Animal Advocacy In Africa: The Time Is Now
Animal Advocacy Africa (AAA) has published a new research report that explores the animal advocacy landscape across Africa. Much of AAA’s mission involves limiting the expansion of animal agriculture in Africa. AAA aims to build capacity in the African animal welfare movement. It helps animal welfare organizations to maximize their impact. This research addresses current efforts to help animals, identifies which animals are being targeted, and examines how advocates are evaluating their impact.
The research is exploratory. Its purpose was to connect with organizations and individuals in the movement across Africa. Researchers wanted to learn about what they are doing for animals, and better understand what hinders their effectiveness. AAA interviewed 22 animal advocacy organizations, 11 individual advocates, and 10 experts. The qualitative, semi-structured interviews used open-ended questions about past activities and behaviors rather than future intentions. While AAA initially intended to focus on farm animal advocacy, the project’s eventual scope expanded to include a wider variety of animals.
AAA conducted the interviews from December 2020 to March 2021. Three participants responded via written questions instead of oral interviews. Researchers coded Interview transcripts to find common themes. Given the small number of respondents, the full dataset is not publicly available to protect confidentiality.
Overall, responses revealed that animal welfare is a nascent concept in Africa. Key research findings fall into four categories.
The most common intervention was outreach designed to influence public opinion. Programs provided education and urged compassion for animals. Messaging also included anti-poaching and anti-trading themes, along with information on the link between animal and environmental welfare. Targets included farmers, animal guardians, students, and teachers. Other interventions consisted of direct help, usually with veterinary services. This took the form of vaccinations, rescue shelters, and rehabilitation sanctuaries. Advocates also reached out to policymakers to influence animal-related policies. Finally, some advocacy efforts aimed to build and strengthen the movement.
Most activities targeted farm animals, working animals such as donkeys, companion animals, and wildlife. Organizations tended to work in more than one area, often believing their activities in multiple arenas were complementary. If an entity saw an unmet need, it often took up the cause simply because the issue needed to be addressed. Respondents chose interventions based on needs assessments, available resources, or opportunistic timing. Views were mixed as to whether the expansion of intensive animal agriculture could be slowed or halted. Opinions also varied by country. One expert estimated that intensive animal agriculture already accounted for about 20% of the total. Free-range and subsistence operations made up the remaining 80%. Limiting the expansion of factory farms will challenge the economic interests of large players and may thus be difficult.
Metrics vary based on the intervention. They include analyses of cost-effectiveness and independent operational audits. However, some entities did not engage in a formal evaluation process. Measures of success included social recognition, the number of stakeholders influenced, the number of animals saved, or days animals were free from suffering. Since the movement is still new in Africa, perceived effectiveness is limited. The experts advised that a mix of interventions will likely be more successful, especially if tailored to the country or region. Whether meat reduction efforts such as Meatless Monday could succeed is debatable given the lower level of meat consumption that already exists in Africa.
The lack of awareness of animal welfare, prioritization of other issues affecting the continent, and the dearth of legislation or its enforcement stand as the primary obstacles to the movement. Many Africans are raised to believe that animals cannot have subjective experiences. Religious and cultural traditions view animals as food, tools, or commodities. Therefore, animals are not worthy of moral consideration. In this context, advocating for dietary change or meat reduction can be an unpopular stance. The prevalence of poverty, food insecurity, and disease also tends to de-prioritize animal welfare issues. Government protections for animals are often minimal or completely lacking. Corruption and special interests can inhibit political progress.
Funding and talent gaps also affect advocacy. Funder applications can be difficult. African applicants may be less familiar with approaching international funders. And they may simply be unaware of funding opportunities. Organizational infrastructure may also be lacking such that applicants can’t meet funding criteria. Finding qualified personnel is often a challenge. Lack of transportation, power and internet connectivity, office equipment and office space also create bottlenecks
Interest In Receiving Support
While obstacles do exist, 21 of the 22 organizations surveyed would like to receive more support. Mentoring, funding, research help, networking, and knowledge sharing would all serve to build organizational capabilities. More funding would improve staffing and allow for outreach to extremely rural areas where conditions for animals are the worst. Networking platforms would allow more collaboration and communication. Involving the government in advocacy could lend credibility to the movement. Mentors can help with the development of “soft skills” that make advocacy efforts more effective. Further local research is critical to creating effective strategy and sustainable solutions that work in Africa.
AAA hopes that this report will prove useful to funders, as it shines a light on potentially effective interventions. It also describes the types of support that may be most useful to organizations in their advocacy efforts. However, AAA recommends that readers put this report into a larger context. Because of its lack of full scientific rigor, they should avoid generalizing too much from this data. AAA itself will use the results to pilot capacity-building interventions that respond to some of the obstacles mentioned by survey respondents. As animal agriculture expands on the continent, now is the time to grow the animal protection movement in Africa.