Evaluating Animal Advocacy Interventions in Africa
Africa’s vast population, growing economy, and increasing demand for animal products make it a key region for animal advocacy. But the animal rights movement in Africa is far smaller than in other regions. Since most animal advocacy is currently happening in Europe and North America, the knowledge and strategies of existing organizations may not always apply outside of these regions. This means that African advocates hoping to make an impact on these issues would benefit from specific studies on animal welfare interventions in Africa.
This report by Animal Advocacy Africa looks at four different types of animal advocacy and investigates their effectiveness in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, and Ghana. The author chose these five countries to represent each major region of the continent. They also focus specifically on campaigns to protect “farmed and production” animals. The interventions they consider are:
- Outreach to individuals or the public. This typically looks like leafleting, talking to people on the street, and promoting digital content aimed at the public. The goal of this type of outreach is to motivate behavior change, such as going vegan.
- Outreach to governments and corporations. This often involves pressuring companies to adopt higher animal welfare standards or lobbying governments to enact animal-friendly policies.
- Capacity building, by which the author means training farmers and others who work with animals to implement more responsible animal care practices.
- Direct help to the animals themselves, such as through rescues, veterinary care, and vaccinations.
To estimate the effectiveness of these interventions, the author employed a “weighted factor model.” Essentially, they gave each intervention a score on a scale of 1 to 5 for a variety of criteria and subjectively estimated the relative importance of each criterion. Combining the scores for each intervention with the values for relative importance allowed them to give each intervention a total score representing the intervention’s overall effectiveness. A higher score meant the intervention was more effective, and a lower score meant it was less so.
The criteria used to assess each intervention fell under four broad categories:
- Strength of idea. The author considered the amount of evidence they could find in support of each intervention, how many animals it might save per dollar invested, and how “flexible” the idea is, i.e. how easily it can be adapted to different implementation strategies.
- Execution difficulty, which means how easy it would be to measure and scale the intervention. The author also thought about how (in)convenient the timing might be if an intervention were implemented at the time the study was conducted, based on the current state of affairs in each country.
- Limiting factors. The author assessed how large of a problem each intervention would solve, how neglected it was, how much funding and talent would be available, and how logistically challenging it would be to implement.
- Externalities, by which the author meant the risk of an intervention having no impact or being actively harmful, as well as its ability to have indirect “flowthrough” effects on animal welfare or other cause areas.
Overall, the study found public/individual outreach to be the most promising intervention in all five countries. The second-most promising intervention across the board was institutional outreach. In South Africa, institutional outreach was found to be notably more promising than in the other countries studied, and direct help was found to be significantly less promising. Individual outreach was found to be particularly promising in Kenya and Ghana, where there’s been evidence of previous success with individual outreach campaigns. In previous research, Kenyans have also indicated they are willing to support humane initiatives (e.g., the humane treatment of farmed chickens).
Notably, the author points out that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have opened up an opportunity for animal advocacy outreach. For example, South Africans are more aware of the link between animal product consumption and the spread of zoonotic illnesses, so they may be more accepting of diet change campaigns than in previous years. However, the restrictions and lockdowns associated with COVID-19 make other types of advocacy (for example, in-person protests) more challenging. Nevertheless, the timing may be ideal for other types of institutional outreach, as the governments in all five countries have already taken steps to propose or implement some sort of animal welfare actions.
However, a word of caution: This study can help animal advocates in Africa think critically about which types of advocacy they might want to focus on the most. But readers shouldn’t draw any final conclusions about their work based on this study, as it’s based on limited information with many assumptions. For example, when data was missing, the author substituted in data from other regions that may not be applicable to the countries in this study. Additionally, the methodology was subjective and, again, relied on limited evidence.
Based on the evidence provided, the author concludes that the immediate goal of Africa-based advocates should be to raise awareness of animal advocacy among the general public. This may take the form of culturally-sensitive campaigns to address general animal welfare, diet change, and animal sentience. Only then would it make sense to move into other types of advocacy that typically require existing knowledge and support among consumers. But given the limited nature of the report, the main takeaway for advocates may be that more data collection and research are needed to accurately judge what the best strategies will be for animal advocacy in Africa.