VP of Global Programs @ The Humane League
42 karmaJoined Aug 2019Working (6-15 years)


Thoughts my own and don't represent my employer


Yes, I think it is exactly that sort of thing Saulius. From what I have heard it is often the research about how animals are kept that people want from their region/country.

Thank you for this write up.

Martin Balluch's writing on this topic has impacted my way of thinking a lot on this. I think his 'Balluch Curve' succintly illustrates the  problem and an approach to overcome it. 

Article is written in German and quotes are google translated

We know from vegan and vegetarian people that most of them fall back into the sink. The system is stronger. Only a perhaps 5% large group with enough pioneering spirit stays up there on the right. In other words: the vegan outreach and the revelations of eg the VGT are constantly shoveling people right up the curve, but sooner or later they roll back again. A Sisyphean task.

How could you support people so that they can stay on the top right? By making vegetarian/vegan life easier. And that's why I founded the Vegan Society Austria with my brother and my partner at the time in 1999. It awards a vegan seal so that the animal-free products are easily recognizable, it organizes vegan cooking courses for prospective chefs, it disseminates information about health aspects, arranges vegan-friendly doctors, etc. This activity can be illustrated as a small or large dent in the curve. A second dip in vegetarianism or veganism, not nearly as far down as the deepest dip, but at least providing something to hold on to, some protection against falling into the main dip. Then it will be easier for people

So we're not really getting anywhere unless we change the system. Let's imagine we shift the sink to the right! If that succeeds, then all people suddenly behave in a more animal-friendly manner, then the system forces them to do so, even if that is not their belief. But isn't it utopian to change the system? Is not it. At the beginning of the 19th century there were still no animal protection laws and instead there was a baiting theater in Vienna, where animals were set against each other, or animals were hounded by packs of dogs and humans. The "having a rush" in Viennese for having fun comes from that. So the depression was on the far left. And now it's not that anymore, there's no such thing as hate theatre, at least the status of animals has risen to such an extent that torture for fun has been outlawed.

Speaking very recently to someone involved in vegan outreach from their POV from many hours of conversations, the biggest challenge to adoption and retention is people worrying about not fitting in with those around them.

I definitely agree that veg retention is an important piece, although I think many animal organisations are dealing with limited resources and I think as a result are looking to shift society to the right, cage-free, higher welfare etc, which ultimately makes the jump/drop from veg smaller and probably supports enduring change more.  I personally, would be interested in seeing research into veg retention, but would rank it beneath research into shifting to higher welfare.

Appreciate this post.

Sections that stood out for me as being particularly tractable & scalable are:

  • Build a better evidence base: I think Rethink Priorities  is doing a great job here and would be great to see their team grow. Work from Welfare Footprint has also been really useful to support advocacy work. Something I have heard from many campaign groups is that having research conducted in their country in their own language would be really useful for working with local goverments, companies and producers.
  • Build infrastructure: I think this Global Food Partners model farm project in Indonesia is really useful in facilitating change. I think having something like this in many more countries would be impactful.
  • Build and launch organisations: I think the idea of working with existing orgs to focus on specific animal issues is valuable. Considerable effort is spent getting a new organisation started and connected. Friends of the Earth incorporated the Better Chicken Commitment into their Kale Yeah! initiative to shift caterers to use more plant based food and this led to a number of universities making change for chickens. Many Open Wing Alliance groups have made rapid progress on cage-free as they already had the foundation of their organisation in place. I agree that larger organisations could quite easily absorb more funding. Something I have noticed in hiring is we are having a lot, 100's of applications, for entry level roles and limited applications for roles with more experience and technical skills. I am happy to see larger organizations putting more effort into growing staff in technical skills, management skills etc and see this as being very important. I would like to see more of this along with more entry level roles and perhaps something like 'graduate programs'(I don't think it should be restricted to graduates though) that larger businesses offer to grow the talent pool. I also see big value in replicating projects that are working.
  • Spread Information: From what I understand, the WakkerDier campaign on broilers in the Netherlands was very successful in part due to their ad blitz. The cost of doing an ad blitz with the same exposure in other countries is pretty high.
  • Buy policy change: Ballot initiatives/referenda really do seem to be working well and complement corporate campaign work. Obraz in Czechia achieved a laying hen cage ban that comes into effect in 2027 on the back of their cage-free egg campaign. They launched corporate their cage-free campaign in 2018 and won many major commitments with 83.3% of hens in cages, in 2019 they introduced into parliament legislation for a ban with 74% of hens in cages and in 2020 a ban was made with 67.6% of hens in cages. I think the execution of this campaign was exceptional and having a laser focus on an issue and closing it out from a number of angles should be done more.

Appreciate this post, I will probably share it with people seeking advice from me in the future. I sometimes in these sort of calls/chats feel an expectation from the person seeking advice to drive the entire conversation which is draining for me and can make me hesitant to take on more calls like this. I have enjoyed the calls and think they have been much more value to the person when approached as you've described.

Thanks for this post. We, The Humane League, recently worked with Majid Al Futtaim on their cage-free egg policy and are keen to do more work in the UAE and the region over the coming years. As mentioned in your problem profile, the approach we took here was slightly different to the approach in other regions. If anyone is living in the UAE and surrounding region and interested in working on farmed animal welfare. I'd be keen to hear from you.

Great summary, thanks. It could be more useful to view the "Broiler commitments by deadline date" graph to show year 2026 as this is the deadline of the European Chicken commitment and ~90% of European commitments have that deadline.