The Humane League Review

This review discusses our full evaluation of The Humane League. The review was originally written in May 2014, and has been updated to reflect our latest observations. All past reviews are available in our Review Archives. The Humane League has been one of our top recommended organizations since August 2012.

Overview

What does The Humane League do?

The Humane League (THL) engages in a variety of programs that aim to persuade individuals and organizations to adopt behaviors that reduce farmed animal suffering. THL’s largest program, based on their budget, is their online ads program. They place targeted ads online that direct the viewer to a page where they can watch a video about farming practices and receive information about adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet in response. They also distribute leaflets, work on Meatless Mondays campaigns with schools, present humane education lectures to students, train college activists, and do corporate outreach promoting shifts to higher animal welfare policies. (Read more.)

What are their strengths?

THL’s most impressive accomplishment for us is not through any one of their programs, but through their overall outlook and approach to advocacy. Among animal advocacy organizations, they make exceptionally strong efforts to assess their own programs and to look for and test out ways of improving them. Their success in applying these techniques to their online ads program, and their publication of their research through Humane League Labs, has shifted the outlook and programming of several larger advocacy organizations toward finding the best ways to advocate for animals. (Read more.)

Their organizational structure appears to be strong, with a cohesive, positive, and democratic organizational culture promoting positive relationships between THL staff, board members, and volunteers. We think this is especially important for THL because part of the intention with their local offices is to build a grassroots movement, and setting a positive and results-oriented tone for those new to the movement is good for animal advocacy as a whole. (Read more.) Their track record, while not exceptionally long, shows plenty of successes. Recently, they’ve been especially successful with their corporate campaigns. (Read more.)

What are their weaknesses?

THL does not appear to hold transparency as a value in itself, and some information about the organization can be hard to find via their website, but they responded very cooperatively to our inquiries and freely shared information of value. (Read more.) We also have some concerns about their system of considering local offices cost effective as long as they raise as much money as they spend, regardless of their programs’ effectiveness when compared to the national programs’ effectiveness. (Read more.) Finally, we would like to see deeper critical engagement from them with regard to big questions as well as smaller ones like how to interpret particular study findings. One big question that seems especially important for THL is the value of individual dietary change. This is especially due to the concern that strategies focusing on this effect like online ads might be less promising when measured by other effects like growing the animal advocacy community and shifting social norms. (Read more.)

Why do we recommend them?

THL has an exceptionally strong commitment to using studies and systematic data collection to guide their approach to advocacy. They also have room for considerable amounts of increased funding to support both local offices and the corporate campaigns program. Our cost-effectiveness estimates show that their overall effectiveness is in line with that of other organizations we have evaluated in this depth.

We find THL an excellent giving opportunity because of their strong programs and evidence-driven outlook, and we are pleased to recommend donating to them.

How much money could they use?

We think THL could use about $190,000 in increased funding from ACE-directed donors this year. We expect them to expand their campaigns department, which also grew significantly in 2015. We also expect them to open at least two new local offices and think it’s likely they’ll expand their new college outreach program. (Read more.)

What do you get for your donation?

From an average $1,000 donation, THL would spend about $320 on online ads, leading to 3,000 online video views. They would spend about $450 on grassroots outreach, resulting in the distribution of about 1,319 leaflets and reaching about 7 students through humane education lectures. THL would also spend about $220 campaigning for cage-free egg and Meatless Mondays policies and about $10 on research. Our rough estimate is that these activities combined would spare about 13,400 animals from life in industrial agriculture.

We don't know exactly what THL will do if they raise additional funds beyond what they've budgeted for this year, but we think additional marginal funds will be used similarly to existing funds. (Read more.)

What makes this different from a medium review?

In a medium review, we generally have one or two conversations with leaders at a charity, and we base our review on those conversations, materials the charity sends us, and publicly available materials. For this review we also spoke with people involved with THL in many different roles, and we visited them as they conducted some programs. Overall, we spent much more time on this review. Also, we typically conduct many medium reviews at a time; currently THL is the only organization we’ve reviewed in this way. (Read more.)


How The Humane League Performs on Our Criteria

Criterion #1: The Organization Has Concrete Room for More Funding and Plans for Growth

In late 2014, we predicted that THL could use up to $270,000 in increased funding, mostly to fund online ads and open additional local offices.1 THL’s projected budget for 2015 (using the first three quarters as a basis) is $854,121, up from $562,952 in 2014.2

With this in mind, we can check whether THL has actually used most of their additional funding for the purposes we expected. In 2014, THL spent about $240,000 on online ads.3 In 2015, they’re projected to spend around $270,000 on them.4 This is a substantial increase, but a smaller one than the $190,000 increase we thought possible for their online ad spending. Additionally, we thought they could use about $80,000 to open four local offices instead of the the two they planned to open.5 They did open two offices rather than the four we expected.6 In summary, they largely didn’t use the additional funds in the way we’d predicted.

One major use of additional funds that we hadn’t expected was the expansion of their corporate campaigns program into its own department.7 During 2015, THL hired four new campaign staff, including their first employee or contractor outside the US.8 Neither we nor THL had foreseen this development; they hired the first of these staff members in the spring to assist with campaigns, and found that he increased their campaign productivity almost immediately, so they decided that expanding the department even more would result in increased gains.9

Additionally, although THL opened only two new offices in 2015, they took on several more new office directors, mostly because other staff took on more specialized leadership roles within the organization.10,11 While replacing existing office directors is easier than starting offices in new cities because volunteer networks and other contacts are already in place, this used some training resources that could otherwise have been used in opening new offices.12 We believe that this was another factor leading to expansion in the campaigns department rather than the local offices.

This year, THL has room for more funding to expand their online ads program and corporate campaigns and to open offices in additional cities more quickly than they would otherwise be able to.13 While they didn’t have as much capacity to expand their local office program as expected last year, this year they have made improvements to the organization of materials for office directors and begun providing them with more consistent training, which they believe will make it easier to open new offices in the future.14 They’re still finding that new campaign staff quickly become productive and would like to hire a staff lawyer to support that team, and they may have room to expand their new college outreach program.15,16,17

At the end of 2014, their assets were worth about 127% of their 2014 expenditures.18 At the end of 2013, their assets were worth about 68% of their 2013 expenditures.19 This is an assets to expenditures ratio in the range we would expect from an organization that is able to spend funds as it receives them but is maintaining a responsible fiscal cushion. The ratio for the end of 2014 is slightly more conservative, but as we’ve discussed, THL has expanded in several ways in 2015 and thus is likely still able to spend money mostly as it is received.

Typically, one of THL’s local offices costs around $40,000 to open and operate for the first two years.20 After this point, each office is expected to cover its own expenses through local fundraising events.21 THL currently operates eleven offices around the country.22 We think that they could probably open four or five next year;23 in a typical year, they’ve received enough new funding to open about two new offices.24

We think they could also hire for at least 3 of the other positions they’ve mentioned: a staff lawyer, one or two campaign staff, and possibly a second staff member to work on college outreach.

