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Every year, Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) invests several months in evaluating animal advocacy organizations in order to find those that are working effectively and are able to do the most good with additional donations. Our goal is to help people help animals by providing impactful giving opportunities that reduce suffering to the greatest extent possible. This year, we are excited to announce that we have selected three Top Charities.

The Humane League and Wild Animal Initiative have both retained their top status from last year, and—after 6 years as one of our Standout Charities—Faunalytics joins their ranks!

2021 Top Charities 

We are also pleased to recommend Dharma Voices for Animals, Material Innovation Initiative, Mercy For Animals, New Harvest, and xiaobuVEGAN as new Standout Charities. Additionally, Compassion USA and The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations retained their status as Standout Charities after being re-evaluated this year.

2021 Standout Charities (including 2020-21 Standout Charities) 

Below, you will find a brief overview of each charity we evaluated this year. For more details, read our comprehensive charity reviews.

Top Charities

Faunalytics is a U.S.-based organization working to connect animal advocates with information relevant to advocacy. This mostly involves cоnducting and publishing independent research, working directly with partner organizations on various research projects, and promoting existing research and data for individual advocates through their website’s content library. Faunalytics was one of our Standout Charities from December 2015 to November 2021. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Faunalytics.

The Humane League (THL) currently operates in the U.S., Mexico, the U.K., and Japan, where they work to improve animal welfare standards through grassroots campaigns, movement building, veg*n advocacy, research, and advocacy training, as well as through corporate, media, and community outreach. They work to build the animal advocacy movement internationally through the Open Wing Alliance (OWA), a coalition founded by THL whose mission is to end the use of battery cages globally. THL has been an ACE Top Charity since August 2012. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of The Humane League.

Wild Animal Initiative (WAI) currently operates in the U.S., where they work to strengthen the animal advocacy movement through creating an academic field dedicated to wild animal welfare. They compile literature reviews, write theoretical and opinion articles, and publish research results on their website and/or in peer-reviewed journals. WAI focuses on identifying and sharing possible research avenues and connecting with more established fields. They also work with researchers from various academic and non-academic institutions to identify potential collaborators, and they recently launched a grant assistance program. Wild Animal Initiative has been one of ACE’s Top Charities since November 2020. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Wild Animal Initiative.

Standout Charities

Compassion USA is a branch of the international organization Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which works to improve farmed animal welfare and end all factory farming practices. Compassion USA engages in corporate outreach to encourage food companies to implement improved animal welfare policies, especially for farmed chickens. They run a public engagement program to encourage greater consumer awareness of animal welfare issues, and they also offer resources to encourage individuals to reduce their consumption of animal products. Compassion USA has been one of our Standout Charities since November 2017. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Compassion USA.

Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) is the only international Buddhist animal rights organization in the world. The majority of their work takes place in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and the U.S., but they also work in Germany, Brazil, Finland, Myanmar, and Australia. DVA’s programs align with specific contexts and priorities in the countries where they work. Many of their programs focus on diet change, however, they also lobby for animal welfare legislation, provide veterinary care, and work with restaurant owners to encourage them to transition their businesses to veganism. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Dharma Voices for Animals.

Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) is an Indian organization primarily dedicated to reducing the suffering of farmed animals. To a lesser extent, they also work to help companion animals and animals used for entertainment. Their work focuses on improving animal welfare standards, strengthening the animal advocacy movement, increasing the availability of animal-free products, influencing legislation change, and providing direct help and veterinary care to animals. They also run a veg*n pledge program to encourage individuals to decrease their consumption of animal products. FIAPO has been one of our Standout Charities since November 2019. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations.

Material Innovation Initiative (MII) works to reduce the suffering of farmed animals by increasing the availability of animal-free products and strengthening the animal advocacy movement. They produce research on animal-free alternatives to existing materials used in the fashion, automotive, and homegoods industries, and they work with investors, corporations, and entrepreneurs to support the development of new products and production processes. They also host events, such as conferences, to create opportunities for the development of new networks. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Material Innovation Initiative.

