to address wild animal suffering. The animal advocacy movement has historically focused primarily on addressing human-caused animal suffering.
At the start of 2016 they had 1,500 Portuguese followers, they now have 85,000. In the same time frame, their English following has increased from 70,000 to 151,000, and their Spanish following has increased from 57,000 to 148,000. —Animal Ethics’ Accomplishments (2015–2017)
This is based on estimates made by Brian Tomasik.
“Animal Ethics focuses on spreading information and ideas and changing views and attitudes rather than on more short-term, concrete aims that other organizations sometimes have. Due to this, we measure our outcomes on our success in making progress in tasks that further our mission.” —Animal Ethics’ Accomplishments (2015–2017)
When considering how well charities assess success and failure, one useful consideration is whether their goals are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Specific, well-defined goals help guide an organization’s actions, and can help them determine which areas or programs have succeeded and failed. Setting a measurable target allows organizations to determine to what extent they’ve met their goals. It is also important that goals be plausibly achievable; goals that are predictably over- or undershot tell an organization little about how well their programs have done. Goals should be relevant to the organization’s longer-term mission, both to guide their actions and to help them evaluate success. Finally, including time limits is especially important, as it keeps a charity accountable to their expectations of success.
“As far as their impact on academia, they’d like to measure it through citations of their work, but this is a longer-term project because it relies on their having published more articles and books.” —Conversation with Leah McKelvie and Oscar Horta of Animal Ethics (2017)
“We accept the simple principle that some strategies, tactics, and methods can be more effective than others, and we aim to be as efficient as possible. We should constantly be seeking the most efficient ways to achieve our mission. We are prepared to change the way we work to improve our cost-effectiveness on the basis of the strongest evidence available.” —Animal Ethics’ Vision, Mission, and Values (2017)
“Our vision is a world where all sentient beings are given full moral consideration. […] [Our mission is] [t]o support activities that eradicate harms suffered by sentient beings. […] We accept the simple principle that some strategies, tactics, and methods can be more effective than others, and we aim to be as efficient as possible. We should constantly be seeking the most efficient ways to achieve our mission. We are prepared to change the way we work to improve our cost-effectiveness on the basis of the strongest evidence available.” —Animal Ethics’ Vision, Mission, and Values (2017)
This information can be found in Animal Ethics’ Board Members (2017).
We’re aware of two studies of nonprofit board diversity that found that diverse boards are associated with better fundraising and social performance, as well as with the use of inclusive governance practices that allow the board to incorporate community perspectives into their strategic decision making.
“Board members together make the final decisions, and consult staff and involved activists regarding the fields they work in. We wouldn’t plan to do something in an area where we have a coordinator if the coordinator didn’t agree with it or thought it infeasible.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“Animal Ethics started out as a diverse group and have become more diverse over time, partly because of their structure as an international organization […] Most of their staff are women, and part of their anti-discrimination policy is to try to promote women as spokespeople and into visible roles in the organization.” —Conversation with Leah McKelvie and Oscar Horta of Animal Ethics (2017)
“Animal Ethics started out as a diverse group and have become more diverse over time, partly because of their structure as an international organization […] In terms of staff, they’re often very limited by who has the skills that they need (although they have found that this has improved their diversity). Most of their staff are women, and part of their anti-discrimination policy is to try to promote women as spokespeople and into visible roles in the organization.” —Conversation with Leah McKelvie and Oscar Horta of Animal Ethics (2017)
This year we attempted to speak confidentially with two non-leadership staff members from each comprehensively evaluated charity. To protect their confidentiality, what we learned in these conversations is paraphrased in the review, and references to these conversations are identified only as “Private communication with an employee of [Charity], 2017.” For more information, see our blog post discussing this change.
This is particularly evident in thinking that implies a situation can have moral weight only if it is caused by an actor who can be expected to think in terms of good or bad actions. For instance: “The judgment calls of “good” and “bad” are human judgments. The answer is no more that “just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s bad”—the answer is that it is nature, and it is neither.” —Matthews, S. (2015). Nature Can’t Exist Without Suffering—And We Can’t Change That. Audubon.
“We would like to invite animal activists with concerns that people may not be receptive to this idea to try to include concern for wild animal suffering in their message and test how it goes. […] On the basis of our experience, we expect that if they try to do this they will find that most people are open to this idea to at least some degree.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“There has been a change among certain key groups where our impact has been proportionally much more important. This includes animal activists or people sympathetic to animal advocacy, people working under the effective altruism label, and academics.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“[W]e think that academic research assessing the best ways to intervene to aid animals in the wild will eventually develop as a new field. This is not going to happen in the next few years, but we think it can happen before the next decade.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“We think that currently our resources are best used working towards what we believe to be highly effective based on the current information we have. We also make use of current research about attitudinal change in general and about showing at least a partial solution to the problems we draw attention to.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“This is why promoting concern about this issue is key and we believe that at this moment, raising concern should take priority. One reason is that by doing this we will be able to get many new people on board, and among them will be Researchers interested in this issue—which will help us to gain better knowledge about how to best intervene.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“By succeeding in making animal welfare ecology a respected scientific field, we will be making it possible for a huge amount of research be carried out. This kind and amount of research could not be carried out with the resources animal organizations have.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
“Carrying out some research on specific points may be useful to achieving our goals. […] Their point is not to answer the complex questions that need to be addressed in order to figure out the main interventions that should be furthered. Rather, it is to increase concern about this issue as much as possible.” —Follow-Up Questions for Animal Ethics (2017)
The following materials are supplementary research documents associated with our charity review process and are referenced in the Comprehensive Review.