Every day, animals around the world suffer in a myriad of ways. Whether it is a dog facing cruelty at the hands of their owner, a chimpanzee whose home has been destroyed, or a chicken who has been bred such that they are unable to support their own body weight, cruelty against animals is perpetuated in countless ways.

In the face of these problems, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure as to where to start if we are looking to improve the world. So, for those of us who wish to help animals, where should we start if we want to maximise the amount of good we can do? There are many possible answers to this question, but the argument we will highlight here is why the type of work carried out by organisations such as Open Cages, The Humane League UK, and Animal Equality UK might be particularly effective if we are looking to help as many animals as possible.

Chickens are the most farmed land animal in the world.

Why Factory Farming?

When considering whether we should intervene in an issue, one important factor should be scale, e.g. how much suffering arises as a consequence of the issue. The case for focusing on factory farming becomes extremely clear when seen through this lens, as the scale of suffering in factory farms around the world is simply harrowing.

In the UK alone, over 2 billion animals have already been killed for food this year, many of which have been subjected to intense suffering for all their lives. However, the proportion of the money donated to fight factory farming not only fails to reflect this, but is completely misallocated, as shown in the following graphic (note that this graphic is US specific, but the trend in the UK is similar). This provides a huge opportunity for donors to do good: by donating to organisations that focus on the issue of factory farming, their impact has the potential to be massive in scope.

Note that this image shows figures for the US. [Credit: Animal Charity Evaluators]

Why Corporate and Legislative Campaigns?

Although the extent of animal suffering is deeply troubling, there are reasons for hope: despite how neglected this area is in terms of attention and funding, considerable progress has been made in the field already. For example, across Europe and the UK over 200 leading food companies have already signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, which is set to benefit more than 1.78 billion animals a year by ending cruel practices like FrankenChicken. This trend is further evidenced by this graph showing the proportion of cage-free hens in the US (a similar trend is seen in the UK):

Although there is a long, long way to go, and ensuring that all animals can live cage-free is far from the final step in the journey, the progress that we have made as a movement so far is incredibly promising, and suggests that despite the scale of the problem, it is something we have the power to change.

A fox on a fur farm. The UK Government is now exploring “restrictions” on fur imports due to campaign pressure.

In addition to the success of corporate campaigns, there is also evidence that legislative campaigns can be highly impactful in the fight against factory farming. Although difficult to implement, changes to legislation have the potential to stop the suffering of a huge number of animals due to increasing protections for all animals across a nation, and sometimes internationally in the form of import restrictions.

Recent examples of this include the UK government promising to ban the export of live animals and to look into banning imports of both foie gras and fur, as well as an initiative in Switzerland that will lead to a popular vote on whether to ban factory farming. Now, although it is impossible to know whether any given campaign is behind these exciting developments (which complicates quantifying our impact), Open Cages and other groups have been fighting for bans on foie gras and fur for years by publishing investigations and collecting signatures from people like you. We can be sure that these campaigns have played an important role in pressuring the Government to reconsider their stance on these issues, which would represent a monumental achievement in the fight against animal cruelty.

Why Open Cages?

These three simple facts are so incredible that they are worth repeating: the vast majority of human caused animal suffering in the world is due to factory farming; a tiny fraction of the money that goes towards helping animals is aimed at helping these animals; and through the means of corporate and legislative campaigns, we have the power to help these animals.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of these three points, and they lead to two important conclusions. Firstly, the generosity of those caring animal defenders who take part in these campaigns has already had a huge impact, so thank you! Secondly, with your continued determination to help animals, you can continue making these ambitious yet tangible changes to the lives of animals. By supporting Open Cages you will be able to generate more social media interactions, more mainstream coverage of these campaigns, and more investigations into the cruel practices of supermarkets like Morrisons, which will help you achieve what we all care about: happier lives for every suffering animal. 

If you want to be a part of this movement for change then please donate here to support all of these campaigns mentioned above, from fur farming to #MorrisonsMisery.

If you’re interested in further exploring an evidence-based approach to helping animals (or any being), then you may be interested in learning more about Effective Altruism, which is deeply concerned with the issue of trying to maximise our positive impact on the world. Likewise, if you’re involved with Effective Altruism (or are excited by the idea of trying to do as much good for animals as possible) and are looking to do direct work for animals as a volunteer, then we would be really interested to hear from you! Just follow the link here to apply.