Animal Advocacy Research Fund: Project Highlights

by Animal Charity Evaluators10 min read24th Apr 2021No comments

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Without evidence, it can be difficult to determine which advocacy interventions do the most good. The Animal Advocacy Research Fund (AARF) has helped to establish and legitimize a novel domain of research that aims to empirically determine the most effective strategies and messages used in animal advocacy. By funding high-quality projects, the AARF has supported numerous impactful, freely accessible publications and welcomed dozens of new people into the field of animal advocacy research.

Since its inception in 2016, the AARF has provided grants to 46 research projects and financially supported more than 70 researchers at universities, not-for-profit groups, and animal advocacy organizations across the globe.

Recently, we reached out to the community of researchers who ACE has supported through the AARF and asked them how this funding has impacted their research, career paths, and lives.

Testimonials from Recipients of AARF Funding

Developing a Targeted Approach to Animal Advocacy Campaigns

Note: The title of this research changed upon publication to “Health, Environmental, and Animal Rights Motives for Vegetarian Eating.”

Chris Hopwood, Wiebke Bleidorn, Ted Schwaba, Sophia Chen

[18,000 USD awarded in 2017]

The purpose of this research was to develop a model of individual and group differences in motives for vegetarianism. The results can be used by animal advocates to tailor their campaigns and maximize the impact of their plant-based outreach.

Testimonial from Chris Hopwood:

We would not have been able to begin, let alone complete, our project without AARF funding. This was a stepping stone to a number of other projects. We have now completed several studies that followed up our initial investigation of motives to be vegetarian. Overall, this grant was instrumental in helping me orient towards this exciting and important area of research.

The results are now published in Plos One, and the measure we developed (the Vegetarian Eating Motives Inventory, VEMI) has been used by a number of different research teams. We developed a measure of the three primary reasons people give for being vegetarian – health, the environment, and animal rights. We also showed that different kinds of people are more likely to be persuaded by different motives. We hope that this promotes research, but in the realm of advocacy that it can be helpful in tailoring messages so they will be maximally effective.

We did several projects subsequent to this work, including a study examining the links between antisocial personality features and beliefs about animals (e.g., speciesism) published in Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment; a study showing that both meat eaters and vegetarians can be measured in terms of vegetarian motives published in Collabra: Psychology, the development of a measure of meat eating motives published (Meat Eating Motives Inventory, MEMI) in Appetite, the development of a measure of perceptions others have of vegans that is currently in preparation, and a study of longitudinal correlates of meat eating that is also in preparation. Along with Kristof Dhont and Jared Piazza, I have also initiated the Society for the Psychology of Human Animal Intergroup Relations (PHAIR), through which we have hosted a successful speaker series and hope to carry out additional endeavors in the future.

Messages to Overcome Naturalness Concerns in Clean Meat Acceptance

Jo Anderson, Chris Bryant, Kathryn Asher, Che Green, Kris Gasteratos, Bruce Friedrich, Jeff Rotman, Jamie Macfarlane

[30,000 USD grant awarded in 2017]

The purpose of this research was to test different messages that address concerns about the unnaturalness of cell-cultured (or “clean”) meat.

A Survey of Consumer Perceptions of Plant-Based and Clean Meat in the USA, India, and China

Chris Bryant, Keri Szjeda, Nishant Parekh, Varun Deshpande, Brian Tse

[30,000 USD grant awarded in 2018]

The purpose of this research was to compare the appeal of plant-based and cell-cultured meat in China, India, and the USA, as well as identifying predictors of their acceptance in each country.

Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial Using Individual-Level Food Purchase Data

Andrew Jalil, Joshua Tasoff, Arturo Bustamante

[18,382 USD grant awarded in 2018]

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of an awareness raising intervention of meat consumption using individual-level food purchase data. educational intervention. A randomized controlled trial of nearly 50,000 University students saw significant change in purchasing habits of students in the intervention group.

Testimonial from Andrew Jalil:

ACE funding helped my co-authors and me to conduct our study, recently published in the journal Food Policy. Our study shows, using individual-level food purchase data, that in response to an educational intervention on the consequences of meat consumption for climate change and public health, college students reduce their meat consumption in favor of plant-based alternatives. The effects were strongly significant and lasted months after the intervention. Our study provides evidence that educational interventions, in a supportive setting with readily available plant-based alternatives, can reduce meat consumption.

Antecedents of Alternative Protein Adoption

Keri Szejda & Courtney Dillard

[18,340 USD grant awarded in 2019]

This focus group study aimed to collect information from consumers in three locations across the United States regarding their perceptions of and experiences with novel protein sources.

Testimonial from Keri Szejda:

AARF has given me the opportunity to collaborate with researchers and organizations to further the global consumer research agenda on plant-based and cultivated meat. In our cross-country study, our team included researchers from the US, UK, China, and India. In our focus group study on antecedents to adoption, our team was able to obtain insights from 3 US cities. Results have been shared in peer-reviewed publications and webinars with plant-based and cultivated meat companies. These experiences researching for GFI helped me to start my own business a year ago (North Mountain Consulting Group), where I’ve been blessed to continue this line of research while conducting targeted research for nonprofits and startups. Recently, AARF funding has helped me collaborate with two nonprofit organizations with missions to help animals: Credence Institute and Material Innovation Initiative. Thank you, AARF, for the invaluable boost to my career conducting research to help animals, people, and our planet.