The online ads program is a more flexible use of funding; additional funds in amounts not suitable for opening offices could go to this program.25 There is no increment of funding too small to increase the number of ads they’re able to buy.26 They still have additional room to increase funding to the Spanish language ads which they run, and could probably use $100,000 there. In total, we think they could easily use another $380,000 next year, of which we estimate they would raise about half on their own (since we know some of their funding increase in the past year was due to ACE’s recommendation and we don’t expect any big changes at THL with regard to fundraising in the coming year).27 Since we can’t predict exactly how any organization will respond upon receiving more funds than they have planned for, this estimate is speculative, not definitive. We could imagine a group running out of room for funding more quickly than we expect, or coming up with good ways to use funding beyond what we have suggested. Our estimates are indicators of the point at which we would want to check in with a group to ensure that they have used the funds they’ve received and are still able to absorb additional funding.

Criterion #2: A Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation Finds the Organization is Cost-Effective
THL Pie Chart

THL Budget Allocation (2015 Q1-Q3)

THL runs several programs; we estimate cost effectiveness separately for each of their main programs and then give a composite estimate of their overall impact. Note that all estimates factor in associated supporting costs including administrative and fundraising costs. We think this quantitative perspective is a useful component of our overall evaluation, but the estimates of equivalent animals spared per dollar should not be taken as our overall opinion of the organization’s effectiveness, especially given that we choose not to account for some less easily quantified forms of impact in this section, leaving them for our qualitative evaluation.

Online Ads

We estimate that THL spent 32% of their budget in the first ¾ of 2015, or around $207,501, on online ads.28 They reported 1,942,924 clicks on their ads during this time period,29 resulting in an average cost of about 11 cents per click.30 This includes ads in the US and Spanish-speaking countries.31 We think inspiring people to care more about animals in some places might be more impactful than others, but we choose not to account for this in our cost-effectiveness estimate.

Grassroots Outreach

We estimate that THL spent 45% of their budget in the first ¾ of 2015, or around $287,219, on grassroots outreach.32 This resulted in 841,778 leaflets distributed and 4,358 students reached through humane education, suggesting an average cost of 34 cents per person reached.33

Cage-free Campaigns and Meatless Mondays

We estimate that THL spent 22% of their budget in the first ¾ of 2015, or around $142,095, on cage-free campaigns and Meatless Mondays.34 These campaigns produced commitments from several companies, including Delaware North Companies and Centerplate, to phase battery cages out of their supply chains.35 Additionally, four schools adopted Meatless Monday policies as a result of THL’s work.36 We estimate that will result in about 100,000 meatless meals per year, based on school enrollment.37

Changes Since 2014

In our previous review cycle, we made our cost-effectiveness estimate of THL based on their work in 2013. We now have information for 201438 and the first ¾ of 2015.39 The main differences we see between the estimates based on data for 2015 vs data for 2014 are (i) THL has produced substantially more clicks on their online ads in the first ¾ of 2015, even with a smaller budget for this program,40 (ii) THL has produced significantly more corporate cage-free commitments in 2015.41 We are unsure what caused the increased efficiency of the ads program, but we think the progress in corporate campaigning is in part because the commitments they sparked last year caused a shift in the industry attitude42 towards battery cages that allowed other companies to adopt cage-free policies more easily.43 We think this speaks to the difficulty in making cost-effectiveness estimates for long-term campaigns, since they can have diffuse effects years later, including effects they could have on new policies and commitments that aren’t directly attributable to the organization who ran the long-term campaign.

All Activities Combined

To combine these estimates into one overall cost-effectiveness estimate, we need to translate them into comparable units. This will introduce several sources for errors and imprecision, so the resulting estimate should not be taken literally.44 However, it will allow us to judge whether THL’s efforts are comparable in efficiency to other groups’.45

We use our Online Ad Impact Calculator and Leafleting Impact Calculator46 to find that THL spares about 25.7 animals from life on a factory farm per dollar spent on online ads, and about 4.1 animals per dollar spent on grassroots outreach.47

It is also relatively easy to see the impact of Meatless Monday campaigns in animals spared. We use our Leafleting Impact Calculator (which factors in elasticity of supply and demand) to estimate that one person going vegetarian for a year would spare 18.8 animals,48 which means serving one vegetarian meal instead of a meat-based one spares about 0.017 animals.49 We estimate that corporate commitments, on average, will last five years because some companies might make these commitments without THL’s campaigning, some might not actually follow through with their commitment, and we want to use a short time horizon to be consistent with our other cost-effectiveness calculations. We also estimate that the cage-free commitments THL has inspired spare suffering equivalent to about 1,500,000 animal lives on factory farms over the life of the policies.50 So overall THL’s cage-free and Meatless Monday campaigns have impact equivalent to sparing about 14.6 animals per dollar.51

We do not estimate the suffering spared by the Humane League Labs or some smaller programs of THL, like distributing vegetarian starter guides via newsracks. We weight our estimates by the proportion of funding THL spends on each activity to estimate that overall THL spares about 13.4 animals per dollar spent,52 which is well above average compared to other groups we have reviewed at this depth.53 Because of extreme uncertainty even about the strongest parts of our calculations, there is currently limited value in further elaborating this estimate.54 Instead, we give weight to our other criteria.

Criterion #3: The Organization is Working on Things That Seem to Have High Mission Effectiveness

THL works on many programs that educate young people about the realities of factory farming and encourage them to respond by adjusting their diets and getting involved in activism.55 This is highly effective by addressing the situation of farmed animals, an exceptionally good opportunity to help animals given the present circumstances.56

Online and Grassroots Outreach

Online and grassroots outreach about factory farming to individuals seems highly effective because it is focused on changing the culture of animal use for food. This culture must ultimately be changed if conditions are to improve significantly for animals, as it is not possible that animal agriculture can continue to grow at its present rate in a way that is respectful of animals’ interests.57 The effectiveness of this type of outreach is somewhat limited when compared to some other forms because viewers and readers are encouraged to make small-scale individual changes and may not influence others, the way a change in law or corporate policy influences many people.58

Specific Institutional Campaigns

Specific institutional campaigns undertaken by THL have included cage-free campaigns and Meatless Mondays campaigns.59 THL’s institutional campaigns now focus primarily on meat reduction campaigns at institutions, since most use cage-free eggs because of THL’s corporate campaigns affecting dining service providers.60 We think Meatless Monday campaigns have high potential to create a large amount of change.61 By convincing a few decision makers, advocates can significantly reduce the meat consumption of large groups.62 The broader impact on social memes regarding animals, such as how meat is viewed, is uncertain, but likely to be positive.63 While there is a possibility that people are eating more meat on other days of the week to make up for not having meat on Monday, we find that to be unlikely, and instead believe that the promotion of a discussion about eating choices, and thus the need or lack thereof to eat meat/eggs/dairy, will likely have a positive effect on future decisions.64 THL staff conducting such campaigns also recruit and train student activists to work on them, and the benefits of growing the animal advocacy movement in this way may be significant.65,66

Corporate Outreach

Corporate outreach seems to have high mission effectiveness because it involves convincing a few powerful people67 to make decisions which influence the lives of millions of animals.68 This seems likely to be easier than reaching and persuading millions of consumers in order to accomplish the same goal. However, corporate outreach often deals with small welfare improvements.69 It’s not clear whether such improvements, even if very easy to achieve, are highly effective in the long term, since as well as changing conditions for animals, they may also influence public opinion, either towards concern for farmed animals or towards complacency with regard to industrial agriculture.70

Studies of Advocacy Methods

Studies specifically designed to be applicable to the work of THL and other similar organizations have the possibility to increase the effectiveness of campaigns by better understanding what makes a video, leaflet, or other persuasive material more influential.71 If some of these studies are able to improve upon the effectiveness of the materials currently being used, a group could increase not only their own effectiveness, but also that of many other organizations, by making the study results freely available.72 Over several years, this could lead to a very high impact for a low price.73

