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Movement Building in Animal Advocacy

Updated: Feb 23

Informing and empowering people to help animals

Farmed animals

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While the scale of animal suffering is astronomical, very few people are working on this problem directly. The animal advocacy movement needs to get bigger and stronger in order to achieve its goal of ending animal suffering. 

Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Societies are largely ignorant and indifferent towards animal suffering. Animal advocates, on the other hand, are much fewer and less organised. They also need more funding, as well as more talented people who are willing to work with them.

To achieve long-term progress for animals, these significant problems must be addressed. This is especially true for regions where the movement is significantly more nascent and there requires more attention. Many advocates believe that movement-building efforts should be one of the top priorities, especially in countries where there are many farmed animals but few organised advocates.

We believe that working on movement-building can be highly impactful. And there are many roles that one can take to make a difference. 

Why do we need movement building?

There is a general lack of awareness about animal suffering and advocacy

Unfortunately, there is a large-scale societal ignorance about how animals are treated and suffer in factory farms and other places. As a result, not many people care about animal suffering and take action to help animals. This needs to change if we want things to get better for them in the future. A lot of advocates are also uninformed about various effective interventions to help animals. This typically leads to needless frustration and inaction, which is unnecessary given the various impactful options that people can choose from to help animals.

There are not many organisations advocating for animals

Another pressing issue is that people who do care deeply about animals and want to help them typically act as “individuals” and cannot bring their forces together to achieve meaningful progress. As a result, their actions remain isolated and have low impact. Given that it will take massive societal and institutional changes to actualise animal liberation, we need more organisations that can meet this challenge.

While there exist animal charities in a lot of countries, most of them focus on companion animals. Although this is not a bad thing, farmed and wild animals are typically neglected. The number of organisations focusing on farmed and wild animals is typically low, especially in certain regions.

Organisations have a lot of room for improvement

The existence of advocacy organisations does not guarantee progress for animals. They need to succeed and this is not an inevitable or easy process. There are many ways organisations can fail: Organisations may lack strong and supporting leadership, they may have problems with their work culture, or they may have problems within their operational systems. These are just a few things out of many that can cripple the organisation’s ability to perform well and help animals.

Some organisations may also overlook the importance of monitoring and evaluation. Animal advocacy is complex and it is possible that certain programs or interventions are not creating high impact. Most of the time, it may not be very easy to detect these, since there are no clear feedback mechanisms. Without clear theories of change, and reliable monitoring and evaluation systems, organisations can lose their focus, and waste time or money could be used elsewhere.

Funding and talent constraints are limiting further progress

Like all social movements, the animal advocacy movement needs adequate resources. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness about farmed and wild animal welfare, these fields are typically neglected and receive much less funding relative to other charitable causes. This puts organisations in a very difficult position, limiting their ability to hire staff and pay for other essential services.

A similar, or even more significant bottleneck exists for the need for talent in these organisations. A lot of organisations report difficulties hiring competent staff, especially for some particular roles. On the other hand, a lot of people who care about animals do not even consider opportunities in animal advocacy organisations where they can contribute so much, while others face difficulties finding a career path that fits their skills and preferences, even if they are willing to commit their career for animals.

How does movement building create an impact?

Fortunately, some organisations aim to provide solutions for these needs. These organisations and programs do not directly help animals, but they help organisations and advocates help animals. As animal advocacy has many aspects, there are many forms of movement-building efforts.

Awareness raising efforts

Some animal advocates and organisations aim to promote positive values about animals. There are many ways of doing this: writing books and articles, publishing news stories and investigations, producing documentaries, staging protests, organising educational programs, and many more. 

If successful, these efforts increase the number of people who are informed and concerned about animal suffering. This can have an immediate effect on some people stopping or reducing their consumption of animal products. Additionally, even if not all of them ditch animal products, they may become more supportive of (or at least less resistant towards) campaigns, initiatives and legislation that benefit animals. Other organisations with particular goals like promoting animal product alternatives or passing certain welfare legislations can achieve their goals much easier if social conditions are more favourable.

Incubating more organisations

Given that existing organisations are few relative to the scale of the problem, there is a lot of room for many new organisations. While most organisations are founded independently, there are also “charity incubators” accelerating and improving this process by attracting potential founders and providing them with mentoring, funding and ideas for impactful projects. Some organisations also incubate for-profit alternative protein startups aiming to compete with animal product companies.  

The impact of these organisations is linked to the impact of the incubated organisations. If incubator organisations can successfully contribute to the foundation of multiple organisations and if these new organisations can indeed become impactful, incubator organisations can be said to have an incredible amount of impact by acting as a multiplier.

