The Troubling Current Beneath the Surface of Animal Advocacy

Over the past few decades non-profit animal advocacy has increasingly centred 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 the animal welfare cause area, 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 philanthropy from Effective Altruism which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars, goes to charities like the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, The Humane League and Humane Society International 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 ones arguably operate a range of interventions within a “less but better meat” framework, with some focussing on less, and others on better. Funding from Effective Altruism could be identified as being directed toward industry centred welfarism (better meat / factory farm reform), or plant based / lab meat venture capital (less meat or proveg), with organisations and campaigns operating within this system. 

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 created over time, such as marginalising more politically radical approaches to assuage the concerns of big funders and fragile politicians.  
From one perspective the recent Animal Rising campaign with RSPCA “Freedom Foods” further establishes some of the flaws in welfarism, which can reinforce animal consumption and is often called the humane myth. Although in the case of the painting it’s apparent that Charles doesn’t particularly align with the RSPCA, perhaps choosing not to renew the royal patronage.  

However, to effectively address issues such as the dominance of welfare campaigning in animal advocacy, and the marginalisation of more radical approaches, we need to challenge both the people who lead and fund “welfare” campaigns alongside those organisations like Animal Rising which reside further along the “less but better meat” spectrum, representing a plant product approach within a narrative driven by Effective Altruism. These days even the largest multinational conglomerates position themselves to profit from increased protein diversity, whilst Jeff Bezos and others (probably any in Silicon Valley from Thiel to Musk to Moskovitz) get in on the ground floor. 


Some of these themes are explored in the The Revolution Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, and Anand Giridharadas in the book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Alice Crary has also written Against Effective Altruism from the perspective of animal advocacy. 

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