Criterion #4: The Organization Possesses A Robust and Agile Understanding of Success and Failure

THL has one of the best understandings of success and failure that we have seen among animal advocacy organizations. They actively work to evaluate their own programs’ efficiency, quantitatively when possible, in order to determine what is working best and what they need to do less of or modify.74 THL’s board and staff see themselves and the organization as focused on effectiveness rather than committed to particular activities, and emphasize their ability to change directions as needed.75 By making as much as possible of what they learn public through Humane League Labs, they also prioritize the success of the animal advocacy movement as a whole.76

Last year, we noted that one of the strongest examples of their approach to determining which programs is successful was their decision to test Meatless Monday campaigns with resources they had previously used for cage-free campaigns.77 THL local organizers previously typically led campaigns to convince college dining services to switch to using cage-free eggs.78 However, after learning about good results that The Humane Society of the United States has had promoting Meatless Mondays in K-12 schools, THL decided to have some staff spend a semester working on this kind of campaign instead.79 Based on their findings, they spent more time working on Meatless Mondays initiatives with some notable successes.80 They have found that Meatless Mondays campaigns take more time to prepare and carry out, so while they haven’t yet completed an especially high number of campaigns in this area, they have completed more of these this year. Since THL’s campaigns department has now obtained commitments from many dining providers to use only cage-free eggs at the company level, it’s unlikely THL will return to working on campus cage-free egg campaigns.81

Another example is THL’s approach to online ads. They take advantage of the flexibility and responsiveness of online media to continually split-test both ads and videos as needed to improve their success rates (typically measured in clicks to download Vegetarian Starter Kits.)82 This allows them to respond quickly to ads that don’t work or are poorly targeted, which is particularly crucial as they expand their online ads program to other countries and languages, as they likely have less prior information about what will work in these situations.83 We do have reservations about the appropriateness of clicks to download Vegetarian Starter Kits as a metric, since since it has not been shown they are a good proxy for behavior change.84 However, we appreciate that they are among the most logical of the metrics that are easily available for all viewers.85

THL is relatively comfortable with and interested in explicit cost-effectiveness estimates, compared to other organizations. They use these cost-effectiveness estimates to help guide their actions, with one exception; they say that they would not close their local offices to focus only on online outreach and national campaigns even if that seemed to be the most cost-effective activity, because their local offices do their own fundraising and as such do not take away from the national budget.86 We have some concerns that this may not be the correct way to consider the situation, as some donors to the local offices might still donate to the national organization or to another similar group if there were no local office.87,88 However, in practice we do not feel that existing cost-effectiveness estimates are sufficiently robust to drive a dramatic shift to a single priority program, even if local offices are not viewed as self-funding.89

In 2015, THL has made some changes to internal processes. For example, in at least some offices, they have become more selective about intern recruitment, to avoid situations like interns throwing leaflets into the trash instead of distributing them.90 Their professional recruitment has also increased its focus on attitude and personality over technical suitability, which has produced good results.91 In terms of employee welfare and productivity once hired, they now focus more on communication between departments of the organization and boosting staff morale, which has also benefited the organization.92

Finally, THL is using Humane League Labs to better understand what works best through research. Though we wish they would provide more statistical analysis of their findings, we are encouraged that their research is a concerted effort to understand impact, and believe that they will be willing to shift their focus upon learning of new or improved advocacy techniques. We have also engaged in ongoing conversation with them about ways to improve the rigor of their studies and the meaningfulness of the results they report, and believe they are improving in these areas over time.93 In particular, we are encouraged that they are currently helping with a study that utilizes a professional research group.94 We think this will both result in a strong study and a learning experience that helps them in deciding how to implement future study designs.

Criterion #5: The Organization Possesses a Strong Track Record of Success
Successfully carrying out planned programs

THL was founded in 2005 and has engaged in its current programs for several years.95 They have undergone substantial growth in recent years, with their 2014 budget over 14 times as large as their 2009 budget.96 This means that they have a substantial track record both carrying out their programs and training new staff and opening offices in new cities.97

Programs leading to change for animals

Some of THL’s programs have clear track records of success as affecting actual animals, such as the Meatless Monday campaigns and corporate programs.98 These programs lead to direct and measurable increases in the number of animal products being produced under higher welfare standards (and decreases in the numbers being produced under lower standards), and therefore their short term effects for animals are clearly substantial and positive.99 While THL’s direct impact cannot be tracked in campaigns on which they have joined with other organizations, they have had enough successes attributable solely to their own impetus that we are confident they are having success in both these areas.100 The most notable of these is is THL’s recent work with dining services on a corporate level, which used policy changes on individual campuses to spur company-wide change, and then company-wide change to spur change throughout the industry.101

Many of THL’s programs attempt to influence individual behavior, and these are substantially harder to measure as regards ultimate impact upon animals.102 Included in this category are online ads, leafleting and other literature distribution, humane education, and most Humane League Labs studies. Studies so far suggest substantial positive effects of some of these activities, while others have not been formally evaluated at all.103,104 However, we believe that changing individuals’ beliefs and behaviors is a crucial part of building a better world for animals, and we do not want to penalize groups doing this work for the inherent difficulties of measuring success.

Even in cases where studies have been done, self-reported data is not fully reliable and the amount of available information is limited.105 In particular with the case of Humane League Labs, THL has faced difficulties releasing their findings on their planned schedule,106 and initially did not provide the level of statistical analysis that we would like to see.107 Currently, THL is waiting to conduct more studies until they know more about how Humane League Labs will fit into the evolving animal advocacy research field, as some new research programs (involving ACE and other organizations) are under development.108 They might hire someone to work on the labs program full time, but don’t want to duplicate research that others would be doing better.109

Criterion #6: The Organization Has Strong Organizational Leadership and Structure

THL has solid and stable leadership, with key staff for program and organizational leadership having been with the organization for several years.110 The Executive Director, David Coman-Hidy, has been with the organization for around 5 years.111 Most key staff have served as local office directors or co-directors at earlier times, allowing them insight into the everyday activities of other THL employees.112

The Board of Directors has also remained stable; they don’t have term limits, and most board members have been on the board since shortly after The Humane League adopted that name in 2008.113,114 We had questions about this degree of stability in the board; a board that does not change its composition could prevent an organization from adapting, or could fail to meet the needs of the organization as it grows. For THL, however, the board organization and composition appear to be working. The board usually operates by consensus, so compromise and changing positions are regular occurrences for all board members and the Executive Director.115 Additionally, when they search for new board members, a good fit in terms of personality is seen as an essential condition; good candidates have a willingness to learn from new evidence and adjust their beliefs.116 Because existing board members have these characteristics, THL has been able to change methods and programs when opportunities arise or there is reason to believe a change will make them more effective.117

THL has well-established procedures for hiring new local office staff and opening new offices, because it has grown significantly in the past few years.118 Until this year, many of the procedures were somewhat informal; this year they’ve created more detailed handbooks to support new employees, particularly local office staff during their first year.119 Local office staff operate mostly independently with help in different areas from the National Grassroots Director and Director of Development.120 The Campaigns Department also has several members with overlapping duties.121 We believe this structure is especially stable because many people in the organization know how to do most of the important program-related tasks.122

THL deliberately maintains a positive and cohesive internal atmosphere.123 Staff and board members intentionally create community through an informal Facebook group, to help them deal with the fact that most work in cities where no other THL employee lives.124 Staff, interns, and volunteers all told us that the positive and welcoming atmosphere created by others at THL was one of the strengths of the organization, especially for grassroots organizing.125,126,127 Staff also told us that open communication and the opportunity for everyone to give input on programs within the organization was a strength.128 Leaders at THL have recently begun placing more emphasis on maintaining these positive cultural aspects, by improving communication structures and placing more emphasis on cultural fit during the hiring process for new employees.129,130

Criterion #7: The Organization is Transparent

THL is exceptionally forthcoming with information through Humane League Labs131 and cooperated fully with our questions during the evaluation process. We find their new website somewhat less informative than the old one, which featured real-time reports on the activities of each local office.132 However, they share information very willingly upon request, and have cooperated with us and with other advocacy groups on studies and other projects frequently in the past.133 They don’t appear to value transparency for its own sake,134 but do an excellent job of sharing information that they know will be useful to others.

