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I've seen the animal-focused work in EA been framed as "animal welfare" and as "animal advocacy". For example, lots of the animal-related posts on the EA Forum are tagged "Animal Welfare" and/or "Effective animal advocacy", the latter being a commonly used term to refer to the animal-focused work in EA.

I imagine there to be pros and cons to using each of the two terms: 

  • "Animal welfare" may be a less accurate description of what EA animal-focused work does, since there's a significant portion of it (e.g. alternative protein, vegan advocacy) that doesn't focus on improving welfare. Using this term may risk alienating those who don't agree with welfarism. However, animal welfare is more mainstream, and thus meets less objection from the wider society.
  • "Animal advocacy" encompasses welfarism, abolitionism, and other approaches that don't fall into either category (e.g. promoting reducetarianism). Therefore, it seems more accurate and less alienating. But due to the inclusion of abolitionism, it may be less accepted by the mainstream of society. 

Note that it's not only (or even, not mainly) about making our work look better. Different framings may turn away different groups of people who would otherwise join our effort. Therefore, a better framing could make our work done better.

Finally, my questions are:

  • Are there other considerations regarding which term to use? 
  • Which one of the two should EA use, and on which occasions? 
    • In particular, the EA Forum (and some other major EA websites) currently uses "animal welfare" more than "animal advocacy", for example in the naming of the core topic tag; should that be changed?
  • Is there a third term that's better than both of them?




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I read this question the day before, and I agreed strongly and didn't have any concrete responses to your questions. However, having let it simmer for a bit, I (slightly) less strongly agree that advocacy is a better term than welfare + have some half-baked responses to your questions.

Are there other considerations regarding which term to use?

I think it's valuable to also think about if the word being used is "person-centered" or "other-centered." I have noticed that people respond much more positively to the latter than the former. For instance, it's easier to get people to sign a petition that ~aligns with their values vs. making them change their day-to-day actions. It is natural to be change averse, so a solution where the hard work can be deferred to someone else will always get more traction (I am not arguing that behavior change shouldn't be done; in fact, I would much prefer a world where everyone carefully thought about ethics, but that's a separate conversation). 

This is my only reservation against the term advocacy. Historically, advocacy has been very "person-centered," so — 

  • It may give newcomers/passerbys the impression that EA/adj-funded animal work is more concerned with traditional forms of advocacy and may discourage them from being involved further. 
    • On the contrary, people who would have an averse reaction to advocacy wouldn't fall in the category of "people who would otherwise join our effort," so it doesn't matter.
  • My guess is that most of the funding in this space goes into welfare reforms rather than grassroots advocacy (fact check me); if this is true, then using advocacy could be a bit misleading.

All that being said, I still think Animal Advocacy is a much better umbrella term than welfare.

Is there a third term that's better than both of them?

I am unsure if any of these are better, but here's a list:

  • Animal Advocacy and Reform
  • [Something] Reform
    • I like reform a lot; it's well-received by most and gives them the impression that changes being proposed are incremental. 
    • However, this could alienate abolitionists further, which would be bad because they are likely to be highly-engaged in this space compared to the average person.
  • (Farm/Wild) Animal Wellbeing
    • I feel this fits well and casts a wide enough net to include the different approaches being taken to solve the problem. It is also good from a promotional perspective: who doesn't want to be pro-wellbeing?
    • I also like how Wild Animal Wellbeing abbreviates to WAW.

(The English language has a poor palette of words!)

Which one of the two should EA use, and on which occasions?

Overall, I do think Animal Advocacy > Animal Welfare, so as a rule of thumb, it is probably better to use the former in most circumstances. I am in favor of the topic tag being changed, but I am unsure if it's too much of a headache to do that on the backend.

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Alternative protein work does not involve a direct focus on welfare, but it equally seems to not involve a direct focus on advocacy. 

For PR-reasons, something involving anti-cruelty might be a good term. 

Comment from author: Note that I lean slightly towards the term "animal advocacy", so it's possible that my analysis contains a slight bias towards this term.

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