Charity Reports

The Humane League

Published on
2020-11-03
Written by
Stephen Clare
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This funding opportunity was recommended by our advisory committee of staff and a few members from Farmed Animal Funders. For more information please see our full Animal Welfare Cause Report.

The Humane League works to improve conditions for animals in factory farms around the world by pressuring companies to implement higher welfare standards through their international branches and Open Wing Alliance coalition members in every major market across the globe.

What problem are they trying to solve?

More than 60 billion farm animals are slaughtered every year.1 Inadequate welfare requirements and legal protections mean that the overwhelming majority of these animals suffer greatly, living their entire lives in crowded, uncomfortable, unhealthy conditions.2 The Humane League was launched in the US in 2005 to address these issues and has since expanded to the UK, Mexico, and Japan. The organisation also supports animal welfare advocacy efforts in many other countries around the world through the Open Wing Alliance.

What do they do?

The Humane League’s mission is “to end the abuse of animals raised for food by influencing the policies of the world’s biggest companies, demanding legislation, and empowering others to take action and leave animals off their plates.”3 The organisation is particularly focused on campaigning for pledges from companies to end especially cruel practices such as battery cages for egg-laying hens.

THL also started and runs the Open Wing Alliance, an organisation that funds, trains and coordinates animal welfare advocates around the world. Although most successful campaigns have so far focused on companies in the US or Europe, inhumane farming practices are not unique to these regions. Despite this, far fewer philanthropic resources are currently devoted to supporting organisations working on these issues in South America, Africa, or Asia. The Open Wing Alliance funds advocacy organisations in emerging markets, disbursing over $1 million annually, and helps them coordinate on international corporate campaigns.

Why do we recommend them?

  • Our advisory committee of staff and some members from Farmed Animal Funders recommends The Humane League as one of the most cost-effective animal advocacy organisations in the world
  • THL has a strong track record of convincing food companies to pledge to improve welfare standards for their livestock
  • We believe the confrontational approach taken by THL in these campaigns is an important complement to other organisations’ more collaborative tact

The Humane League has a strong track record of success in pushing companies to improve welfare standards and a demonstrated commitment to openness, evidence, and impact. THL was recommended to us by our animal welfare advisory committee and is also a major grantee of The Open Philanthropy Project, a leading grantmaker in the animal welfare space. (Disclaimer: Founders Pledge has also received funding from Open Philanthropy.)

In recent years corporate campaigns have been an especially cost-effective way to improve welfare for animals. Previous research by Founders Pledge has found that each dollar donated to organisations running such campaigns saves chickens from at least 10 years of life in battery cages, in expectation.4 Because we have a limited understanding of how these changes affect the lives of chickens, it is difficult to say precisely how good this intervention is. Our best guess, though, is that chickens have better lives in cage-free systems, such as aviaries.5 Because corporate campaigns have been so cost-effective in terms of number of birds affected per donation, we think this is a promising intervention to support.

Through the Open Wing Alliance, THL has also played a leading role in strengthening animal welfare advocacy outside of North America and Europe. By supporting small organisations that might otherwise struggle to find funding in these neglected areas, the Open Wing Alliance seems well-positioned to have a strong counterfactual impact. The Open Philanthropy Project has previously supported the Open Wing Alliance through THL, noting that the organisation has “a strong track record in identifying promising groups in new countries, training them in corporate campaigning, and coordinating them to achieve global corporate wins.”6

Our previous report on animal welfare independently identified THL as a highly impactful funding opportunity within animal welfare. Our report on corporate campaigns noted that THL plays a particularly important role in the corporate campaigns space by taking a more confrontational tact than other animal welfare organisations.7 We are now expanding that recommendation and advise members to make unrestricted grants to THL. This will allow the organisation to expand its work on policy advocacy, the Open Wing Alliance, or other projects as it sees fit.

Why do we trust this organization?

This recommendation is made on the advice of our advisory committee of staff and a few members from Farmed Animal Funders. FAF is a donor learning community and philanthropic advisory organisation specifically focused on bringing an end to intensive animal farming. Animal welfare interventions are generally less well-studied and more difficult to evaluate than interventions in other cause areas. Many of the best opportunities are also likely to be country-specific. FAF’s team is dedicated to finding these opportunities, and maximizing impact is a core organisational value. The members of our advisory committee are highly value-aligned with Founder's Pledge, and we are fortunate to be able to rely on their expertise in this space.

What would they do with more funding?

The Humane League has told us that they have a funding gap of up to $8 million for 2021.8 Donations of up to $100,000 will contribute to the organisation’s General Fund. We expect this money would support staff to run public campaigns and corporate outreach to broiler chicken producers. Beyond 2021, the organisation will also be monitoring companies’ progress on their commitments to phasing out caged egg-laying chickens. The deadlines for many of these pledges are upcoming.

Message from the organization

“We are committed to evaluating and scaling effective interventions in every region where animals suffer through our international chapters and the Open Wing Alliance. It is because of the support of the mission-aligned individuals who invest in this work that we are able to secure more animal welfare policies, organize more people, and magnify our reach year over year, impacting the lives of hundreds of millions of animals every year.”

-David Coman-Hidy, President

More resources

Disclaimer: We do not have a reciprocal relationship with any organisation, and recommendations are subject to change based on our ongoing research.

Notes


  1. FAO data cited in Hannah Ritchie, "Meat and Dairy Production", 2017, https://ourworldindata.org/meat-production. Accessed 1 October 2020. 

  2. For more information, please refer to our full Cause Summary on animal welfare. 

  3. https://thehumaneleague.org/  

  4. “We estimate that their work brought about benefits roughly equivalent to roughly 10 hen-years shift from battery cages to aviaries, by which we mean ‘an outcome as good as shifting ten hens from a battery cage to an aviary system for one year’” (Capriati, Marinella, “Cause Area Report: Corporate Campaigns for Animal Welfare”, Founders Pledge, November 2018, p. 5) 

  5. Our research does indicate that there is a small chance that aviaries are worse than battery cages for chickens as the birds have more contact and may be more likely to injure or kill each other. However we think it’s about 90% likely that aviaries are better for birds, and are much better in expectation. 

  6. “The Humane League — Open Wing Alliance (2019)”, Open Philanthropy, https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/us-policy/farm-animal-welfare/humane-league-open-wing-alliance-2019  

  7. “Our understanding is that THL often plays a role that is complementary to the one played by many other organisations: while several other groups establish more collaborative relationships with companies, THL often runs more confrontational campaigns. Both strategies are needed to obtain commitments from companies” (Capriati, “Corporate Campaigns”, p. 43) 

  8. Personal communication from The Humane League, September 2020 

Stephen Clare

Author

Stephen joined Founders Pledge in 2019. Previously he was a Program Analyst for the United Nations Development Programme in Rwanda. He has also worked on climate change projects with the UN in Panama and the Youth Climate Lab in Canada. Stephen has an M.Sc. from McGill University and a B.Arts.Sci. from McMaster University.