The following is a summary of a conversation that took place on September 27, 2016 as part of our evaluation of Animal Equality. Sharon Núñez Gough spoke with Toni Adleberg, ACE Research Associate.
Animal Equality’s Major Strengths
One of Animal Equality’s strengths is that they are an international organization. They currently work in seven countries and are expanding to Brazil. They are registered as a charity in all countries except for Mexico, where they are in process of registering. They are strong in each of those countries; their executive directors have lived and worked in their respective countries for many years, are aware of the local context, and have great relationships with the media and politicians.
Being international helps Animal Equality to reduce costs when hiring. They can hire people for a good wage at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to hire someone in, say, the United States. Being international also allows them to launch global campaigns and present their investigations in each country they are present in. Animal Equality works with other groups in each country they are present in. They have monthly meetings to make sure knowledge is shared throughout the company.
Another strong point is their focus on effectiveness. They are not tied to any particular strategy or campaign. They shift quickly based on new evidence. Two examples of Animal Equality’s recent shifts in strategy are their focus on virtual reality campaigns and their work in corporate outreach.
Team morale and happiness is another strength of Animal Equality’s. Despite their quick expansion, Animal Equality has a low turnover of staff, which saves costs. Everyone in the organization, especially the ten executive directors, contributes to the strategic vision. They have a vision reaching into 2020 which they revise regularly.
Animal Equality’s Major Weaknesses
One difficulty for Animal Equality is project management. Because they are international, all of their projects need to be presented in all eight countries they’re working in, so they need to be translated into at least four different languages. The time differences between the countries complicates things. Animal Equality is working on this issue with mandatory project management trainings and the development of a thorough project management process. They’ve also started using Asana to manage tasks.
Another difficulty given the large size of Animal Equality is international communication. To improve communication, Núñez Gough and another international director have visited each country where they have offices (except Italy, which they are visiting in January). They also decided to increase the frequency of their international meetings to two a month, have increased the amount of contact with bi monthly “sharing and learning meetings,” more travel by all executive directors, and streamlining communication with Asana. They are working on a document with tips and advice for improving communications.
Another difficulty is that they are very restricted by funds. Animal Equality’s vision and expansion is limited by the funds the organization gets.
Accomplishments from the Past Year
Animal Equality has been very focused on growth and stability. They’ve been working on their structure, developing new processes and documents, and investing in hiring the right people. They’ve hired twenty new talented people in the past year.
Perhaps their greatest accomplishment in 2016 was iAnimal, a virtual reality project. Their goal was to use new technology to reach influencers. They reached over 30,000 influencers, including students at high-ranking universities. They also reached journalists, capturing media attention, and started conversations with politicians. They are sharing iAnimal with over 90 activists and organizations, sending them equipment to conduct outreach. Sweden, China, Estonia, Chile, Holland, Belgium are some of the countries where iAnimal is being used to reach influencers by other organizations.
Animal Equality is working with Faunalytics on a study comparing the impact of virtual reality with the impact of flatscreen videos. Existing research already indicates that virtual reality is more effective at achieving greater behavioral change for a longer amount of time.
Another accomplishment in 2016 was the launch of Animal Equality’s corporate outreach department. They are focusing on cages for now and looking to focus on some of the other animals that suffer the most (e.g. fish and chickens).
Animal Equality conducted eleven investigations in 2016. Two were in the UK on chicken and pig farming. Two were in Italy on the lamb industry and rabbit farming. In Spain, Animal Equality investigated hatcheries, which just resulted in the longest prison sentence in the history of farmed animal abuse. Five investigations were related to iAnimal.
Animal Equality has been successful on social media. They have 3.5 million followers on Facebook and have presented a series of viral videos.
Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Animal Equality finished their strategic plan in 2015 and established four frameworks to guide their work: education, corporate outreach, legal work, and the development of Animal Equality.
For 2017, Animal Equality is doubling their education goals. These include iAnimal, Love Veg guides, street screenings, and their social media work. Animal Equality hopes to expand both their education and corporate outreach programs to other Latin American countries, particularly Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
They are hiring ten new people to work in corporate outreach in India, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil. They plan to reach out to supermarkets and major restaurant chains with cage-free campaigns.