Criticism/FAQ

These are some of the critical questions we expect our audience might ask about THL’s approach. We attempt to offer our understanding of the criticism first in each section and then our understanding of the best evidence behind THL’s approach. These responses ultimately reflect ACE’s opinions and not necessarily those of THL.

Why does THL use local grassroots offices?

Many animal advocacy organizations, including Mercy For Animals which have historically engaged in grassroots activism, choose not to operate local offices.135 Typically, this is because they believe they have a larger reach and can be more effective by operating programs online or through national media than by engaging in grassroots action.136 Sometimes these organizations still have a volunteer base which they encourage to engage in grassroots action, but without local staff support.137

THL believes that grassroots efforts are a crucial part of the animal advocacy movement138 and lend strength to organizations pushing for policy change.139 They find that their local offices help to organize the community in the cities where they’re located, especially if there is no similar office or organization in the area. They would like to see such offices in every metropolitan area, whether they are part of THL or of another organization.140

THL says that the strategy of having grassroots offices is distinct from the strategy of engaging in any of the particular activities which the grassroots offices now take part in.141 By having trained, dedicated staff throughout the country, they’re prepared for situations in which they find that it’s beneficial to change the specific tactics they engage in.142 For instance, in the past year, grassroots offices have switched from running local cage-free campaigns to running local meat reduction campaigns because of victories of the national corporate campaigns group,143 and they have also started supporting the national corporate campaigns more.144

Humane League Labs produces studies that likely wouldn’t meet standards for peer-reviewed academic work. Why do they conduct and publicize flawed studies?

THL is not attached to using specific methods to help animals; instead they want to find the methods that allow them to have the greatest impact and use those.145 This requires some level of research, as it’s unlikely that the exact methods they initially try will be the best available methods. By conducting studies to the best of THL’s abilities, even if the results are imperfect, they are able to improve their methods as much as possible.146,147

Critics say that providing studies with flawed methodology or under-supported claims is worse than providing no studies at all. Using flawed methodology or conducting a study with a biased design could lead to results that do not match real outcomes.148 Also, some people may not be able to properly evaluate the results of studies that are not definitive, even if the studies are conducted and publicized appropriately. If study results are not reported appropriately, many people may take even tentative conclusions or statistically insignificant results to be indisputable fact.149

In some of THL’s program areas, it’s possible to evaluate results and refine techniques without doing anything that looks like a study: for instance, with corporate and institutional campaigns, they find out whether each company or school changes their policy, so they can observe which of their activities tend to lead to the best results.150 With THL’s programs that aim to create individual dietary change, it’s harder to adjust their methodology based on results that they observe, because they aren’t able to follow up with the majority of people they contact to chart behavior change. This means that in the absence of study data, THL and other organizations rely on intuition and anecdotal reports to guide decisions about these programs.151

There aren’t very many studies of any kind on the diet change programs THL pursues, and those that exist are mostly carried out by THL or other animal advocacy groups, so THL sees their own studies as necessary.152 These studies vary in methodology and quality, but generally are not placed in peer-reviewed journals.153 THL conducts studies because of the lack of evaluative information about these programs other than anecdotes. They publicize them because the studies they conduct deal with interventions that many other groups also use; since animal advocates share their goals, they want everyone to have the best information possible.154 They release data and study materials along with their results so that others can perform their own analyses if they think THL’s are incomplete.155

THL has improved some of their practices around Humane League Labs studies, for instance by providing more information about the statistical significance of their findings in the reports they issue about their studies.156 But they’re aware that they don’t have ideal training for conducting rigorous studies and that, because they actually engage in animal advocacy, their findings about methods they use could be biased or perceived as biased.157 As increased funding has become available for animal advocacy research, they’re considering changing the way they participate in research.158 For example, if another group begins running studies that address the questions they think are relevant, they might work with that group instead of running their own studies.159

Why does THL ask people to go vegetarian or reduce their consumption of animal products rather than going completely vegan?

Some critics say that advocating for any dietary or lifestyle change less than complete veganism is an acceptance of speciesism, since it allows some cruel treatment of animals to continue.160,161 Others believe that asking for veganism is also the most effective way to create any lifestyle change, since people may adopt lesser changes as a compromise.162 Advocates who think it’s important to ask others to go completely vegan often feel this way in large part because of the implications an uncompromising message has for diffuse outcomes like long-term changes in social norms. As a result they may find evidence addressing short-term outcomes unpersuasive, particularly if it does not support their methods, because their methods are adopted in part due to their expectations about their long-term value.

THL’s goal is to reduce as much animal suffering as possible.163 They make pragmatic choices based on this aim, even though they ultimately would like to see animal agriculture ended. Based on currently available evidence, they think that sometimes asking people to go vegetarian or reduce their consumption of meat is more effective in causing them to change their behavior than asking them to go vegan.164 This is not an unusual belief; for example, the leaflets THL uses are printed by Vegan Outreach and Mercy For Animals, and also talk about going vegetarian, cutting back on meat, or eating plant-based foods.165

Advocates for this approach have cited evidence that using the word "vegan" specifically may be off-putting to the general public,166,167 as well as evidence that making smaller requests leads to more compliance than making larger ones.168 However, the evidence isn’t definitive and often focuses on short-term outcomes, rather than long-term social change, which is harder to measure in a controlled setting.169

Why does a significant portion of THL’s outreach focus on dietary change, e.g. reducing meat consumption, rather than shifting public attitudes?

Critics argue that a strong focus on dietary change doesn’t follow from a historical example or accepted scientific theory.170,171,172,173,174 Some argue that successful social movements have focused their rhetoric on the institution they opposed rather than on individual behavior supporting that institution.175 Critics also believe it is difficult to build a mass movement when the perceived criteria for acceptance in the movement is a lifestyle change, and that a consumer focus provokes less moral outrage than focusing on the institution thus missing important driver of activism and subsequent social change.

THL feels that a focus on dietary change in some of their programs, such as leafleting, is more likely to lead to immediate behavior change that directly spares animals.176,177 If people simply change their attitudes with respect to farmed animals, that might not lead to actual impact for animals, especially given observations like that so many Americans currently care about animals, but relatively few are vegetarian or vegan.178 Changing diet might also shift someone’s social identity into a compassionate perspective more than directly changing attitudes, since it is hard to reconcile caring about farmed animals with also eating them and actions have strong influence on beliefs.179 In general, however, this approach seems more focused on incremental change than on building a mass movement, which may be the real underlying difference between the two sides.

