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Wednesday, 06 April 2016 19:45

Faunalytics: A Standout Charity Helping Animal Advocates

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In today’s blog, we highlight the work of Faunalytics, a non-profit research organization dedicated to helping animals by providing useful information to advocates to help them increase their impact. You may know them by their former name: “The Humane Research Council.” Che Green, their Executive Director, has kindly shared this information about their important work with WAN and our contacts.

1. What is Faunalytics’ main mission and role within the animal protection movement?

piggyFor over 15 years, Faunalytics has been the research arm of the animal protection movement. Our mission is to empower animal advocates with access to the research, analysis, strategies, and messages that maximize their effectiveness to reduce animal suffering.

A large part of our work involves directly helping animal groups with discounted and pro bono research services. Faunalytics supports groups of all sizes with things like understanding their audience, refining their messages, evaluating materials, and creating more impact. We’ve worked with dozens of animal advocacy clients over the years.

Faunalytics also develops advocacy resources like our extensive research library and our series of research “fundamentals” providing overviews of important topics. We also produce independent research like our annual Animal Tracker survey and our recently completed study of lapsed and current vegetarians/vegans.

The role that Faunalytics serves in the animal protection movement is to help advocates base their strategies on evidence instead of hunches and anecdotes.

2. From Faunalytics’ perspective, how can animal advocates and organizations be more effective in their work for animals?

We are excited to see how much research and evaluation are taking root in the animal protection movement! There has never been such focus on measuring our impact and ensuring that our limited resources are being used wisely. But there’s still room for improvement.

As a research organization, we think animal advocates can do more to listen to the “voice of the customer.” Being effective requires understanding the current attitudes and behavior of one’s target audience. While it is much more common today than it was 15 years ago, many groups still do not use research to support their decision-making.

The increased focus on measuring impact means more resources are becoming available and we can start to conduct more robust research like randomized controlled trials to explore the effectiveness of different interventions. This will help take animal advocacy to a new level and provide more definitive answers to important questions.

Animal advocates are already compassionate and intelligent, but the focus on research will help ensure that they are effective as well.

3. What are the main projects Faunalytics is working on currently?

Faunalytics is honored to work with a wide variety of groups that cover the full spectrum of animal protection issues. Our most recent clients include:

  • Veganuary – we helped measure dietary change (and animals spared) among people who participated in the month-long campaign to try veganism.
  • Maddie’s Fund – we supported the data migration and analysis of their database of cat/dog sheltering statistics from more than 600 organizations.
  • Farm Sanctuary – we helped them evaluate the impact of sanctuary tours (and other programs) on the participants’ attitudes and behavior.

Faunalytics is also helping several other small animal groups through our Grassroots Research Fund, which provides free services to organizations that couldn’t otherwise afford the investment. We get to help them directly and the movement benefits from shared research results. This year we're helping Northwest Veg, Active for Animals, and the newly-formed Animal Welfare Action Lab.

In addition to our work with other organizations, Faunalytics is also conducting a test with this year’s Animal Tracker (an annual survey of opinion and behavior). We’re running a parallel test between our traditional sample provider and Google Consumer Surveys. If successful, the test would validate a low-cost survey option for animal advocates. We’re also working on some exciting and informative data visualizations and developing new study ideas.

4. What types of resources will advocates find in your research library?

The Faunalytics research library is the world’s most comprehensive resource for behavior and attitude research relating to animals. We provide summaries of studies curated from academic journals, government agencies, industry publications, and advocacy sources.

The library currently includes more than 3,000 studies and Faunalytics staff members add 5-6 new summaries every week. The topics cover a range of issues including effective advocacy, animals used for food, companion animals, animals used in science, and wildlife.

Anyone who registers with faunalytics.org can sign up to receive personalized weekly or monthly email alerts. Users can choose their preferred topics and even set keywords to filter what articles are included in the alert emails. We hope the Faunalytics library will be advocates’ first stop when looking for information on animal issues.

5. What key tips can you provide to groups and advocates working in regions of the world where there is currently little research on public opinion?

For many animal issues, advocates are lacking consistent and accurate data on public opinion, even in regions with relatively more research going on. That said, there are some countries or regions where there is both little data and where conducting research is challenging. For example, Faunalytics is currently helping a group in Palestine.

