|Primary Work Area||Industrial Agriculture|
|Website||Mercy For Animals|
|Review Published||November, 2021|
|Last Updated||November, 2021|
What does MFA do?
Mercy For Animals (MFA) develops their programs in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, and Mexico. Their headquarters are in the U.S. MFA’s work focuses on strengthening the animal advocacy movement and improving animal welfare standards, as well as decreasing the consumption of animal products and increasing the availability of animal-free products. They engage in a variety of farmed animal advocacy programs, often involving the distribution of footage from their undercover investigations of factory farms, which they primarily promote via media and online campaigns. MFA also engages in corporate and institutional outreach, research, lobbying, and policy work. They recruit and train volunteers in several countries, and also support farmers to transition away from animal agriculture.
What are their strengths?
We believe that MFA’s investigations, research, and corporate outreach programs have the potential to affect the lives of numerous animals, and that their focus on helping numerous and neglected animal groups—such as farmed chickens and fishes—increases their programs’ effectiveness. We consider MFA’s movement-building interventions to have been effective in strengthening the animal advocacy movement. Furthermore, we consider MFA’s work in the U.S., Brazil, and India to be particularly effective based on the high tractability and high numbers of animals in those countries. Their plans for expansion indicate they would be able to effectively utilize an increase in funding.
What are their weaknesses?
Given that the effects of some of MFA’s activities are long-term and indirect, it is difficult to assess the impact of some of their programs. We detected some concerns in MFA’s organizational culture—some current and former staff reported that they felt that some instances of harassment or discrimination were not handled appropriately. MFA reported handling these concerns according to their legal obligations and their policies and procedures.
Why did we recommend them?
We believe that MFA’s investigations, research, and corporate outreach programs have the potential to affect a large number of animals. We consider their work focused on farmed chickens and fishes to be particularly effective, and find their focus on high-priority countries such as the U.S., India, and Brazil to be impactful.
We find MFA to be an excellent giving opportunity because of their strong programs aimed at strengthening the animal advocacy movement, improving the welfare of farmed animals, and increasing the availability of animal-free products in high-priority countries.
Mercy For Animals was one of our Top Charities from May 2014 to November 2017.
A charity that performs well on this criterion has programs that we expect are highly effective in reducing the suffering of animals. The key aspects that ACE considers when examining a charity’s programs are reviewed in detail below.
In this criterion, we assess the effectiveness of each of the charity’s programs by analyzing (i) the interventions each program uses, (ii) the outcomes those interventions work toward, (iii) the countries in which the program takes place, and (iv) the groups of animals the program affects. We use information supplied by the charity to provide a more detailed analysis of each of these four factors. Our assessment of each intervention is informed by our research briefs and other relevant research.
At the beginning of our evaluation process, we select charities that we believe have the most effective programs. This year, we considered a comprehensive list of animal advocacy charities that focus on improving the lives of farmed or wild animals. We selected farmed animal charities based on the outcomes they work toward, the regions they work in, and the specific animal group(s) their programs target. We don’t currently consider animal group(s) targeted as part of our evaluation for wild animal charities, as the number of charities working on the welfare of wild animals is very small.
We categorize the work of animal advocacy charities by their outcomes, broadly distinguishing whether interventions focus on individual or institutional change. Individual-focused interventions often involve decreasing the consumption of animal products, increasing the prevalence of anti-speciesist values, or providing direct help to animals. Institutional change involves improving animal welfare standards, increasing the availability of animal-free products, or strengthening the animal advocacy movement.
We believe that changing individual habits and beliefs is difficult to achieve through individual outreach. Currently, we find the arguments for an institution-focused approach1 more compelling than individual-focused approaches. We believe that raising welfare standards increases animal welfare for a large number of animals in the short term2 and may contribute to transforming markets in the long run.3 Increasing the availability of animal-free foods, e.g., by bringing new, affordable products to the market or providing more plant-based menu options, can provide a convenient opportunity for people to choose more plant-based options. Moreover, we believe that efforts to strengthen the animal advocacy movement, e.g., by improving organizational effectiveness and building alliances, can support all other outcomes and may be relatively neglected.