Improving existing organisations

Some organisations aim to increase the effectiveness of other organisations. Most animal charities can improve a lot and if they do, they can impact far more animals than they currently do. Some organisations provide support such as handling operations or human resources systems. This allows advocates to focus on their work while outsourcing other tasks. Other organisations provide training and mentoring to level up certain skills and practices like leadership, hiring, campaigning, monitoring and evaluation, or organisation culture.

There are a lot of ways of doing this. Some use their own expertise to help other advocates and help them directly. Some organise events or programs to bring together animal advocates and experts to share experiences and insights.

Channelling more funding and talent

Almost all animal advocacy organisations try to attract funding and talent by themselves but benefit greatly from other organisations that channel funding and talent to them. 

Grantmaking organisations typically provide much larger sums of funds than individual donors, which allows organisations to cover their budgets and plan ahead. But of course, grantmaking cannot be done randomly, it requires a great deal of evaluation and strategic planning to find and support the best candidates to use these resources in the most effective way possible. Grantmaking organisations typically raise funds as well by reaching more philanthropic and ordinary donors, so that they can provide more support for their grantees. 

Talent organisations, like Animal Advocacy Careers, on the other hand, inform people about career opportunities to help animals to encourage them to channel their talents for animal advocacy. Given that the career of every animal advocate is probably the most important opportunity to make an impact, making a difference in people’s career paths is highly impactful. To make this happen, talent organisations provide information about career paths and opportunities. They also provide advice tailored to individuals’ needs, as well as update them with open job vacancies. As a result, advocacy organisations can benefit from the talents they need to achieve their goals. 

Which organisations are working in this field? (not an extensive list)

  • Wild Animal Initiative is a non-profit organisation focused on building and supporting the academic field of wild animal welfare.

  • Sentient Media is a non-profit journalism outlet that reports on animal agriculture and its impact on animals, the environment and humans. 

  • New Roots Institute is a non-profit organisation that focuses on education efforts to inform the public about animal agriculture.  

  • Animal Ethics is an organisation that focuses on promoting respect for animals through outreach, education and research. 

  • ProVeg International is an international organisation that focuses on promoting awareness about plant-based diets, veganism and the harms of animal agriculture, as well as incubating more organisations aiming to develop more alternatives to animal products. 

  • Reducetarian Foundation is an organisation aiming to inform consumers about the impacts of animal agriculture through various outreach activities and invite them to cut back on the animal products they eat. 

  • Veganuary: is an international organisation focusing on promoting awareness about veganism, and encouraging people to try vegan diets for January and beyond. 

  • Charity Entrepreneurship is a charity that focuses on researching impactful new charity ideas and incubating new charities by finding potential founder candidates and supporting them.

  • The Mission Motor- Provide training and coaching for non-profits to implement monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) to increase their impact and fulfil their mission

  • Animal Alliance Asia focuses on building a positive, diverse, inclusive and culturally appropriate animal movement in Asia by organising conferences, forums and academies, and providing necessary guidance and support through its research and grants.  

  • Scarlet Spark is an organisation that focuses on improving hiring practices, employee retention, organisational culture, and inclusion in animal advocacy organisations by providing training and consulting services. 

  • Impactful Animal Advocacy is an organisation that builds a global online hub to help advocates collaborate, stay updated and inspired. 

  • Animal Advocacy Africa is an organisation focusing on improving the effectiveness of animal advocacy organisations in Africa by providing mentorship and training as well as organising events, conferences and webinars. 

  • Animal Charity Evaluators is a charity evaluator that compares the effectiveness of different animal advocacy organisations. Its recommendations inform philanthropic and ordinary donors about the most impactful giving opportunities. 

  • Open Philanthropy is one of the largest philanthropic organisations supporting farmed and wild animal advocacy in the world through its animal welfare grant program (in addition to its other grant programs like global development and long-term). To this day, Open Philanthropy distributes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of grants to a variety of organisations. 

  • Animal Advocacy Careers (this is us!) is an organisation focusing on career development, planning and opportunities for advocates around the world who would like to help animals by using their careers. 

  • Tälist is our sister organisation that also focuses on career opportunities for helping animals in the alternative protein sector. 

Of course, movement building is not limited to these organisations only. Many other organisations like The Humane League, Mercy for Animals and Good Food Institute also engage in movement-building efforts to achieve their goals like animal welfare reforms or alternative protein development. 

Additionally, many individuals, like academics, public intellectuals, and celebrities also use their platform to raise awareness about animals. 

