You’ve decided factory farming is no good. What can you do to make the greatest impact to help eliminate factory farming? Through the evidence-based approach of effective altruism, we can narrow down which strategies will be the most effective for ending the greatest amount of suffering. Effective altruism makes recommendations about the best available opportunities to help reduce suffering, while considering the efforts already being made by others. There’s a lot of progress to be made within this issue and you can potentially have a significant impact. Let’s examine the possibilities for a moment:
You could eat a plant-based diet and no longer consume animal products. What would that accomplish towards your goal? Eating plant-based would mean you would no longer be contributing money to support factory farming. Customer choice drives the animal agriculture industry; if there is less demand there will be less supply. “Voting with your wallet” and making conscious consumer choices can be a potent method for tackling an issue at an individual level. Recent studies indicate the number of Americans reporting they do not eat meat have increased by about 10%. This growing number demonstrates the impact personal dietary habits have on a larger scale. To further your impact, this strategy can be paired with social advocacy to reduce demand for meat.
There are other types of advocacy which may be an effective approach for combating animal agriculture. Teaming up with an organization's efforts and volunteering your time to spread awareness of the issues is critical in gaining support from others and creating social change. In many cases, the increase we see in plant-based eating can be credited to these informative strategies as well as the growth of the plant-based food industry. Along with joint volunteer contributions, organizations have had successes educating the masses about the issues of factory farming through presentations, written works, various social media platforms, and tabling events. Matching your existing skills and resources to a volunteer position is an effective way to support these organizations. Identifying the right opportunities enables you to contribute the most significant impact you can have through your volunteer work. Organizations need volunteers who are interested in fundraising, public speaking, public policy, tabling events, and writing and editing, to name a few. If you have a background in public speaking perhaps you would be well suited to give successful educational presentations, or if you have a passion for social media maybe you should help design an organization’s web page or create posts for their instagram account. Some organizations such as Animal Advocacy Careers have even devised unique tools to help match your personal skills to a position. These established organizations can have a significant impact on social and institutional change and are therefore a productive way to expand your individual impact. Volunteers are among the changemakers that help make movements a reality, like a recent win where a handful of the largest fast food companies and distributors have pledged to abolish cruel battery cages from global supply chains in approximately 150 countries and regions.
On average, your career of choice takes up roughly 80,000 hours of your lifetime. A significant amount of work can be done to end factory farming during this time. Through the lens of effective altruism, an individual's personal fit should be considered when deciding on a career; this will determine how beneficial your skills will be towards meeting an organization's goals. Finding where you are best suited will enable you to make the largest impact possible with your career. Depending on your personal fit and background, perhaps you should work for an effective animal advocacy organization, a company developing alternatives to animal products, or in politics and public policy. For example, if you have an extensive background in IT, you may be well suited to take over an IT role within one of these areas. Or, maybe you have a science background and it would be favorable for you to conduct research for meat alternatives. Using job boards such as 80,000 Hours or Animal Advocacy Careers are exceptional tools for discovering positions that address animal welfare. However, if you have no particular affinity for any of these roles you could also consider taking a job with a higher earning potential and simply direct those earnings towards charities and organizations working to end factory farming. In these instances, donating money can sometimes be more advantageous to the cause than working in the field. Depending on your abilities and experience, there are a variety of avenues for individual impact through your career, whether that is achieved directly or navigated indirectly.
An obstacle for any organization working to rid the world of factory farms is funding. By some accounts, this has been calculated to be the largest constraint they are facing. For instance, Jon Bockman of Animal Charity Evaluators explains that effective animal advocacy nonprofits have lots of enthusiastic volunteers, but not enough funds to hire them. Additionally, because animal advocacy issues are particularly neglected, your dollars could have more of an impact. Giving money to organizations who will do the most amount of good with your dollar is one of the most important things to consider when deciding where to donate. Why? If you donate a dollar to an organization they may save one life with that dollar. However, it's possible your contribution could have saved ten lives if given to a different organization. Through the effective altruism framework, charities can be evaluated based on their ability to maximize funds and resources and achieve desired outcomes including saving the greatest number of lives.
Many effective altruism organizations have already done the hard work for you by carefully analyzing and determining what they believe to be the most effective charities. Examples of organizations recommended by Open Philanthropy include: The Humane League, Mercy For Animals, Compassion World Farming, The Humane Society International and The Human Society in the United States, and Animal Equality, and The Good Food Institute. Organizations such as Animal Charity Evaluators also offer resources such as comprehensive lists of recommended organizations to donate to based on their assessments of each charities’ cost-effectiveness and high-impact advocacy. You can also support FFAC's work to educate people about factory farming through our Classroom Programming and Advocacy Institute.
A better understanding of the issues that restrict the efficiency and impacts of organizations can equip individuals with the information needed to make decisions about how to help end factory farming. Each of these four actions will have a positive impact towards ending large scale animal suffering. If we are to do the most good possible we need a variety of initiatives taken by a variety of people bringing a variety of skills to the table. Using this evidence and reason-based approach, we can identify the best course of action for a given individual to save time and utilize limited resources efficiently. You have the potential to do a significant amount of good by being thoughtful when it comes to where you allocate your time and resources.