This is the first piece of our new “Impactful Animal Advocacy Career Paths” series.
How to help animals with your career
Your career is the most important opportunity to make a difference for animals
When thinking about helping animals, we tend to focus on actions such as providing care for companion animals, plant-based eating, and volunteering. These are, of course, good, and they can help animals.
But as you probably have noticed, there is still monument animal suffering in the world despite our individual actions. Much more is needed to be done in order to achieve systemic change.
In order to help animals more, most of us are missing a great opportunity that we have: our careers.
At Animal Advocacy Careers, we claim that everyone can do so much for animals if they consider their career choices seriously, make good decisions, and work hard towards their goals. We think this is the most important decision of every animal advocate. Helping animals as a career also applies to those who do not and will not directly work in advocacy organisations.
Why you should consider using your career to help animals
The obvious reason is the sheer amount of time. You probably have 5 to 45 years in your career depending on your age.
That’s a lot of time if you think about it. Each year has 52 weeks, 365 days. Try to multiply and see the long digits. Or just look at the table we made:
You can do a lot of things in such a long time. Of course, we tend to think of “career” primarily as a means to earn money and provide for our needs and the needs of our loved ones. And that’s perfectly reasonable.
However, there are career opportunities that not only provide reasonable financial security and benefits but also have great possibilities for changing the lives of countless animals who suffer.
Imagine that you do not just volunteer for two hours a week, but work for an animal advocacy organisation for 40 hours a week. Imagine not only your impact for that week, but also the buildup of your skills and expertise in time, and how that would help animals in the future. Imagine all the people you can meet, talk to, connect with, and convince to do better for animals in years to come. Imagine what those people you impacted could do - especially people who hold power in institutions - for animals. Also imagine your possible achievements as a team, in an organisation, rather than acting alone as an individual.
As you can see, using your career to make a difference for animals is your most important opportunity.
But just as not all careers are the same in any field, not all animal advocacy careers are the same.
Why deciding which animal advocacy career is very important and how to do it
No one really wants “a” job. All of us want a career which would be “good”, or even “the best”. This is why people (perhaps you too) who want to be good or even the best in their fields aim to start or continue their careers in institutions that are more successful by the standards of those fields. In order to achieve your career goals, it matters a great deal what you are working on and where you work.
This is no different in animal advocacy careers. If you want to create “the most” impact for animals, you should not just pick any advocacy organisation or animal advocacy group and work there. You should aim to shape your career in a way to work in organisations that would do the most for animals.
Some animal advocacy career paths can be much more impactful than others, even 1000 times more.
This is due to three main factors that we will explain these in detail in other pieces, but in short:
The problem you choose to focus on:
There are so many animals in the world, and it may seem hard and even inappropriate to select some groups of animals over others to focus on. But there are important differences in terms of numbers and the degree of suffering between different animal groups, as well as the level of neglectedness between areas.
And those differences really do amount to 1000 times or even more. For example, animals reared in factory farms (chicken and fish in particular) are 1000 times more numerous than other animals such as companion animals or animals used in scientific research. The number of animals who suffer in the wild (invertebrates such as bees, butterflies, and flies in particular) may amount to trillions.
Additionally, these fields do not receive the attention they deserve. Currently, most efforts and resources in the animal movement reside in areas where there are fewer animals and animal suffering. While those efforts are also very valuable and laudable, focusing on neglected fields where there is significantly more animal suffering may increase your potential impact by orders of magnitude.
The choice of intervention to tackle these problems:
Okay, so some problems concerning animals are bigger than others. But, that is not all. Some interventions also are more impactful than others.
Imagine that in order to help animals, you go out to farms and provide veterinary care to sick animals one by one. That is, of course, good. But imagine that you convince corporations through outreach or campaigns to accept better welfare standards for all animals in their supply chain.
For another example, imagine that you are vegan, and you spare tens of animals each year thanks to your plant-based diet or you try to convince your friends one by one to go vegan. That is, of course, good. But imagine that you develop or promote plant-based products which reach thousands of customers and possibly change their eating habits by facilitating the transition to an animal-friendly diet and food system.
The latter examples would have much more impact than the former examples. And the choice of which intervention you focus on will inevitably shape the impact of your career.
Of course there is still some uncertainty around what interventions will lead to the end of factory farming and transform our food system. But we can try to make decisions with our careers where we feel we have a good chance to influence the biggest possible change.
The degree of your personal fit to the position:
Okay, so some problems are bigger than others and some interventions might enable us to have a much bigger influence than others. But, this is not just a theoretical discussion, it is a practical matter about what you should be doing.
For that reason, you also have to consider your personal fit for relevant positions. By “personal fit” o “fitness”, we mean a lot of things: your character traits, strengths, skills, background, education, tastes, needs, etc.
Even if you get a job helping animals in an impactful animal advocacy organisation, you have to perform well to achieve impact for animals. So it is crucial to make career decisions in which you’ll perform well or even the best.
For that, you need to assess your qualifications and preferences so that you can be successful and happy in what you are doing. Some people are a better fit for leadership, some are better suited for support roles. Some are generalists, while some have or would like to have expertise in a particular field. Some enjoy reading and writing, while others are excited about protesting.
