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This report was conducted within the pilot for Charity Entrepreneurship’s Research Training Program in the fall of 2023 and took around eighty hours to complete (roughly translating into two weeks of work). Please interpret the confidence of the conclusions of this report with those points in mind. 

For questions about the structure of the report, please reach out to leonie@charityentrepreneurship.com. For questions about the content of this research, please contact aashishkhimasia@gmail.com.

The report can also be accessed as a PDF here

Thanks to Karolina Sarek and Vicky Cox for their review and feedback. I am also grateful to the experts who took the time to offer their thoughts on this research.  I welcome feedback and comments!

Executive summary

The United States (US) is the fifth largest producer of chickens in the world, and first in the Global North, by the number of chickens. When considering the quality of life of these chickens, an estimated 99% of chickens in the US are raised in factory farms. Broilers are chickens reared for meat.

The majority of broilers raised in the US are members of fast-growing breeds, which grow at rates up to 400% faster than their natural rates. This leads to a myriad of serious welfare concerns. These animals become too heavy for their skeletons, leading to lameness, as their musculoskeletal systems cannot keep up with their rapid rates of growth. Further, due to their excessive weight, members of the fast-growing breeds spend more time sedentary, leading them to develop painful lesions which can become infected as a result of the unhygienic environments on these farms. These broilers also suffer from failures of the cardiovascular system, leading many to die prematurely from sudden death syndrome.

Although many animal advocacy organisations in the US, particularly within the Effective Animal Altruism movement, work on campaigns to improve broiler welfare by encouraging and pressuring corporations to commit to the Better Chicken Commitment, a set of welfare standards that reduce the suffering of broilers and mandate a transition to slower growing breeds, current progress on this has stagnated. 

Some US states have direct democracies, where citizens can propose initiatives that, if passed, become law in that state. In the past two decades, five farmed animal ballot initiatives have been passed in the US to improve animal welfare, namely through the banning of caged systems, setting higher welfare standards for both domestic production and imports. Two of these initiatives were in California. In this way, ballot initiatives provide an alternative mechanism to achieve policy change on broiler welfare, and set standards that can impact standards not only in internal but also external meat production, significantly reducing broiler suffering. 

California appears to be the most promising state to run this in, given the recent successes in animal welfare ballot initiatives, the large scale of domestic production, status as a net importer of food and a liberal-voting populus. Our cost effectiveness analysis has shown that running this intervention in California could yield an improvement of ~31 welfare points per dollar spent, which places it as a moderately cost effective intervention. This is likely an underestimate of its true cost effectiveness, as passing this initiative could have wide-reaching secondary effects beyond the state of California, leading to a greater reduction of suffering. This may arise through initiating legislative change in states that export to California as was seen with the cage free ballot initiatives in the US, and increasing public awareness of animal welfare harms in meat production.  

The largest concerns about this intervention regard the ability to raise sufficient funds to run this intervention. Our cost effectiveness analysis has estimated costs to range from  $4.5 million to $15.5 million. Although funding organisations who may take an interest in providing grants for this exist, they may not be ready to fund a new organisation working on this. Therefore, should this intervention be implemented by a CE-incubated charity, the ideal co-founders would have experience running public-facing campaigns and a strong track record of success. However, this concern is reduced were this intervention executed by an existing organisation with a track record, funding and the appropriate resources and infrastructure, such as The Humane Society of the United States. 

Overall, my view is that running ballot initiatives to improve broiler welfare is an idea worth recommending to future charity founders or to an existing organisation. This work is moderately strong in terms of cost effectiveness and seems tractable. I am also very excited and quite optimistic about the impact that domestic actions in California could have on the progress for broiler welfare across other US states.

1     Background

1.1 Broiler Welfare 

Broilers are chickens reared for meat. The majority of broilers are members of fast-growing breeds, which emerged from breeding programmes post the intensification of chicken farming in the late 1940s. These chickens grow up to 400% faster than their natural growth rates, reaching three times their pre-intensification rates in just over half the time (Whitnall, 2023). Typically, broilers are slaughtered at 5-6 weeks old, despite the lifespan of a backyard chicken falling between 5 and 12 years (Bridgeman, 2021). They are also subject to painful practices such as beak trimming and comb dubbing, and kept in overcrowded conditions. 

However, beyond the welfare concerns that accompany intensive animal farming practices and conditions across species, the abnormally fast growth rates of these broiler breeds lead to a wide range of health issues, causing incredibly poor welfare in these chickens. These animals become too heavy for their skeletons, leading to lameness, as their musculoskeletal systems cannot keep up with their rapid rates of growth. Further, due to their excessive weight, members of the fast-growing breeds spend more time sedentary, leading them to develop painful lesions which can become infected as a result of the unhygienic environments on these farms. These broilers also suffer from failures of the cardiovascular system, leading many to die prematurely from sudden death syndrome (Eurogroup for Animals, 2023). 

1.2 Better Chicken Commitment and Corporate Campaigns

Considerable work across Europe, North America, Oceania and South America has sought to address the main causes of broiler suffering, through the use of corporate campaigns. This involves outreach and pressure campaigns targeting major retailers that sell meat from chickens belonging to these fast-growing breeds, urging and inducing them to adopt a set of higher welfare standards for their products, formalised in the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) outlined below (Better Chicken Commitment, 2023). 

  1. By [deadline], maintain a maximum stocking density of 6.0 lbs./sq. foot and prohibit all forms of broiler cages.
  2. By [deadline], provide all birds with an improved baseline environment[1], including:
    1. At least 3 inches of friable litter covering the whole floor of the house, managed to maintain dry, friable condition and prevent caked or wet areas.
    2. At minimum 8 hours of continuous light (≥50 lux) and 6 hours of continuous darkness daily (<1 lux).
    3. One or more types of functional enrichment (such as perches, platforms, or straw bales) that multiple birds can use at any time. The enrichments must be available by 10 days old and maintained thereafter, dispersed throughout the house and available to the entire flock with 1 enrichment for every 1,000 sq. ft or 1 enrichment per 1000 birds, at a minimum.
  3. By [deadline], process chickens in a manner that avoids pre-stun handling and instead utilizes a multi-step controlled-atmosphere processing system that induces an irreversible stun.
  4. By [deadline], demonstrate compliance with all standards via third-party auditing and annual public reporting on progress toward this commitment.
  5. By [deadline], use only BCC-approved breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes.*
    1. Breeds that have been approved for use to meet the BCC: JA757, JACY57, JA787, JA957, JA987, JACY87, or Norfolk Black; Rowan Ranger, Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic, Ranger Premium, or Ranger Gold; REDBRO, RedbroM; Cobb-Sasso 200 (CS200), Cooks Venture Pioneer, or others that pass the breed welfare outcome assessments by either the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) or Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.).

The Better Chicken Commitment demands improvements to broiler welfare that most significantly improve their welfare. In particular, the Welfare Footprint Project identifies abnormally fast growth rates as the primary cause of pain in broilers, and concludes that switching from these breeds to slower growing breeds significantly reduces the suffering of these birds (Schuck-Paim and Alonso, 2022). Therefore, the adoption of the BCC is at lowest estimated to prevent “33 [13 to 53] hours of Disabling pain, 79 [-99 to 260] hours of Hurtful and 25 [5 to 45] seconds of Excruciating pain for every bird affected by this intervention”, considering only the hours the birds spend awake (Schuck-Paim and Alonso, 2022). This corresponds to a 66%, 24% and 78% reduction in the time experienced in Disabling, Hurtful and Excruciating pain respectively, relative to a conventional scenario due to issues such as lameness, cardiopulmonary disorders, behavioural deprivation and thermal stress experienced by these birds. Therefore, the BCC provides a standard for significantly improving the welfare of broilers through meaningful reductions in the worst forms of suffering they endure, driven by the adoption of slower growing breeds.

Across the world as of October 2023, 611 commitments have been secured by corporations to commit to these standards. However, of these, merely 11 have been reported as fulfilled and just 114 have been reported on by the corporations at all. (Chickenwatch, 2023). In the US, the deadline of the commitment is 3-7 years (Better Chicken Commitment, 2023). By 2022, 18% and 42% of companies who had made commitments had reported their progress in the US and EU respectively (CIWF, 2022). Although corporate outreach has resulted in some great progress and tangible improvements in the welfare of broilers, the rate of progress has significantly slowed and there is doubt that corporations who have made commitments will follow through with the standards agreed upon. This suggests that another intervention strategy may be needed to effect these changes for broilers.

1.3  Ballot Initiatives

Ballot initiatives in the United States are a form of direct democracy that allows citizens to propose and vote on laws or constitutional amendments at the state or local level. Unlike the traditional legislative process where laws are proposed and passed by elected officials, ballot initiatives allow citizens to directly participate in shaping public policy. Typically, once a ballot has been passed, it is legislatively binding (Schukraft, 2020). The typical procedure is as follows:

  1. Proposal:
    1. Citizens or advocacy groups draft a proposed law or constitutional amendment. This is often done in response to a perceived need or issue that has not been addressed by the legislature.
  2. Signature Gathering:
    1. In order to get the proposed initiative on the ballot, supporters must collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters. The number of required signatures varies by state and is usually a percentage of the total votes cast in the last election.
  3. Review and Certification:
    1. Election officials review the collected signatures to ensure they meet the requirements, including verifying that signatories are registered voters in the jurisdiction where the initiative is being proposed.
  4. Ballot Placement:
    1. If enough valid signatures are collected, the initiative is placed on the ballot for the next election. The ballot will include the full text of the proposed law or amendment, as well as an explanation for voters.
  5. Voting:
    1. On election day, voters decide whether to approve or reject the proposed initiative. If the initiative receives a majority of votes, it becomes law.
  6. Implementation:
    1. If the initiative passes, it is implemented as law. The government is then responsible for carrying out and enforcing the new measure.

