What is Effective Altruism?

Wooden letters spelling out ‘Effective Altruism’

Animals Aotearoa focuses on advocating for corporate policy change in the way farmed animals are treated. This is a cost-effective and measurable way to reduce suffering and is grounded in Effective Altruism principles.

The founding of Animals Aotearoa was made possible with grants from the Centre for Effective Altruism and the Open Wing Alliance (both organisations that support Effective Altruism principles).

What is Effective Altruism?

​Effective Altruism is an approach to creating good in the world by using research-based evidence and analysis to find the best ways to use time, money and other resources. 

Effective Altruism focuses on various large-scale problems (priority areas) such as global poverty, human and animal suffering, climate change, and evaluates which are the most cost-effective and efficient ways to make changes. 

When it comes to farmed animals, chickens and fishes top the scale in terms of suffering. This is particularly due to the huge numbers of animals farmed and the high rate of suffering. Focussing on improving the lives of farmed animals is agreed by the Effective Altruism community to be one of the most effective ways to help animals and prevent a large amount of suffering.

What makes an effective charity

While all charities exist to create good in the world, not all are equally effective in creating change. Using tactics that have been shown to work or are based on robust research, are the most cost-effective ways to operate. 

For example, to address the high amount of suffering for chickens bred for meat, a successful campaign can be measured in Welfare Adjusted Life Years. Organisations/NGOs overseas have campaigned to reduce suffering by persuading businesses to adopt the higher welfare standards of the Better Chicken Commitment. This is not just a short-term impact as it also affects all animals that go through the supply chain. 

Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is an organisation set up to measure the effectiveness of the various animal advocacy organisations and recommends the ones they evaluate as doing the most good as a source for donor dollars.

N.B. Animals Aotearoa has not yet been going for long enough to be evaluated by ACE, but we keep updated on their recommendations and feed those into our strategy to ensure we are being as effective as possible. 

How are priorities chosen in Effective Altruism?

​Priority areas are chosen by looking at three criteria:

  1. Scale – How many individuals are suffering as a result of the problem and how severely are they suffering?
  2. Neglectedness – Is this is a problem that has few people working on solving or little money and other resources directed at helping solve it?  
  3. Tractability – Is there a practical solution that can be achieved in a cost-effective way?

​​While there is great value in helping humans, the suffering resulting from factory farming scores high on all three of these criteria. 

Farmed animals vastly outnumber humans. At least 75 billion land animals are bred and killed for food each year worldwide as well as tens of billions of farmed fish. Farmed invertebrate animals (for example, shrimp and lobsters) may number in the trillions. This number is increasing annually. Numerous sources evidence the enormous suffering of farmed animals, including footage of the conditions on factory farms

Where does the funding go for animal charities vs number of animals?

Two comparative square charts. One shows the number of animals used and killed in the US and the other, money donated to animal charities. It is illustrating that although the vast majority of animals killed are farmed animals, more than half of donations go to shelters and the money toward farmed animal charities is low.
Source – Animal Charity Evaluators 2016: https://animalcharityevaluators.org/donation-advice/why-farmed-animals/

Farmed animal welfare is a neglected area. While there are many, often well-funded, organisations focused on helping companion animals (dogs, cats, etc), there are relatively few who advocate for farmed animals. 

Evaluation of other organisations’ successful work shows us that we can meaningfully reduce the suffering of animals by creating concrete changes on farms. In the case of chickens bred for meat, this includes giving animals more space, changing to slower-growing, healthier breeds and stopping the cruellest slaughter methods.

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