You can also find your own organisation to work on movement building. Founding a new organisation is of course very challenging, but it is definitely a possibility that you can consider if you are a good fit to be a founder. 

Reasons for working in this field

Laying the foundations for all other animal advocacy efforts

Movement building can be viewed as a basis upon which other efforts are built. Unless there is sufficient awareness about animals, almost no other program that aims to make a direct impact for animals can achieve its goals. Almost all animal advocacy efforts need some level and form of public support. The same goes for the presence of effective organisations with adequate resources. Unless these conditions are met, it is unlikely that we can help animals. 

These foundations are not present in a lot of cases. Given the neglected state of animal advocacy, farmed and wild animal advocacy in particular, even a basic level of awareness is not present in many regions. There is not even one society where anti-speciesist values are widely adopted and implemented. Most countries have only a few organisations focusing on farmed and wild animals, some have none. Most organisations need training, mentoring, financial and talent support. 

Although these may be “bad news”, they are also opportunities for making an impact for animals. Channelling efforts to these neglected areas can make a much bigger difference by compensating for these great needs.

Large-scale, long-term impact potential

Working for movement-building organisations may be highly impactful. These organisations can have a greater impact in the long run than those focusing solely on direct action for animals.

Awareness-raising organisations and individuals can shift social attitudes towards animal welfare, which can have a positive impact on all animal advocacy efforts. These can also lead to transformative social change over the long term. Other organisations can also leverage these positive social changes to bring about incremental changes like higher animal welfare standards or higher plant-based product adoption.

For example: 

  • Peter Singer’s bestseller book Animal Liberation had a large impact by making factory farming and animal suffering a serious ethical topic. 

  • Wild Animal Initiative made wild animal welfare a well-known and respectable field in academia. 

  • Organisations like ProVeg and the Reducetarian Foundation made the vegan lifestyle and the negative impacts of animal-based diets a mainstream topic.  

Charity incubators and community builders can function as a “multiplier” by continuously creating more organisations and groups that achieve progress for animals. For example, Charity Entrepreneurship incubated extremely successful animal charities that filled in very important gaps in the animal advocacy space like the Fish Welfare Initiative, Shrimp Welfare Project, and Animal Advocacy Careers (us).

Organisations that provide consulting and training, can make charities work better on a big scale. For example, if a consulting and training organisation helps charities do just 10% better at what they do, big programs can create more impact than organisations that directly help.

Evaluators, grantmakers, and career organisations can also significantly help impactful organisations to grow and achieve their goals. Almost all animal advocacy organisations need more money and people with skills. By getting more money and talented people in a smart way, we can help these organisations do even more and reach their goals.

All these organisations can be thought of as “multipliers”: they can make change happen by multiplying the capacity of animal advocates. For this reason, we think that movement-building organisations have the potential to make a more significant impact compared to other animal charities or alternative protein companies. Whether this potential turns into actual results depends on the type of movement-building work, the organisation, and how well they perform – we'll discuss this further later on.

Movement-building efforts can also be viewed as more flexible than other forms of advocacy, especially in the long run. For example, campaigners may not always achieve their goal, or the alternative protein market could end up being a short-lived trend. In these scenarios, the end result can be very disappointing. In comparison, a lot of movement-building organisations do not typically focus on one particular intervention or theory for social change. They help a whole community of advocates and groups to grow and work together. These efforts help the movement to become more resilient against pitfalls and challenges. As a result, even if some projects or campaigns fail, some other groups or organisations may find other ways of helping animals. 

Various opportunities and flexibility

As there are many forms of movement building; there are also many job opportunities that may be a good fit for your skills, experience and preferences. In addition, movement-building activities can be done in almost any region with cultural appropriateness. Unlike some other types of animal advocacy, movement building doesn't need specific economic or legal conditions, like solid animal welfare standards or a promising alternative protein market. 

You can work on movement building no matter where you are. This may be especially valuable for advocates who reside in regions where animal advocacy is neglected and socioeconomic conditions are not favourable at the moment. Movement-building efforts in these regions can be particularly impactful in the long run. It helps set the stage for future animal advocacy projects. 

Reasons for not working in this field

High level of complexity

While working on movement building may be potentially highly impactful (also highly variant depending on the organisation), we also believe the level of uncertainties around impact is very high, even higher than other ways of helping animals.

This is mainly because of the complexity of movement building. These organisations do not help animals directly. They typically educate, convince, support or train “other” individuals and organisations to help animals. These tasks are really challenging, much more so than they might seem. Unfavourable social conditions, especially in some regions and for some topics (like wild animal welfare) can limit the results of these efforts. 