Why doesn’t THL spend more time protesting and engaging in confrontation?

Some animal advocates believe protests and other forms of confrontational activism can do more to benefit animals than less confrontational approaches like leafleting and humane education.180 Some of these advocates argue that protests are more likely to spark discussion and cause broad social change, making this criticism closely tied to the criticism above.181 Although THL does utilize protests in some of their work, such as their ongoing campaign against Costco’s purchasing of eggs from farms that use battery cages, they believe leafleting, humane education, and other tactics have important benefits that make them more worthwhile as a primary focus.182

Critics would suggest protests can do more to cause long-term social change for animals even if it often doesn’t appeal to its audience in the short-run, because the uncompromising messages they send work well to change social norms. However, proponents of nonconfrontational activism believe confrontation risks making people defensive and less likely to change their minds.183 It’s unclear how these arguments and their associated evidence weigh against each other. One example where confrontation seemed to provoke defensiveness was a US poll taken in the middle of several high-profile cases of white police officers killing black civilians and the subsequent protests, which indicated that white people were more confident in that their local police forces treated black people fairly. However, these protests also seem to have helped establish police conduct issues as a popular issue in US politics, so their total impact is unclear at this time.184

THL also finds it beneficial to maintain a professional reputation, and engaging in too much confrontational or controversial activism could endanger that reputation while turning off potential supporters. For example, they might worry that many activists would not feel comfortable engaging in protests, while most are comfortable handing out leaflets.185 In addition to maintaining a base of donors and volunteers, THL works directly with institutions like schools and corporations that are outside animal advocacy.186,187 For this work, appearing tough can be helpful, but appearing irrational or extreme could be detrimental.188 We think THL’s approach here is reasonable, and we appreciate that they are willing to engage in confrontation in cases when it seems particularly effective like in their Costco campaign.

Does THL worry that focusing on some of the most extreme confinement practices could lead to complacency with other forms of suffering farmed animals endure?

Critics argue that humane reforms, like bans on battery cages, might mislead people into thinking that farmed animals no longer suffer and that helping them is no longer a priority.189 Some cite as evidence that the animal agriculture industry itself markets itself as humane and ethical, which suggests this messaging actually benefits those companies.190 However, this may only reflect gains to individual companies from positioning themselves as the most humane option.191 There isn’t much evidence that this kind of marketing helps the industry as a whole, and there’s some evidence that discussion of animal welfare in general causes demand for meat to decline.192

Since humane reforms often involve working directly with animal agriculture companies, this can give the public the impression that these companies treat their animals well when this is not the case, especially when animal advocates are incentivized to make the humane reforms seem like drastic improvements when animals still suffer substantially.193 Critics would also argue that, empirically, humane reforms such as banning battery cages reduce only a very small portion of the harm of animal agriculture, if any, so they are not the most cost-effective use of time.194,195,196

THL has not seen evidence of increased complacency on a corporate level from their achievements thus far, as companies have often been more willing to work with them after making progress on some issues.197 It’s not clear whether they would be aware of increased complacency on a consumer level if it were a result of their work.198 As activists and potential activists notice their progress, it also grows their grassroots network (and the animal advocacy community in general) in order to push for better animal welfare policies in the future. Also, making institutional progress for animals could increase the authority of the animal advocacy movement, as it becomes clear that not only are animal advocates passionate about changing their personal diets, but they are capable of making significant institutional changes.199

It also seems like the transition to vegan alternatives like cultured meat might be too difficult if humane reforms have not occurred because people might argue that instead of using the alternatives, we should just try to reform the existing system. The success of humane reforms also establishes moral discussions of animal agriculture as an important and tractable topic in the public domain, which seems important for further progress.

Our Methodology

How we conducted this review

This was our first attempt at conducting a deep review. We composed a general plan for conducting deep reviews, including the selection of organizations, the types of research we would want to do, and the possible outcomes (in terms of things we would learn and also effects for the reviewed organization). We chose to evaluate THL as our first test of the deep review process because we’d written a medium review of THL twice before, worked with them on studies of intervention effectiveness, and always found them open, responsive, and interested in helping us better understand their organization and animal advocacy in general. We considered this openness critical, since we knew that the deep review process would be relatively demanding for the organization involved. We also considered it an advantage that we’d already interacted with them in many ways, since it meant that we’d learned much of what we would normally expect to learn through repeated contact with an organization. If we learned new things during the deep review, they would be less likely to be things that we could learn through a less demanding process, such as repeated medium reviews over a period of years.

After deciding to conduct a deep review of THL, we created a plan for the review. We considered our goals for the review, the stages the review would take, and the people we would like to talk to at each stage, including specific individuals and also general categories of people. We next contacted David Coman-Hidy, to ask whether THL would be willing to participate in this review process. We explained our plan and provided a list of the people we’d need to talk with. We asked David to explain to others at THL about our review process and to make connections between us and specific THL employees. We also asked for his help in finding people to talk to in other groups we wanted to speak with but didn’t have ready examples of. For example, we asked David to connect us to THL volunteers, a corporate outreach collaborator at another advocacy organization, and to a dining director they’d worked with in their college or school district campaigns.

With help from David and others at THL, we ultimately spoke with:

  • David Coman-Hidy, Executive Director
  • Andrea Gunn, National Grassroots Director
  • Aaron Ross, Director of Campaigns
  • Rachel Huff-Wagenborg, Director of Operations
  • Stephanie Frankle, San Francisco Director
  • Beau Broughton, San Diego Director
  • Rachel Black, Philadelphia Director
  • Ana Ortega, Mexico Campaign Coordinator
  • Lydia Chaudry, Volunteer Coordinator and Board of Directors member
  • Harish Sethu, Board of Directors member
  • Denise Tremblay, Board of Directors member
  • Clare Farrow, volunteer and former intern
  • Quilla Park, volunteer and former intern
  • other volunteers and interns,
  • a major individual donor to THL,
  • the teacher of a class where a humane ed presentation was given, and
  • a corporate outreach collaborator from another animal advocacy group.

We took notes on most of these interactions, including some which we are not publishing due to confidentiality or in order not to make additional demands on the time of people we talked to who don’t work for THL. Notes and summaries that we have published were reviewed by everyone involved in any conversation recounted in detail, as well as by David Coman-Hidy on behalf of THL.

We wrote and edited this review with reference to our notes and to additional documentation provided by THL. We submitted a version of this review to THL for correction and comment and to ensure that no confidential material was contained in the review.

What we’d like to know more about

With THL, as in general, a big portion of our uncertainty about their effectiveness is due to general uncertainty about the effectiveness of the programs they work on. THL in particular uses leafleting, online ads, and humane education to encourage individual diet change, and we have questions about both the short-term and long-term effectiveness of these interventions. They also use corporate campaigns to improve animal welfare, and while we think we understand the short-term implications, we’re not sure about the long-term effects of such campaigns. None of these uncertainties are limited to THL’s work, and we think that THL has been unusually active in trying to resolve these uncertainties, but they remain gaps in our overall understanding of THL’s impact.

