Paul Shapiro is the Vice President of the Farm Animal Protection Campaign (FAPC) of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). He spoke with ACE Researcher Jacy Reese on September 15, 2016.
Major Strengths of the HSUS FAPC
HSUS is the biggest animal group on Earth, which gives them substantial political influence. They are consistently the strongest brand for name recognition and favorability, meaning they can have a large impact on farmed animal issues.
Another major strength is their focus on policy. Rather than working to persuade individuals, HSUS has increasingly shifted their focus towards working to influence public, corporate, and institutional policy. They are focused on slashing the demand for meat at the institutional level. This work can help many animals for relatively low costs.
Major Weaknesses of the HSUS FAPC
One risk at any large organization is intraorganizational communication problems. HSUS is comprised of dozens of different departments and sometimes communication between them could be improved.
Because HSUS is one of the biggest animal protection charities, they are a target for attacks from the meat, egg, and dairy industries. These industries spend millions of dollars a year in ads against HSUS, purely because of HSUS’s agricultural work. While this can at times make their work difficult, it indicates that their large impact makes many animal abusers seem HSUS as their primary threat.
Meat Reduction Work
Of about 30 people in the FAPC, 20 are working on meat reduction, 4 are working on public policy, and the rest are working on other things like corporate animal welfare reforms. In 2015, HSUS garnered about 75 new institutional meat reduction policies in schools and hospitals across the country, resulting in over 20 million meat-containing meals being switched to meat-free meals. Mark Middleton from Animal Visuals estimates that these policies spared about 685,000 animals from being factory farmed and slaughtered. That number doesn’t take into account schools where HSUS couldn’t get the numbers or out-of-cafeteria behavior changes.
HSUS partnered with Compass Group, the largest foodservice company on earth, to create all-vegan cafes and develop other strategies to meet meat-reduction goals. They worked with American University on Food Forward, an all-vegan dining facility. They also worked with the military, holding a plant-based culinary training at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. In the past two years, HSUS has hosted over 30 events and trained over 700 chefs on how to prepare plant-based foods. By the end of this year, they expect to have trained over 1000 chefs, including many chefs in universities and schools.
HSUS started doing institutional meat reduction outreach five years ago with one person, Kristie Middleton, working on it. Restricted funds provided to HSUS over the past couple of years have funded new staff including registered dietitians, nurses, and chefs. Politico recently wrote a story arguing that HSUS’s institutional outreach is making a tangible difference in meat reduction.
Recent Welfare Reforms
Recent welfare reforms have been achieved through the work of many different groups, but HSUS’s contributions have been essential to their success. HSUS was the leading force behind Prop 2, which took effect in January 2015. The announcement of the Massachusetts Ballot Initiative helped HSUS in their discussions with McDonald’s. Twelve months ago, when McDonald’s made an announcement that it would work with HSUS, that opened the door for the numerous cage-free policies over the past year.
Measuring Successful Outcomes
HSUS measures their success by the number of trainings conducted, number of people trained, amount of meat that is not being served, litigation passed, media coverage generated, and the institutional policies created. They solicit feedback after their trainings to evaluate their success and they learn through trial and error. In working with corporations, they find that focusing on sustainability and cost savings in their discussions is particularly effective.
HSUS hopes to work with at least 200 new institutions in the next year to reduce demand for meat and train about 500 new food professionals.
They hope to get more media attention and publish books. Kristie Middleton, Matt Prescott, Eddie Garza, and Shapiro are all working on upcoming books about meat reduction from different perspectives.
Shapiro’s goal is to reduce suffering as much as possible. The HSUS is always trying to get better and become more effective. The ballot initiative in Massachusetts is the most innovative ballot measure ever, and it would have been hard to imagine five years ago. Shapiro hopes that such progress will continue.
Room for Additional Funding
FAPC is looking at bringing on new staff. They got half a million dollars in funding from the Open Philanthropy Project (OPP), but it was strictly for advertising, not staff. FAPC used some of that funding to lobby Publix to go cage-free, and will use it to advertise in future campaigns. Increased donations would allow HSUS to expand their shareholder work by hiring new staff. FPAC could also use additional funding to get institutional investors to vote with FAPC on shareholder proposals or call companies on FAPC’s behalf.
FAPC has been expanding rapidly because many more donors are starting to think numerically and recognize the effectiveness of FAPC. They try to use donations to create new work rather than fund preexisting work.
Why does HSUS promote meat reduction (e.g. “Meatless Mondays”) rather than going completely vegan?
Meatless Mondays are just one tool in the meat reduction effort. It’s important to remember that HSUS targets their Meatless Mondays campaigns towards the biggest buyers of meat (e.g. school districts, hospitals), and less toward individuals. These buyers will not go completely vegan, but getting them to commit to Meatless Mondays makes a big difference.
Even in terms of individual outreach, Shapiro thinks it might be easier to get two people to be vegetarian half the time rather than one person to be vegetarian all the time. If that’s true (and if Faunalytics is right that almost 9 out of 10 vegetarians stop being vegetarian), it may be more effective to encourage meat reduction rather than strict vegetarianism or veganism.
Why does HSUS favor institutional meat reduction over individual meat reduction using tactics such as leafleting and online ads?
Other than reasons already mentioned, HSUS wants tangible results. It’s difficult to measure the effects of leafleting and online ads, but HSUS can measure by the pound how much less meat institutions are using.
Why does HSUS invest so heavily in influencing policy through ballot initiatives, which are very expensive on a per-initiative basis? What do you think of alternatives which might be cheaper, such as lobbying representatives or even administrative agencies such as the USDA?
Ballot measures are expensive, but they galvanize and motivate people like nothing else does. Activists still tell Shapiro that being a part of Prop 2 was one of the most meaningful things they’ve ever done. Ballot measures also have very tangible outcomes. They get media attention and give the public an opportunity to see footage from factory farms.
These initiatives are actually not very frequent. The last initiative that was voted on for farmed animals was 8 years ago. There is no cheaper alternative for creating legal change because these reforms were not going to be made in any state legislature or federal agency.
The Massachusetts Ballot Initiative can have a huge impact by making it illegal for anybody in Massachusetts to sell eggs from caged hens, regardless of where those eggs were produced. It’s hard to describe the salubrious effect that could have throughout the retail world and the rest of the states. For comparison, consider California’s adoption of auto-efficiency standards. Automakers didn’t want to make different cars for different states, so California’s standards led to a nationwide standard. We need rules in our society that codify legal protections for animals.