Want To Help Animals? Don’t Forget The Chickens


Published:

© Simone Dalmeri, Unsplash

Summertime is “kitten season” – unspayed female cats go into heat and give birth to more adorable kittens than animal shelters can give away.

That’s why local humane societies encourage prospective pet owners to bring cats into their homes in June, also known as Adopt-a-Cat Month. Animal protection organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also step up their appeals to the public for donations to fund widespread spaying and neutering that will help bring the companion animal population under control.

But a growing number of animal advocates insist that these well-intended, altruistic efforts should change course. They’re using mathematical reasoning to deliver a sharp message to mainstream animal charities and their donors: The money you spend to help cats, dogs and other human companions could be used more effectively to improve the lot of chickens, pigs and other animals raised in farms for food.

As a vegan who has long been troubled by society’s hypocritical treatment of different kinds of animals, I find that this argument makes sense. And as a researcher who studies nonprofit animal advocacy and food justice, I believe this demand for what supporters call “effective animal advocacy” has a chance to reshape the animal protection movement.

A Big Business

When it comes to making life good for our beloved companion animals, our generosity knows few bounds. Americans spend nearly US$70 billion annually on feeding, grooming and boarding our pets, as well as paying for their medical care and adoption fees.

But sadly, we also euthanize more than 1.5 million shelter dogs and cats every year because the supply of companion animals outpaces demand. For a nation of unabashed animal lovers, that’s a sad and shocking statistic.

That contradiction may explain why so many Americans give generously to charities that promote animal welfare. Charity Navigator lists more than 300 of these nonprofit groups. According to my calculations, they collectively raise close to $1.9 billion a year.

But peruse that list of major animal welfare nonprofits and one thing becomes clear – the primary beneficiaries of their compassion are companion animals. Less than 1 percent of all the money donated to animal charities supports groups that exclusively advocate for farmed animals.

This charitable giving reflects a cultural bias that insists some animals are more important than others. An increasingly vocal set of animal advocates are using science and math to prove this bias wrong.

Why Cats But Not Chickens?

The number of cats and dogs euthanized every year pales in comparison to the more than nine billion farmed animals killed for food Americans eat or export, as well as the more than 46 billion fish and shellfish killed worldwide and destined for U.S consumption.

Research suggests that chickens are as smart as cats and dogs. © Désirée Fawn, UnsplashAt the same time, scientific research shows that animals such as chickens, pigs, cows and even fish are as smart and self-aware as dogs and cats. They all seem able to build emotional relationships and think in complex ways. Yet they continue to suffer greatly in a system that breeds them to be unnaturally large, excuses cruel treatment as standard practice, generates a lot of pollution and is deemed by scientists to be environmentally unsustainable.

Animal Charity Evaluators is a nonprofit that tries to help people who donate to animal welfare causes identify groups that will make the best use of their gifts. It argues that donations that impact the lives of farmed animals are more effective than donations to places like animal shelters. It’s simple math – farmed animal welfare is a much bigger problem and there are cost-effective ways to make a difference. It calls for changes – like moving chickens out of battery cages and pigs out of crates – and advocates for dietary shifts that will lead to far fewer animals being killed for food. Persuading large numbers of people to eat less meat can impact thousands of animals at a time, whereas every kitten adoption only helps one feline.

Helping Animals Effectively

The effective animal advocacy movement sees companion and farmed animals as having equal moral value. They are inspired by the ethical arguments of Peter Singer that tactics which reduce animal suffering the most – no matter the species – do the most good.

In 2016, Animal Charity Evaluators recommended a dozen charities – including Mercy For Animals, the Humane League and the Good Food Institute. Most of these groups aim to improve farmed animal welfare in various ways, such as investigating conditions at factory farms, reaching out to corporations, promoting plant-based diets and researching so-called “clean meats” grown in labs. Each makes a case that their work is particularly effective at saving animals’ lives, now and into the future.

Donors gave more than $3.5 million to these charities in 2016 based on its recommendations, the group says.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna are among the effective animal advocacy movement’s leading funders. goodventures.orgThe Open Philanthropy Project – an “effective altruism” foundation funded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna – is a new and major player in this movement. Since early 2016, it has awarded nearly $20 million in grants aimed at improving farmed animal welfare in the U.S. and in the developing world.

Some leading animal advocates question the wisdom of this approach, including Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. With a $67 million annual budget, PETA is one of the largest animal-focused charities. It seeks to help both farmed and companion animals. Newkirk has criticized “effective animal advocates” for “reducing animals to numbers” and for failing to see how different animal protection efforts reinforce each other.

