Animal suffering in our world is diverse and immense. But one category of human-caused animal suffering—that inflicted on farmed animals—dwarfs the others. For every one dog or cat euthanized in a shelter, about 3400 farmed animals are confined and slaughtered. Of the 9.2 billion farmed animals killed in 2015 in just the US, 8.8 billion were chickens, according to latest slaughter totals. This amounts to 279 chickens killed per second. An additional 13 other farmed animals were killed per second in 2015, twenty-one times the total amount of lab animals confined. All these numbers are for the US alone.
Spending on animal advocacy is highly inconsistent with these patterns. As of 2015, Charity Navigator listed 90 major US animal shelters with budgets over $3.5 million, together endowed with $1.2 billion. By contrast, 10 major US farmed animal outreach organizations together controlled just $19.9 million.
These numbers together suggest that typical donors and volunteers should concentrate their efforts on preventing the suffering of as many factory farmed animals as possible.
About the data
Data for numbers of animals used and killed was obtained from USDA reports when possible. For all categories except laboratories, numbers reported were of animals killed. The number of animals used in laboratories reported on this chart includes those species for which the USDA keeps exact records as well as an estimate for common species like rats and mice which are not required to be reported to the USDA. The number of animals killed in shelters was taken from an estimate by the American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For animals killed for clothing, we used numbers collected by the USDA regarding farmed mink. Mink are the most common species farmed for fur in the United States, and account for about 70% of US fur sales according to industry sources.
Data for amount of donations was obtained from Charity Navigator and Guidestar pages. Charity Navigator splits animal charities into three groups, of which we considered only “Animal rights, welfare, and services”. 292 charities in this category are included. We recorded the total budget of the organization for its most recent fiscal year, and categorized its main area of operations based on its mission statement (provided on Charity Navigator) and if necessary a brief visit to its website. The categories used were farm, shelters, lab and NA, which was applied when the operations of the charity were too mixed (as presented on its website) to identify a primary focus, or when the primary focus was outside the scope of the other categories (for instance, veterinary medicine or guide dog training).
We also included charities listed on Guidestar that had not been listed on Charity Navigator. We conducted an advanced search filtered by the category code “D01” (Animal Alliance/Advocacy Organizations). Organizations were listed in descending order by income - we included all organizations with an income above $100,000 for the most recent fiscal year listed. Organizations with category code “D20” (Animal Protection and Welfare) were included as well. From this category, organizations with incomes above approximately $6 million were included. Organizations with lower budgets could not be included due to time constraints. In total, 215 charities were collected from Guidestar. Because most of the smaller organizations reviewed on Guidestar fit into the shelter and “NA” categories, we expect that not reviewing the local charities with budgets smaller than $6 million led to an underestimate of how much funding overall was directed towards shelters and general animal welfare organizations.
ASPCA, Shelter Intake and Surrender. (2015). Pet Statistics.
The Humane Society of the United States. (June 25, 2015). Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2014). Annual report animal usage by fiscal year.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2015). Mink (July 2014).
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2016). Livestock slaughter 2015 summary.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2016). Poultry slaughter 2015 summary.