This vital report shows the results of two studies in the United States with our ultimate goal to estimate how successful each advocacy type is across both the short- and long-term. The first was a retrospective survey that explored people’s experiences with different advocacy types within the last five years and measured their current behaviors and attitudes, such as animal product consumption and speciesism. The second study was an experiment where we investigated whether advocacy caused behavioral and attitudinal changes.
Read the full study here: https://faunalytics.org/relative-effectiveness
Many different approaches to advocacy exist within the animal protection movement, from talking to people you know about animal suffering, to sharing social media posts, to protesting in public spaces. Currently, we do not fully understand how these approaches affect people's behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes towards farmed animals, or even how common they are. As such, the ultimate goal of this project was to estimate the impact of 15 different forms of animal advocacy across both the short- and long-term.
We conducted two studies in the U.S. to address this topic as fully and accurately as possible. The first was a retrospective survey. It explored people’s experiences with 15 different advocacy types within the last five years and measured their current behaviors and attitudes, such as animal product consumption and speciesism. This tells us how common animal advocacy is from the average person’s perspective and whether previously experiencing animal advocacy is associated with positive behavior and attitude changes towards farmed animals over the long-term. However, we can’t necessarily assume that animal advocacy caused those behaviors and attitudes from a study like this. To assess people’s perceptions of what is most impactful, we also directly asked them whether their most recent experience with animal advocacy changed any of their behaviors.
While the retrospective survey gives us insightful information about what people think caused them to change their behavior, we can’t be entirely confident that that is true due to self-reported biases. For this reason, we conducted an experiment in the second study, which lets us be surer about causal direction (i.e., whether advocacy caused behavioral and attitudinal changes or instead, whether people with pro-animal behaviors or attitudes sought out advocacy). Here, we investigated the impact of many types of animal advocacy against a control condition on people’s immediate behaviors and attitudes towards farmed animals. Since the experiment provides stronger evidence of whether animal advocacy actually changes behavior, in a controlled setting with less opportunity for bias, the results we highlight below regarding behavior change are from the experiment.
We are grateful to many people for their support and assistance with this project. We would like to thank Faunalytics volunteers Jennifer St. Onge and Clara Sanchez as well as former Faunalytics Research Scientist Tom Beggs for their work on the study design, and the many individuals and organizations who reviewed the study and provided feedback: the Beyond Carnism team, Daisy Freund and Melissa Thibault (ASPCA), Janosch Linkersdörfer (Humane League Labs), Meghan Lowery (Greenbaum Foundation), and David Meyer (Food Systems Research Fund). Special thanks to Ande Reisman and EBDI Consulting for their insightful review and assistance with selected findings. We are also very thankful to the Greenbaum Foundation for funding this research. Finally, we thank all of our survey respondents for their time and effort.
People’s Diets Influence The Effectiveness Of Animal Advocacy
This study showed that, unfortunately, none of the ten advocacy types we tested produced significant overall changes in animal product consumption, pledges, or rates of signing a welfare petition. However, some forms of advocacy were effective for some people.
Two advocacy types—social media posts and news articles—reduced animal product consumption compared to a control condition, but only if participants identified as meat-avoiders (i.e., reducetarians, pescetarians, and vegetarians). But we also found protests to be less effective than the control condition in getting meat-avoiders to sign a petition. We discuss the implications of these results in the Overall Conclusions section.
Although meat-eaters’ behaviors weren’t positively impacted by animal advocacy, their beliefs, support, and animal protection behavior intentions regarding farmed animals were positively influenced if they watched a graphic or non-graphic video, or if they read a news article or a leaflet. However, these effects didn’t translate into behavior change for meat-eaters, which suggests that animal advocacy is only effective for changing meat-eaters’ beliefs and intentions. This likely reflects the theory of change regarding animal product consumption, in which meat-eaters are further from behavior change than meat-avoiders, as discussed in the Overall Conclusions.
People’s Diets Influence Their Responses To Animal Advocacy, Which Then Influences Their Behaviors
People’s self-identified diet also predicted how they would react to animal advocacy, with meat-eaters responding more negatively than meat-avoiders: for instance, they found the advocacy more condescending and less engaging, and were more likely to be angry towards the advocates involved. Meat-eaters also found animal advocacy to be less informative than meat-avoiders. This is similar to recent work finding that a stronger commitment to meat-eating is associated with a greater avoidance of information about farmed animal sentience (Leach et al., 2022). In sum, meat-eaters appear to be less receptive to animal advocacy and/or animal welfare information than meat-avoiders.
Those responses to animal advocacy (anger, agreement, etc.) also predicted some key behaviors. While it’s important to note that none of the responses predicted animal product consumption, there was a clear pattern for diet pledge and petition. Negative responses like anger towards the advocate were associated with fewer pledges and petition signatures, while positive responses like finding the advocacy informative and engaging were associated with more pledges and petition signatures.
This suggests that how individuals respond to animal advocacy is important for determining its effect on some behaviors, namely taking a diet pledge or signing a petition. While both of these behaviors are positive on the surface, we know that actual animal product consumption was unaffected, so the influence on diet pledge is less meaningful in that it didn’t translate into real behavior. But support for welfare reform is a valuable commodity—whether in the form of petition signatures, emails to representatives, or votes—so advocates should pilot test their advocacy materials to pick ones that generate the most positive responses and the fewest negative responses.
Species Targeted Also Influence The Effectiveness Of Animal Advocacy
We also found that, compared to messages about farmed animals in general, people were less likely to sign a petition if they viewed a fish message, and they also held fewer positive beliefs about farmed animals. People also held fewer positive beliefs about farmed animals if they viewed a message about eggs.
These results suggest that advocating for chickens and especially fishes may be more difficult in some ways than advocating for farmed animals more generally.
Read the full study here: https://faunalytics.org/relative-effectiveness
Thanks for doing this research, pre-registering, and publishing the data! Small note: I think the uploaded data CSV file got corrupted? I'm not able to download it
Thank you for catching that, Ben! We have fixed the file and it all should work now. Thank you!