April 2017: Animal Welfare Fund Grants

Payout Date: April 15, 2017

Total grants: USD 180,000

Number of grantees: 9

I’ve recommended disbursements for the first $180K donated to the fund. I’ll likely recommend funding fewer groups in future, but have recommended initial grants to nine groups for a few reasons:

  1. I want to signal to donors the sort of things I’m likely to recommend via this fund, and signal groups that I think have (a) additional room for more funding by individual donors and (b) Open Phil can’t fully fund because we already account for much of their budgets, e.g. The Humane League and Compassion in World Farming USA.
  2. I’m recommending a few new approaches that I’m not sure have significantly more room for funding than I’m proposing, e.g. the Effective Altruism Foundation and The Fórum Nacional.
  3. I’m recommending some groups that I anticipate Open Phil may fill the funding of in future, so only want to fund the groups enough to expand in the meantime.
  4. I want to maintain some diversity within this fund so that donors can support a diversity of approaches.

The Humane League ($30K) Advocacy group. THL is one of two key campaigning groups responsible for the major recent US corporate wins for layer hens and broiler chickens. (The other is Mercy for Animals, which I’m not supporting via this Fund because I’m confident that major donors, including Open Phil, will fill its funding needs for now.) THL has also played a critical role in the global corporate campaign wins for layer hens, via the Open Wing Alliance, a grouping of 33 campaign groups that it organized. I’ve been consistently impressed by THL’s management, focus on staff and activist development, and wise use of funds across program areas. Open Phil already accounts for roughly half of THL’s budget, so dependence concerns may constrain our ability to fill its funding needs in future.

Animal Equality ($30K) Advocacy group. Animal Equality does grassroots activism, corporate campaigning, and undercover investigations across Europe, the Americas, and India. I’ve been impressed by its constant updating based on evidence: first moving toward only farm animal welfare work, and later toward a focus on corporate campaigning. I also think that its co-founders Sharon Nunez and Jose Valle have a strong vision for building a grassroots movement globally. I think it has funding needs now that aren’t likely to be immediately met.

New Harvest ($30K) Clean meat research group. I’m not sure what the odds are that we’ll ever develop price-competitive clean or cultured meat. The evidence I’ve seen has convinced me that we won’t have it in the next five years, as some boosters claim. But I think it’s plausible that we will in the next 20-50 years, and I think the odds of it ever being developed will depend on the funds invested in it now. I’m also excited about the Good Food Institute’s work in this space, but I think that big funders (including Open Phil) will fill GFI’s funding needs in the medium term. I think New Harvest fulfills an important and complementary role, and has more room for more funding.

The Effective Altruism Foundation ($30K) Research on the welfare of animals in natural environments. This grant will fund the research on the welfare of wild animals done by researchers Ozy Brennan and Persis Eskander, which internal changes at EAF have resulted in a loss of funding for. I’ve been impressed with their recent research, which focuses on foundational questions like the best scientific methods for measuring the wellbeing of wild animals, and relatively non-controversial potential interventions, like more humane methods of pest control. I view this as an important and highly neglected cause, though I’m unsure how tractable it will be and think more research is needed.

The Fórum Nacional de Proteção e Defesa Animal in Brazil ($20K) Advocacy group. The Fórum Nacional is Brazil’s largest animal protection network with 120+ affiliated NGOs (mainly companion animal groups). Advocates I trust credit the group with a key role in securing crate-free pledges from Brazil’s three largest pork producers, and more recently cage-free pledges from Brazil’s three largest mayo producers, amongst others. Open Phil already accounts for roughly half of the Fórum Nacional’s budget, so dependence concerns may constrain our ability to fill its funding needs in future, and I’m less optimistic that other donors will step in than I am for THL or CIWF USA given Brazil’s challenging fundraising environment.

Compassion in World Farming USA ($10K) Advocacy group. CIWF USA is one of two corporate advocacy groups responsible for the major recent US corporate wins for layer hens and broiler chickens. (The other is the Humane Society of the US Farm Animal Protection campaign, which is harder to support via this fund because of fungibility concerns.) It’s now focused almost exclusively on winning further corporate welfare reforms for broiler chickens. Open Phil already accounts for roughly half of CIWF USA’s budget, so dependence concerns may constrain our ability to fill its funding needs in future.

The Albert Schweitzer Foundation in Germany ($10K) Advocacy group. This group appears to have been instrumental in securing cage-free and other corporate pledges in Germany, as well as in advancing some policy reforms and institutional meat reduction efforts. It currently has funding needs which may be filled in the medium term.

Animal Charity Evaluators ($10K) Charity evaluator. I like the work that ACE does to build a more effective farm animal movement through research, charity recommendations, and outreach to donors, researchers, and advocates. When I recommended this initial grant, ACE had significant room for more funding. I’m now more confident that funding gap will be filled by large funders, so it’s unlikely that I’ll direct more funds to ACE this year.

Otwarte Klatki in Poland ($10K) Advocacy group. This young grassroots group appears to have helped achieve significant corporate reforms in Poland with a small budget and in a tough political environment. It currently has funding needs, though they may be filled in the medium term.