We’d also like to know more about whether THL’s attempts at movement-building are causing activists to be more effective not only within THL, but also in working with other animal advocacy groups. Building a stronger animal advocacy movement in general is a large part of the motivation for THL’s local office model and for their work on college campuses. While THL has clearly succeeded in growing their own organization and recruiting effective advocates from among their volunteers and interns, we think building a strong grassroots movement should also include THL volunteers and interns going on to work with other advocacy groups in thoughtful, effectiveness-focused ways. We have seen some evidence of this in the personal histories of people we spoke with, but not enough to be fully satisfying. We’re not sure whether this is because THL is growing the movement in this way but we missed evidence of this, or whether it is because THL is not yet (or will not be) growing the movement in this way.

We feel we understand how THL makes some key decisions, like in what areas to hire new staff. But there are very large-scale strategic decisions on which we don’t fully understand THL’s reasoning, and would like to. For instance, we’re not sure we fully understand why THL focuses so much of their work on producing individual dietary change. In part, we’d like to see them discuss these things publicly more often, in order to learn and grow through the exchange of ideas. In part, this is a type of issue that we realized late in the review process that we should have asked more about.

How this review changed our understanding of THL

We didn’t learn much through this review that directly affected our estimation of THL’s cost effectiveness, or of the general effectiveness of their programs. We were already fairly familiar with THL’s programs, and during previous reviews they’d shared financial information with us. They also publish the studies they do on their programs, so there weren’t proprietary self-evaluations that we could have seen for the first time.

We did come to a better understanding of THL’s organizational structure and culture, and of the experiences of THL board members, staff, interns, and volunteers. Most of these people seemed smart and evidence-focused, and all were very positive in their dealings with others and had mainly positive things to say about others at THL. As a result, we’re somewhat more inclined to treat THL’s internal culture as a comparative strength than we would have been if we’d interacted with fewer people affiliated with the organization. We also better understand some statements made in interviews. For example, David Coman-Hidy told us that THL now focuses more on cultural fit, attitude, and personality in their hiring process than they did in the past. We think it would be relatively hard to understand what this means they’re selecting for through talking only to one or two people at the organization, but after interacting with many people in the organization, we think we have a good understanding of what they’re looking for and why it’s important to them.

We also have more detailed knowledge of individual programs than we did before. In practice, this hasn’t changed very much about how we thought THL’s programs were conducted or what we thought they accomplished. But we expect that if there were discrepancies between how programs are conducted and how leaders at THL want us to think they’re conducted, it would have been harder for THL to hide these during this review than during previous reviews we’ve done.

Resources

Conversation with Aaron Ross
Conversation with Ana Ortega
Conversation with Andrea Gunn
Conversation with Clare Farrow
Conversation with David Coman-Hidy
Conversation with Rachel Huff-Wagenborg
Conversation with Quilla Park
Notes on Site Visit: Philadelphia leafleting and conversation with board members
Notes on Site Visit: San Diego humane education presentation
Notes on Site Visit: San Diego leafleting
2014 cost effectiveness calculations as a spreadsheet
2015 cost effectiveness calculations as a spreadsheet
THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015
2015 budget information
September 2014 Conversation with David Coman-Hidy
October 2014 Conversation with The Humane League
March 2014 Conversation with David Coman-Hidy
Supplemental document: Budget, time, accomplishments


  1. "We are setting a target amount of $50,000, but we think THL could use about $270,000 in increased funding this year. Of this, they could use about $80,000 to open two more local offices than they plan to open (thus expanding all of their local outreach programs), and $190,000 to roughly double the amount they’ll spend on online ads."–ACE. December 2014 The Humane League Review

  2. See THL’s 2014 990 (via Guidestar or other services) for 2014 budget and 2015 budget information for 2015 budget. 

  3. Including a proportional amount of administrative spending. THL Cost Effectiveness Estimate (2014). Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. 

  4. Including a proportional amount of administrative spending. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  5. "Of this, they could use about $80,000 to open two more local offices than they plan to open (thus expanding all of their local outreach programs), and $190,000 to roughly double the amount they’ll spend on online ads."–ACE. December 2014 The Humane League Review

  6. They had planned to open two new offices, so we thought additional funding would allow them to open four. In fact they opened two. From our December 2014 The Humane League Review: "THL currently operates nine offices around the country, and has plans to open an additional two offices in 2015. They could use $40,000 or $80,000 to fill the gap between offices they have time to open and offices they have funds to open." From The Humane League’s website in November 2015: "Originally founded in Philadelphia, The Humane League has grown to be a leading national presence for farmed animals with offices in Philadelphia, Boston, Maryland, Dallas, Charlotte, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, South Florida, Denver, and San Diego." 

  7. "The biggest development is the expansion of the campaigns department, as well as the utilisation of the grassroots network to help expand national campaigns." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  8. "Before, Aaron and David Coman-Hidy worked on campaigns, with occasional assistance from other staff. Now Aaron runs the campaigns department, and they’ve hired four more people to work with him, including one in Mexico." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  9. "In the heat of the Sodexo and Aramark Campaigns, David and Aaron Ross worked on campaigns, but both had less and less time to devote to them. So, they hired Taylor Ford, who had been interning at THL, to work on the campaigns full-time. As soon as they hired him, they got much more work done and had unprecedented victories with dining companies. A few donors followed these campaigns closely and contacted THL to find out how they could help. Thanks to these donations, THL were able to hire two more people to work on campaigns." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  10. "New staff are hired when funds are available and are sometimes recruited from their volunteer base, with 4 new grassroots staff hired in the past two months." But as discussed above, only two new offices were opened in 2015, and there is only one local grassroots position in each city. —Conversation with Andrea Gunn (July 22, 2015). 

  11. "David confirmed that the turnover is almost all due to movement within THL." Employees of THL whose positions have changed recently include Andrea Gunn, Aaron Ross, and Rachel Atcheson. —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  12. "For a few reasons, this turnover has not been too damaging. For example, Andrea moving into a new management role was much less difficult than opening a new office location because the person hired to run Andrea’s office, Maddie Segal, was Andrea’s highest achieving volunteer. Maddie was already familiar with all the programs and Andrea was living in the city to go to Maddie's first humane ed presentations. Moreover, Maddie already had Andrea’s interns and network of volunteers." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  13. "THL has two main areas where they see opportunity for expansion: campaigns and outreach. They plan on growing these programs alongside each other. Priority for expansion is based on funding availability and interest, and the time commitment in training each new position (grassroots offices having the longest setup time)." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  14. "In addition, Andrea has had the time to implement projects which were inessential given David’s previous time constraints. For example, within the first few months Andrea made a thorough and professional training manual, created new meeting formats for senior staff and grassroots activists, and made a new standardized training program. So, THL is now more professionalized and streamlined." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  15. "With campaign staff you can plug people into a role and anyone can start doing the work required. They have seen a large payoff in results relative to these salaries and other costs, and so they are hoping to take on more campaigns people next year." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  16. One funding priority for next year is "Add legal support to campaigns work." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  17. One funding priority for next year is "Expansion of campus outreach program with one additional staff person and 10 additional students in Spring 2016 with opportunity to expand further in Fall 2016." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015).

    ACE is less confident about this program than about THL’s other proposed expansions, because the current form of THL’s campus outreach program is new in fall 2015, so we think it’s possible the results won’t be as good as THL expects. "Last year, they started thinking about hiring a campus coordinator, both for the impact they could have on campuses and as a way of training a lot of high quality activists at the universities and building them into a network. THL decided that this seemed like a good use of resources, and they have the funding, so they’re moving forward with it. The program will be starting this fall." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  18. The Humane League’s 990 returns can be accessed through Guidestar or other services, or requested from the organization. 

