Hide table of contents

In the field of animal welfare, current efforts are mostly directed towards farmed animals, and with good reason. Across the globe, over 70 billion animals are reared for food every year. Yet, advocacy endeavours in favour of other animal groups - such as farmed aquatic animals, liminal animals or invertebrates - are weak to non-existent; this is despite the need for urgent improvements, the straightforwardness of potential measures and the reduction in suffering that these measures could bring about.

Addressing neglectedness in animal advocacy requires the identification of areas that receive minimal attention or resources. These may be areas with a significant potential for impact. Strategies include focusing on less visible or less charismatic animals (farmed fish, insects, …). By allocating resources and advocacy efforts towards these overlooked areas, the EA movement as a whole can foster substantial improvements in animal welfare, in fields that might otherwise be neglected.

Promoting general concern about liminal animals’ suffering, and expanding the moral circle to these animals, may pave the way for many other more foreign, alienated and wild species to be considered. Moreover, human interventions with regard to liminal animals are not questioned in the same way as those regarding wild animals. The need to consider the fabric or “goodness” of nature, as a means to reducing animal suffering, applies much less in the case of liminal animals, because they have already adapted and learned how to thrive in the midst of human infrastructures.

Yet, campaigning endeavours can be quite complex, even challenging for animal welfare groups or organisations: why would the public care about animals that they do not typically hear about? Or animals they do not hold in great affection?

There are several strategies that organisations and individuals within the EA movement can test out, employ and share as part of best practices. Below are a few examples.

1. Science as legitimacy

Sentience appears to be the absolute pre-condition for attention, protection and care to be devoted to non-human animals. In this regard, it appears highly effective if research is supported and conducted to uncover and highlight the cognitive capabilities of neglected animal groups. Through scientific evidence, it is possible to make a strong case for the importance of the issues faced by these animals and the feasibility of potential solutions.

2. Taking advantage of the lack of lobbying against specific species:

What is interesting with neglected animal groups is that there is little to no lobbying against them (as opposed to farmed animals in the dairy or meat industry). This lack of lobbying makes it slightly easier to advocate for policy change and for modifications in standards, that could be of benefit not only to the animals, but also a whole industry. In this way, systemic developments and advancements can emerge. Let us consider urban pigeons and the overpopulation that they face in most cities. Advocating for the construction and maintenance of pigeon lofts, as well as for the use of egg-swapping techniques as a method of contraception, are practical steps that would benefit both human and non-human populations. The pressures against the installation of pigeon lofts would be very weak, making it a tractable way of improving animal welfare in urban settings.

3. The power of coalitions:

This strategy is self-evident. In the animal welfare movement (and in social movements more broadly); coalitions are a great way forward. The Aquatic Animal Alliance (AAA) comes to mind, because it brings together organisations and individuals that focus, directly or indirectly, on the welfare of farmed fish. Building networks with other advocacy organisations focusing on categories of neglected animals can amplify efforts and increase the overall impact.

Our “Invisible Animals” campaign:

In Switzerland alone, there are over 85 million farmed animals, with chickens accounting for almost 80 million of them. Yet, there are also 200'000 to 300'000 pigeons, between 500'000 and 1.5 million rats, 5 million fish in aquaculture and over 600 wild bee species, and these do not receive the same level of public attention, legal protection or individual care.

Despite there being much scientific evidence of the sentience of pigeons, rats, bees and fish, these animals receive even less consideration than farmed animals, such as cows or chickens. Moreover, the cost of implementing measures to alleviate some of the burden that these “invisible” animals face is small compared to overall welfare benefits.

Therefore, Sentience – the non-profit organisation, most commonly known for the initiative to abolish factory farming in Switzerland – has just launched the “Invisible Animals” campaign.

  • Scope

“Invisible” animals are a vast category, and there is much room for improvement in their welfare. As mentioned above, in Switzerland alone, there are over 600 species of wild bees, between 200'000 and 300'000 pigeons, 500'000 to 1.5 million rats, and nearly 5 million farmed fish.

  • Tractability

There is significant potential to prevent a lot of suffering through the implementation of simple and practical measures, in particular as there is currently no strong lobby profiting from the suffering of these “invisible” animals.

If pigeon lofts were re-installed and maintained in cities, specific pesticides and rodenticides were phased-out, and farmed fish were given enhanced legal protection, we would observe an improvement in their welfare. Although the precise outcomes remain uncertain, such action would present an excellent opportunity to gather data and expand our understanding of these “invisible” animals, and the ways in which humans interact with them.