In the US, several recent ballot initiatives have been run to improve animal welfare, particularly in establishing cage free laws in multiple states. Table 1 (below) provides an overview of farmed animal ballots in the US. For further analysis of previous farmed animal ballot initiatives see 3.1.33.1.4.

Table 1: Summary of Historical Farmed Animal Ballot Initiatives in the US

State and Year 

Initiative (general)

Outcome

Percentage of vote in support (%)

Florida (2002)

Cage free

W

55%

Arizona (2006)

Cage free

W

62%

California (2008)

Cage free

W

63%

Massachusetts (2016)

Cage free

W

78%

California (2018)

Cage free

W

63%

Massachusetts (1988)

Cage free

L

29%







 

 

 

 

 

2     Theories of change

2.1   Scope of the intervention

This intervention is focused upon the use of ballot initiatives to trigger legislative change that mandates the adoption of welfare standards for broilers that meet the BCC standards. This is limited to countries or states with direct democracies that are binding (Kaufmann, 2023). This is possible in a set of US states, Switzerland, Taiwan and Uruguay. Due to time constraints, this intervention focuses upon US states as in the US the most progress on broiler welfare has been made and this has the largest scale of chicken farming of these candidates (Chickentrack, 2022), though implementation in Switzerland, Taiwan and Uruguay may be considered.  

2.2   Causal chain

The full Theory of Change (ToC) for ballot initiative to improve broiler welfare in the US, specific to the state of California (see Geographic Assessment) can be found here. Figure 1 (below) is a simplified version of the full ToC, with major steps and uncertainties presented. Each box represents a step in the theory of change and the circles represent assumptions about that step that are taken. The most important assumptions are included in this figure. For all assumptions placed on the ToC, see the full version linked above. The colour in each circle represents the uncertainty about each assumption.  

Figure 1: Causal Chain 

 

2.3   Outlining assumptions and levels of uncertainty 

In this subsection, I will outline the assumptions identified in the ToC, and explain the level of uncertainty I have for them, based on my initial research and reasoning. The aim of this subsection is to help prioritise which assumptions are the most significant for this ToC to hold, and to identify the degree of uncertainty I have about them. In this way, one shouldn’t take them as a final view. In section 3, I will research the most significant uncertainties in more depth, to come to a final judgement about the robustness of the ToC. 

Assumptions

  1. There are states/countries where ballot initiatives are possible
    1. 24 US states, Switzerland, Taiwan and several other countries have such mechanisms (Schukraft, 2020)
  2. There are state/countries where a ballot initiative would be a suitable and promising intervention
    1. We will conduct a geographical assessment to determine this. 
    2. There have been successful cage-free ballot initiatives in some US states (California, Massachusetts, Arizona), providing promising candidates for further ballot initiatives for improving animal welfare (Duffy, 2023)
      1. We must also identify how previous farmed animal welfare ballot initiatives have affected the sentiment of the populus towards farmed animals, and whether this is likely to manifest in a win
        1. In Switzerland, a post-vote study found an increased concern for farmed animal welfare than pre-vote (see 4.1)
      2. We must identify whether the animal agriculture industry will be better prepared to launch counter-campaigns in states where they have previously lost
  3. Information about the likely opponents to a ballot initiative within a region can be identified and accessed
    1. This seems possible, through assistance from local animal welfare organisations and industry experts
    2. If this were not possible, it would make it harder to select an appropriate region and plan a campaign, however there would be many alternative paths to identify this, through the use of historical examples, publicly available data on industry and networking
  4. An initial, informative cost effectiveness analysis (CEA) can be made
    1. Data on previous instances of this intervention strategy can be accessed to determine likely costs (Ballotpedia, 2018Duffy, 2023).
    2. Brief research to determine the number of animals that would be affected (USDA, n.d.) and the change in wellbeing from the proposed standards (Schuck-Paim and Alonso, 2022) yielded results 
    3. If this could not be determined, this would make it a lot more difficult to assess the best region to carry out this intervention, however that seems unlikely to be a problem
  5. Ballot initiatives would be more cost effective and a more appropriate intervention to carry out in the most promising region(s) than traditional policy advocacy
    1. Previous ballot initiatives on animal welfare issues in the US were less cost-effective than corporate campaigns, although they were competitive (Duffy, 2023). This suggests that ballot initiatives are by no means guaranteed to be more cost effective than traditional advocacy, however determining this would require CEAs of both approaches within a region. 
    2. If ballot initiatives are less cost effective within a region than traditional policy advocacy, implementers can consult the ToC for this strategy, to continue the path to impact.
  6. Suitable collaborators exist
    1. This seems very likely, particularly given that the region of focus would be selected considering the existence of support within the region 
  7. There are existing groups who have run ballot initiatives in the region or on similar topics
    1. There have been ballot initiatives on animal welfare issues in the US (Duffy, 2023).
    2. The Humane Society of the US were proponents of previous campaigns (Prop 12), and seem likely to be willing to cooperate
    3. Although this would be helpful, groups not willing to speak about this issue would not break this ToC, as histories (and analyses) of previous campaigns can be accessed and lessons can be taken from them.
  8. Other individuals/groups want to collaborate
    1. Previous ballot initiatives such as Prop 12 have seen collaborative efforts amongst groups from various backgrounds
    2. This also seems possible through the forging of new relationships
  9. Meaningful and tractable proposal specifications can be determined
    1. The Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) provides a baseline for the improvement of broiler welfare, ensuring that there exists a set of standards which some parts of industry have already begun adopting.
    2. Notably, some members of industry have found these standards infeasible to adopt, however with an understanding that the main driver of improved welfare is the switching of fast to slower growing breeds, such standards can be adapted to make them more agreeable to industry whilst significantly improving animal welfare
      1. The specific ask should be determined in concert with organisations leading corporate campaigns for broiler welfare
      2. Make sure new standards are coordinated with the asks of existing animal organisations
    3. This is important, as a proposal which does not legislate meaningful improvement to animal welfare is redundant, and which is too difficult for industry to adopt may lead to lowered support from the electorate and stronger industry opposition through legal challenges and counter campaigning
  10. Experts will assist
    1. There are legal groups and animal advocacy groups who are well acquainted with industry or ballot initiatives who would likely be willing to assist with this, such as Legal Impact for Chickens, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Welfare Footprint Project, The Humane League, Pax Fauna and The Humane Society of the US. 
  11. It is appropriate to launch this campaign in the near future
    1. Assumption that this has been considered in the selection of this region as the focus
    2. If it is not appropriate to launch this campaign in the near future, select another region of focus and repeat steps
    3. Perform a historical analysis of when cage-free initiatives and legislation started to be passed/implemented and how this relates to the number of eg. cage-free commitments that had been won (see section 3.1)
  12. We can complete the necessary steps outlined below to execute the campaign from inception to ballot approval by the state
  13. These steps appear to be largely administrative, and should be feasible
  14. We can win a legal challenge to adopt our optimal (or a more favourable) ballot title and summary
    1. This is uncertain, as this process will vary across regions
    2. If it does not succeed, it does not break the ToC, though it would reduce the probability of success, increases costs and may damage public perception of the issue
    3. From expert opinions (see 4.1), by working in as broad a coalition as possible from as early as possible, including members of the animal agriculture industry, this can reduce the nature and scale of opposing campaigns
  15. We can run surveys to determine optimal public media messaging strategies
    1. This should be be feasible, however may require consultation with experts or commissioning research from a polling agency
  16. We can recruit a large and reliable team of volunteers to help carry out our campaign
    1. This is uncertain, as it is unclear what the appetite for animal welfare/rights volunteering is in each state, how easy it would be to reach people, how reliable volunteers are
    2. If it does not succeed, petition drive agencies could be used to collect signatures, though this will incur a cost
    3. If a coalition is formed, the volunteer and supporter network of existing organisations could be accessed
  17. We can carry out appropriate campaigns to collect the required signatures from the appropriate proportions of the electorate
    1. We need the appropriate skills, expertise and people power in order to do this
      1. We may need to build a base of volunteers and collaborators
    2. We can take lessons from previous campaigns (US, Switzerland)
      1. See expert views (4.1) for more details on strategies pertaining to this
    3. This requires further research, as this step is absolutely critical to the success of this charity
  18. Win the challenges (or defences against challenges)
    1. I am uncertain about what this requires, how much this will cost, how much of a challenge this would be
    2. To research this, investigate past ballot initiative successes and failures, for example with Ballotpedia
  19. Running the campaign increases public support for the initiative
  20. I am fairly certain that using a combination of the methods for increasing public support listed in the full ToC would increase public support, particularly with the recent case studies of farmed animal welfare ballots.
  21. However, I am uncertain how particular methods compare against each other, and whether they can be deployed appropriately by a new charity with the resources they have at hand to have the theorised effect
  22. To investigate this further will likely require desk-based research on the efficacy of different outreach methods (Faunalytics) as well as contextual knowledge of the region of interest
  23. We get enough votes to pass the ballot
    1. I am very uncertain about what it would take to achieve this
    2. To research this, investigate past successes and failures
    3. This is extremely important as this determines whether the proposal will become legislation or not and as such whether there will be any impact
  24. Win a campaign against amendments/repeals to water down/remove the legislation
    1. I am uncertain about what this requires, how much this will cost, how much of a challenge this would be
    2. To research this, investigate past ballot initiative successes and failures, for example with Ballotpedia
    3. Look at challenges to Prop 12 which lead to a challenge to the Supreme Court (Ballotpedia, 2018). Look at the EATS Act in Prop 12 (Williams, 2023), which may threaten the impact of Prop 12 on production standards in other states. 
  25. Government does not find ways to stall this process 
    1. It seems that this is harder to do with ballot initiatives, however further legal challenges or administrative hurdles may pose a challenge
    2. To research this, investigate past ballot initiative successes and failures, for example with Ballotpedia
    3. This would not break the ToC, but slow down the path to impact
  26. Win a campaign against industry regarding implementation issues
    1. I am uncertain about what this requires, how much this will cost, how much of a challenge this would be
    2. To research this, investigate past ballot initiative successes and failures, for example with Ballotpedia
    3. Ideally, the proposal adopted will be feasible to be implemented, such that a challenge like this would have little weight
    4. Case study farm and corporations which have successfully and comprehensively implemented the required changes could be highlighted, both in legal implementation battles to demonstrate its feasibility but also through public facing media campaigns, to put pressure on competitors who are resisting implementation
  27. The government enforces the new legislation appropriately
    1. To research this, investigate the enforcement of existing ballots (cage-free)
    2. To prevent this from being an issue, include enforcement measures in the proposal
    3. If this broke, this would be a problem as there would be no impact. However, it could be surpassed through further campaigning to ensure enforcement
  28. Enforcement activities of the charity are needed and effective
    1. If the government enforces the new legislation appropriately, this will not be needed so much. However, the charity may need to be active to help ensure that all farms transition appropriately, that laws are not being circumvented and incentivise farmers to speed up/report their transitions through positive and negative public media campaigns
  29. Industry complies and does not find a way to circumvent this proposal
    1. To research this, investigate the adoption of existing ballots by producers (cage-free)
      1. California Prop 2 was intended to phase out cages, however industry adopted enriched cages instead (Ballotpedia, 2008). 
    2. To prevent this from being an issue, work with lawyers and industry experts in drafting the proposal
    3. This would also be a big problem were it to break, as if producers can legally circumvent the changes, no impact on animals would be had
  30. The changes do not lead to increased suffering per individual animal nor a net increase in suffering
    1. According to the Welfare Footprint Project, moving from faster to slower growing breeds both reduces the amount of suffering for an individual broiler, as well as the total suffering, despite increases in the number of chickens that would be farmed