Therefore, when considering charities to evaluate, we prioritize those that work to improve welfare standards, increase the availability of animal-free products, or strengthen the animal advocacy movement. We give lower priority to charities that focus on decreasing the consumption of animal products, increasing the prevalence of anti-speciesist values, or providing direct help to animals. Charities selected for evaluation are sent a request for more in-depth information about their programs and the specific interventions they use. We then present and assess each of the charities’ programs. In line with our commitment to following empirical evidence and logical reasoning, we use existing research to inform our assessments and explain our thinking about the effectiveness of different interventions.
A charity’s countries and regions of operations can affect their work with regard to scale, neglectedness, and tractability. We prioritize charities in countries with relatively large animal agricultural industries, few other charities engaged in similar work, and in which animal advocacy is likely to be feasible and have a lasting impact. In our charity selection process, we used MFA’s Farmed Animal Opportunity Index (FAOI), which combines proxies for scale, tractability, and global influence to create country scores.4 To assess neglectedness, we used our own data on the number of organizations that we are aware of working in each country. Below we present these measures for the countries that MFA operates in.
We prioritize programs targeting specific groups of animals that are affected in large numbers5 and receive relatively little attention in animal advocacy. Of the 187 billion farmed vertebrate animals killed annually for food globally, 110 billion are farmed fishes and 66.6 billion are farmed chickens, making these impactful groups to focus on. There are at least 100 times as many wild vertebrates as there are farmed vertebrates.6 Given the large number of wild animals and the small number of organizations working on their welfare, we believe wild animal advocacy also has potential for high impact despite its lower tractability.
A note about long-term impact
Each charity’s long-term impact is plausibly what matters most.7 The potential number of animals affected increases over time due to population growth and an accumulation of generations. Thus, we would expect that the long-term impacts of an action would likely affect more animals than the short-term impacts of the same action. Nevertheless, we are highly uncertain about the particular long-term effects of each intervention. Because of this uncertainty, our reasoning about each charity’s impact (along with our diagrams) may skew toward overemphasizing short-term effects.
Information and Analysis
MFA develops their programs in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, and Mexico. Their headquarters are in the U.S.
We used Mercy For Animals’ Farmed Animal Opportunity Index (FAOI) with the suggested weightings of scale (25%), tractability, (55%) and influence (20%) to determine each country’s total FAOI score. We report this score along with the country’s global ranking from a total of 60 countries in the following format: FAOI score (global ranking). The U.S., Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, and Mexico have the following scores and rankings, respectively: 53.92(2), 32.87(5), 22.7(11), 12.2(34), 33.42(4), and 22.26(13). According to the comprehensive list of charities we are aware of, there are about 724 farmed animal advocacy organizations, excluding sanctuaries, worldwide. From this list, we found 220 in the U.S., 15 in Brazil, 29 in Canada, 0 in Hong Kong, 20 in India, and 9 in Mexico. We believe that farmed animal advocacy in Hong Kong is neglected and tractable, and they also have a moderate level of global influence according to the FAOI. We also believe that farmed animal advocacy in the U.S., Brazil, and India are especially high-priority because of their high FAOI scores.
Description of programs
MFA pursues different avenues for creating change for animals. Their work focuses on strengthening the animal advocacy movement and improving animal welfare standards, and also aims to decrease the consumption of animal products and increase the availability of animal-free products.
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 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.
Below, we describe each of MFA’s programs, listed in order of the financial resources devoted to them in 2020 (from highest to lowest). We list major accomplishments for each program, if a track record is available.
Research for intervention effectiveness
Corporate outreach and campaigns
There is some evidence that corporate outreach leads food companies to change their practices related to hen welfare. Šimčikas9 found that the follow-through rate of cage-free corporate commitments ranges from 48–84%. Cost-effectiveness estimates vary widely, and it is unclear which is the most accurate. Šimčikas estimates that corporate campaigns affect nine to 120 hen-years (i.e., years of chicken life) per dollar spent.
