factory farms, as many as thousands of animals can be squeezed into a single
building. Nowhere to move, they often suffer injury from immobility and turn on
each other. Profit is maximised by breeding animals to grow as fast as
possible, often resulting in physical abnormalities. By the time they reach
maturity, many chickens can’t even stand.
animals for food causes suffering on an immense scale. Each year, hundreds of
billions of aquatic animals are killed by commercial fishing and farming - some
estimates place the number of animals affected at over 1 trillion. The number of land
animals raised for food is now over 70 billion and continues to grow. Some 99% of animals raised in the US are from factory farms, and
experience unimaginable suffering.
When I — and likely you
— look at these figures, I feel compelled to help every last animal in need. An
easy and impactful way to make a difference to animals is of course to go
vegan, an act estimated to spare as many as hundreds of animals from factory farming or death each year. But
what else can you do once you’ve gone vegan? The sad truth is that we simply
don’t have the time and resources to help everyone, at least not all at once. The
good news is that we can help more than you probably think through
rigorous research and careful decision-making. Estimates suggest donations to
the right charities of just a few dollars — less than the price of a cup of
coffee — can spare dozens of animals from this horrific suffering. But how do
we know what to do to have the most impact?
Luckily, many people are
thinking about this question. Effective altruism is a
global movement of individuals and organisations working to make the most
positive difference they can in the lives of humans and non-human animals.
Whether you’re thinking about which charity to give to, the best way to
volunteer your time, or where to find a fulfilling and meaningful career, it’s
easy to drop your head into your hands, overwhelmed by all the opportunities.
Effective altruism tries to help people like you make these tough decisions
through evidence-based, thoughtful analysis.
Animal Charity Evaluators researches animal charities to estimate
their impact on the lives of animals. They publish an annual list of Top Charities based on what the evidence says about their
cost-effectiveness. Currently the top three recommendations are the Good Food Institute, Mercy for Animals, and
the Humane League. The Good Food Institute helps develop
plant-based and cultured meat alternatives to animal agriculture by providing
strategic and technical support to food tech companies. Mercy for Animals and
the Humane League conduct outreach and campaigning — including undercover
investigations in the case of MFA — to inspire diet and policy change.
As an example of the kind of impact these charities have, ACE estimates that a $1,000 USD donation to Mercy for Animals will result in sparing -10,000 to 80,000 animals from a life in industrial agriculture. Of course there is much uncertainty in any such estimate, but even
such rough calculations suggest we can do a huge amount of good with modest
ACE also researches
specific interventions to help animals including leafleting, online
ads and corporate outreach. Their results can be useful for organisations and
individuals deciding how best to use their time.
altruist organization working to help animals is Sentience Politics, an
antispeciesist political think tank. Their activities include writing policy
papers to share with politicians on animal issues, running ballot initiatives
to implement animal-friendly policies, and hosting conferences to bring
effective altruists together.
80,000 Hours exists to help people choose careers that
bring them the most satisfaction and make the biggest difference. They offer a
range of services to assist with choosing and achieving the best careers such
as written and video guides, and one-on-one coaching. You can find their review
on what to do about factory farming here.
However you decide to
help animals, whether it’s by working for an effective organisation, donating
to evidence-based causes, or working at a grassroots level, we can all agree
that their suffering is too great not to think critically about the best ways
to help them. We must also remain open to the possibility that our current
approach needs to shift direction. We have a remarkable opportunity to make
such a huge difference, and the animals deserve nothing less.