Conclusion 

It is clear that the greatest uncertainties are whether enough signatures can be collected to hold an election (#16), whether enough votes to be won such that the ballot is passed (#19) and whether the industry will comply with the mandated changes (#25). Although this will always remain speculative for a new campaign, this can be investigated using case studies of previous campaigns in the region of choice (California) and other US states. I will aim to investigate those and other factors in the next section. 

3    Quality of evidence

This section will evaluate the evidence that informs on the major uncertainties about this intervention. 

3.1   Evidence that a charity can make change in this space

Evidence about whether a charity can make a change in this space is dependent upon assumptions 1-25. Although the most significant assumptions are 16, 19 and 25, the success of this intervention depends upon previous assumptions also holding. Therefore, I have selected the most important uncertainties to the success of this part of the ToC to investigate further through this evidence review. Further, these have been categorised to produce higher-level questions that highlight the overarching uncertainty relating to those assumptions.

Table 2 (below) states my initial certainty about each major question as well as my update to this certainty after having conducted my research into it. To increase my reasoning transparency, I have quantified my certainty as a percentage, and presented my updated in percentage points, to show how the evidence I encountered changed my mind overall. To avoid false precision in interpretation, I want to stress these values provide an indication of the magnitude and direction of my updates. 

Table 2: Summary of major uncertainties about 4.1 and updates from evidence review

High-level question

Baseline Certainty (%)

Updated Certainty (percentage points)

Assumption No.

Assumption

Can strong candidate regions be found for this intervention?

60%

+25

2

There are state/countries where a ballot initiative would be a suitable and promising intervention

5

Ballot initiatives would be more cost effective and a more appropriate intervention to carry out in the most promising region(s) than traditional policy advocacy

Can legal challenges from opposition be withstood?

50%

+ 5

13

We can win a legal challenge to adopt our optimal (or a more favourable) ballot title and summary

17

Win the challenges (or defences against challenges)

Can enough signatures be collected to make it to election

47%

+33

15

We can recruit a large and reliable team of volunteers to help carry out our campaign


 

16

We can carry out appropriate campaigns to collect the required signatures from the appropriate proportions of the electorate


 

Can enough votes be won to win the election?

51%

+15

18

Running the campaign increases public support for the initiative

19

We get enough votes to pass the ballot

Will the proposed changes be appropriately implemented?

50%

+ 5

23

The government enforces the new legislation appropriately


 

27

Industry complies and does not find a way to circumvent this proposal


 


 

Below you will find my research on each of these questions, with a conclusion and explanation of the impact of this evidence upon my certainty at the bottom (bolded). 

3.1.1 Can strong candidate regions be found for this intervention?

The first uncertainty here is whether there are regions where a ballot initiative could be held. In the US, 26 states allow direct democracy in the form of ballot initiatives, with 18 of these allowing constitutional ballots and 21 allowing statutory ballots (Ballotpedia, n.d), validating the existence of a set of states to investigate as candidates, nullifying this uncertainty. 

Then, it is important to identify whether these states would be promising to hold a ballot initiative. The geographical assessment evaluates these states through a geographical weighted factor model (see section 5). From this analysis, multiple high priority states are identified, driven by a range of important factors. This demonstrates that there are a number of states which are promising candidates, which would all be the region of implementation following further analysis. 

Conclusion

Evidence of multiple states with recent wins for farmed animal welfare through cage free campaigns reduces uncertainty here. Together, these increase my certainty in this assumption from 60% to 85%, as there are a set of candidate states with the appropriate political mechanisms and strong track records, such that they are worthwhile regions to investigate for this intervention. This can be further explored through conducting cost effectiveness analysis of each of the top candidates (see section 6) from the geographical weighted factor model (see section 7).
 

Table 3: Summary of the previous legal challenges to farmed animal welfare ballots in the US, based on Ballotpedia

CampaignChallengeDescriptionOutcomeLessonsUpdate

California Proposition 2, Farm Animal Confinement Initiative (2008)


 

(Ballotpedia, 2008)

Missouri et al. v California

Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, and Iowa filed a complaint against Assembly Bill 1437 (AB 1437) in the U.S. District Court for Eastern California on February 3, 2014. AB 1437 applied to standards of Proposition 2 to shelled eggs sold in California. 


 

The six states said the bill violated Clause 3, Section 8, Article I, also known as the Commerce Clause, of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs stated that farmers located in their states needed to either increase production costs to meet the proposition’s requirements or forgo selling eggs on the market in California. AB 1437, according to plaintiffs, had a substantial burden on interstate commerce.



 

The District Court for Eastern California dismissed the case on October 2, 2014. Judge Kimberly Mueller concluded that the states did not have standing to challenge the law. She said the states failed to make the case that the measure impacted a "substantial segment of their populations" and affected more than a subset of egg producers (Ballotpedia).Ensure that the effects of the initiative do not violate aspects of the US constitute, for example by creating a substantial burden on interstate commerce through a substantial segment of producers not just a subset - perhaps this means to wait until this has standard has been adopted a bit wider (if imposing a sales ban as well as production ban)Moderate negative - although this legal challenge was unsuccessful in this cage free instance, I expect the burden of compliance for broiler producers is higher and may give valid cause for the decision to be overturned
Missouri et al. v. California was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. On November 17, 2016, the court issued a ruling. The three judges agreed with the district court, saying that the states do not have legal standing to file a complaint against AB 1437. (Ballotpedia) According to the court, the states failed to demonstrate that the law impacted them as states and their residents, rather than just individual egg producers.(Ballotpedia)  
On February 15, 2017, Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) of Missouri said he was appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme CourtOn January 8, 2019, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case

Tenacity of the animal agriculture industry. 


 

Seems like Supreme Court do not want to interfere with state level ballots without strong cause, although they did not explain why they made this decision

 
Massachusetts Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment, Question 3 (2016)Indiana et al. v. MassachusettsIn December 2017, 13 states filed a lawsuit in the United States Supreme Court against the state of Massachusetts, alleging that Question 3 was unlawful because the initiative attempted to "dictate how other states choose to regulate business operations and manufacturing processes within their own borders" in violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.(BallotpediaBallotpedia)On January 8, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the states permission to file a complaint against Massachusett Light positive - Supreme Court does not seem to want to interfere 
(Ballotpedia, 2016)Massachusetts Restaurant Association v. Healer (2022)On August 3, 2022, Massachusetts Restaurant Association sued Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, and John Lebeaux, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The lawsuit argued that the law and implementing regulations violated the Commerce Clause because they impose a burden on interstate commerce. 

