Of animals used and killed by humans in the United States, over 99.6% are farmed animals, about 0.2% are animals used in laboratories, 0.07% are used for clothing, and 0.03% are killed in companion animal shelters. However, about 66% of donations to animal charities in the United States go to companion animal shelters, 32% go to groups with mixed or other activities, and just 0.8% of donations go specifically to farmed animal organizations, while 0.7% go to laboratory animal organizations.
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 2600 farmed animals are confined and slaughtered. Of the 9.1 billion farmed animals killed in 2013 in just the US, 8.6 billion were chickens, according to latest slaughter totals. This amounts to 274 chickens killed per second. An additional 13 other farmed animals were killed per second in 2013, sixteen 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 2013, Charity Navigator listed 80 major US animal shelters with budgets over $3.5 million, together endowed with $835 million. By contrast, 9 major US farmed animal outreach organizations together controlled just $16 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 Humane Society of the United States. 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 mostly obtained from Charity Navigator pages. Charity Navigator splits animal charities into three groups, of which we considered only “Animal rights, welfare, and services”. We visited the Charity Navigator page for each charity in this category with a budget of over $3.5 million and of rated groups working on a “national” scale with lower budgets. 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, fur, 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 the farmed animal focused organizations listed in GiveWell’s shallow review of the field. Because most of the smaller organizations reviewed on Charity Navigator were local shelter-based organizations, we expect that not reviewing the local charities with budgets smaller than $3.5 million led to an underestimate of how much funding overall was directed towards shelters.
GiveWell. (September, 2013). Treatment of animals in industrial agriculture.
The Humane Society of the United States. (May 3, 2013). Common questions about animal shelters.
The Humane Society of the United States. (July 3, 2014). Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals.
The Humane Society of the United States. (September 16, 2013). Questions and answers about biomedical research.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2011). Annual report animal usage by fiscal year.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2012). Mink (July 2012).
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2013). Livestock slaughter 2012 summary.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2014). Poultry slaughter 2013 summary.