There is also no clear and cost-effective formula for building a strong animal advocacy movement. While movement-building organisations try their best with reasonable methods, they often work in situations where there's a lot of uncertainty about achieving their goals. Trial and error, imperfect outcomes or failure are not rare, even inevitable in a lot of cases.

Limited direct impact

Even if you and your organisation reach some immediate goals, it's not always clear if those achievements will actually lead to real benefits for animals. Most movement-building programs require the collaboration and cooperation of other stakeholders (individuals and organisations) to achieve change for animals.

For example, even if awareness-raising efforts have some success, it doesn't guarantee this increased awareness will lead to changes in policies or individual behaviour change. Even when you create a good program that supports advocacy organisations financially or operationally, there's no guarantee these organisations will help animals. So your efforts may not result in a meaningful outcome after all.

Risk of negative outcomes

Finally, some movement-building projects may be harmful. There is a difference between the aimed goals and the actual result. And given the complex and indirect features of movement building, there are many possible outcomes, including negative ones.

For instance, an awareness-raising campaign might aim to create a more positive attitude toward animals. However, if the messages used are too confrontational or too soothing, the campaign could unintentionally lead to a "negative" change in how people feel about animals and proposals for reform. It is also very hard to predict these risks and take steps to prevent them every time, since society, organisations, and cultures are very complex and unpredictable.

Additional considerations related to all animal advocacy career paths

All organisations are different

All advocacy organisations want to help animals but most of them have major differences. And these differences are not just limited to their field of work, like movement building. Organisations have different strategies and tactics, programs, leaders, cultures, pay schemes, sources of funding, and many more. 

These differences typically lead to a high variance in impact. Not all organisations perform the same; some organisations are far more successful at achieving their goals than others. These are also very relevant for job satisfaction as well. Some organisations offer better working conditions, as well as better pay. So when considering career options, don’t just consider and compare different fields, but also consider and compare different organisations. While a particular field may be a good choice for you, this does not mean all organisations in this field are the same and equally good for you.

Personal fit

When it comes to deciding which career path is more impactful for animals, it is important to figure out which career path you will be better at. There is a lot of variance between individuals when it comes to skills, traits, preferences and values. These variances also apply to your performance at your work. A job or an organisation may be impactful, but if it is not the right fit for you, it may be much less impactful than opportunities that fit you better. 

If you are really good at something, your performance may be multiple times better than what you are not just as good at. If you are just average at your job, your impact would be limited even if the potential impact of the relevant position is high. Therefore making good judgments about what you are good at and making decisions that can allow you to capitalise on your strengths is crucial for creating a high impact for animals through your career. 

These considerations are relevant to your personal welfare too. We wouldn’t want anyone to selflessly sacrifice themselves just because they might have a slightly higher impact for animals. Ideally, your career should be simultaneously impactful and enjoyable. People who are satisfied with their jobs also tend to perform better, so in order to achieve high impact you should also consider these. So when considering which career path is best for you, it is not sufficient to look for external sources for more data. 

You can also read our separate piece on this idea: “Personal fit is extremely important when assessing animal advocacy career paths”.

Opportunity costs

Almost all career decisions involve opportunity costs. For every career path or organisation chosen, you inevitably lose alternatives that were available before. For example, if you select one career path and a particular organisation to work for, you inevitably do not work in other fields and organisations. For this reason, when assessing the impact and personal benefits of one option, you should not compare it to a situation where you don’t work at all. That would be a mistake and can lead you to overrate certain opportunities in isolation. 

A more reasonable approach is to consider other impactful career paths as well and weigh them relatively. While certain opportunities may look good individually, there may be other opportunities even more impactful and/or fit you better. This also applies to opportunities outside of animal advocacy. So don’t make hasty decisions and jump on the first opportunity available without considering what you can do alternatively in the short and long term.

Still interested in working on movement building? We want to help

If you think working on movement building might be a good option for you, but you need help deciding or thinking about what to do next, our team might be able to help. We can help you compare options and weight uncertainties, and help you perform better at job search and application processes. 

Find opportunities on our job board

Explore our comprehensive job board filled with diverse opportunities in animal advocacy. Join a passionate community dedicated to creating a better world. Take the first step towards a fulfilling career—browse our listings and apply today.

You can also support movement-building efforts with your donations

If you conclude that movement building is highly impactful, getting a job in this field is not the only way to help animals. You can also make a huge difference by donating to these organisations. In fact, you can also consider focusing on your donations as the primary instrument for impact and using your career to earn more and donate more to animal advocacy organisations. This can be equally, or even a more impactful career path for you.

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