On August 11, 2022, the court granted a stay until 30 days following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Proposition 12 case, National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and dismissed the challenge against California’s Proposition 12. On July 11, 2023, District Judge Margaret R. Guzman extended a stay on enforcing the law, which was set to expire on July 12. The stay has been extended until August 23 to allow the petitioners to comply with the law.(Ballotpedia)



 

Legal challenges can come long after the original decision. Light negative - initiatives and rulings in different states can affect each other, and had Prop 12 been overturned by the SC, Question 3 in MA may have been under threat

California Proposition 12, Farm Animal Confinement Initiative (2018)


 

(Ballotpedia, 2018)

North American Meat Institute v. Becerra (Attorney General)On October 4, 2019, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) filed a legal complaint requesting the U.S. District Court for Central California to invalidate Proposition 12 on the grounds that the citizen-initiated measure violated the Interstate Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8) of the U.S. Constitution. According to NAMI, "Proposition 12’s sales ban violates the Commerce Clause by erecting a protectionist trade barrier whose purpose and effect are to shield California producers from out-of-state competition." (Ballotpedia)NAMI's request for a preliminary injunction was denied by the U.S. District Court for Central California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On October 15, 2020, the Ninth Circuit issued its order, stating, "NAMI acknowledges that Proposition 12 is not facially discriminatory. The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Proposition 12 does not have a discriminatory purpose given the lack of evidence that the state had a protectionist intent."(Ballotpedia)Valid compliance with interstate commerce law is important 
On February 26, 2021, NAMI appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. In its brief, NAMI wrote, "[The] Ninth Circuit’s decision conflicts with the decisions of other federal courts of appeals on the question whether the Constitution limits a State’s ability to extend its police power beyond its territorial borders through a trade barrier dictating production standards in other States and countries."[25] On March 29, 2021, 20 states filed an amici curiae brief supporting NAMI's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court (Ballotpedia).The U.S. Supreme Court denied NAMI's petition on June 28, 2021.(Ballotpedia)  
National Pork Producers Council v. Ross

On December 5, 2019, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) filed a legal complaint requesting the U.S. District Court for Southern California to invalidate Proposition 12 on the grounds that the citizen-initiated measure violated the Interstate Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8) of the U.S. Constitution.[15]


 

Appealed to U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; appealed to United States Supreme Court

Proposition 12 did not violate the Interstate Commerce Clause because Proposition 12 was not directed at interstate commerce and did not call for uniform practices throughout the U.S.; appealed to U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and United States Supreme Court; U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold Proposition 12  




 

It is clear that legal changes are likely to be made against future animal-related ballot initiatives, particularly by other states or national councils when the initiatives demand higher standards for imports, which impacts inter-state commerce. Notably, the proponents of the initiative themselves cannot defend against these challenges, making it important that the initiatives are designed alongside lawyers and policy experts to ensure that they are compliant with the US constitution and other relevant laws, such that they can withstand the legal challenges posed, as the cage free ballots have done (see Table 3 above). 

Although no legal challenges against cage free initiatives were meaningfully successful, there is weaker progress of corporate broiler welfare campaigns compared to cage free campaigns meaning a much smaller proportion (0.1% by my estimate - see Cost Effectiveness Analysis model) of US chickens are currently compliant with the desired standards compared to when major recent cage free ballots were passed. Therefore, it is likely that the legal challenges posed against the cage free campaigns are more likely to be successful, given that there may be valid implementational concerns which affect a significant proportion of producers across states, not just a subset. However, well crafted initiatives may account for realistic implementation timelines and expectations to mitigate this. Further, leveraging the successes and experience of any producers and retailers which have already adopted higher welfare standards for broilers is critical. Finally, shaping the ask to be more realistic, such as focusing only on changing from faster to slower growing breeds as in Denmark, may increase implementational ability, reduce the extent of backlash and increase the chances of successfully defending such legal claims. 

Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act

The EATS (Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression) Act is a proposed federal legislation that seeks to limit the power of individual states to set their own standards for agricultural products, a legal challenge to Prop 12 which has not yet seen its resolution. The EATS Act is designed to prevent states and local jurisdictions from regulating the production and distribution of agricultural products within their borders that are subject to interstate commerce (Williams, 2023). The primary goal of the Republican-led EATS Act is to end the authority of states and localities to set animal welfare and food safety standards​​. Some lawmakers are pushing for this to be included in the next Farm Bill, which was scheduled to be set by September 2023, although has not yet and is likely to be set in 2024. 

The introduction of the EATS Act is a direct response to the success of various state-level animal welfare bills, notably California's Proposition 12. The EATS Act, if passed, would effectively invalidate laws like Proposition 12, undermining these state-level protections.

Historical precedents of EATS 

The King amendment was an attempt by former Rep. Steve King to attach a provision to the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. This provision, officially known as the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” (H.R. 4879), sought to block states from passing laws related to the sale of agricultural products within their own borders. It aimed to nullify hundreds of state and local laws pertaining to agricultural products, including laws to restrict farm animal confinement, ban the slaughter of horses, and crack down on puppy mills. The amendment was characterised as a radical federal overreach and an attack on states' rights and local decision-making authority​​​​.

The King amendment generated overwhelming bipartisan opposition. It was ultimately defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives. This opposition included more than 200 organisations from across the political spectrum, as well as a bipartisan set of 119 Representatives led by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The wide-ranging impact of the amendment on various domains, including food safety, environmental protection, promotion of local agriculture, and labour standards, contributed to its unpopularity and eventual defeat​​.

There is significant public demand for animal welfare, food safety, and public health standards. Recent polling found that 80% of U.S. voters favour laws within their state similar to California's Proposition 12, which includes roughly equal percentages of Republicans and Democrats. This indicates a strong, humane-minded American public that supports state-level standards for the treatment of animals, particularly in farming. States with laws prohibiting extreme confinement of animals span the political spectrum, including red, blue, and purple states​​.

The failure of the King amendment, due to recent bipartisan opposition and public sentiment favouring state-level animal welfare standards, suggests a challenging path for the EATS Act. The act's similarity to the King amendment and its potential to undermine popular state laws could lead to similar opposition. However, it's important to consider the changing political landscape and the specific context in which the EATS Act is being introduced, as these factors could influence its chances of passing. Given this, the likelihood of the EATS Act passing seems low-moderate, but this is still high enough to have some concern and pay attention to how this develops. However, since the EATS Act passing would significantly change the landscape with regards to political advocacy for animals in the US such that the majority of interventions would need to be reconsidered in some way, I have chosen not to evaluate this intervention with a future where EATS has passed in mind. 

Conclusion

I update slightly upwards, from 50% to 55%, about the likelihood of defending against legal challenges, as based on relevant case studies (Table 3)  it seems very possible that with appropriate prior legal consultation, the outcomes of ballot initiatives will not be overturned, even with strong opposition. However, this remains a significant uncertainty. 

Further, the yet unresolved EATS act which has been proposed in opposition to Prop 12 may significantly undermine the previously won ballot initiatives. The main historical precedents of the EATS act, namely the King amendment, was met with widespread, bipartisan opposition and considered to be a federal overreach. Although this sets a low expectation that EATS is approved at baseline, the more unpredictable and polarised contemporary political landscape causes an update towards a slightly higher likelihood of passing. This would undermine the welfare benefits of previous ballot initiatives and make new ones redundant, however would also completely change the landscape for political advocacy for animals in the US, and as such would impact the majority of policy-focused animal welfare interventions. Therefore, the progress of this proposed legislation should be monitored, and this intervention should be reconsidered should it pass.

3.1.3 Can enough signatures be collected to make it to the election?

This is a highly important uncertainty, as this is a breaking point in the causal chain. There have been 86 ballot initiatives proposed regarding the treatment of animals, with 49 making it to ballot, and 37 not. However, not all 37 did not make it to ballot due to not enough signatures, as some were removed due to other reasons such as sufficient counter-proposals from the government (Ballotpedia, 2023). This gives a baseline success rate of 57% for animal-related petitions to gain enough signatures to make it to election. However, 100% of farmed animal initiatives have gained enough signatures to make it to the election, including 2 measures in the last 8 years, causing me to update my certainty about this by 25% to 72%. 

Different states require a different number of signatures at this point in a statutory initiative, ranging from around 15,500 to 550,000 (Ballotpedia, 2023). Signatures can be collected through running a physical signature collection campaign, hiring petition drive agencies to help collect signatures, or some combination of the two. 

The Swiss anti-factory farming initiative built and deployed a network of volunteers to collect signatures across the country, resulting in very low cost per signature that came only from the staff costs associated with overseeing volunteers. However, this highlights the importance of building a strong  network of volunteers as a mechanism of collecting signatures. Although it may be challenging to build this from scratch, the ToC specifies creating a coalition of all interested groups, including pre-existing animal welfare organisations with strong volunteer bases such as the Humane Society of the US or The Humane League. Further, state-level organisations can be approached for collaboration, giving access to on the ground volunteers. This increases my confidence by 7.5%, as it demonstrates a viable low cost path for collecting the required signatures. Despite it entailing a sufficient volunteer network, the existence of organisations who have this who are likely to want to collaborate limits the extent that this challenge reduces the scale of the update. 

The following organisations endorsed Proposition 12:

Humane Society of the United StatesASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)Mercy for AnimalsThe Humane LeagueCompassion in World FarmingAnimal Legal Defense FundAnimal EqualityAnimal Protection and Rescue League (APRL)Compassion Over KillingIn Defense of Animals (IDA)San Francisco SPCASan Diego Humane SocietyMarin Humane SocietyCenter for Food SafetyOrganic Consumers AssociationCenter for Biological DiversitySierra Club CaliforniaUnited Farm WorkersFarm SanctuaryWorld Animal ProtectionAnimal Welfare InstituteCalifornia Animal Welfare Association.

This demonstrates the scale of the potential collaboration that could occur in this proposal to provide resources to reach the signature requirement. 

Ballotpedia reports that the cost-per-signature varies from $0.79 at lowest to $16.28 across the ballot initiatives held in 2023. This would lead to an estimated cost of $12,309.78 to $8,899,478.28 to achieve the required number of signatures. However, a factor to select states for intervention may be the required number of signatures, so the expected cost would be much closer to the lower bound, and as such be an affordable cost. Indeed, recent ballot initiatives for farmed animal welfare in Massachusetts (2016) and California (2018) cost $1.35 and $6.01 per required signature respectively, and each of the recent ballot initiatives for farmed animal welfare in the US collected a surplus of signatures. Furthermore, sponsors of the initiative in California hired petition drive companies (AAP Holding Company, Inc. and The Monaco Group) to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot (Ballotpedia, 2023). This demonstrates that collecting enough (and indeed surplus) signatures is a realistic expectation. Further, even at a large scale such as with California collecting 664,969 signatures despite needing 365,880 valid signatures, financial resources can be used to reach this number with ease. This increases my confidence by 15%, as it provides recent evidence of multiple initiatives successfully raising a surplus of signatures at both a low and high scale. 