Mercy For Animals (MFA) develops their programs in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, and Mexico. Their headquarters are in the U.S. MFA’s work focuses on strengthening the animal advocacy movement and improving animal welfare standards, as well as decreasing the consumption of animal products and increasing the availability of animal-free products. They engage in a variety of farmed animal advocacy programs, often involving the distribution of footage from their undercover investigations of factory farms, which they primarily promote via media and online campaigns. MFA also engages in corporate and institutional outreach, research, lobbying, and policy work. They recruit and train volunteers in several countries, and also support farmers to transition away from animal agriculture. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of Mercy For Animals.

New Harvest funds research in cellular agriculture, i.e., the development of animal products using cells instead of animals. Through grant programs, they fund graduate and postdoctoral research projects in the field of cellular agriculture, as well as undergraduate and master-level projects for researchers-in-training. They also carry out public engagement and community-building activities via their podcast, blog, research publications, and research summaries. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of New Harvest.

xiaobuVEGAN is a Chinese organization working to reduce the suffering of farmed animals. Their work aims to increase the availability of animal-free products, strengthen the animal advocacy movement, and decrease the consumption of animal products. xiaobuVEGAN engages in institutional outreach, runs an app that provides resources about vegan options in China, and supports dietary change via their vegan challenge program. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of xiaobuVEGAN.

Other Reviews We Conducted in 2021

The Albert Schweitzer Foundation (ASF) primarily works in Germany, though they also have a team in Poland. ASF operates as a nonprofit rather than a typical grantmaking foundation. They work to improve animal welfare standards through corporate outreach, consumer campaigns, and legal work. In addition, ASF works to build the capacity of the animal advocacy movement by organizing workshops and public events. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation.

The Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations (CAAWO) develops their programs in South Africa and conducts some of their work in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Kenya, and Egypt. Their work focuses on improving animal welfare standards, and to a lesser extent, also aims to increase the prevalence of anti-speciesist values and strengthen the animal advocacy movement. They campaign for legislative changes, carry out research in animal law and industrial agriculture, and raise awareness of animal-related issues through education and social media. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of The Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) currently operates in the U.S., Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe, and Israel, where they work to increase the availability of animal-free products through supporting the development and marketing of plant-based and cell-cultured alternatives to animal products. They achieve this through corporate engagement, institutional outreach, and policy work. They also support research and start-ups focused on alternative proteins, which strengthens the capacity of the animal advocacy movement. To learn more, read our comprehensive review of the Good Food Institute.

If you are inspired by our 2021 Top Charities and Standout Charities, consider making a gift to our Recommended Charity Fund. Your single donation will support all of ACE’s effective recommended charities and their efforts around the globe to reduce animal suffering. This fund is disbursed twice per year (in January and July) in accordance with the distribution that our research team determines to be most impactful at that time. Beginning November 30, there will be a special opportunity to have your donation to the Recommended Charity Fund matched! If you haven’t already, please subscribe to The ACE Newsletter to receive more information about this limited giving incentive.

Final Thoughts

ACE’s goal is not only to provide clear recommendations on specific high-performing charities to donors and advocates, but to also foster a culture of evaluation and critical assessment of programs and organizations in the field. We hope that our reviews are informative for any charities looking to assess their impact. Also, we hope that you will consider supporting the impactful work of our 2021 Top and Standout Charities. Together, we can help animals around the globe.

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Albert Schweitzer Foundation and Good Food Institute were both Top Charities in 2020 and are now neither Top nor Standout Charities. What changed for you to make this update?

Update 12/13: ACE has now posted an explanation on their blog stating "The crux of our decision for each organization was related to culture issues that we identified during our evaluation process."

I left GFI in early 2021 for a new opportunity, but stay close with them. Nothing has drastically changed or degraded there. If truly one allegation of "retaliation" against an employee is enough to totally knock off Top Charity, I'm suspicious of the process. We know that The Counter article on the challenges to cultivated meat wasn't the cause -- as has been pointed out -- because New Harvest (a cultivated meat NGO) is still a Standout Charity. Reading between the lines, it seems they think GFI is overfunded. 