  19. The Humane League’s 990 returns can be accessed through Guidestar or other services, or requested from the organization. 

  20. "It costs about $40,000 over two years to open an office and support it until it becomes self-sufficient[.]" —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  21. "The local offices are expected to fund themselves through fundraising events within 2 years[.]" —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  22. From The Humane League’s website in November 2015: "Originally founded in Philadelphia, The Humane League has grown to be a leading national presence for farmed animals with offices in Philadelphia, Boston, Maryland, Dallas, Charlotte, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, South Florida, Denver, and San Diego." 

  23. "Opening two new offices per semester is the limit of what Andrea can do by herself in terms of training new people." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  24. In March 2014 THL had 7 local offices, in September 2014 they had 9, and in November 2015 they had 11. 

  25. "For online ads, they could use as much funding as they could get." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). In our 2015 conversation, he told us they could use additional funding for Spanish-language ads. —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  26. To advertise on a website like Facebook, an organization provides a budget for a given time period and bids on ads targeted to particular users or searches; the system automatically sells them as many ads as it can while staying within budget, usually ending within a few cents of the total budget. Specifically on Facebook, the limit on the exposure of ads is directly tied to available funding. 

  27. Since THL was one of ACE’s top charities last year, it’s particularly difficult to assess how much money they would raise in the coming year without ACE’s recommendation. We took into account the donations to THL that we knew ACE had influenced in the past year as money they might not have raised "on their own". We then attempted to project THL’s recent fundraising patterns into the future. For more on how we track donations influenced by ACE, see our Top Charity Donor Survey 2015

  28. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  29. Total clicks to the English landing page before September 15, 2015 were 746,191. Total clicks for Spanish were 1,196,733. ~ total of 1,942,924. —THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015

  30. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  31. "We have also expanded this program into Spanish speaking countries and have seen very cost-effective results." —THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015

  32. Including a proportional amount of administrative spending. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  33. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  34. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  35. "Following the three largest dining service companies, THL began a systematic campaign against the remaining 50 largest dining companies in the country. Within months, 38 companies committed to switching 100% of their eggs to cage-free by 2020 at the latest, with many agreeing to switch earlier." —THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015

  36. "THL’s Philadelphia office worked with Chichester School District to switch four schools to Meatless Mondays, meaning that thousands of meals each week will now be meat-free." —THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015

  37. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  38. THL Cost Effectiveness Estimate (2014). Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. 

  39. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  40. THL had 1,942,924 clicks in the first ~¾ of 2015 and 1,228,000 in 2014. The online ads budget went from $241,160 to $207,501 between these two periods. Note that the total online ads budget for 2015 will likely be closer to or exceed that of 2014. —THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015. (Note that some figures were from an earlier version of the document not approved for publication). 

  41. Cage-free commitments in the first ¾ of 2015 include three very large food service providers using an estimated total of 3,000,000 hens per year. Other commitments are estimated to spare around 2,000,000 hens per year. In 2014, the total estimate was around 500,000 hens per year.—THL Cost Effectiveness Estimate (2014). Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. And THL Cost Effectiveness Estimate (2015). Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  42. Many of the cage-free commitments have come from companies in direct competition with each other as part of the food service and catering industry. While the attitude of the animal agriculture industry more broadly might also be shifting, it’s not what we’re referring to here. 

  43. Although it seems the biggest factors were likely (i) additional staff members working on it, and (ii) improvements in strategy after THL gained more experience in corporate campaigning. 

  44. In fact, there are already sources of error and imprecision in our estimates to this point, most notably in uncertainties about how much time THL employees spend on each activity we have described and about how administrative and fundraising costs should be assigned to the various areas. However, the amount of error in our following estimates can be expected to be considerably greater. 

  45. We use similar assumptions for each of the groups for which we perform such a calculation. 

  46. The Online Ad Impact Calculator synthesizes information about the effects of online ads leading to videos about factory farming from a variety of sources, including a survey of viewers, studies on vegetarians and former vegetarians, US animal product consumption averages, and elasticity estimates for various foods. The calculator contains links to all sources used. The Leafleting Impact Calculator performs a similar function for leaflets. 

  47. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  48. Using the middle (best estimate column), we multiply the number of each type of meat animal that one person consumes in a year by the cumulative elasticity factor for that animal (to account for other shifts in consumption due to price fluctuation). We then add the results.
    0.118*0.67+0.0043*0.31+0.37*0.76+24.7*0.63+1.74*0.82+0.78*0.28+2.92*0.43 = 18.8—Leafleting Impact Calculator

  49. 18.8 animals spared by a year of vegetarianism / (365*3) meals per year = 0.017 animals spared per meal. 

  50. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  51. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  52. THL cost effectiveness estimate. Our estimates in this spreadsheet were calculated using preliminary budget numbers from THL. Note also that the figures in the spreadsheet are not projected to cover the last several months of 2015. 

  53. Our rough estimates, which should not be used to give a firm ranking for the groups, are:

     

  54. For error bounds on some calculations, see our Online Ad Impact Calculator and Leafleting Impact Calculator

  55. "For intuitive reasons, they think the best target audience for outreach is young people in college or high school." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  56. Farmed animal advocacy is underfunded compared to some other animal causes, and individuals have the opportunity to affect relatively large numbers of farmed animals through their own actions. For more see our page on farmed animal advocacy. 

  57. We found only one study which considered both animal welfare and global food production needs at a whole system level. It concluded that the current style of industrial agriculture is not sustainable on a global level: "Global food security for all in 2050 is not feasible with a scenario of livestock intensification and a Western-style diet for all, even with unrealistically high yield scenarios." The study proposed dealing with this reality by encouraging humans in developed nations to eat more plant-based foods, and found no reason that producers could not better attend to animal welfare and meet production needs in such a scenario: "The additional feed required for livestock to be more active and the space needed for them to roam and perform natural behaviours is relatively small and does not affect the food security option space." We note that there are likely additional options involving further decreases in animal and environmental welfare as technologies are developed to provide more animal-derived foods with fewer resources, and that market structures may make such unpredictable developments more likely than the outcomes proposed by the study. – Compassion in World Farming. (2012). Food Security and Farm Animal Welfare

  58. Materials, including some distributed by THL such as Vegan Outreach's Your Choice, call on readers to stop eating meat or all animal products, without necessarily advocating further steps that readers could take to create social change. 

  59. "Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore have completed their cage-free campaigns, so this semester we are in the process of working on Meatless Mondays campaigns." —THL Budget, Time, and Accomplishments

  60. "THL is no longer doing cage-free campaigns at individual colleges and universities. Almost all of these schools will stop using battery cage eggs because of their food service campaigns. They are working with individual schools on meat reduction programs, adding vegan options, and Meatless Monday programs." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  61. In particular, we think Meatless Monday campaigns in which meat is not served at all on Mondays have the potential to significantly reduce the amount of meat consumed. We expect less change from programs which simply promote meatless options on Mondays without changing the actual menu available. 

  62. "For example, if Philadelphia were to do Meatless Mondays in the public schools, they have 166,000 students, so about 90,000 animals should be spared, based on the number of meals that would be changed." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  63. Most Meatless Mondays programs do not have explicit animal advocacy components, but we think that by emphasizing the ease of eating healthy meatless meals, they reduce the extent to which meat is perceived as a necessary or desirable component of each meal. 

