How The Research Revolution Is Helping Animals
You are part of the research revolution for animals.
Almost 20 years ago, I was a grassroots animal activist in Seattle. The local group I co-coordinated was working on a cable television advertising campaign and outreach materials were on my mind. It seemed that animal advocacy groups were constantly reinventing the wheel. I thought we could accomplish more for animals by developing and sharing the most effective materials.
There was just one problem. There was almost no research on how to create compelling posters, videos, booklets, billboards, or TV commercials. I knew that information was crucial to develop the most persuasive materials. And so Faunalytics was born. Our mission was to fill a need that many animal advocates didn’t yet realize they had: evidence of what works and what doesn’t.
Ahead of the Curve
“Effective animal activism” is a hot topic right now. Some consider it an offshoot of the relatively new Effective Altruist philosophy. But Faunalytics has been talking about and supporting effective animal advocacy for more than 15 years. In some ways, we were ahead of our time.
In the early days, most animal advocates weren’t familiar with the benefits of research and evaluation. If you’ve always been a research enthusiast, then you were once part of a tiny minority. In those days, we needed to be both research evangelists and educators. Faunalytics showed advocates how to apply research methods to increase our impact for animals. (That’s still central to our work.)
How the world has changed since then! The animal protection movement now places far more emphasis on advocacy that is based on solid evidence. In fact, there’s been incredible growth in the use of research. Groups including the ASPCA, Mercy for Animals and The Humane League have even created their own research and development departments or hired dedicated research staff. This was largely unheard of in the past.
Companion animal groups are increasingly tracking data, such as through the Maddie’s Fund database and the relatively new Shelter Animals Count platform. Animal Charity Evaluators uses a quantitative approach to assess animal advocacy programs. And there’s growing interest in research on how to reduce wild animal suffering. Kudos to all of you who have been part of these and other exciting advances in research!
Shaping Effective Animal Advocacy
Organizations are investing in research because they know it makes a difference. Here are just a few examples of changes our research has foretold or helped foster:
Words That Work
Have you ever wondered why many animal advocates use the term animal “protection” instead of “rights” or “welfare?” Or why some prefer the term “advocates” to “activists.” (Or maybe you use these terms yourself.) In our 2005 research for the National Council of Animal Protection, Faunalytics explored how the public reacts to these terms. We found that “protection” was slightly less loaded than other terms. “Advocate” softened some people’s perception of “extreme” animal activists.
Steps along the Vegan Path
In 2006, Faunalytics suggested an approach to vegan advocacy we called “incrementalism.” The idea was based on the premise that most people are not very receptive to making big changes. We suggested that advocates begin by encouraging smaller changes. They could then build upon those changes to persuade people to adopt veganism over time.
A decade later, numerous groups are saving more animals by encouraging people to eat less meat and/or to adopt at least a partial vegan lifestyle to start. The Reducetarian Foundation, FARM and VegFund are just a few organizations that have brought their creativity and initiative to effectively engage people to substitute plant-based foods for animal products.
Faunalytics also wrote that advocates might try promoting “meat-free Mondays” as part of incrementalism. We developed this idea independently from the popular Meatless Mondays campaign that Johns Hopkins University and Sid Lerner created at about the same time. Our reason for suggesting this approach was not to make meat reduction the end goal. Instead, we wanted to find ways to make progress with people who might feel paralyzed by the prospect of going all-vegan immediately.
Working with You for a More Effective Movement
Using animals for food is one of the primary sources of animal cruelty and suffering, so we devote a lot of attention to farmed animal issues. But we also believe that research can benefit all types of animals. We feel compelled to help build the entire animal protection movement instead of focusing on a single class of animals. No matter what issue is near and dear to your heart, we think you should have the best information to create change for animals.
I’m not suggesting that Faunalytics deserves credit for all of the advances that the movement has made with research in the past 15 years. But I do think that we’ve influenced the course of animal advocacy by helping create a culture of evaluation.
I’m grateful for your role in creating that change. Most animal advocates are driven by their passion to reduce animal cruelty and suffering, but many of them are less interested in research and evaluation. We know that research may not seem revolutionary to everyone, but we also know it’s especially important for a young social justice movement.
- Get our email alerts about new research
- Use our extensive research library
- Engage us to help improve your work, or
- Donate to support Faunalytics’ work
… you are also a leader in effective animal advocacy. Without you, there would be no research revolution in our movement. I hope you are proud of what you have done to help increase our impact for animals. We look forward to working with you to build on what Faunalytics has achieved and what you and other advocates have accomplished using research.