MFA currently prioritizes cage-free egg and broiler chicken welfare commitments. Cage-free housing systems are believed to reduce suffering by increasing the space available to egg-laying hens and providing them opportunities to perform important behaviors, although mortality may increase during the transition process, and there is some risk that it may remain elevated.10
MFA is also campaigning for companies to switch to higher-welfare (but likely slower-growing) breeds of broiler chickens and to commit11 to provisions on stocking density, lighting, and environmental enrichments. Such commitments may lead to higher welfare but also to more animal days lived in factory farms.12
Currently, there is no peer-reviewed research specifically about institutional outreach to influence the availability of animal-free products. However, we could learn from studies that investigate the effectiveness of outreach to hospitals and schools on increasing the availability of “healthy foods” (specifically fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). We believe that reaching out to nonprofit institutions with the effective strategies identified in these studies has the potential to increase the availability of animal-free foods, based on high participation and success rates in health food outreach to schools and hospitals. Some of these strategies included i) working with the local hospital association and hospital workers’ unions to encourage participation, ii) enlisting in-depth assistance from dietitians, and iii) providing advice on how to incorporate new standards into existing operations. However, due to concerns about the generalizability of this intervention to outreach for animal-free foods, we believe that more research is needed.
We are unsure about how effective online outreach is at creating measurable change for animals. However, we generally believe that online outreach could have strategic value, especially media campaigns that support other high-impact tactics like corporate and legislative campaigns.
MFA works on policy and legislative advocacy. We are not confident about the effectiveness of policy work and legal outreach because there is currently a lack of research on this topic. However, we suspect that the effects of legislative change could be particularly long-lasting, despite the long time frame compared to other forms of change. We also think that legislative changes to improve animal welfare are likely to impact a large number of animals.
MFA conducts investigations into the animal agriculture industry, which can raise public awareness about practices in animal farms, serve as a resource for animal advocates, and help achieve institutional policies.
There is currently no empirical evidence that reviews the effectiveness of movement building in animal advocacy. However, we believe that capacity-building projects have the potential to help animals indirectly by increasing the effectiveness of other projects and organizations. Furthermore, building alliances with key influencers, institutions, or social movements could expand the audience and impact of animal advocacy organizations and projects, leading to net positive outcomes for animals. Additionally, ACE’s 2018 research and Harris13 suggest that capacity building and building alliances are currently neglected relative to other interventions aimed at influencing public opinion and industry.
We believe that conducting and supporting advocacy research is a generally promising intervention, especially when considering its potential effects in the longer term (defined as more than one year). Due to the lack of research about the extent to which animal advocacy research results are actually used by the movement to prioritize and implement their work, our confidence in the short-term effects of this intervention is low. We acknowledge that we may be generally biased to favor this intervention because part of our work consists of conducting and supporting relevant research—see our assessment of the effects of producing advocacy research.
We think that MFA’s investigations and research programs—both aimed at strengthening the animal advocacy movement—and their corporate engagement program—aimed at improving welfare standards and increasing the availability of animal-free products—are particularly effective, but there is little evidence supporting this claim. Studies suggest that corporate outreach to secure chicken commitments can impact a large number of animals. Despite the lack of evidence on the effectiveness of movement-building interventions in general, we think that MFA has strongly contributed to strengthening the animal advocacy movement by conducting farmed animal investigations and research. Additionally, we think that their programs’ focus on helping numerous and neglected animal groups, such as farmed chickens and fishes, increases their effectiveness.
We consider MFA’s work in the U.S., Brazil, and India to be particularly effective based on the high tractability and high numbers of animals in those countries.
Overall, we think that almost all of MFA’s spending on programs goes toward outcomes, countries, and helping species that we think are a high priority.
Room for More Funding
A new recommendation from ACE could lead to a large increase in a charity’s funding. In this criterion, we investigate whether a charity is able to absorb and effectively utilize funding that the recommendation may bring in or, if the charity has a prior recommendation status, whether they will continue to effectively absorb funding that comes from our recommendation.
In the following section, we inspect the charity’s plans for expansion as well as their financials, including revenue and expenditure projections.
The charities we evaluate typically receive revenue from a variety of different sources, such as individual donations or grants from foundations.14 In order to guarantee that a charity will raise the funds needed for their operations, they should be able to predict changes in future revenue. To estimate charities’ room for more funding, we request records of their revenue since 2019 and ask what they predict their revenue will be in 2021–2023. A review of the literature on nonprofit finance suggests that revenue diversity may be positively associated with revenue predictability if the sources of income are largely uncorrelated.15 However, a few sources of large donations—if stable and reliable—may also be associated with high performance and growth. Therefore, in this criterion, we also indicate the charities’ major sources of income.
