On the same day as the new GiveWell recommendations, the new Animal Charity Evaluators recommendations are out. What are everyone's thoughts on them? I'd be interested to hear from people who are planning to give to them, or have used ACE's research in the past.

The Humane League and Mercy for Animals remain on the list, and are joined by Animal Equality. Like GiveWell, ACE has added a second tier of "standout charities" (they recently discussed the pros & cons of doing so on their blog). This list contains the Humane Society of the United States’ Farm Animal Protection Campaign, Farm Animal Rights Movement, Vegan Outreach, and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation. They have detailed reviews of each of these organisations.

ACE have set a target of $150,000 in donations for their top three charities, but think that they could use about $1,070,000 in funding this year. So it looks like there's no shortage of room for more funding in the animal rights movement!

It's worth thanking ACE for the great research work that they do. They need donations themselves to keep doing that work, and a generous donor has offered to match donations to them until December 5th.

Here is a summary of the top charities, taken from ACE's in depth reports:

ACE's top charities

Animal Equality

"Animal Equality advocates for animals by conducting undercover investigations and promoting them through media outlets. They also conduct grassroots outreach, including demonstrations, protests, leafleting, and video showings. Related to their undercover investigations, they also conduct some legal and corporate outreach efforts.

"Animal Equality has branches in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and India. We think their model of employing local activists to lead offices while coordinating actions internationally amplifies their effectiveness both by allowing them to present materials to more people and by directing resources to locations where they can be particularly effective."

The Humane League

"The Humane League (THL) works to reduce suffering of farm animals through conducting online advertising, organizing grassroots outreach, instigating cage-free and Meatless Monday campaigns, giving presentations, and engaging in corporate outreach. THL shows exceptional strength in their desire to test for effectiveness, as evidenced by their efforts with Humane League Labs, a program designed to evaluate advocacy presentation and methods. They also use the evidence they find to guide their efforts.

"THL employs a local model. We find their approach of continually adding local offices an intriguing method to increase their presence and impact, as they claim their new offices are self-sustaining in fundraising within two years of opening."

Mercy For Animals

"Mercy for Animals (MFA) advocates for farm animals by conducting undercover investigations, engaging in corporate and legal outreach, running online vegetarian ads, and organizing grassroots outreach events. In particular, their undercover investigations show promise through the multi-faceted positive benefits stemming from their publication and sharing. MFA’s professional presentation increases the likelihood of their success in all areas, and they test different arrangements of their materials to maximize impact. They show a willingness to change based on new evidence, and are continually refining their strategic approach in accordance with what seems most successful and cost-effective. We are proud to recognize MFA as one of our top charities.

"MFA is working to centralize their efforts, reducing the number of offices they have around the country and instead focusing more on investigations and online advocacy. Given their success and increased presence in advocacy, this move makes sense to us as a way to minimize costs and maximize impact."

How to donate

The Humane League and Mercy For Animals are tax-deductible in the US, and you can claim GiftAid when giving to Animal Equality in the UK. ACE recommends that people donating to effective animal charities register their donations on the EA Donation Registry, which also lets you report the influence of their research.


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6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:54 PM

I'm a total noob when it comes to animal charity. I feel like ACE and its charity picks probably don't get the attention they deserve, but I don't have any kind of a feel as to how ACE goes about its research, what's especially good or bad about each of AE/THL/MFA, and how they compare in units of goodness to human-focussed charities. Any pointers?

Thanks for asking those important questions, and for following our work. We have some pages on our site explaining our process; I'll list them below. I should note that, as with the first blog page below, we have begun periodically writing "Our Thinking" posts which we intend to compile in a page on our site in the near future. We have a good amount of additional information about our process that we will be detailing in the coming months; our transparency on the subject is mostly limited by resources and time.

As for what is especially good or bad about each of our top charities, we have a series of template questions at the beginning of each full review that discuss our brief thoughts on that. See the links to their full reviews below, and check out the "What are their strengths/What are their weaknesses" sections near the top of each respective review for more information.

I should note that the more in-depth reviews for both last May and this December's recommendations are deemed "medium-depth reviews." Again due to time and resources limitations, coupled with the need for us to update our recommendations twice this year instead of just once, we were not able to do a deeper level of analysis (or "deep review"). We hope to be even more thorough in subsequent years.

Finally, with regard to the units of goodness question, I think that animal advocacy is often a particularly low-hanging fruit. That means that even if you value helping an individual human much more than helping an animal, it still doesn’t mean that you should necessarily donate to human charities. You can save a significantly higher number of animals (see our leafleting calculator link below for an upper/lower bound) by donating to one of our top charities than the number of humans you could save by donating to the best human charities. –Jon Bockman, Executive Director of ACE

Our thinking blog on our process

Summary of criteria and process

Full charity evaluation template

Our thinking blog on expanding “standout” category

Explanation of categories

List of organizations

Leafleting calculator

That means that even if you value helping an individual human much more than helping an animal, it still doesn’t mean that you should necessarily donate to human charities. You can save a significantly higher number of animals (see our leafleting calculator link below for an upper/lower bound) by donating to one of our top charities than the number of humans you could save by donating to the best human charities.

How relevant do you think this is? I think there may be good reasons to promote animal welfare, but this probably isn't one of them. From the comments in response to my post I even had the impression that was a consensus around this.

Relying on hoped-for compounding long-term benefits to make donation decisions is at least not a complete consensus (I certainly don't).

My understanding of your position is:

  • Human welfare benefits compound, though we don't know how much or for how long (and I am dubious, along with one of the commenters, about a compounding model for this).

  • Animal welfare benefits might compound if they're caused by human value changes.

In the case of ACE's recommendations, we have three charities which aim to structurally change human society. So we have short-term benefits which appear much larger than those from human-targeted charities, with possibly compounding and poorly researched long-term benefits, as compared to possibly compounding and poorly researched long-term benefits from human-targeted charities.

I would describe the paragraph of JPB's that you quote as highly relevant; at the very least it's useful even if not sufficient information to make a donation decision based on expected impact.

(For the record, I've yet to donate to animal welfare charities because I am a horrible speciesist, but I think the animal welfare wing of EA deserves to be much more prominent than it currently is.)

Thanks for the detailed reply!

If you value animals according to their brain mass, the leafleting spreadsheet and this and this suggest:

  • 30 gram years per dollar for veg leafleting, with wide error bars
  • 20 gram years per dollar for AMF

So it sounds competitive, and that's using a pretty human-biased utility function.

If you value humans according to their brain mass and donate to human-focused charities, you should only donate to charities that benefit adult males since they have more brain mass than adult females and certainly than children.