ACE concluded GFI had enough room for more funding:

GFI plans to focus future expansions on their science and technology, corporate engagement, and policy programs, as well as several potential new programs. GFI also plans to expand GFI Asia Pacific, GFI India, GFI Israel, GFI Europe, and GFI Brazil. For donors influenced by ACE wishing to donate to GFI, we estimate that the organization can continue to effectively absorb funding that we expect to come with a recommendation status.

Based on i) GFI’s own projections that their projected revenue will cover their expenditures, ii) our assessment that they have sufficient reserves, and iii) our assumption that a loss of recommendation status would result in a decrease in funding, we believe that overall, GFI continues to have room for $2,424,000 of additional funding in 2022. See our Programs criterion for our assessment of the effectiveness of their programs.

It is possible that a charity could run out of room for funding more quickly than we expect, or that they could come up with good ways to use funding beyond what we expect. If a charity receives a recommendation as Top Charity, we check in mid-year about the funding they’ve received since the release of our recommendations, and we use the estimates presented below to indicate whether we still expect them to be able to effectively absorb additional funding at that time.

Looks like multiple people reporting retaliation and fear of retaliation for voicing disagreements at the organization:

We feel it’s important to note that several of GFI’s current and former employees have reached out to us to provide input on our evaluation of GFI. According to those who contacted ACE and responded to the culture survey, there appears to be several employees (current and former) reporting both retaliation and a fear of retaliation from top leadership for voicing disagreements at the organization. Because ACE prioritizes the confidentiality of those reports, we did not share details of the reports with GFI’s leadership, and therefore they have not conducted a full investigation to verify the reports.

Their review for GFI gives the weaknesses as:

We think that GFI’s focus on cell-cultured products could have an enormous impact for farmed animals in the longer term, as cell-cultured food potentially cause a considerable decrease in demand for farmed animal products. However, we are relatively uncertain about the price-competitiveness of cell-cultured products with conventional animal protein. Furthermore, the majority of impacts that GFI’s work has on animals are more indirect and may happen in the future. As such, the cost effectiveness of their work is more difficult to assess using our methods. We also have concerns about some reports of alleged retaliation by GFI’s top leadership toward current and former staff. We think that GFI could benefit from having an independent board. GFI has provided a detailed response to our assessment of their leadership and culture. 

Their review for Albert Schweitzer Foundation gives the weaknesses as:

We have concerns about some reports of alleged discrimination or harassment that a few staff members believe were not handled appropriately. However, leadership has taken action to handle the complaints.

I'm pretty surprised ACE doesn't discuss the reasoning behind the shift in this post, from Top to not even Standout seems like a major update and important to provide the reasoning for donors giving to these charities. 

Of note: "ACE is not able to share any additional information about any of the anonymous allegations", and yet ACE turned down GFI's offer to investigate the complaints further:

GFI would be happy to participate fully in an investigation of the complaints to better understand and address them, and we offered to hire an external investigator. ACE declined

Which makes is sound as though GFI were willing to make efforts to resolve/investigate these anonymous complaints but ACE were not willing to pursue this.

As Pablo noted, concerns over the uncertain impact of cell-cultured products aren't new, so it would be surprising if that was the real reason GFI was stripped of their title. Feels like ACE is burying the lede here.

As Pablo noted, concerns over the uncertain impact of cell-cultured products aren't new

For onlookers, articles that are strongly against cultured meat feasibility have appeared in the last 12 months:

  • The Counter article - "New research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality".
  • Linch Zhang and  Neil Dullaghan analysis - "Linch [turned] from a cultured meat optimist to being broadly pessimistic. Neil wants to be more agnostic until further research from Rethink Priorities and others."
  • These two analysis draw a lot on the Humbird article, published in December 2020 , [Linch and Neil summarize] "Cheap at scale (<$200/kg) cultured meat with “wild-type” cells is simply not feasible".