Quantifying a reduction in these animals’ pain is not an easy task - just as for wild animals more generally. Yet, is it reasonable to wait until we have all the data at our fingertips before we act? Most certainly not.

  • Neglectedness

Sentience has realised that the lack of public and political awareness is a significant obstacle to improving the lives of these creatures. They endure profound daily suffering, often as a consequence of human activities. However, the pain that they endure is either completely ignored (as observed with rats and pigeons), or even fundamentally questioned (as is the case with fish and bees).

At present, the resources allocated to resolving the welfare issues faced by “invisible” animals are scant to negligible. Therefore, advocating for their well-being is an essential first step to improving the welfare of billions of non-human animals - in Switzerland alone.


The limitations faced by “invisible” animals:

  • National campaign - adding a cross-border dimension

This campaign is taking place within the Swiss borders, and it is therefore limited to one country. That being said - it has the potential to inspire other groups or individuals in other countries, that wish to advocate for the welfare of other liminal animals, invertebrates or neglected farmed species. An example of another such organisation is PAZ (Paris Animaux Zoopolis), limited, in turn, to France.

There are between 260 to 400 million pigeons worldwide, 40 to 120 billion fish farmed each year, and over 20’000 species of wild bees. With that scope in mind, advocacy for “invisible” animals must now cross our borders to ensure an effective reduction in unnecessary suffering.

  • Public reactions, antipathy towards certain species: “why should I care about these animals?”

It can be quite challenging for the general public to relate to certain animals, especially when these species are less charismatic (such as pigeons or rats), or when they are perceived as mere commodities (e.g. farmed fish). The level of antipathy towards certain species - especially liminal animals - is relatively high. This is where rigorous research on cognitive abilities comes into play, making a strong case for these animals’ sentience and, most importantly, for the need to grant them an adequate level of protection.

Concluding remarks and discussion

By leveraging our collective resources, strategic thinking and evidence-based approaches, we can draw much-needed attention to the suffering of “invisible” animals such as pigeons, rats, bees and fish. United efforts enable the implementation of practical, high-impact measures, and also drive significant policy changes.

Even if data is scant, all animal groups should be considered - regardless of their status as “pests” (such is the case for rats and pigeons), or the role given to them within our anthropocentric society (e.g. bees and fish).

Focusing on all animal groups in public discussions about welfare is essential for creating a more inclusive and effective approach to reducing animal and human suffering - especially when these animals’ welfare is so closely intertwined with ours. Let us hope that other initiatives of the like emerge in the coming years.

What do you, as a reader, think some of the best practices are in advocating for neglected animal groups?

What other species do you believe deserve greater attention?

If you want to learn more about Sentience’s activities and the Invisible Animals campaign, you can access its website herehttps://sentience.ch/en/






More posts like this

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Executive summary: Addressing neglectedness in animal advocacy by focusing on "invisible animals" like farmed fish, insects, and liminal animals can substantially improve animal welfare in overlooked areas.

Key points:

  1. Current animal welfare efforts focus mostly on farmed animals, neglecting other groups like farmed aquatic animals, liminal animals, and invertebrates.
  2. Strategies to address neglected animals include focusing on less visible or charismatic species, leveraging scientific evidence of their sentience, and taking advantage of the lack of lobbying against them.
  3. Building coalitions with other advocacy organizations can amplify efforts and increase impact for neglected animal groups.
  4. The "Invisible Animals" campaign in Switzerland targets pigeons, rats, bees, and farmed fish, aiming to improve their welfare through practical measures and raising awareness.
  5. Challenges include the campaign's limited geographic scope and public antipathy towards certain species, which can be addressed through research on cognitive abilities and expanding advocacy efforts across borders.



This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

There's also a good chance that achieving significant changes for liminal animals, and even just campaigning for them, if accompanied by strong media hype, will raise people's level of sensitivity to animals in general. This is something that seems very likely to me, but for which I haven't seen any research carried out - it would be worthwhile to carry out some on the subject, given that these campaigns (particularly for liminal animals) are much more successful, as we can see in France with the PAZ association (https://zoopolis.fr), than those concerning livestock. If they also have an indirect effect that benefits other animals, then it seems to me that's a major asset in running such campaigns.

Concerning bees, I didn't see the direct link between the question of bee species and the question of individuals; why bees in particular? Besides, I don't think they're particularly invisible? There's a lot of talk in France about the decline of bees (but without any concern for individuals)...

Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities