Freedom News
The trouble with animal advocacy

The trouble with animal advocacy

We need to challenge movements like Effective Altruism and campaigns for “less but better meat”

On 11 June activists from Animal Rising decorated King Charles’s newly unveiled painting to highlight the animal welfare violations at farms approved by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). However, it is apparent that Charles doesn’t particularly align with the RSPCA on this issue, and there are rumors that he will chose not to renew the royal patronage.  

Animal Rising campaign for a plant-based transition and mass rewilding, and they are targeting RSPCA welfarism, which can reinforce animal consumption through the humane myth. However, to effectively address the dominance of welfare campaigning in animal advocacy, and the marginalisation of more radical approaches, we need to challenge movements and campaigns along the “less but better meat” spectrum, and the donor networks they work through. After all, these days multinational conglomerates are positioning themselves to profit from increased protein diversity, whilst Jeff Bezos and others (probably anyone in Silicon Valley from Thiel to Musk to Moskovitz) are getting in on the ground floor. 

Over the past few decades non-profit animal advocacy has increasingly centered on the philosopher Peter Singer and latterly his movement of Effective Altruism. From relatively humble beginnings at Oxford University where founders survived on baguettes and hummus, they quickly became wedded to billionaires such as Dustin Moskovitz (founder at Facebook), Jaan Tallinn (founder at Skype), and Sam Bankman-Fried (former billionaire and founder at Alameda Research and FTX). These wealthy individuals helped establish and fuel interventions in the short-term, such as for animal welfare causes, and despite any claims of plurality or moral uncertainty, it remained a small elitist group deciding what research takes place, where funding ought to be directed, and which organisations are the most “effective”. 

Most of the donations pushed by Effective Altruism—which amount to hundreds of millions of dollars—goes to charities like the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, The Humane League, and Humane Society International. This funding is used to promote free range campaigns, or engineered slow growing chickens, which the Global Animal Partnership market as helping people feel good about eating meat. This money is often directed by people who formerly worked at those organisations.

These multinational nonprofits, alongside some smaller organisations and campaigns, operate a range of interventions within a “less but better meat” framework—some focusing on less, others on better. Funding via Effective Altruism is therefore effectively being directed towards industry centered welfarism (better meat / factory farm reform), or towards plant based / lab meat venture capital (less meat or proveg).

The RSPCA represents a small part of a much bigger problem related to nonprofits more closely associated with Peter Singer and Effective Altruism. This includes strategically ignoring the issues that Singer and his acolytes themselves created over time, such as marginalising anti-capitalist approaches in order to ease the concerns of big funders and fragile politicians.  

~ Kevin Watkinson

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