In order to help animals, we need all kinds of contributions, and in order to find the highest impact position, you need to find an animal job that fits you well.
Note that none of these traits are set in stone.
Most people in the animal advocacy movement pursued careers that had little to do with their formal education or social background. Most animal advocates also develop new strengths and skills in time, which allows them to create more impact and consider different opportunities in their careers.
Animal Advocacy Careers provides information about various problems concerning animals, types of interventions, and career opportunities in impactful organisations, as well as perspectives for people to assess their fitness in order to empower them to do the most good for themselves and animals.
You can achieve so much for animals
If you aim for the problems which have the largest scale, if you choose the most influential interventions, and if you choose a position that fits you the best, you can achieve so much for animals.
Here are some examples:
If you decide to pursue an animal charity job in an impactful organisation that focuses on institutional animal welfare reforms, you can help end the torment of millions of animals. You might do this by persuading or forcing corporations and governments to implement better conditions for farmed animals.
Historically, animal advocates have succeeded in changing the policies of thousands of large corporations to end the use of the cage system (which is one of the worst forms of factory farming) in their egg supply chain. With more advocates, more progress can also be achieved for chickens raised for meat, farmed fish, and many other animals in all regions of the world.
If you decide to pursue an animal career in an impactful organisation that focuses on alternative protein development and promotion, you may create transformative change in the food industry by substituting animal foods with plant-based foods.
Availability of taste and price-competitive plant-based foods can nudge more people to make changes in their diet, a much-needed societal change that unfortunately did not occur to a significant degree until now.
Fortunately, alternative proteins made significant progress—you can see a plant-based burger option in almost all fast-food chains. There are of course challenges, and alternative proteins are just in the early stages of development, which makes the opportunities for growth even more important.
If you decide to pursue a career in an impactful organisation that researches wild animal welfare and suffering, you have the possibility to figure out ways to alleviate the suffering of millions of sentient animals who can’t help themselves.
Wild animal welfare is a new and promising field that is very neglected and desperately needs more compassionate and talented people. In the past, wildlife researchers had found ways to cure certain parasites which devastated many species and caused immense suffering. This field has so much more potential, and future solutions can impact huge animal populations.
If you decide to pursue a career in movement building, you can contribute to strengthening and enlarging the movement that will deliver social progress for animals.
Animal advocacy movement is still very small and fragmented compared to the challenges it faces. And it will take a long time before it achieves its goals. So taking a step back and empowering the people to help animals rather than directly trying to help animals, might also have very large positive impacts in the long run.
You can also use your career to earn money in any sector or job and continuously channel financial resources for the movement by your donations.
Animal advocacy movement is severely constrained by lack of funding. And it requires the support of large and small donors. Instead of just giving one-off donations to a few organisations, you can plan your career in a way to earn and save significant amounts of money that can be used by advocacy organisations in crucially important areas and convert into impact for animals.
These are just a few examples. There are and will be many more. Also, keep in mind that these interventions require teamwork. While some advocates take responsibility for the last stages of the interventions, such as corporate outreach, campaigning, or research, many advocates have other and equally important roles, such as management, fundraising, people and culture, operations, administration, legal defence, marketing, communications, and many more.
There is a very good chance that there are or will be some animal nonprofit jobs available in which you can contribute to and have an impact on animals.
What if I am not ready to make such a big decision now? What can I do?
That’s absolutely fine and normal. Your career choices matter a lot for you, as well as for animals, and it is perfectly reasonable to take it slow. Most people who currently work in animal advocacy organisations did not start immediately, and they also had long, thoughtful considerations before starting. We suggest you do two things:
Firstly, inform yourself. There is no downside to learning more. On our website, you can access many resources related to animal advocacy careers.
You can only know whether something is good or not for you if you know that thing well. Additionally, if you are currently a student or feel like you can’t get a job in animal advocacy even though you want to in the future, we also cover topics about how you can improve your skills and plan your career accordingly. By reading our content, you will at the very least learn a lot about the current state of the animal advocacy movement and the most impactful ways to make progress for animals.
You can also sign up for our animal advocacy online course to learn more about how you can help animals throughout your career.
Secondly, you can consider donating to impactful animal advocacy organisations which would also have a lot of impact on animals, even if you don’t work in those organisations.
Some animal advocates, while they prefer to not change their careers, take this idea very seriously and donate a significant portion of their income to animal advocacy organisations. This approach can also indirectly create a lot of impact on animals. You may decide not to work for animal advocacy organisations, but thanks to your donations, you may enable an organisation to hire someone else. But, in parallel to the points explained above, not all donations are also equal in value for animals, you have to select the most giving options with a higher influence to create the most impact.
This is just a start. Feel free to,
Continue reading other pieces in our guide. You will be amazed by the career and donation opportunities for doing good for animals, and the incredible progress achieved by animal advocates like you.
Take our free online course which covers important data about the current state of the animal advocacy movement and presents our main ideas. You can also be awarded a certificate if you are successful on the final test.
Check our job board for career opportunities in the animal advocacy movement.
In the end, you can also speak with our team one-to-one, and receive career advice.
Read next: Animal Suffering is One of the Most Pressing Problems In the World
This article was written largely following the ideas and the structure of another article, “Your Most Important Decision” by Benjamin Todd from 80,000 Hours.