There are administrative requirements that may make this more challenging. For example, in Massachusetts, signatures must be collected between the first Wednesday of September and 14 days before the first Wednesday in December, providing a short window to carry this out. Further, this forces collection to be over autumn/winter, where weather conditions may make it more difficult to reach the number. However, this is not taken as strong negative evidence, as Massachusetts has twice seen farmed animal welfare ballots meet the required number, including most recently in 2016. Therefore, this only reduces confidence by 5%.

Conclusion

Overall, this significantly reduces my uncertainty about whether sufficient signatures could be collected, with repeated evidence of its completion specifically in the context of farmed animal welfare, in a range of states of different sizes and geographics in the US (Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Florida). Further, tactics such as building a volunteer network, leveraging the volunteer network of other organisations and hiring petition drive agencies provide ways to increase the likelihood of this being a successful step in the intervention. This takes my confidence from 57% to 90%.

3.1.4 Can enough votes be won to win the election?

Since 2000, 813 ballot initiatives have been held, with a baseline success rate of 47% (Ballotpedia, 2023). In US history, 49 initiatives regarding animals have made it to ballot, and of these 25 have won. This presents a similar success rate of 51%. Since 2000, 22 initiatives regarding animals have made it to ballot, and of these 14 have won, giving a success rate of 64%. Further, of the 5 ballots which have been held for farmed animal welfare in the US since 2000, there has been a 100% success rate. This provides compelling evidence to update the likelihood of winning the election upwards. 

6 ballot initiatives for farmed animal welfare have been recorded in the US, and 5 of these have been successful. 1 ballot initiative to ban factory farming has been run in Switzerland, and this was unsuccessful, however was not run in the expectation of winning but to shift the Overton window and bring this position into the mainstream.

Table 4: Summary of Historical Farmed Animal Ballot Initiatives in the US and Switzerland

State and Year

Initiative (general)

Outcome

Percentage of vote in support 

Florida (2002)

Cage free

W

55%

Arizona (2006)

Cage free

W

62%

California (2008)

Cage free

W

63%

Massachusetts (2016)

Cage free

W

78%

California (2018)

Cage free

W

63%

Massachusetts (1988)

Cage free

L

29%

Switzerland (2022)

End Factory Farming

L

37%


 

The successful ballot initiatives in the US have secured high percentages of the vote, including 78% in Massachusetts and have also influenced the adoption of legislation to phase out cages for hens in other states (CageFreeLaws, 2023). This suggests there may be a ripe political environment to pursue improvements to animal welfare within these states. 

On the other hand, the failed ballot was held 35 years ago and a more recent ballot in the same state has since been passed. Further, Swiss Factory Farming Initiative failed (BK, 2022), however this was a much more ambitious proposal calling for the phasing out of industrial farming. Nevertheless, it received 37% of the vote, exceeding the initial expectation of 15% (see 4.1). Therefore, this does not provide strong evidence to suggest that a new initiative to improve broiler welfare would be infeasible. 

However, this does not remove all uncertainty, as one cannot assume this successes in cage free campaigns through ballots and political advocacy would generalise to broiler welfare campaigns, as corporate cage free campaigns for have had greater success than corporate broiler campaigns, and a reduced rate of adoption and fulfilment of broiler commitments may reflect a reduced appetite, tolerance and capacity for these changes. 

The following analyses were produced in this sheet, based on commitment information from Chickentrack and Chickenwatch.

Table 5: Historical Analysis of Cage Free Commitments in the US

Year

Cumulative Commitments

Cumulative Fulfilments

Fulfilment (%)

2002

1

1

100.00

2006

9

6

66.67

2008

15

13

86.67

2016

322

53

16.46

2018

423

71

16.78

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 6: Current State of Broiler Commitments in the US

Year

Cumulative Commitments

Cumulative Fulfillments

Fulfilment (%)

2023

218

4

1.83



 

 

The cage free movement was in its early days during the 2002, 2006 and 2008 cage free ballots in the US, with very few commitments, behind where the broiler movement is today. However, the rate of fulfilment was significantly higher at this stage of the cage free movement than current broiler commitments. Therefore, although this suggests that an extensive market coverage of corporate commitments is a necessary prerequisite for success in ballot initiatives, the lower rate of fulfilment of broiler commitments may pose an obstacle for ballot initiatives for broilers as it may be taken as evidence by voters that these welfare standards are unpopular and unrealistic. According to expert views, a significant reason for the low adoption rates of the full BCC welfare standards is that it is very expensive and challenging for producers to implement this. However, future trends may see producers partially meet the BCC requirements, with a focus upon transitioning the breeds from faster-growing to slower-growing breeds. Indeed, the Danish government has committed to phase out state procurement of fast-growing chickens (Eurogroup for Animals, 2023), demonstrating a new-found progress with improving broiler welfare through reconsidering the extent of the ask. 

It is also important to consider the novelty of the ask. Cage free campaigns have existed for much longer and are more comprehensible and morally intuitive to voters.  However, although cage free campaigns may be slightly more salient from the perspective of the voter, I believe that the approach of campaigning for the end of Frankenchickens can be framed to be made a sufficiently evocative ask. Nonetheless, some uncertainty remains about how this would be perceived. 

Conclusion

On the whole, I conclude that cage free ballots can provide a moderately strong example for broiler ballots. Additionally, the high success rates of general animal treatment ballots compared to baseline beyond just cage free campaigns provides robust evidence that the probability of success for a broiler initiative may be increased beyond baseline. 

Overall, I hold a high certainty that it is possible to win an election for a measure about animal welfare. However, this depends upon strategic campaigning, funding, the campaign of the opposition and other contextual factors that may be unforeseen and influence the outcome. 

The baseline certainty that an election could be won is 51%, as this is the success rate of all ballots since 2000 in the US. I updated +13pp as all animal-specific ballots since 2000 have a success rate of 64%. I further updated +25pp to 89% as all farmed animal-specific ballots since 2000 have won, including twice in California, one of the highest priority states for this intervention (see Geographical Assessment). Notably, I do not update all the way to 100% despite the 100% success rate in farmed animal ballots since 2000 in the US, as is it not completely certain that the next farmed animal welfare ballot would win despite a winning record in recent years. I update -15pp as it is generally hard to win a majority vote. I update a further -8pp due to the challenges being faced by current broiler campaigns and uncertainty around the success rate of a novel ask. Therefore, the total evidence causes me to update +15pp to 66% confidence. 

3.1.5 Will the proposed changes be appropriately implemented?

The biggest factor that seems to determine are the wording and enforcement measures included in the original initiative. Indeed, California Prop 2 was intended to phase out cages, however industry adopted enriched cages instead, finding a loophole that they would use to circumvent the intentions of the initiative. It seems critical therefore, that initiatives are designed with consultation from legal, policy and industry experts, to ensure that the requirements and enforcement mechanisms do not allow for this. Indeed, in the case of broilers, with the major welfare improvements coming from switching from faster to slower growing breeds, it seems important to specify the breeds which can and cannot be raised, as well as outlawing the generation of new breeds that grow beyond threshold speeds and beyond threshold weights. 

Further, remaining active during the implementation phase to ensure that rulings are followed and to put pressure on producers that are slow to adopt new standards. 

Dullaghan (2020) reports that compliance with animal welfare laws is not automatic and often requires enforcement actions, with non-compliance with broiler density standards in the EU at 21%-66%, giving a range of compliance from 34% to 79%. I expect compliance rates to be slightly lower in the US. However, in the initiative specifications, enforcement mechanisms and penalties can be clearly stated such that it increases the rates of enforcement. 

Conclusion

Overall, I update weakly upwards on this assumption, as although Prop 2 in California was circumvented, it seems clearer that in the case of broiler welfare, such efforts can be prevented through the initiative design. Further, groups like Legal Impact for Chickens may be able to aid in enforcement to ensure implementation, alongside the enforcement activities driven by the charity. My baseline certainty was 50%, and this is raised to 55%, given that the average enforcement of broiler density standards in the EU was 56.5% and well crafted legislation and targeted enforcement efforts would increase the probability of this. With further research into enforcement strategies, I estimate that this certainty would increase more. 

3.2  Evidence that the change has the expected effects

Research by Schuck-Paim and Alonso (2022) claims that adoption of BCC standards and slower-growing broiler strains have a net positive effect on the welfare of broiler chickens, with a reduction of 33 [13 to 53] hours of Disabling, (66% reduction), 79 [-99 to 260] hours of Hurtful (24% reduction) and 25 [5 to 45] seconds of Excruciating pain (78% reduction). With this, we are very confident that the changes to welfare as a result of adoption of the BCC significantly improve broiler welfare. 

In the UK, the BCC is expected to increase chicken costs by 15% (The Grocer, 2023) 30% (Guardian News and Media, 2022), however this is unlikely to have significant effects upon the consumption of chicken, as in the US chicken consumption is considered to be inelastic (Tonsor and Bina, 2023). However, even if mild increases in prices reduced consumption of chicken, this is likely to be replaced with pork or beef consumption, which are larger animals and as such does not increase suffering through the small animal replacement problem. 

