Archived Version: December, 2014
|Primary Work Area||Industrial Agriculture|
|Website||HSUS Farm Animal Protection Campaign|
|Review Published||December, 2014|
|Current Version||November, 2018|
What does HSUS FAPC do?
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) works on behalf of a large variety of animal causes, including but not limited to companion animals, wild animals, animals used for entertainment, animals used in laboratories, and farmed animals. For the purpose of this review, we examined their work on behalf of farmed animals.
The two primary goals of the HSUS Farm Animal Protection Campaign (FAPC) are combating the most extreme confinement practices and abuses in the animal agribusiness system and reducing total demand for animal products. They work with animal product producers to try and implement improvements in the treatment of animals in food production. They lobby for better laws, fight ag-gag legislation, and engage in campaigns to rid factory farms of the worst animal abuses. They also conduct investigations of factory farms. FAPC promotes Meatless Monday campaigns in businesses, health organizations, and educational institutions, sometimes even implementing the campaign in entire school districts.
What are their strengths?
The effectiveness of the FAPC is amplified because of their large reach and potential to create influencers (people or organizations who will go on to promote reduction or elimination of animal products, or improvements in animal welfare). As they are part of the nation’s largest animal protection organization with an extensive membership and following, they are able to reach very large numbers of people through their efforts. This influences many different situations, including their ability to get media exposure, their work to create better laws and corporate policies, and their successes with their Meatless Monday campaigns. In turn, those campaigns can create influencers, which we value as serving an important role in promoting farmed animal advocacy.
Additionally, the FAPC takes a strategic approach to implementing change. They recognize that changes don’t happen overnight, and sometimes take smaller steps to achieve change. For example, their gestation crate campaign focuses on getting suppliers and producers to phase out the practice. There are limits to the effectiveness of what this campaign can directly accomplish, but there are long-term effects of changing the overall view of animal welfare in farms, and increasing public knowledge about common practices on factory farms. They also employ tactics like Meatless Mondays, which have far-reaching potential on both short-term and long-term timescales.
What are their weaknesses?
We have two concerns with the FAPC. First, we are unable to measure the impact of many of their interventions. We can offer our best guess about the direct effectiveness their efforts to create better living conditions for farmed animals, but that doesn’t address the larger questions of whether or not such work is the most effective path to take. There are valid concerns that advocating welfare reforms and working with alternative farmers may make people feel better about eating animals in general, and thus make the exploitation of animals seem acceptable so long as they are raised in a nicer environment. We don’t know if this is the case, but we feel that raising awareness and having a discussion about food choices in a national context is a significant enough benefit to outweigh the concern for normalizing eating animals, which is already normalized.
Second, FAPC is part of the larger organization HSUS. It was difficult to ascertain exactly how much funding for FAPC activities comes directly from their budget vs. the general budget of the larger HSUS. Many of their best efforts are similarly aided by the large overall budget of HSUS, and thus it is difficult to ascertain how much money is actually being spent to achieve success with their efforts. It is also unclear if donations not large enough to fund a program or position would be entirely fungible, or if they would indeed be able to be used in the department as additional marginal funding.
Why didn’t FAPC receive our top recommendation?
We see FAPC as having many strengths, and engaging in high quality work on a consistent basis. Overall our impression is very positive, and we endorse many of the methods that they use. However, due to uncertainty of impact, and due to potential fungibility issues, we only recommend donating to the FAPC if you especially value one of their campaigns and plan to offer a larger donation that might be able to fund a specific project or new employee position.
HSUS’s Farm Animal Protection Campaign has been one of our standout charities since May 2014.
Table of Contents
- How HSUS Farm Animal Protection Campaign Performs on Our Criteria
- Criterion #1: The Organization Has Concrete Room for More Funding and Plans for Growth
- Criterion #2: A Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation Finds the Organization is Cost-Effective
- Criterion #3: The Organization is Working on Things That Seem to Have High Mission Effectiveness
- Criterion #4: The Organization Possesses A Robust and Agile Understanding of Success and Failure
- Criterion #5: The Organization Possesses a Strong Track Record of Success
- Criterion #6: The Organization Has Strong Organizational Leadership and Structure
- Criterion #7: The Organization is Transparent
- Supplementary Materials
How HSUS’s FAPC performs on our criteria
Criterion #1: The Organization Has Concrete Room for More Funding and Plans for Growth
FAPC runs several programs which could expand with increased funding, in particular their Meatless Monday initiative. They currently have four full-time Meatless Monday coordinators, but they could add to that number if they were able to fund another position. As there are still many school districts and companies that are not being courted by one of their coordinators, and as FAPC leadership seems to highly value the Meatless Monday program, we find it likely that that additional large donations would be put to use in hiring another coordinator.