Linch and Neil at Rethink Priorities are very respected by EAs. At the same time, the non-EA, liberal Counter article also said the same thing with a distinct analysis, and I think EA opinion is further moved by corroborating "outside" views. The Humbird article is funded by Open Phil.

For changing EA opinion, I think the above is a very strong signal and would inform or change many minds. (This could explain changing ACE recommendations.)

I am writing this because onlookers may not get this sense of these updates in 2021.

My knowledge is not deep—honestly, Linch and Neil's article is basically my education. If people don't agree with the above, please let me know!

(Note: I agree with the concerns that currently dominate comments on this post and upvoted each such comment—there's at least 5 different people who share them.  The reason why New Harvest was recommended is not explained.)

Their review for GFI gives the weaknesses as:

The first of the concerns listed in the quoted paragraph predated this review, so it can't be one of the considerations adduced for demoting GFI. From their 2020 review:

Work on cell-cultured products could have an enormous impact for farmed animals in the long term. If cell-cultured animal products become a competitive alternative, they could reach consumers with various food preferences and attitudes and reduce the consumption of animal products significantly. However, our impression is that it is relatively uncertain when cell-cultured animal products will be competitive because their success depends on progress in research, development, and legal conditions.

New Harvest is also listed as a standout charity in spite of (my impression is) an even narrower focus on cell-cultured product innovation than GFI (which also supports plant-based meat substitutes). I too would love some clarity from ACE on this.

New Harvest, which I think is great, also discontinued what I consider to be their major program (research grants) this year, so it's a head scratcher.

ACE has now, after two weeks, posted an explanation on their blog. I'm also surprised that it took so long to provide an explaination. 

Thanks! I've been thinking about my Pledge donations today, so this was helpful.

I feel pretty conflicted about this. There are lots of reasons one might not want to recommend charities with bad cultures – reputational risks and the effect of culture on effectiveness being two of the biggest.

That said, it's striking to me that this justification makes absolutely no mention of the effectiveness of these organisations at helping animals.

[comment deleted]1

I’ll preface by saying that I’m not deeply informed about the activities of the various non-profits in the technology alternative space (GFI, MII, New Harvest,  Cellular Agriculture Society). However, based on my direct anecdotal experience working with some of these orgs, as well as strong impressions formed through working adjacent to them at a cell ag company, their relative  rankings don't line up with my understanding of their relative impact and competence. ACE's comprehensive write ups don't provide much more detail either.  I worry that ACE has holes in their process that cause them to be systematically wrong about charities in the animal-alternative technology space. I would welcome more explanation for what went into these rankings.

I have a lot of respect for ACE, and I think that charity evaluation here is even more difficult than it is for conventional animal advocacy. However, if I were a donor, I would place very limited weight on ACE’s rankings for these orgs in particular, absent more info.

(I have no opinions ACE’s recommendations for other charities, and would probably still mostly defer to ACE there).

I'd be very curious about you feeding your intuitions into this utility function extractor (and then dividing your estimates of their relative value by their yearly budget.) I'm curious enough to put a small bounty on this, i.e., a $50 donation to a charity of your choice.

The way you would do this would be to go to Advanced options > Use your own data > Paste the below with the names of the orgs in the technology alternative space changed > Click on "change dataset"

      "name": "Organization 1"
      "name": "Organization 2"
      "name": "Organization 3"
      "name": "Organization 4",
      "isReferenceValue": true

And then select how much good in the world each organization is compared to each other, and then give me a screenshot of the output.

I agree with the other sentiments here about an explanation for dropping GFI and ASF from the top charity tier to not even standout. I think ACE ought to give such an explanation when any charity is dropped from top tier or from standout. The lack of explanation confuses people such as myself looking to inform their giving decisions.

What did Faunalytics do better this year to get top charity? Sorry if I missed it in their comprehensive review but I'm not able to work out why they're a better donation opportunity this year than last year. 


P.S. I love Faunalytics  work. 

What do you think of the Humane Slaughter Association? The HSA is focused on reducing livestock suffering, and is trying to have livestock be slaughtered in less painful ways. Brian Tomasik has also endorsed it.

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