We present the charities’ reported plans for expansion of each program as well as other planned changes for the next two years. We do not make active suggestions for additional plans. However, we ask charities to indicate how they would spend additional funding that we expect would come in as a result of a new recommendation from ACE, considering that a Standout Charity status and a Top Charity status would likely lead to a $100,000 or $1,000,000 increase in funding, respectively. Note that we list the expenditures for planned non-program expenses but do not make any assessment of the charity’s overhead costs in this criterion, given that there is no evidence that the total share of overhead costs is negatively related to overall effectiveness.16 However, we do consider relative overhead costs per program in our Cost Effectiveness criterion. Here we focus on evaluating whether additional resources are likely to be used for effective programs or other beneficial changes in the organization. The latter may include investments into infrastructure and efforts to retain staff, both of which we think are important for sustainable growth.
It is common practice for charities to hold more funds than needed for their current expenses (i.e., reserves) in order to be able to withstand changes in the business cycle or other external shocks that may affect their incoming revenue. Such additional funds can also serve as investments into future projects in the long run. Thus, it can be effective to provide a charity with additional funds to secure the stability of the organization or provide funding for larger, future projects. We do not prescribe a certain share of reserves, but we suggest that charities hold reserves equal to at least one year of expenditures, and we increase a charity’s room for more funding if their reserves in 2021 are less than 100% of their projected total expenditure.
Finally, we aggregate the financial information and the charity’s plans to form an assessment of their room for more funding. All descriptive data and estimations can be found in this sheet. Our assessment of a charity’s ability to effectively absorb additional funding helps inform our recommendation decision.
Information and Analysis
The chart below shows MFA’s revenues, expenditures, and net assets from 2019–2020, as well as projections for the years 2021–2023. The information is based on the charity’s past financial data and their own predictions for the years 2021–2023.
MFA receives the majority of their income from donations, 0.9% from their own work, and 2.31% from their capital investments.17
According to MFA’s reported projections, their estimated increase in revenue in 2022 will sufficiently cover their plans for expansion.
MFA outlined that if they were to receive an additional $100,000 per year, it would be focused on exploring marketing to influence public opinion. If they were to receive an additional $1,000,000, it would go toward influencing international policy.18 We believe both of these interventions are effective use of funding. Therefore, we believe that MFA could effectively absorb at least an additional $1,000,000 per year.
With more than 100% of their current annual expenditures held in net assets—as projected by MFA for 2021—we believe that they hold a sufficient amount of reserves.
Below we list MFA’s plans for expansion for each program as well as other planned expenditures, such as administrative costs, wages, and training. We do not verify the feasibility of the plans or the specifics of how changes in expenditure will cover planned expansions. Reported changes in expenditure are based on the charity’s own estimates of changes in program expenditures for 2021–2022 and 2022–2023.
MFA plans to expand the following programs: public engagement, investigations, corporate engagement (both animal welfare and plant-based), research, organizing, government affairs and public policy (both legislative and food policy), litigation, and transfarmation. In addition, they plan to expand to Southeast and East Asia, with a headquarters in Singapore. More details can be found in the corresponding estimation sheet and the supplementary materials. Readers may also consult MFA’s 2019–2021 strategic plan. A new strategic plan for 2022–2024 will be released in January 2022.
MFA plans to focus future expansions on the following programs: public engagement, investigations, corporate engagement (both animal welfare and plant-based), research, organizing, government affairs and public policy (both legislative and food policy), litigation, and transfarmation. For donors influenced by ACE wishing to donate to MFA, we estimate that the organization can effectively absorb funding that we expect to come with a recommendation status.
Based on i) MFA’s own projections that their revenue will cover their expenditures, ii) our assessment that they have sufficient reserves, and iii) our assessment that they could effectively absorb an additional 1,000,000, we believe that overall, MFA has room for $1,000,000 of additional funding in 2022 and $1,000,000 in 2023. See our Programs criterion for our assessment of the effectiveness of their programs.