If not using the money directly on additional coordinators, we think that additional funds may still go to a related Meatless Monday program, either through advertising to food Directors or through instituting new Food Forward gatherings (events where many dining Directors are brought together at the same time to learn about Meatless Mondays). We see any of these uses of funds as worthwhile due to the high potential gains of institutional outreach.
While FAPC has their own priorities for funding, they also direct substantial amounts of funding based on the interests of larger donors. For example, some campaigns (like a recent gestation crate campaign) are only made possible through the large donation of an individual donor. It does appear that substantial donations towards a specific project will be able to be used accordingly. In general, they try to drive additional funds to institutional outreach, though sometimes efforts to defeat ag-gag bills need to take priority.
All things considered, it appears unlikely that smaller donations will make a substantial difference, so we only recommend making restricted donations to FAPC in larger amounts, i.e. enough to fund a specific campaign or another employee position, especially as we are unsure to what extent funds donated to FAPC are fungible with general HSUS funds. If you are considering a donation to the HSUS FAPC, make sure you restrict your donation to the FAPC or even more specifically to further FAPC’s meat reduction efforts. We also recommend contacting Paul Shapiro to discuss specifics.
Criterion #2: A Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation Finds the Organization is Cost-Effective
HSUS FAPC’s budget is particularly complex to understand, since they are part of a much larger organization. Some of their activities are funded through the FAPC’s budget, while others receive some funding from other sources within HSUS. Furthermore, the fact that HSUS is a large and well-known organization means that FAPC, working as part of HSUS, has more influence than would another organization with the same budget but without ties to the rest of HSUS. However, it would not be fair to treat FAPC as though they had the entire budget of HSUS at their disposal, because they do not. We estimate that FAPC’s annual budget is around $1,000,000, based on the campaign expenses we do know about and on this estimate by GiveWell. Note that all estimates factor in associated supporting costs including administrative and fundraising costs.
We estimate1 that FAPC spends about 36% of its budget, or $360,000, on legal advocacy, including advocacy for strengthened animal protection and against ag-gag bills. In 2013, 15 ag-gag bills were defeated with help from FAPC. This works out to a cost to FAPC of about $24,000 per defeated ag-gag bill, on average. We believe that FAPC played a major role in these campaigns, but as other organizations joined in the fight against these bills, this does not reflect the total expected cost of influencing the legislation (nor can we be certain that the legislation would have passed without the efforts of animal advocates).
We estimate that FAPC spends about 35% of its budget, or $350,000, on corporate advocacy, mostly but not exclusively working with corporations to implement stronger animal welfare standards in their supply chains. In 2013 FAPC reported over 20 new commitments from corporations to phase out gestation crates for pigs, their current major focus in this area. This gives an average cost of about $17,500 per new commitment. Many of these commitments were due largely or exclusively to the work of FAPC, but others were influenced by the work of other organizations, so again, this does not reflect total costs of the policy change.
Institutional Meat Reduction
We estimate that FAPC spends about 20% of its budget, or $200,000, on Meatless Mondays promotion. In 2013, this resulted in almost 100 schools and other organizations adopting Meatless Monday menus. The largest organization to adopt Meatless Mondays was the LA Unified School district, which alone switched an estimated 34 million meals per year from meat-based to meat-free. This works out to a cost of about $2,000 per organization that makes a change, or under 0.6 cents per meal affected, even if each organization only changes its policy for a year. (FAPC’s own estimate is 0.3 cents per meal if changes last only 1 year.) However, it’s not likely that FAPC will be able to continue making such large gains with individual school districts as they did with LAUSD, because LAUSD is the second largest district in the country; there simply aren’t many other districts of a similar size.
Undercover Investigations and Media
Finally, we estimate that FAPC spends about 9% of their budget, or about $90,000, on other activities, including undercover investigations and promoting its work in the press. We don’t have any clear metrics for what they’ve accomplished in 2013 through these activities, though we note that they did receive national media coverage through several outlets.
