The low-cost, high-impact studies described below are those we are currently seeking funding to support. If you are interested in funding one of the research projects described below, please go here to donate. We would also be happy to discuss our research plans with you or provide a full study proposal; please contact us if interested.
Reducing Fish and Chicken Suffering
Small-Bodied Animal Research Program
Larger farmed animals like cows and pigs often get the most attention, due in part to their role in climate change. However, when animals are consumed for food, those with small bodies (fish and chickens) are killed in greater numbers to produce the same amount of flesh. Fish and chickens are the most farmed vertebrates in the world, with over 50 billion farmed fish and over 66 billion chickens killed each year worldwide, compared to just 300 million cows and 1.5 billion pigs. Even small changes in public perceptions of small-bodied animals could impact a large number of animals.
This research program will begin with an online study investigating the frequency and implications of beliefs held by the general population with respect to these animals (e.g., “chickens are not smart”, “fish don’t feel pain”). We will source the list of beliefs from a survey of advocates who work in this space. In addition to their frequency, we will examine how each belief is correlated with acceptance or rejection of an appeal to reduce or eliminate consumption of these species in order to identify which are the biggest barriers.
This study is a necessary first step before beginning experimental investigations so that we can target those investigations in promising areas.
The specifics of our experimental follow-ups will depend on which avenues seem most promising, but the goal will be to identify methods that cause positive behavior changes and more positive attitudes towards these animals. Broadly, the follow-ups will entail rigorous experimental testing of different ways to portray chickens and fish to either debunk the beliefs identified in Study 1 or to avoid them by focusing on other features of the appeal (e.g., by providing evidence of intelligence or by focusing on the animal’s emotional experience).
We may also experimentally investigate the use of reducetarian messages relating to small-bodied animals to see how their effectiveness compares to more general reducetarian appeals in terms of initial uptake, success, and overall impact for animals, as reducetarian campaigns have become a major avenue to reduce meat consumption and animal suffering.
These studies will produce information that can be used at scale to shape persuasive points for individual and institutional campaigns. Equally important, they will identify points of major pushback and lower tractability so that resources can be allocated to more promising avenues. This program of research has the potential to help advocates reduce or eliminate the suffering of billions of animals.
Funding sought: $15,000 for Study 1, or $70,000 for Study 1 + ongoing research
Relative Effectiveness of Different Approaches to Advocacy
There are many different approaches to advocacy in the movement, and it is both important and difficult to test their relative impact on public attitudes and behavior. In this study, we will examine attitudes toward advocacy issues and pro-animal behaviors, then ask about which types of advocacy people have been previously exposed to (e.g., seeing graphic material with and without consent, receiving a leaflet, etc.). We will use regression to examine how current attitudes and behavior are predicted by a wide range of past experiences with advocacy, which will provide an estimate of each strategy’s unique impact over the long-term.
We will also include an experimental manipulation to measure participants’ current reactions to the same range of advocacy strategies, presented as hypothetical encounters. This will provide information about the strategies’ immediate impact as well. Therefore, this study will combine retrospective survey and experimental methods to provide initial evidence directly comparing advocacy strategies to one another in both the short- and long-term. Neither method is perfect, but together they compensate for one another’s limitations and allow for the first direct comparison of a wide range of advocacy techniques. This research will provide valuable information to guide independent advocates, new groups, and prospective funders about which types of advocacy to support.
Funding sought: $25,000
Can Welfare Reform Change Public Attitudes or Intentions?
Corporate welfare reforms produce positive incremental change for farmed animals on a large scale but are a relatively new aspect of advocacy, without much research backing their effectiveness. Recent Faunalytics research provided a first step in this direction, and showed that corporate pledges to move toward cage-free egg suppliers are generally well-perceived by the public. This is good news for the movement, given the high dollar value of support flowing toward these campaigns, but more research is needed to determine which campaigns have the greatest potential impact for animals.
There are several aspects to understanding that potential: the animal welfare improvements associated with different types of reform, institutions’ receptivity to those reforms, and public support for those reforms. Estimating direct impact on animals is outside Faunalytics’ scope of expertise, but this project will support the other two key elements. While any welfare reform could produce positive change for animals, corporate pledges and follow-through are most likely for campaigns with broad public support, because institutions are driven by their bottom line.
In other words, the goal of this project is to identify welfare campaigns that will produce advocates and allies rather than apathy and opposition in the general public. We will conduct an experiment in which we present participants with information about one of several possible welfare reforms and then measure their attitudes toward the reform as well as their intentions to purchase that product and animal products more broadly. The potential impact for animals is substantial because the results will (a) identify campaigns that institutions should want to support because their customer base supports them, and (b) identify campaigns with direct positive impact on consumer behavior, thereby reducing suffering at the level of individual purchases as well as institutional change.
Funding sought: $20,000
Cultural Barriers and Supports to the Reduction of Animal Product Consumption
When considering animal suffering from a global perspective, it is clear that current resources are disproportionately allocated to Western countries, yet production and consumption are on the rise elsewhere. The majority of farmed animals live and suffer in low- and middle-income countries.
In partnership and consultation with local animal advocacy groups, we would like to conduct foundational research in a region such as China, India, or Taiwan. The goal is to learn about the barriers and supports for specific advocacy methods before testing them experimentally, because the movement does not currently have enough information to design a successful experiment. Effective research–just like effective advocacy–will require a sensitive understanding of the cultural associations and traditions around meat, dairy, and egg consumption in the country of interest.
Using semi-structured interviews, we will ask broad questions about those associations and traditions for animal products generally as well as chicken and fish specifically. We will also ask about reactions to common interventions in the West, to consider whether they could be successfully adapted. The results will generate hypotheses about strong approaches to advocacy, which can then be tested in subsequent experimental research. Faunalytics is open to funding for an ongoing program of research in this area.
Funding sought: $30,000
Evoking Emotion To Increase Support
Donation Research Program
Donations are an important tool for movement-building. They represent not just new funds for organizations, but new people with a stake in animal advocacy. In this project, which is part of Faunalytics’ broader program of research on increasing donations to animal causes, we will experimentally determine which imagery is best for donation appeals. It is well-known that altruism is often driven by emotion, so the first part of the project will investigate which emotions are most effective in increasing the size and number of donations to animal causes, and whether the specific cause (e.g., farmed vs. companion animals) affects it. In the second part, we will then experimentally determine which imagery (happy animal, sad animal, graphic image) works best to evoke the desired emotion in prospective donors and increase donations.
Funding sought: $15,000
Effective, Comparable Measurement: A Farmed Animal Attitudes Scale
Just as good tools are essential to building a house, strong measurement tools are essential to evaluating impact. Using a series of studies, we will create a brief, reliable, and valid measure of attitudes towards farmed animals. This scale can be used by researchers, evaluators, and advocacy organizations to accurately determine whether interventions are having the desired effect and to compare outcomes to those observed in other settings and interventions. We would create this measure using a systematic set of 4-5 small studies following best practices. Stages of development will include expert consultation with advocates and researchers, pilot testing, item refinement, and validating that the measure predicts important and objective outcomes such as observed diet and behavior.
This project has significant potential to increase capacity and research-based decision-making throughout the movement by making effectiveness easier to measure. Once its predictive ability is established, we will promote the use of this scale to small organizations as a simple and valid way of evaluating the effectiveness of their programs. We will also endeavor to publish the study in an academic journal to bring additional attention and high standards to advocacy research.
Funding sought: $35,000