It is possible that a charity could run out of room for funding more quickly than we expect, or that they could come up with good ways to use funding beyond what we expect. If a charity receives a recommendation as Top Charity, we check in mid-year about the funding they’ve received since the release of our recommendations, and we use the estimates presented above to indicate whether we still expect them to be able to effectively absorb additional funding at that time.
A charity’s recent cost effectiveness provides an insight into how well it has made use of its available resources and is a useful component in understanding how cost effective future donations to the charity might be. In this criterion, we take a more in-depth look at the charity’s use of resources over the past 18 months and compare that to the outputs they have achieved in each of their main programs during that time. We seek to understand whether each charity has been successful at implementing their programs in the recent past and whether past successes were achieved at a reasonable cost. We only complete an assessment of cost effectiveness for programs that started in 2019 or earlier and that have expenditures totaling at least 10% of the organization’s annual budget.
Below, we report what we believe to be the key outputs of each program, as well as the total program expenditures. To estimate total program expenditures, we take the reported expenditures for each program and add a portion of their non-program expenditures weighted by the size of the program. This allows us to incorporate general organizational running costs into our consideration of cost effectiveness.
We spend a significant portion of our time during the evaluation process verifying the outputs charities report to us. We do this by (i) searching for independent sources that can help us verify claims, and (ii) directing follow-up questions to charities to gather more information. We adjusted some of the reported claims based on our verification work.
Information and Analysis
Overview of expenditures
The following chart shows MFA’s total program expenditures from January 2020 – June 2021.
Given the reported outputs and expenditures, we do not have concerns about the cost effectiveness of any of MFA’s programs. However, the majority of the impacts of their work are more indirect and/or may happen in the future; as such, we are more uncertain about the cost effectiveness of their public engagement program.
Leadership and Culture
A charity that performs well on this criterion has strong leadership and a healthy organizational culture. The way an organization is led affects its organizational culture, which in turn impacts the organization’s effectiveness and stability.22 The key aspects that ACE considers when examining leadership and culture are reviewed in detail below.
We review aspects of organizational leadership and culture by capturing staff and volunteer perspectives via our culture survey, in addition to information provided by top leadership staff (as defined by each charity).
First, we consider key information about the composition of leadership staff and board of directors. There appears to be no consensus in the literature on the specifics of the relationship between board composition and organizational performance,23 therefore we refrain from making judgements on board composition. However, because donors may have preferences on whether the Executive Director (ED) or other top executive staff are board members or not, we note when this is the case. According to the Council on Foundations,24 risks of EDs serving as board members include conflicts of interest when the board sets the ED’s salary, complicated reporting relationships, and blurred lines between governing bodies and staff. On the other hand, an ED that is part of a governing board can provide context about day-to-day operations and ultimately lead to better informed decisions, while also giving the ED more credibility and authority.
We also consider information about leadership’s commitment to transparency by looking at available information on the charity’s website, such as key staff members, financial information, and board meeting notes. We require organizations selected for evaluation to be transparent with ACE throughout the process. Although we value transparency, we do not expect all organizations to be transparent with the public about sensitive information. For example, we recognize that organizations and individuals working in some regions or on some interventions could be harmed by making information about their work public. In these cases, we favor confidentiality over transparency.
In addition, we utilize our culture survey to ask staff to identify the extent to which they feel that leadership is competently guiding the organization.
Finally, there are specific considerations for charities that work internationally. For instance, “North–South” power imbalances—differences between more and less developed countries’ autonomy and decision-making abilities—can occur within the same organization or between organizations working in partnership. We think that it is important that charities, especially those from developed countries, prevent and address power imbalances by, for instance, creating opportunities for the national affiliates to influence decision-making at the international level, including “Southern” majorities in boards of governance.25 We ask leadership to elaborate on their approach and report measures they take.
We ask organizations undergoing evaluation to provide a list of their human resources policies, and we elicit the views of staff and volunteers through our culture survey. Administering ACE’s culture survey to all staff members, as well as volunteers working at least 20 hours per month, is an eligibility requirement to be recommended as an ACE Top or Standout Charity. However, ACE does not require individual staff members or volunteers at participating charities to complete the survey. We recognize that surveying staff and volunteers could (i) lead to inaccuracies due to selection bias, and (ii) may not reflect employees’ true opinions as they are aware that their responses could influence ACE’s evaluation of their employer. In our experience, it is easier to uncover issues with an organization’s culture than it is to assess how strong an organization’s culture is. Therefore, we focus on determining whether there are issues in the organization’s culture that have a negative impact on staff productivity and well-being.