On the other hand, fish is also a substitutable good for chicken, therefore were chicken demand to mildly decrease with respect to price, fish demand would be expected to increase. The average weight of a broiler at slaughter is about 1.8kg (Animal-Welfare, 2019). The mean live weight of a farmed shrimp in the US was 15.8g in 2018 (Waldhorn and Autric, 2023). The mean weight of a salmon at slaughter is 9.1kg (Pacific Salmon Industries Incorporated, 2023)

Based on this, the number of shrimp that would be needed to be consumed to replace 1 chicken would be ~113. However, the price of chicken is considered to be inelastic, and it is unlikely the entire substitution of chicken would be with shrimp, or indeed fish, with this likely distributed over many meat products. If chicken consumption fell by 30%, and 25% of this was replaced by fish consumption, and 80% of this was shrimp consumption, 1.8kg of chicken would be replaced by 108g of shrimp which is roughly equal to 7 farmed shrimp. The welfare range of shrimp is 0.031, whereas for chicken it is 0.332 (Fischer, 2023), suggesting that shrimp have 10% the capacity of pain of fish. 

Conclusion

Therefore, although this slightly increases my uncertainty in this assumption, I am overall highly certain that the change will have the expected effects of improving animal welfare significantly and that substitution effects will not cause this intervention to cause a net reduction in animal suffering. 

3.3  Conclusion of Evidence Review

Overall, I update positively on all major assumptions from this evidence review into the most significant uncertainties. It is important to note that this is because it seems very possible to make the appropriate strategic decisions to prevent breakdowns in the ToC due to issues such as legal challenges and implementation challenges, as well as trends showing that farmed animal (and general animal) initiatives appear to have higher success rates in the US compared to baseline. 

4     Expert views

This section summarises the main points of discussion in interviews conducted with experts on ballot initiatives or broiler welfare campaigns.

4.1 Silvano Lieger - Co-Managing Director, Sentience (Switzerland)

Silvano Lieger was co-managing director of the animal advocacy organisation Sentience in Switzerland, which ran a ballot initiative to end factory farming. The initiative was voted on in 2022, in which it was unsuccessful, gaining 37% of the vote. However, Silvano reports that the primary aim of their initiative was to shift the Overton window and to make ending factory farming a viable political position to hold. This interview with Silvano focused on gaining insights about the upshots and challenges of running a ballot initiative for farmed animal welfare, and to increase the likelihood of success for this intervention type.

Preparation and Collaboration

Silvano emphasised one of the main things they would do differently would be to build an alliance before the initiative has been written, and to involve as many groups as possible who may have an interest in this. Silvano referred to the building of a shared vision, having co-ownership of the proposed legislation, which should be crafted with legal and policy experts and key stakeholders, such as producers and retailers. In particular, farmers who already have a higher welfare standard than the market may be approached for inclusion in such a coalition, through representatives of local farming organisations. This is critical to accessing a large base of volunteers, funding, arguments, expertise and forming key relationships that can change the outcome of the intervention. 

Silvano recommended identifying who the likely opposition are to be, and to determine if there would be any way in which they would not fight this, for example through considering ESG goals, concern for human welfare, damage to their reputation or campaign costs- if so, explore this strategy. Silvano also recommended interviewing producers to understand how this intervention would affect them. 

Collecting Signatures

Silvano explained that Sentience collected their required signatures (around 100,000) through the work volunteers, incurring very low costs for this part of the intervention. They build teams of volunteers across different regions, with leaders in each group coordinating their local volunteers, overseen by two FTEs. Silvano mentioned that there was also the option to use petition drive agencies, which cost roughly 4 francs per signature, but that this was not needed. Silvano emphasised the importance of selecting an appropriate season to carry this out, as physical signatures are harder to collect in the colder months where people are indoors. For this stage of the campaign, no opposition efforts were seen, nor was there found to be much need to carry out media campaigns, as opposition tends to form once the required signatures have been reached and the initiative is confirmed to be voted upon. However, volunteers were trained and arguments for signing this petition were agreed upon and disseminated. It is important to note that Silvano attributed the lack of requirement for auxiliary campaigns at this stage due to the Swiss public being very accustomed to signing ballot petitions. In another context, this may not be the same (although US states with direct democracies are likely to see similar trends). 

Pre-election campaign

Silvano stated that this stage involved hiring a suitable team, preparing key resources and argument testing through polling. Silvano estimated that one nationally representative poll would cost 30,000 francs, and Sentience carried out two over the course of the campaign.

Campaign

Sentience adopted a range of strategies including leafleting, door-to-door campaigning, sending information to houses, gaining celebrity endorsements, media appearance when possible, curating a mailing list and sharing arguments and updates with them, having strong partners who could use their own mailing lists and supporter base, creating video advertisements and running physical advertisements (billboards). 

Team

By the final stage, 8 FTEs (full time employees) with 2 FTEs working exclusively with volunteers. 1400 volunteers by the final stage. 

Costs

The total cost was around 2 million francs, most of which was allocated to salaries and advertisements. Silvano noted that collaboration with other organisations can reduce costs such as software, equipment and physical spaces. 

Limiting factors

Silvano did not think that receiving 500,000 more francs would make a big difference. There is a strong status quo bias in the Swiss population, resulting in a resistance to such a large change. However, he estimated that without any farmer support, they would have had at least 10% less of the vote.

Main updates

  • Creating a strong, broad coalition with all relevant interest groups who have shared ownership into the initiative is very important 
    • Including farmers is critical 
  • Volunteer networks are important for carrying out campaign work at low costs
  • Coalitions are very useful for pooling resources including expertise, software, funding, supporter bases and can legitimise the campaign

4.2 Jonas Becker - Campaigner at Albert Schweitzer Foundation (Germany)

Jonas Becker is an expert in the state of cage free and broiler corporate campaigns in the EU, and provided insight into how ballot initiatives could play into the current advocacy landscape. Jonas highlighted that there are concerns over the tractability of current broiler welfare commitments, with the rate of new uptakes and rate of fulfilment of commitments slowing down across the EU. This is also broadly seen in the US. Jonas presented the personal view that policy work for broiler welfare is a method that is underutilised, and that ballot initiatives could be used in a complimentary way to existing corporate campaigns. Although he sees this as promising, he holds no strong views as the context of the US is different to Europe.

Main updates

  • Ballot initiatives could pose a promising angle to create progress for broiler welfare where corporate efforts seem to be stalling

4.3 David Michelson - Chief Petitioner at Yes on IP3 (Oregon, US)

David Michelson is an activist & chief petitioner of the Yes On IP13 ballot initiative campaign which seeks to outlaw the harming & killing of sentient animals in Oregon, US, without exceptions for animal agriculture, hunting or research. Although this campaign initially sought to qualify for the 2024 election, they were not on track to do this, so have postponed to preserve their remaining funds with the aim to qualify for the 2026 election. 

Aim

The primary aim of the initiative is to qualify for the ballot and cause the public to engage with animal rights as a political issue. 

Organisational Structure

The Yes on IP3 campaign was small, having 3 main leaders of the campaign, none of whom were salaried, but with David taking on the bulk of the responsibility. They also established a small volunteer network, and employed paid petitioners. They had limited collaborations, as most organisations found this too radical a position to hold. 

Although they sought to pay petitioners to collect signatures, and made contracts for many individuals, 3 paid petitioners and 2 volunteers collected most of the signatures, with the best paid petitioners working at 20 to 30 hours per week. In July 2023, 3,500 signatures came from volunteers and 7,000 signatures came from paid petitioners. In this month, 16.4 signatures were collected per hour per person and the cost was $1.72 per signature. Over the collection period, the rate of signature collection was 2,000 per week, which would not be high enough to qualify for 2024 but could allow them to qualify for 2026, if they start at the beginning of the collection period in the summer of 2024. Notably, the cost of signatures in the Prop 12 campaign in California was significantly higher, at $6.01 discounting invalid signatures. David noted that petitioners get paid a lot more in California due to higher cost of living, but also that their organisational structure meant there was no overhead bar petitioner fees, bringing down the cost significantly. 

Funding

The campaign received $50,000 from an individual donor, $50,000 from an organisation, and $10,000 from small donors and noted a difficulty in winning funding for this, which limits their scope. They noted having been unsuccessful for the EA Animal Welfare Fund and the ACE Movement Grant. 

Limiting Factors

David noticed a struggle in finding a sufficient number of committed volunteers or paid petitioners to collect signatures. There was an extremely high turnover rate in petitioning as a result, and this limited the number of signatures that could be collected. 

The limited funding meant that they could not pay themselves and as such the campaign was run by a small number of volunteers, making it harder for individuals to commit time. 

Main updates

  • A strong volunteer base is critical to gain signatures
    • Paid petitioners are not extremely reliable
  • The cost per signature can be lower than modelled in my CEA 

5     Geographic assessment

The spreadsheet containing the weighted factor model can be found here: #RTP23A9 - Ballot Initatives to Improve Broiler Welfare - Geographical Assessment

5.1 Geographic assessment

This geographic assessment was conducted by constructing a weighted factor model, to rank candidate US states (states with ballot initiatives that can affect state constitutions), based on their estimated suitability as a region for this intervention to be conducted in. 

Given that this intervention strategy requires favourable public opinion upon improving animal welfare, criteria which reflected scale and tractability were chosen, as neglected regions are not well suited to this strategy. There may be a worry of crowding out, if there are too many animal-related ballots running in the same state, tiring voters and diluting/confusing messages. Currently, only Colorado has an animal-related ballot set for the upcoming election in 2024 (Ballotpedia, 2023a). Further, campaigners in Oregon are planning to re-launch their campaign to ban animal abuse for the 2024-2026 cycle, so if successful this could also end up on the ballot in 2026 (Ballotpedia, 2023b). This should be considered when evaluating these options from the high priority list. 