Testimonial from Courtney Dillard:

My co-investigator, Keri Szejda, and I were so grateful to receive a grant from ACE. We used the AARF funds to run nationwide focus groups to better understand consumer interests and intentions regarding both plant-based and cultivated meat alternatives. We shared our findings in a report and I hosted a movement wide webinar. Two of the most useful findings were consumer concerns regarding food safety and traditional meat and the role that advocates play in introducing alternative meat products to new consumers through their social networks. Specifically, we note that the majority of participants first tried meat alternatives in social settings like potlucks and family gatherings where barriers (cost, access, familiarity) were low and key facilitators like a trusted source were high.

Identify Various Predictors of Changes in Animal Product Consumption

Chris Bryant

[8,000 USD grant awarded in 2020; project in progress]

The purpose of this project was to identify various predictors of changes in animal product consumption using a longitudinal design and to develop and validate a Vegetarian Inclination Scale.

Testimonial from Chris Bryant:

I have now received three AARF grants – two have resulted in journal publications which made up key chapters of my PhD. My PhD funding had some limited funds for data collection (about $1,000/year) but AARF helped fund data collection in large, nationally representative samples, making my research more generalisable and useful to alternative protein producers.

As a dedicated funder of effective animal advocacy research, the existence of AARF has given me the confidence that I will have funding which is closely aligned with my research interests, and can develop ventures along those lines. Since finishing my PhD in 2020, I have been involved in a number of animal advocacy research projects, and have established a company, Bryant Research Ltd, to continue this work. One of my major projects is funded by AARF.

My two completed AARF projects have been published in Meat Science and in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, and now have over 100 citations between them! In particular, our AARF-funded survey on cultured and plant-based meat seems to have had a large impact on animal product alternatives in Asia. The study, which showed that consumers in China and India are even more open to these products than those in the USA, was covered in the Guardian, and is in the top 1% of viewed articles on Frontiers with over 50,000 views. In the years since, we have seen a surge in interest in animal product alternatives in Asia, especially China.

I am working on a number of projects with animal advocacy non-profits and alternative protein companies through my company, Bryant Research Ltd. My current AARF-funded project is very exciting indeed. We will track a large UK sample over a year to observe how many people change their diets, the stages they go through, and the prerequisites for dietary change. This kind of longitudinal analysis will give us a unique perspective on how change happens over time.

South African Consumer Perceptions of Alternative Protein: A Segmentation Study

Ludwig Raal, Angelique Lazarus, Andrea Marais, Louise Polders, Keri Szejda, Clair Tapscott, Jayson van der Walt

[11,000 USD grant awarded in 2020; project in progress]

The purpose of this project was to provide insights into consumer acceptance of cell-cultured and plant-based meat in South Africa.

Testimonial from Ludwig Raal:

Given the negative impact of intensive animal agriculture on the environment, public health, and the lives of animals, promoting alternative meat options — i.e., cultivated and plant-based meat — may be one of our best available strategies to mitigate future suffering. While numerous studies have been carried out in the US and across multiple Asian and European countries on consumer acceptance of alternative meats, the African continent has remained underexplored. ACE gave us the opportunity to address that.

The grant allowed us to enlist the services of experienced researcher Keri Szejda from North Mountain Consulting, with whose help we conducted a survey gauging consumer acceptance of alternative meats in South Africa — with promising results! According to our findings, 53% of South Africans are very or extremely likely to purchase cultivated meat once it has become widely available, suggesting that South Africa may be a fertile ground for anyone operating in the meat-alternative space.

Vegan Advocacy and Communication in India: Proposal for an Exploratory Study

Nirupama Sarma, Sanjeev Kumar, and Anjali Gopalan

[32,000 USD grant awarded in 2020; project in progress]

The purpose of this research was to identify the key drivers and barriers determining dietary choices in India to facilitate the strategic design and implementation of advocacy campaigns to promote veganism in the region.

Testimonial from Nirupama Sarma:

AARF was instrumental in helping us embark on our ambitious project, which is a seminal study in India. There are few donors who support studies of this kind, especially in the domain of animal rights/studies – so I would say AARF has been pivotal in this respect, a game-changer.

AARF funding has helped me work in a domain that’s relatively under-resourced compared to other non-profit sectors. Importantly, it has given me a unique opportunity to apply my prior experience and skills in the non-profit world to the issue of animal rights, which has been my area of concern for a long time. It actually makes it possible to do the work so very necessary to advance the cause.

The project is currently underway, and yes, I believe it will contribute to changing how India engages in advocacy/campaigning for veganism.

I am working on this AARF-funded study – “Vegan Advocacy in India: An Exploratory Study,” and editing my feature-length documentary on animal rights in India, scheduled for release by the end of 2021.


We at ACE are incredibly proud of the 22 completed AARF-funded research projects that have contributed to a greater understanding of effective animal advocacy. We are excited about the progress made and potential of the 24 projects that remain under the stewardship of the talented researchers funded through the AARF. Despite the challenges experienced over the past year as a result of the COVID pandemic, we have been consistently impressed by the creativity, commitment, and tenacity of the research community. Despite global setbacks, 8 projects were completed and published in 2020 alone.

The AARF provides a unique funding opportunity for academics who are also passionate advocates, and we know that the need for further research funding remains high. While many of our funded researchers have published peer-reviewed articles about animal advocacy, these individuals have also spoken at conferences and public symposia around the world, written op-eds for international media outlets, and participated at Congress briefings—because they are now recognized as experts in the field of animal advocacy.

We thank all of our AARF-funded researchers for their time, effort, and attention toward building the field of effective animal advocacy. We remain both excited and optimistic about what is still to come. If you’d like to stay updated, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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