Animal Equality has the goal of achieving over 120 corporate outreach victories in the next years in key countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
Legally, they hope to implement stronger animal welfare laws in India. There is a lot of room for work there. Animal Equality is hoping to hire two lawyers to work in India in next 6-12 months.
Animal Equality also hopes to work with the Liberal and Labor parties in the UK to develop stronger animal welfare laws for farmed animals.
Animal Equality’s long-term goals haven’t changed substantially, though they are frequently adjusted to include the emergence of clean meat and debates about wild animal suffering.
Use of Additional Funding
Animal Equality reached their goal of raising $2 million dollars in 2016. In 2017, they hope to raise $4 million.
Animal Equality could use additional funding to expand more of their programs to other Latin American countries such as educational programs, corporate outreach, and meat reduction programs. They are well-positioned to do so because of their cultural knowledge and existing relationships. In addition to hiring new people for education in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Italy, they’d like to hire new people for corporate outreach in Germany, the UK, Argentina, the U.S., and Chile. They’d also like to hire a data analyst, a new managing director to help manage the organization, several lawyers in India to work with the government to get new animal welfares laws changed and implemented, and more designers and video editors for creating content.
All current educational and corporate programs are in need of funding in the existing countries.
Animal Equality would also use additional funds to develop an innovation department, and invest in innovation to continue exploring and developing projects like iAnimal that are not only effective but reach the attention of media, companies and policy makers.
They’ve also begun prioritizing corporate outreach and have hired over 10 people for the department in less than 2 months.
Other recent changes include focusing on iAnimal more than on other forms of outreach due to the novelty and impact.
Animal Equality made a difficult decision to close their group in Venezuela. The political climate there was unstable. Even though Animal Equality was not investing many resources in Venezuela, they decided to invest those resources elsewhere.
Animal Equality has improved their Love Veg newsletters. On social media, they’ve adapted to Facebook’s new algorithm and increased the number of short, positive videos.
Some of Animal Equality’s activities (particularly undercover investigations and protests) have the potential to backfire, either by leading to legislation targeting activists or by negatively affecting public opinion of activists. Is Animal Equality concerned about possible “backfire effects”?
Animal Equality has learned how important public support is. They find that there is extensive public support towards investigations. Judges and politicians are also overwhelmingly in favor of investigations. Animal Equality is careful about maintaining positive relationships with the media and politicians in all the countries where its present.
Even when there is initial resistance to investigations, the investigations are instrumental in winning public support and encouraging law and policy changes. In Spain, for example, Animal Equality has been presenting investigations about farmed animals for the past 5-10 years. The number of people in Spain who consider animal welfare to be important has risen from 71% to 94% in the past ten years (Eurobarometer).
Last year, Animal Equality spent about 30% of its budget on social media. What are the main outcomes that they gain from that investment in social media?
Animal Equality’s social media budget Includes staff time, and the social media coordinator position has been changed to communications coordinator, so the social media budget might be smaller this year. They communications coordinator will provide marketing and communication assistance regarding scripts for investigations, magazine, leaflets and other materials.
Social media is important for promoting Animal Equality’s investigations and increasing their exposure. They use their social media contacts in their corporate outreach initiatives and to affect policy change. They recently used social media to gain over 109 thousand signatures for a petition regarding the recent case of animal cruelty in Spain in less than a month. All these contacts enter Animal Equality’s data base and are encouraged to support campaigns and reduce or eliminate their meat consumption.
Why does a significant portion of Animal Equality’s outreach focus on dietary change, e.g. reducing meat consumption, rather than shifting public attitudes?
Animal Equality’s outreach is focused on both behavioral change and attitude change. They may even be mostly focused on attitude change. The shift in attitudes in Spain is evidence of Animal Equality’s effective strategy (Eurobarometer).
Do you focus more on public outreach to reduce meat consumption or to go entirely vegan? Which do you think is more effective?
In general, Animal Equality focuses on meat reduction rather than meat elimination, but they think that the effectiveness of each strategy depends on the audience and context. Focusing too much on veganism as a “lifestyle” can be counterintuitive and backlash. Very general messages about meat reduction are not always effective, but making specific asks like “Meatless Mondays” can be effective. Animal Equality is working on a document detailing their position on these messages; one of their goals is to lead the discussion about meat reduction.