Table 7: Criteria and Weights included in the Weighted Factor Model

Category

Category weight

Criterion

Weight

Tractability

0.65

Won ballot for animals

0.225

Tractability

Cage free legislation for farmed animals

0.225

Tractability

Number of signatures required

0.1 * -1

Tractability

Proportion of vote required

0.05 * -1

Tractability

State Animal Protection Laws Rankings

0.15

Tractability

Liberalness Index

0.05

Tractability

Strength of opposing industry (Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold)

0.2 * - 1

Scale

0.35

Poultry Sales 2017 ($) - Broilers and other meat-type chickens

1


 

A 35:65 distribution of weight in the overall model between scale and tractability was selected. Although the scale of broiler farming is an important indicator of the size of impact, states where the scale is particularly high are likely to be heavily dependent upon and invested in animal agriculture, and as such there would likely be a greater opposition to an initiative of this kind, decreasing the likelihood of successfully passing the ballot. 

The highest priority states (in order) were:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. California
  3. Oregon
  4. Colorado 
  5. Nevada 

The model produced rankings which roughly matched initial expectations, with an extremely strong correlation (r=0.98) between the liberalness of the state and the final score. Given that the success of these initiatives are largely dependent upon the willingness of the populus to support a proposal to improve animal welfare, this makes sense. Further, low-moderate scale broiler production, strong existing animal welfare laws, including cage free legislation, make these states well fit as regions for this intervention. There were no significant surprises in the rankings, although Florida, which received a relatively low rank, has a track record of farm animal ballots with the first successful farm animal ballot in the US passed in Florida in 2002. Additionally, Florida has strong animal welfare laws including cage free legislation. Florida requires a higher number of signatures and proportion of the final vote than the rest of the states, which may drive its final score down. Although it could be argued Florida should be higher, the increased practical challenge of gaining a higher number of signatures, and the low liberalness of the populus make it less certain that such a campaign could be successful in this state. 

6   Cost-effectiveness analysis

The cost effectiveness analysis can be found here: #RTP23A9 - Ballot Initatives to Improve Broiler Welfare - Cost Effectiveness Analysis

This Cost Effective Analysis models the expected improvement in welfare points per $ for running this intervention, compared to the counterfactual. Welfare points are a metric for measuring animal welfare, developed by Charity Entrepreneurship (Charity Entrepreneurship, 2018). One may also consider the effect in terms of the number of animals affected per dollar. 

The cost effectiveness for this intervention is 31.35 WP per $, with 58.22 chickens affected per $. This indicates that this intervention in California would be moderately cost-effective.

Table 8: Cost Effectiveness Estimates of this Intervention

ImpactUBLB Geometric Mean 
WP/$97.7610.0531.35
Animals impacted/$91.1637.1858.22


 

 

 

 

The cost effectiveness was modelled initially modelled for the state highest on the weighted factor model, Massachusetts, however this yielded a very low welfare points per dollar, given the small scale of potential benefits due to the low number of chickens farmed. Therefore, given that the second state California was only marginally ranked lower and has a higher number of chickens farmed by several orders of magnitude, I investigated this as the state of intervention for this report.

The number of broiler chickens produced in the state of choice (California) per year was calculated by estimating the yearly rate of growth of US broiler production from projections of US poultry production until 2050. Further, the reduction in broilers suffering from successes of current US broiler welfare corporate work has been modelled. The replacement effect of switching from faster growing breeds which grow larger than the slower growing breeds was modelled, as this will likely result in an increased number of chickens farmed to meet the same production levels.

I have assumed that 2.4 slower growing chickens would be raised to replace every faster growing chicken, as the slaughter weight of a faster growing chickens 2.4 times pre industrialisation. However, in actuality, the replacement factor may be lower, which would increase the WP/$. 

Due to time constraints, certain assumptions were made, however I expect that they would not significantly change the outcome. The proportion of broilers in factory farms, and of those the proportion who belong to fast growing breeds, were also assumed to keep constant over this time period. The CEA spreadsheet can be edited with relative ease to incorporate these considerations in future work. 

6.1   Effects

The impact was calculated by determining the improvement in welfare points per year from carrying out this intervention, compared to the counterfactual model. This involved estimating the number of years taken to pass the ballot, number of years taken to transition, and estimating the final proportion of chickens that would belong to fast growing breeds were the policy to be implemented (a small percentage due to minor enforcement challenges). Using these values, I modelled the proportion of factory farmed broilers that would belong to fast growing breeds, from the baseline at the year of passing the intervention to the estimated final proportion. I assumed that no non-factory farmed broilers are from fast growing breeds, so the final benefit may be slightly underestimated. I then calculated the number of chickens that would belong to each type of breed and multiplied this by the welfare points estimated to represent that condition. These points were then discounted for probability of sentience and welfare range. Further, these points were discounted for the probability of success, taken as the product of success at each point in the process (obtain required number of signatures, win the ballot). 

I was able to model the counterfactual adoption of these higher welfare broiler standards (including the use of slower growing breeds) due to corporate outreach, which is the primary mechanism currently being used for this issue, and so discounted this from the impact, to determine what number of chickens that are transitioned to higher welfare will be because of this intervention.

I also discounted for regulatory enforcement, by using this to set the upper bound of impact. For example, regulatory approval was estimated to be 85% at upper bound, so this means 15% of the 94.05% of factory farmed broilers belonging to fast growing breeds that would be supposed to be transitioned would not be. I also discounted the benefits based on possible improvement to animal welfare due to moral progress.

I modelled the effects over 20 years, as this is the estimate for how many years this intervention may speed up the implementation of such a policy, then calculated the average benefit per year and scaled this to 10 years to allow for comparison to other interventions. 

6.2   Costs

The costs were calculated by breaking down the intervention into time bound phases, based on the temporal requirements of ballots in California. I then modelled the upper and lower bound estimated for all relevant factors in each phase, such as wages, legal services, polling and on various forms of advertisement at appropriate levels to win an election in California. These were informed by the requirements and expenditures of the Swiss Initiative (see section 4.1). This produced a lower bound of $5.77 million and an upper bound of $16.96 million. Notably, the proponents of the California Prop 12 were recorded to have spent $13.27 million and the entire operation was estimated to have cost $15.90 million ± $1.4 million (Duffy, 2023), making my estimated costs seem reasonable.

7     Decision

Figure 2: Decision Chart for Intervention Recommendation

Table 9: Mapping of route along decision chart

Question

Answer

Explanation

Is there a crucial consideration in the ToC why this should not be implemented?

Strong No

See Theory of Change

Is there sufficient evidence?

Strong Yes

See Evidence Review

Does this look like it would be cost-effective?

Moderate Yes

See Cost Effectiveness Analysis

Is there space for more organisations implementing this intervention

Moderate No

See Directing funding towards an existing entity


 

Conclusion from decision chart: Direct funding towards existing organisations, consider starting a new organisation. 

8. Implementation of a new idea

8.1 What does working on this idea look like?

This will involve building a campaign coalition, designing a campaign strategy, drafting a ballot initiative, running a short (6 month) signature collection campaign, running a short (3-6 month) public awareness campaign before a final election. Should the proposal be passed, enforcement and monitoring activities will be necessary to ensure it is appropriately implemented and regulated. For further detail on this, see expert interviews with Silvano LiegerDavid Michelson and the theory of change.

8.2 Key factors 

This section summarises our concerns (or lack thereof) about different aspects of a new charity putting this idea into practice.

Table 10: Implementation Factors and Concerns

Factor

How concerning is this?

Talent 

Moderate Concern

Access to information

Low Concern

Access to relevant stakeholders

Low Concern

Feedback loops

Moderate Concern

Funding

Moderate-High Concern

Scale of the problem

Moderate Concern

Neglectedness

Low Concern

Execution difficulty/Tractability

Low Concern

Negative externalities

Moderate Concern

Positive externalities

Low Concern

Talent

This intervention would require employees with specialised skill sets, in fundraising, volunteer management, marketing, campaign management and stakeholder engagement. Further, I think it is critical that co-founders and initial employees have strong relationships within and contextual knowledge of the state of California, as they will need to generate a statewide campaign to win a simple majority in the next statewide election. 

However, given the strong network at CE and the existing previous collaborative work between animal welfare organisations in California, I expect that these relationships and this contextual knowledge can be gained by new founders. Further, the incubation program should appropriately train founders in fundraising, volunteer management, marketing, campaign management and stakeholder engagement. 

Nevertheless, I think that the ideal co-founders would have some experience running public facing campaigns, some experience with fundraising and should be willing to relocate to California for the duration of this intervention. Further, they should have a track record of success within similar areas, as this may be particularly important to funders. 

Access

Information

Most recent data on the number of broilers produced by some individual states are withheld or grouped with other states, however there is data from 2017 that appears sufficient. There is ample information available about broiler welfare, ballot initiatives and the Better Chicken Commitment, such that I do not anticipate this being a problem. 

Relevant stakeholders

One type of relevant stakeholder are organisations which already work on broiler campaigns or which would be approached to collaborate on a ballot initiative, such as The Humane Society of the USThe Humane League USMercy for Animals and Compassion in World Farming. I expect this to be accessible, particularly given their involvement in recent ballot initiatives in California for cage free laws in 2008 and 2018 and/or corporate broiler campaigns. Another type of stakeholder would be members of the agriculture industry. I expect this to be easy to access, given high welfare producers would likely support this initiative. Finally, policymakers and legal experts would be accessible, given recent ballot initiatives in California having required relationships with such individuals to have been built.