We assume that employees in the nonprofit sector have incentives that are material, purposive, and solidary.26 Since nonprofit sector wages are typically below for-profit wages, our survey elicits wage satisfaction from all staff. Additionally, we request the organization’s benefit policies regarding time off, health care, and training and professional development. As policies vary across countries and cultures, we do not evaluate charities based on their set of policies and do not expect effective charities to have all policies in place.
To capture whether the organization also provides non-material incentives, e.g., goal-related intangible rewards, we elicit employee engagement using the Gallup Q12 survey. We consider an average engagement score below the median value (i.e., below four) of the scale a potential concern.
ACE believes that the animal advocacy movement should be safe and inclusive for everyone. Therefore, we also collect information about policies and activities regarding representation/diversity, equity, and inclusion (R/DEI). We use the terms “representation” and “diversity” broadly in this section to refer to the diversity of certain social identity characteristics (called “protected classes” in some countries).27 Additionally, we believe that effective charities must have human resources policies against harassment28 and discrimination,29 and that cases of harrassment and discrimination in the workplace should be addressed appropriately. If a specific case of harassment or discrimination from the last 12 months is reported to ACE by several current or former staff members or volunteers at a charity, and said case remains unaddressed, the charity in question is ineligible to receive a recommendation from ACE.
Information and Analysis
In this section, we list each charity’s President (or equivalent) and/or Executive Director (or equivalent), and we describe the board of directors. This is completed for the purpose of transparency and to identify the relationship between the ED and board of directors.
- President: Leah Garcés, involved in the organization for 3 years
- Number of members on board of directors: 10 members
MFA did not have a transition in leadership in the last year (as of June 2021).
About 89% of staff respondents to our culture survey at least somewhat agreed that MFA’s leadership team guides the organization competently, while 9% at least somewhat disagreed, and 2% neither agreed nor disagreed.
MFA has been transparent with ACE during the evaluation process. In addition, MFA’s audited financial documents are available on the charity’s website or GuideStar. Lists of board members and key staff members are available on the charity’s website.
MFA has expanded from the U.S. to Brazil, Canada, India and Mexico. In order to prevent and address potential power imbalances between developed and developing country parties, MFA launched global and regional Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committees in 2020 and has restructured in order to shift organizational power to individual regions. MFA also uses simultaneous translation in communications.
MFA has 122 staff members (including full-time, part-time, and contractors). Eighty six staff members and nine volunteers responded to our survey, yielding a response rate of 70% for the staff survey.30
MFA has a formal compensation plan to determine staff salaries. Of the staff members that responded to our survey, about 16% report that they are at least somewhat dissatisfied with their wage. MFA offers 24 days of paid time off per year, seven sick days, and full healthcare coverage. Only 1% of staff report that they are at least somewhat dissatisfied with the benefits provided. Additional policies are listed in the table below.
General compensation policies
|Has policy||Partial / informal policy||No policy|
|A formal compensation policy to determine staff salaries|
|Paid time off|
|Sick days and personal leave|
|Paid family and medical leave|
|Clearly defined essential functions for all positions, preferably with written job descriptions|
|Annual (or more frequent) performance evaluations|
|Formal onboarding or orientation process|
|Funding for training and development consistently available to each employee|
|Simple and transparent written procedure for employees to request further training or support|
|Flexible work hours|
|Remote work option|
|Paid internships (if possible and applicable)|
The average score in our engagement survey is 6.4 (on a 1–7 scale), suggesting that on average, staff do not exhibit a low engagement score. MFA has staff policies against harassment and discrimination. A few staff members and no volunteers report that they have experienced harassment or discrimination at their workplace during the last twelve months, while a few report to have witnessed harassment or discrimination of others. About two-thirds of these people agree that the situation was handled appropriately. See all other related policies in the table below.