Advocates working in regions with little research should first try to look for comparable data from other countries (starting with the Faunalytics library!). In some cases, public opinion about animal issues is consistent across countries, but many issues (e.g., food choices, types of companion animals) are culturally specific, so also use caution.

The other tip is to consider doing some basic public opinion (or target audience) research on your own. Low-cost sampling methods and survey tools like Google Consumer Surveys and Survey Monkey can make country-specific research more feasible. Advocates should check out our blog for suggestions or contact Faunalytics if they need help.

6. Where do you see the animal protection movement in 15 years? In 30 years?

quoteWhile animal suffering continues on an immense scale, I have a lot of optimism about the future of the animal protection movement. Much of the progress is currently anecdotal, but advocates are clearly having some success changing behaviors, policies, and even entire systems. There is a lot of reason to feel positive about the impact we’re having for animals.

This is not to say that things won’t be challenging. The next 15 years will be one of rapid growth in global animal consumption where standards of living are increasing. Countries like China and India and Brazil will drive a massive uptick in animal farming and other forms of animal use. Wild animal populations will disappear as we encroach further into their habitat.

With increased focus on effectiveness and evaluation, however, animal advocates may be able to overcome these challenges. We’ll get rid of puppy mills and cat breeders. We’ll find innovative and sustainable solutions to feed a growing human population. We’ll plant the seeds of compassion that will one day bloom into a new and better relationship with animals.

Almost ten years ago I wrote the following “vision” for what the animal protection movement would look like in the future. I think and hope it still resonates today.

  • Progress. Advocates spend the requisite time and energy to evaluate our progress and make strategic, movement-wide adjustments as necessary. This would include defining a set of essential metrics and tracking changes over time.
  • Collaboration. A strong majority of the movement’s groups are involved in collaborative projects and many of them work together on research, campaigns, etc. Animal groups avoid disparaging each other or arguing in public.
  • Capitalism. Advocates have meaningful ties to corporations, with the ability to encourage ethical practices and influence their animal policies. Advocates are involved in developing commercially viable alternatives to animal products.
  • Politics. Animals are a mainstream political issue, with animal issues included in opinion polls and addressed by candidates from all major parties. The pro animal voting bloc is recognized as a significant player in electoral politics.
  • Pragmatism. Advocates understand that 100% abolition of animal suffering is impossible and focus their efforts on attainable goals. There is increased emphasis on providing alternatives to people instead of changing attitudes and behavior.

7. How do you see Faunalytics’ own work moving and growing in the future?

In addition to the projects I described earlier, Faunalytics has some overarching goals to better help animal advocates maximize their impact. One of those is making the information we produce more accessible for advocates, while also being useful for researchers. For instance, for our recent study on lapsed vegetarians and vegans we produced infographics and summarized the results in blogs, but also released the full dataset for others to analyze.

Another goal is to start applying more sophisticated research methodologies to projects when feasible. The major constraint is usually having sufficient funding to carry out larger scale projects, but we also need to become more familiar with these methods. Expect to see more randomized controlled trials in the future!

We expect to keep growing our work with clients because there is no shortage of organizations that need research support. Helping groups understand how to use research and create a culture of evaluation may be the most important work that Faunalytics does. But we also plan to conduct more independent studies that serve the entire field.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share with animal protection advocates around the world?

Thank you for opportunity to talk to World Animal Net followers! And to those followers: thank you for your hard work and dedication. I’ve been an animal advocate for more than 20 years and I feel confident that we’re making a lot of progress for animals.

If you share our interest in effective animal advocacy, please visit the Faunalytics website or follow us on Facebook.

Photo credit: Pig, by Dan Belanescu, used under CC-BY 2.0.

Jessica Bridgers

Jessica is the Executive Director at World Animal Net. Having received a B.S. in biology with minors in chemistry and anthropology from the University of New Mexico, she combines a scientific background with a passion for animal protection. She completed her M.S. in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University and internships with Humane Society International, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society before arriving at World Animal Net. In her free time she volunteers with horse and wildlife rescues and makes delicious vegan food.

 

About the WAN Blog

The WAN blog allows us to share our expertise in the fields of policy, science, communications, management, and more in a manner that animal protection organizations can easily incorporate into their everyday work for animals. The blog also provides the opportunity to highlight important work of individual organizations and campaigns, and allows researchers, experts, and others outside of WAN to provide useful information to the animal protection community. 

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