In addition, some researchers question the rigor of effective animal advocacy research. Other activists accuse groups like Open Philanthropy Project of favoring organizations with which they are personally connected. Responding to these critiques, effective animal advocacy leaders have admitted to some flaws in their previous studies.

The Future Of Animal Charity

Despite these critiques, I’ve watched the movement kickstart a conversation that’s encouraging groups like the Humane League to research which tactics improve animals’ lives the most and why people go vegetarian or vegan.

The movement has also helped channel more energy and charitable dollars toward one of the most important and neglected issues of our time – the plight of farmed animals.

Now, I love cats and dogs as much as anybody, and I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about donating to their local animal shelter. But it’s clear to me that animal lovers should care about all animals equally. Since farmed animals suffer most and the issue has long been neglected, there’s a greater need to support that cause.

At least that’s what the math seems to suggest.

Garrett M. Broad is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. His research investigates the impacts of globalization, storytelling and communication technology in shaping contemporary communities and networked movements for social change. Much of his work focuses on the challenges and possibilities of environmental sustainability in the digital age, with particular attention granted to local and global food systems. Garrett’s first book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change, was published in 2016 by the University of California Press.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
Waste: The Defining Metaphor Of Our Herding Culture
Saving Gwendolyn: A Thanksgiving Miracle

The Conversation

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

February 17, 2018

First thing in the morning a tricky angle between Mars and Neptune increases certain risk factors. Inclement weather and poor judgment are among others. Soon after, Mercury’s conjunction with the Sun inspires some to hit the open road. A change of…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

February 2018

Two Sundays, January 14th and February 11th Learn advanced techniques for self-care, to offer Reiki to others from a distance and for manifesting what you want in your life! Facilitated...

Cost: $250

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Join us the Second Sunday of the month at the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Are you curious about yoga but don't know where to begin? The Intro to Yoga Series is a great place to start your practice. This series will provide a safe, non-competitive and welcoming...

Cost: $90 for series

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut St, Suite A
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Telephone: 603-969-8968
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is...

Cost: $11-$15 per class

Where:
Chelmsford Wellness Center
3 Littleton Road, 2nd Floor
Westford, MA  01886
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

January 8 - February 12, 2018 Intuition + Energy Medicine + Energy Psychology = The REAP Healing Method This 6 week certification training course provides you with the understanding and the...

Cost: $695

Where:
Live Online
Comfort of Your Home
, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The REAP Healing Method
Telephone: 978-877-8651
Contact Name: Pamela Dussault
Website »

More information

A guided tour in discovering, confirming and verifying your personality, behaviors and habits. A three part series at the Waltham Public Library Monday, February 5 7:15PM Monday, February 12...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waltham Public Library
735 Main Street
Waltham, MA  02451
View map »


Sponsor: Waltham Public Library
Telephone: 781-314-3429
Contact Name: Louise Goldstein
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Experience the power of singing gospel music with more than 250 others as part of the Mystic Chorale, led by award-winning director and composer, Jonathan Singleton. Join Mystic as we prepare...

Cost: $105

Where:
First Parish Unitarian
630 Mass Ave.
Arlington , MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Mystic Chorale
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please join us at our monthly meetings, second Wednesday each month in Northboro, MA. Stay inspired and create collaborative professional relationships. A welcoming community working for the...

Where:
First Parish Unitarian Church Hall
40 Church Street
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Led by Deanna Jayne, Authentic Lifestyle Mentor The womb chakra ~ the most sacred place in our physical body, a supreme source of spiritual energy, clarity, and power. When this chakra is...

Cost: $351

Where:
Groton Wellness
495 Main Street
Mill Run Plaza
Groton, MA  01450
View map »


Sponsor: Deanna Jayne
Telephone: 978-449-9919
Contact Name: Amy Ashman
Website »

More information

6 Week Series with Sherri Snyder-Roche Start your year with greater awareness. In Kundalini Yoga, we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the...

Cost: $90

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Lauren Rainbow Limited to 16 students! Be sure to register early! This unique one-day course on mediumship, with medium Lauren Rainbow, is focused on developing heart-centered messages from...

Cost: $150

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Spend a cozy winter weekend with colleagues diving into the rich material contained within the Dàodéjīng. While each class builds upon the material covered in the previous...

Cost: $325

Where:
Roots and Wings Yoga and Healing Arts
317 North Main Street
Natick, MA  01760
View map »


Sponsor: Eastern Medicinal Therapies Education Center
Telephone: 617-435-3586
Contact Name: Lauren Paap
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags