Leaders Speak: 10 Issues And Opportunities Affecting Farmed Animal Advocacy
Exciting new plant-based products. The effects of COVID-19. The importance of diversity. Whether you’re running an organization, planning a program or campaign, or thinking about individual outreach, considering key trends can help you get better results for animals.
Judgment and creativity are crucial for effective animal advocacy. Because you’re reading this blog, I know you join me in valuing the importance of information and data as well. For more than two decades, I’ve worked as a consultant to animal protection organizations, bringing data and facts to support improved decision-making and outcomes.
Last summer, I undertook a project to identify the most important issues and opportunities for farmed animal advocacy. I spoke with 29 leaders — primarily in the U.S., but also some internationally — to find out what they saw as most important for the advancement of our cause. Participants included executive directors from The Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Anima International, Compassion in World Farming USA, Good Food Institute, The Humane League, and Mercy for Animals among others.
Here are 10 of the highlights, along with related research and articles that you can explore to formulate and enhance your efforts. (You can access the full report in English here, and in Spanish here.)
Most Exciting Trends
Interviewees cited the growth of plant-based products and the potential for cultivated meat (combined) most often as most exciting in moving people away from eating animals. New and better alternative products are mainstreaming veg eating. Nonprofits play an important role in helping make these products visible to their audiences (advocates, participants in new-to-veg programs, etc.), who often help promote the products to others.
2. Collaboration From Covid
The world’s response to climate change and the pandemic has created new opportunities for farmed animal advocacy. Individuals, businesses, governments understand more about the impact of animal agriculture. Participants reported that nonprofit coalitions across movements are increasing, as organizations working on other issues see factory farming’s implications for global warming, new diseases, and labor conditions. Participants noted this trend second most often as the most exciting development for farmed animal advocacy.
3. Institutional Campaigns
Institutional campaigns remain a priority. Businesses can drive change quickly, and campaigns are succeeding in gaining major commitments. Ideas to build on the success of current efforts include renewing focus on the U.S. campaign for chickens used for meat, doing more campaigns in Europe, quantifying factory farming’s impacts on climate change, and pursuing outreach to farmers.
4. Individual Outreach
The role of individual dietary outreach was controversial. Some participants have moved entirely away from such advocacy, based largely on the lack of growth in the number of vegetarians and vegans in the U.S. Some also felt that plant-based products companies with multimillion-dollar advertising budgets are poised to drive mainstream meat reduction more efficiently than nonprofits can. Other interviewees pointed out that dietary outreach has created the demand for these products, and veg*ns are powerful brand and product ambassadors. They also noted that people persuaded to change their diet can become influencers, advocates, volunteers, staff, leaders, and donors. I’d add that more and better product availability may make it easier to engage new veg*ans now than in the past. Individual dietary outreach requires careful planning and measurement and should have a strong focus on retention over time.
See also section eight below on measurement.
5. Political and Legal Advocacy
Political and legal advocacy are driving exciting change in the U.S. and Europe, such as a reduction in the use of battery cages. New laws in places with little history of animal protection, such as Mexico, give hope for further gains. There is potential for more impact, an opportunity that may not be receiving adequate funder attention.
Interviewees mentioned that collaboration within the movement, such as through the Open Wing Alliance, has also increased substantially. Efforts include working together on campaigns, sharing knowledge and training. Technologies such as Slack have facilitated interaction that helps make coalitions more effective.
Innovation is valued, but organizations may not always be set up to support it. It can be easy to stick to tried-and-true tactics, rather than reflecting on and challenging the work. Participants cited more diverse staff, staff-led experiments, and better use of advisory boards among ideas to increase innovation.
We’ve made tremendous strides integrating research and measurement into farmed animal advocacy. There are some concerns that counting lives saved or improved, the approach many funders favor to assess programs and campaigns, may sacrifice innovation and longer-term results for immediate outcomes. Taking a big picture look at our work, and the histories of other movements, can help us understand how to combine strategies to help farmed animals.
The People Factor
9. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Participants mentioned diversity, equity, and inclusion most often as the area where our movement should improve. Interests included not only racial diversity but also class, country, and thinking styles. Hiring people isn’t enough. Organizations have to look at their cultures and systems to ensure that diverse staff members can succeed.
10. Talent and Leadership
We also need better ways to attract and retain highly-qualified staff and volunteers generally, such as people with expertise in science, business, other movements, and more. Strong leadership can increase personnel satisfaction and promote retention, which are important goals. Turnover can cost valuable time and money to fill vacancies, and the loss of institutional knowledge when people leave may reduce effectiveness. What’s more, happier team members may contribute more creatively.
The State Of Animal Advocacy In The U.S. & Canada: Experiences & Turnover
(also addresses diversity, equity and inclusion)
The full report, Corona To Collaboration, Innovation To Inclusion: Issues and Opportunities in Farmed Animal Advocacy, includes additional detail, participant quotes, and advocacy ideas. I discuss the findings further on the Our Hen House podcast.
Here are just a few ways you can use this information to enhance your results for animals:
- Consider (as a team or individually) which trends are most relevant to your work. Brainstorm changes you can make to take advantage of opportunities.
- Do a deep dive over time by investigating the research resources to further inform your thoughts. Seek out other resources and talk to colleagues within and outside your organization. You might focus on a new trend area each month rather than try to act on everything at once.
- Share the report and your thoughts with fellow advocates, colleagues, and board members. The more we understand our environment, the better we can work together to choose the best strategies.
Which trend or trends did you find most exciting? Were you surprised by any trend that was or was not on the list? Please share your thoughts in a comment below or on any Faunalytics social media page.