We feel it’s important to note that we have considered reports from a couple of former employees in our evaluation of MFA. The reports contain allegations of harassment issues in MFA’s Latin America office. MFA’s leadership reports that they have a formalized process to investigate any allegations of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in a fair and expeditious manner, keeping the matter as confidential as possible while collecting all relevant facts. MFA’s leadership reports that they were made aware of information and allegations within their MFA Latin America office, and that they addressed these allegations at that time. They report to have followed their standard procedures and closed the matters with no finding of harassment or discrimination.
Policies related to representation/diversity, equity, and inclusion (R/DEI)
|Has policy||Partial / informal policy||No policy|
|A clearly written workplace code of ethics/conduct|
|A written statement that the organization does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or other characteristics|
|A simple and transparent written procedure for filing complaints|
|Mandatory reporting of harassment and discrimination through all levels, up to and including the board of directors|
|Explicit protocols for addressing concerns or allegations of harassment or discrimination|
|Documentation of all reported instances of harassment or discrimination, along with the outcomes of each case|
|Regular trainings on topics such as harassment and discrimination in the workplace|
|An anti-retaliation policy protecting whistleblowers and those who report grievances|
We detected some concerns in MFA’s organizational culture—some current and former staff reported that they felt that some instances of harassment or discrimination were not handled appropriately. MFA reported handling these concerns according to their legal obligations and their policies and procedures. We also positively note that MFA has an independent board, staff generally agree that leadership guides the organization competently, and team members seem engaged and satisfied with their job.
On average, our team considers advocating for welfare improvements to be a positive and promising approach. However, there are different viewpoints within ACE’s research team on the effect of advocating for animal welfare standards on the spread of anti-speciesist values. There are concerns that arguing for welfare improvements may lead to complacency related to animal welfare and give the public an inconsistent message—e.g., see Wrenn (2012). In addition, there are concerns with the alliance between nonprofit organizations and the companies that are directly responsible for animal exploitation, as explored in Baur and Schmitz (2012).
We don’t believe that the number of individuals is the only relevant characteristic for scale, and we don’t necessarily believe that groups of animals should be prioritized solely based on the scale of the problem. However, number of animals is one characteristic we use for prioritization.
We estimate there are 10 quintillion, or 1019, wild animals alive at any time, of whom we estimate at least 10 trillion are vertebrates. It’s notable that Rowe (2020) estimates that 100 trillion to 10 quadrillion (or 1014 to 1016) wild invertebrates are killed by agricultural pesticides annually.
ACE believes that language can have a powerful impact on worldview, so we avoid terms such as “broiler chicken,” “poultry,” “beef,” etc., whenever possible. “Broiler chicken,” in particular, defines these birds in terms of their purpose for human consumption as meat. This can contribute to a lack of awareness about the origins of animal products and could make it difficult for consumers to understand the effects of their food choices. That being said, many of the charities that ACE evaluates use this language for strategic reasons in their campaigns, so we will use the term “broiler chicken” when referring to chickens raised for meat for the sake of simplicity.
The European Chicken Commitment is a six-point pledge that requires food companies to improve welfare standards for all chickens in their supply chain by 2026.
To estimate their expenditures, we took their reported expenditures for this program and added a portion of their general non-program expenditures weighted by the size of this program compared to their other programs. This allowed us to incorporate their general organizational running costs into our consideration of their cost effectiveness.
The Better Chicken Commitment is a pledge that requires food companies to meet improved welfare standards for broiler chickens in their supply chain by 2024 and 2026.
Examples of such social identity characteristics are: race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender or gender expression, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, marital status, national origin, citizenship, amnesty, veteran status, political beliefs, age, ability, and genetic information.
Harassment can be non-sexual or sexual in nature: ACE defines non-sexual harassment as unwelcome conduct—including physical, verbal, and nonverbal behavior—that upsets, demeans, humiliates, intimidates, or threatens an individual or group. Harassment may occur in one incident or many. ACE defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; and other physical, verbal, and nonverbal behaviors of a sexual nature when (i) submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; (ii) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the targeted individual; or (iii) such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
ACE defines discrimination as the unjust or prejudicial treatment of or hostility toward an individual on the basis of certain characteristics (called “protected classes” in some countries), such as race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender or gender expression, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, marital status, national origin, citizenship, amnesty, veteran status, political beliefs, age, ability, or genetic information.
The following materials are supplementary research documents associated with our charity review process and are referenced in the comprehensive review.