All Activities Combined
To create a single estimate for FAPC’s cost-effectiveness that can be compared to other groups, we need to combine these estimates. While this introduces new possibilities for error, it will be sufficient to allow us to make rough comparisons between organizations. The units we’ve chosen to use for these estimates are animals spared from lives in industrial agriculture per dollar. We can convert our cost-effectiveness estimate for FAPC’s work on Meatless Mondays to these units by using a number of animals eaten per meal. To be consistent with our other estimates, we assume that the average person going vegetarian for a year would spare 10.3 animals from factory farming, so switching one meal from meat-based to meat-free spares .009 animals. Combining this with our previous estimate of 0.6 cents per meal affected, this suggests FAPC’s Meatless Monday campaigns spare about 1.6 animals per dollar. But note that this is under the conservative assumption that Meatless Mondays programs last for a year on average; we believe few last for shorter times and many will last longer. Given an average length of time these programs last, we would multiply our estimate by that number of years.
We estimate that corporate policy changes instigated by FAPC spare, on average, about 10,000 animals from the factory farming system, or an equivalent amount of suffering (for policies like banning gestation crates which do not necessarily result in a drop in consumption). This means FAPC’s corporate outreach spares about .6 animals per dollar. We don’t have independent estimates for the number of animals spared by FAPC’s legal advocacy or other activities, because we don’t know enough about them. Because together these account for almost half (45%) of FAPC’s activities, we assume that their legal advocacy is about as effective as their corporate advocacy (sparing .6 animals per dollar), and their other work, which prominently features undercover investigations and other media coverage, is about as effective as Mercy For Animals’s undercover investigations (sparing 3.7 animals per dollar).
Weighting each of these estimates by the proportion of their budget FAPC spends on them, we estimate that overall FAPC spares about 1.1 animals per dollar they spend. This is near the low end of the range of estimates for other groups we have reviewed at this depth. Because of extreme uncertainty even about the strongest parts of our calculations, there is currently limited value in further elaborating this estimate. Instead, we give weight to our other criteria.
Criterion #3: The Organization is Working on Things That Seem to Have High Mission Effectiveness
FAPC focuses on farmed animals, an area which we believe has high potential for positively impacting large numbers of animals. Their work seems to have a high likelihood of creating influencers and changing social memes about animals, both of which we highly value.
Promoting legislation to improve living conditions for farmed animals
Their work to improve living conditions for farmed animals include attempts to eliminate the use of gestation crates for pigs, veal crates for calves, force-feeding ducks used for foie gras, tail docking of cows, and battery cages for chickens. As success in these efforts would lead to improved living conditions for animals on all farms, we see this as a potentially highly cost-effective way to help a large number of animals. However, we maintain our earlier concerns that this approach has the potential side effect of legitimizing the use of animals, thus enabling institutions that raise animals for food to continue their work and in effect not significantly altering social views of animals.
Combat attempts to pass ag-gag laws
FAPC works to prevent states from adopting ag-gag laws. As these laws have wide reaching impact of disallowing undercover investigation of these farms, and thus eliminating the possibility of the public to be informed about how farmed animals are being treated, it seems especially important to work to stop the passage of these laws. In partnership with several other advocacy groups, they were successful in stopping passage of many of these bills in the past few years.
Corporate outreach seems to have high mission effectiveness because it involves convincing a few powerful people to make decisions which influence the lives of millions of animals. This seems likely to be easier than reaching and persuading millions of consumers in order to accomplish the same goal. However, corporate outreach often deals with small welfare improvements. It’s not clear whether such improvements, even if very easy to achieve, are highly effective in the long term, since as well as changing conditions for animals, they may also influence public opinion, either towards concern for farmed animals or towards complacency with regard to industrial agriculture.
Engage in Meatless Monday campaigns at institutions, hospitals, and schools
We think Meatless Monday campaigns have high potential to create a large amount of change. The immediate impact of a successful campaign is apparent; hundreds of thousands of meals each week are served without meat. The broader impact on social memes is uncertain, but likely to be positive. While there is a possibility that people are eating more meat on other days of the week to make up for not having meat on Monday, we find that to be unlikely, and instead believe that the promotion of a discussion about eating choices, and thus the need or lack thereof to eat meat/eggs/dairy, will likely have a positive effect on future decision.
Promote animal protection through media exposure
FAPC uses HSUS’s large reach to bring their message to a wide audience through action alerts, social media posts, interviews, and youtube videos. Paul Shapiro of FAPC appears on CNN roughly every five weeks, which reaches an audience of 300,000 viewers each time. These exposures seem especially valuable through the extremely large numbers of individuals that can be reached for a flat investment. While difficult to measure, we think they are very effective tactics.
Conduct undercover investigations to expose cruelty on farms
FAPC works to expose the suffering of animals in factory farms through undercover investigations. These investigations are then made public, and they make an effort to get as much exposure from these as possible. Their work also sometimes results in criminal charges against workers who abuse animals.