Feedback loops

Signature collection can be tracked to determine whether outreach methods are effective and whether the charity will be on track to meet their required number in the required time. Public opinion can be measured through polls. However, this is a one-shot intervention, with the main feedback coming from the final vote at election, by which point no updates can be made to the intervention. This makes it important to test messaging and organisational strategies early and leverage any expertise available. 

Funding

I estimate this organisation to need $4.5 million to $15.5 million. 

The campaign behind Prop 12 in California in 2018 was reported to have raised $13.3 million and was estimated to have cost $15.90 million ± $1.4 (Duffy, 2023). 

Here is a table of major donors for the Prop 12 campaign:

DonorCashIn-kindTotal

Open Philanthropy Action Fund

$4,000,000.00

$0.00

$4,000,000.00

Deborah Stone

$2,650,000.00

$0.00

$2,650,000.00

The Humane Society of the United States

$1,757,500.00

$411,605.87

$2,169,105.87

Django Bonderman

$500,000.00

$0.00

$500,000.00

Zoe Bonderman

$500,000.00

$0.00

$500,000.00

Kyle Vogt

$500,000.00

$0.00

$500,000.0


 

This funding table demonstrates that the proponents’ campaign for Prop 12 was funded by a range of individuals and a small number of large organisations. 

Funding for a new intervention could be sought from large grantmakers such as Open Philanthropy, and from building personal relationships with interested individuals. 

Should the campaign require funding closer to the upper bound of the predicted range, this will likely necessitate the receipt of sizable grants from EA aligned donors, which is a concern should there be more effective uses of such large sums for the animal movement. A new organisation may struggle to raise so much money, particularly with no track record and limited existing infrastructure. However, an established organisation may have a better chance of raising this.

Nevertheless, funders do exist who may be able to provide funding for this campaign to a new organisation. The Navigation Fund is a new fund which will fund work on farmed animal welfare. Farmed Animal Funders is a group of individuals and foundations who each give more than $250,000 per year to end factory farming, with more than 40 funders involved. Some notable members include Lewis Bollard and Amanda Hungerford of the Open Philanthropy Project, John and Timi Sobrato of Sobrato PhilanthropiesPhauna, Darren Sparks and Verónica Carrai of Tipping Point Private Foundation, Ariel Nessel of Mobius, Chuck and Jennifer Laue of The Quinn Foundation and Stray Dog Institute, Jim Greenbaum of the Greenbaum Foundation.

The Farmed Animal Funders movement report stated that about $200 million was donated within the farmed animal advocacy movement in 2021, and of this $91 million was focused on North America (Farmed Animal Funders, 2021). ~16% of funding was allocated to government focused advocacy and the most popular animal group to fund were broilers. This suggests that a range of funding opportunities may be available for a new organisation to run this intervention, and that the method, region and animal of focus may be a highly appealing combination to funders.

Further, given that this intervention would involve collaboration with other organisations, the financial burden may be shared, both directly or in kind. Indeed, in Prop 12, the main proponents, The Humane Society of the US, themselves contributed just under 2.2 million USD, which is about 16.5% of the total raised. 

Table 11: A table of expenditure in 2022 of major organisations who may collaborate on the initiative

OrganisationSpecific Program NameSpecific Program Expenditure (million $)Total Organisation Expenditure (million $)
The Humane Society of the US (2022)Ending the cruellest practices36.7206.2
The Humane League, (2022)US public policy and corporate engagement2.4620.76


Overall, I am significantly but not extremely concerned about the ability of a new organisation to raise the necessary funds to run this initiative, should the costs reach the upper bounds, as this is an extremely high total to generate. A new organisation would not have a track record of success, which some funding organisations may place high weight on when making grants. However, there are a range of potential funders who may fund an organisation doing this work, and the fundraising and resource burden may be shared across collaborating organisations, such that the total that the new charity must raise is more achievable. Given that a popular direction of funding is towards corporate broiler welfare campaigns in the US, this funding may be partially redirected towards this campaign, as that it would address the same welfare concern, just through an alternative pathway of direct democracy. Further, given the strong track record of ballot initiatives in California, this may increase the likelihood of winning grants for this initiative. Nevertheless, this will likely be the largest challenge for a new organisation running this intervention. On the other hand, I expect an existing organisation with an existing budget, a strong track record, no start-up costs and a relationship with donors such as The Humane Society of the US may find it easier to generate the funding required to successfully run this campaign. 

Scale of the problem

There are 47,621,617 factory farmed broilers in California which belong to fast growing breeds, and there are an estimated 33 billion in the world at present (Pepin, 2022). Although the scale of chicken suffering due to being raised as fast growing breeds is extremely high across the world, ballot initiatives only exist in a small number of states, 26 US states, Switzerland and Taiwan. In the US in 2017, out of the states where ballot initiatives are possible, just under 500 million broilers were farmed. Therefore, this intervention strategy can only be applied to a small proportion of this problem (roughly 1.5%).

Neglectedness

No organisations appear to have set plans to run a ballot initiative to improve broiler welfare in US states. Although organisations such as The Humane League work on outreaching to companies to gain commitments to improve broiler welfare, they have only succeeded in capturing a small proportion of the market and the rate of progress is plateauing. 

Tractability

I think this is very tractable, given recent successes with this intervention strategy, in this region. See section 3.1 for further details on tractability. It is important to note, the outcome of the proposed EATS legislation must be monitored, although this is judged to have a moderately low likelihood of passing, it would prevent states from regulating the production and distribution of agricultural products within their borders that are subject to interstate commerce, which would significantly undermine the scale of the welfare benefits of this intervention.  

Externalities

Positive Externalities 

As seen with cage free campaigns, production and sales bans of caged eggs in a small number of states won through ballot initiatives has triggered other states to implement similar legislation, so that their producers can access markets in other states (CageFreeLaws, 2023). Notably, a leading agricultural economist Jayson Lusk states that California is a net importer of animal products, despite high domestic production, due to its high populus, meaning that a sales ban included in this initiative may impact the practice of other states (Lusk, 2017). 

Beyond this, running a coordinated campaign to improve broiler welfare, between different interest groups including animal welfare, environmental, food security groups and high welfare producers may create networks, relationships and public awareness that can be leveraged for further work on animal welfare. In particular, relationships with policymakers may be formed.  

Negative Externalities 

The main negative externality that I identify with is the impact of losing this campaign upon momentum for other animal welfare campaigns in California, or indeed wider in the US. It may be taken as a signal that consumers are not concerned about broiler welfare, and hinder the progress of corporate campaigns for the adoption of the Better Chicken Commitment. However, given that the rates of uptake are low, this may provide an alternative avenue to make progress on this issue. 



 

9     Directing funding towards an existing entity

Overall, this intervention may be best placed in the hands of an existing organisation. This is because it requires significant funding, a large and diverse network, expertise of the US political system and a reliable volunteer network. In particular, they may rely on non-EA sources of funding. 

The Humane Society of the US (HSUS) have led the 4 most recent ballot initiatives for cage free standards, and as such are well placed to continue this work for broiler welfare. Further, The Humane League may also be well placed, however this may hinder their work with producers. 

However, some caveats to an existing organisation taking this on are if they have poor relationships with other groups, particularly animal advocacy groups and farming associations, as a diverse and strong coalition is important for the success of this intervention, as well as if they have a bad reputation amongst the public or with producers. Further, they may have diverse programs and be unable to commit sufficient resources to this intervention.

It is curious that HSUS have not decided to embark on broiler welfare ballot initiatives, given their track record with cage free ballot initiatives, therefore I recommend getting into contact with representatives from HSUS to understand whether they have plans for this or concerns about this idea. I have attempted to make contact with several representatives however have thus far been unsuccessful.  

10 Conclusion

Overall, I strongly recommend this intervention to be carried out by an existing organisation and I tentatively recommend this intervention to be implemented by a new charity incubated by CE

This intervention requires strong relationships with other animal welfare, environmental and farming groups, access to large funds, a reliable volunteer network and experience planning public awareness or mass media campaigns. From my initial research, I fairly strongly hold the view that if done right, ballot initiatives for broiler welfare could trigger widespread reforms that improve welfare across many US states as seen with the cage-free ballot initiatives, particularly as initiatives targeting both production and sales would require exporters from other states to raise their standards. In this way, I think there is a large upshot that is not fully represented in the CEA. However, this is dependent upon success, which has a much higher probability when run by an organisation with the aforementioned traits. 

Further, the outcome of the proposed EATS legislation must be monitored before this intervention is carried out. Although this is judged to have a moderately low likelihood of passing, it would prevent states from regulating the production and distribution of agricultural products within their borders that are subject to interstate commerce, which would significantly undermine the scale of the welfare benefits of this intervention.  

I would recommend the next step be to make contact with representatives from the Humane Society of the United States, in order to learn whether they have plans to continue their work on past ballot initiatives and whether they would be interested in  carrying out this intervention. 

References

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Executive summary: This report evaluates ballot initiatives to improve broiler welfare in the US through mandating higher standards. It finds this intervention moderately cost-effective in California with potential for positive spillover, and worth recommending to existing groups or new founders.

Key points:

  1. Ballot initiatives are possible in 26 US states and have seen 5 successes for farmed animal welfare since 2000. California is a promising candidate.
  2. Cost-effectiveness analysis estimates 31 welfare points per dollar in California, making this moderately cost-effective.
  3. Concerns include fundraising for new groups and uncertainty about winning, but precedents and collaborations can help.
  4. Recommend directing funding towards existing groups like the Humane Society. Also tentatively recommend charity incubation.
  5. Monitor the unresolved Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act as it may undermine initiatives.
  6. Further steps involve contacting the Humane Society about interest and fit.

 

 

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.

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