We believe that there is great value in these efforts. These investigations generate a large amount of public discussion about the treatment of animals in farms. It has been shown that meat consumption declines when these stories are in the media, and social media now provides a platform for free widespread sharing of the footage. This means that an extremely large number of individuals are exposed to their work. Additionally, the evidence of abuses provides materials for leaflets and videos, which can also be promoted publicly and result in a larger exposure. Lastly, these efforts provide the background information on farms that is necessary for legal and corporate reform.
Criterion #4: The Organization Possesses A Robust and Agile Understanding of Success and Failure
Unfortunately, many of FAPC’s activities are difficult to measure, and as such they have not undertaken many attempts to understand immediate impact. One exception is their Meatless Monday program, where they have estimated the cost of sparing an animal from life in industrial agriculture based on the costs of their efforts and their cumulative returns.
While not having extensive impact analysis of many of their efforts, the creation of the Meatless Monday program shows that they are working toward increasing efficiency – through reaching out to institutions, hospitals, and schools, they found they could affect the amount of meat being used by substantial amounts by simply meeting with individual dining Directors. They continue to work to make the process more efficient by implementing Food Forward, a program which attempts to streamline the process by bringing together sometimes dozens of dining and purchasing Directors at the same time, which greatly improves overall efficiency.
FAPC has struggled to convince Walmart to develop a policy regarding gestation crates. Their failure in this area has led them to try other tactics; they are also working on this issue on other levels, which will give them more leverage in the discussion. For example, by convincing Tyson foods, one of Walmart’s suppliers, to reverse their position on gestation crates and develop a policy to phase them out, and through other similar campaigns and victories, they are working to create an environment where Walmart will be most likely to develop such a policy.
Criterion #5: The Organization Possesses a Strong Track Record of Success
The FAPC was founded in 2005, and has a long list of successes to their name. Their latest annual report showcases some of their most recent victories, but some notable achievements include defeating ag-gag bills, passing laws to ban inhumane practices, encouraging companies to eliminate gestation crates and battery cages, and convincing over 100 institutions to implement Meatless Mondays (including several entire school districts).
Most notable are the institutional meat reduction programs and the anti-gestation crate campaigns. One particularly striking example was their success in getting an entire school district in Los Angeles to go Meatless on Monday, something which affects 650,000 meals every Monday.
They have banned gestation crates in nine states and also implemented gestation crate policies with over 60 major pork buyers. FAPC also has a long list of victories in transitioning institutions to cage-free egg policies and convincing suppliers to adopt better welfare policies.
FAPC also has some notable successes in their creation and promotion of professional videos. For example, their recent anti-gestation crate video garnered 1.3 million views on YouTube soon after launching by using the familiar and funny format of a person on the street asking passersby to do something odd but then teaching a lesson. Similarly, FAPC has released a Meatless Monday video which highlights the reasons for going meatless in about three minutes and which has received over 350,000 views.
Criterion #6: The Organization Has Strong Organizational Leadership and Structure
FAPC currently has 11 positions. They have extremely low turnover, and several people have been there for 5-9 years. Mostly, change has occurred through the creation of new positions. Overall, we consider them to have a strong and stable structure.
New employees are given a standard HSUS orientation as well as a FAPC-specific orientation. They are made aware of standard procedures and educated on the history of FAPC. Additionally, they make an effort to continue development through staff and others giving talks about effectiveness and other related concepts, and through offering feedback. We appreciate these efforts, as it shows they value self-improvement and are consistently examining their own work.
Criterion #7: The Organization is Transparent
FAPC were open in providing us with some numbers about expenditures, but were unable to furnish specific details on all the money that is directly used for FAPC. This is likely due to the difficulty of acquiring such data, and not on the desire to hide tactics or work. Some of FAPC’s expenditures are from dedicated funds, but others come out of more general HSUS budgets for advertising or office space. It may be legitimately difficult for FAPC to know the total amounts of resources they use because of this funding structure.
While we don’t feel that their level of transparency was such that we couldn’t form an understanding of their efforts, we would have liked to know more information about their expenditures, specifically how much money was spent on their campaigns. This lack of information does not make us have less confidence in the quality of their work, but contributes to concerns about the fungibility of smaller donations and makes it difficult to fully form cost-effectiveness estimates.
They publish a timeline of their campaign highlights online, and offer to talk about what they are doing when asked. Many of their efforts are public; the ones that are confidential are kept that way so as not to negatively affect their ability to succeed. FAPC often has conversations with other advocates on what works and what doesn’t work, and they meet regularly with frequent collaborators.
The following materials are supplementary research documents associated with our charity review process and are referenced in the Comprehensive Review.