  64. Our position is similar to that expressed by Michael Webermann: "Right now, a lot of young people believe that factory farming is bad, but equate protein with meat and know they need protein in their diet. If parents now participate in Meatless Mondays or similar programs, their children may grow up without the belief that protein needs to come from animals. Then, when they learn about the grim reality of animal farming, they will be more open to animal advocates’ messages and more likely to become vegan."—Conversation with Michael Webermann and Alex Felsinger

  65. "They bring in a lot of volunteers from campaigns on college campuses." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  66. THL started a new program on college campuses in 2015 which is explicitly focused on recruiting and training advocates as well as accomplishing grassroots work: "Last year, they started thinking about hiring a campus coordinator, both for the impact they could have on campuses and as a way of training a lot of high quality activists at the universities and building them into a network. THL decided that this seemed like a good use of resources, and they have the funding, so they’re moving forward with it. The program will be starting this fall." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  67. "The vast majority of the victories HSUS has gotten in corporate outreach have been the results of friendly negotiation with executives, shareholder resolutions, and working with investors." While campaigns by other organizations may involve public pressure more often than the HSUS campaigns do, they ultimately seek to persuade the same corporate decision makers.—Conversation with Josh Balk (June 24, 2014). 

  68. "Our corporate outreach initiatives... have without a doubt positively impacted the lives of tens of millions of animals."—MFA 2013 Year in Review. THL devotes considerably fewer resources to corporate outreach than MFA does, but their corporate campaigns still affect at least thousands of animals: "Johnsonville Sausage (one of the nation's largest sausage producers) — Pledged to eliminate all gestation crates from their supply chain by 2025. In 2009, Johnsonville was slaughtering 3,250 pigs every day, more than any other company." —THL Budget, Time, and Accomplishments

  69. THL's outreach in particular often deals with transitioning to cage-free eggs and gestation-crate-free pork. For example, "Metz Management (smaller dining provider) — transitioning to 100% gestation-crate and cage-free egg purchasing." —THL Budget, Time, and Accomplishments.

    However, some recent campaigns have led to larger commitments: "Sodexo made a comprehensive policy addressing numerous cruel factory farming policies, which prompted Aramark to adopt an even stronger policy that included exploring plant-based options, issuing a public statement that plant-based options are healthier and better for animals and the environment, and launching an all-vegan restaurant that they can put into any university where they work." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  70. Animal welfare improvements on factory farms may, if publicized, promote a norm of caring for the welfare of animals, because people see that mainstream companies are concerned about the treatment of farmed animals. On the other hand, people who object to industrial agriculture only because of the worst abuses might become more supportive of it if the worst abuses cease, leading fewer people to be actively engaged in promoting animal welfare. 

  71. For online materials this is sometimes possible to do by split-testing, but for leaflets separate studies are necessary. "They also plan to continue expanding the online ads program; they’ve recently started doing overseas ads, which has an enormous amount of room for funding and a little split-testing has really increased the efficacy of the program." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  72. Other groups have cited studies run by or with THL as influences on their programs when we have spoken to them, and THL also sees this as a significant part of their impact. "[THL] is so small that the influence they’ve had on larger groups through [Humane League Labs and split-testing videos and ads] is probably their biggest contribution so far." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  73. If the results of a study are useful, they can improve the efficiency of a program indefinitely, spreading the effects of the study over many years of advocacy while costs remain fixed. 

  74. "In terms of impact, they aim for reducing suffering, and they hope that with Humane League Labs they’ll be able to better measure the outcome of [online and grassroots outreach] programs in terms of impact." "They’re simply looking for the activity that will help the largest number of animals." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  75. "In terms of impact, they aim for reducing suffering, and they hope that with Humane League Labs they’ll be able to better measure the outcome of [online and grassroots outreach] programs in terms of impact." "They’re simply looking for the activity that will help the largest number of animals." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  76. "With Humane League Labs, they try to make everything extremely public. They think their strong suit is that they can put their money and numbers where their mouth is, and there really isn’t anything they think they would hold back. So far, a lot of their sharing has happened through people emailing them and asking for information, but recently they’ve started publishing the results and data from their current round of studies on the Humane League Labs site." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  77. "One recent shift from a less effective model to a more effective model was temporarily swapping cage-free campaigns for Meatless Mondays." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  78. "2013 Cage-Free Campuses: The following campuses have made a 100% switch to cage-free eggs, both shell and liquid:

    • Brown University
    • Boston College
    • Smith College
    • McDaniel College
    • Community College of Baltimore County
    • Catonsville
    • Gannon University
    • Mt. Aloysius University
    • University of Illinois: Chicago

    THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015

  79. "This semester, after talking with HSUS about why they’re doing a lot of Meatless Monday activities and how many meals it changes, they’re trying Meatless Monday campaigns instead of cage-free egg campaigns." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  80. Philadelphia switched to 100% meatless meals, and Boston has also indicated they will to 100% meatless. Half of Baltimore County has also switched, and they are in discussions with San Francisco. —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (September 11, 2014). 

  81. "THL is no longer doing cage-free campaigns at individual colleges and universities. Almost all of these schools will stop using battery cage eggs because of their food service campaigns." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  82. "They also plan to continue expanding the online ads program; they’ve recently started doing overseas ads, which has an enormous amount of room for funding and a little split-testing has really increased the efficacy of the program." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). See also various studies from The Humane League, including one we analyzed on our page comparing the effectiveness of different videos and ads. 

  83. They are based in the United States and have more experience running programs in the United States than elsewhere. Furthermore, much (though not all) of the research available about vegetarianism and animal advocacy has been conducted in the United States. 

  84. This is a convenient metric for split-testing online ads and videos with, because software is available to report click rates. 

  85. Other metrics that could be easily tracked are related to viewing time, the percentage of ad views that result in clicks, and other behaviors that occur on the video page, such as liking or sharing the video. 

  86. "They are almost entirely numbers driven in how they decide what to do. The exception being that they would not shift to only doing online ads, because their funding model has local offices paying for themselves; they aren’t entirely drawing from the same funding pool as online ads." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  87. We are most concerned about this for large donors; if a donor feels strongly enough about the organization to make a substantial donation, they might still do so without a local office to visit and connect with. "The holiday party is where they get more variance; in some cities these produce large personal donations that create a budget surplus for that office." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  88. In talking with THL board members, donors, and volunteers, we found that some of the most committed travel to multiple cities for their major fundraising events (the holiday party or gala each office throws), which suggests that some would find a way to remain involved with and supportive of THL even if they did not live in a city with a local office. 

  89. For instance, see our Leafleting Impact Calculator for a demonstration of how much uncertainty we have about the impacts of even relatively well-understood programs. 

  90. "Rachel said that interns in the past had sometimes done poor work if they were not very committed to THL’s mission, such as throwing away stacks of leaflets instead of handing them out. Now THL is more selective about the interns that they accept, in order to avoid similar problems." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  91. "Finally, Andrea and David have changed the hiring process to ensure that new hires fit in with THL culture. When they are hiring people, they focus a lot more on attitude and personality, whereas previously they focused chiefly on technical suitability to the task. This has produced good results." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  92. "Secondly, the big picture big improvement for THL has been in communication, which Andrea Gunn and Rachel Huff-Wagenborg get the credit for. THL has made a strong effort to be as transparent as possible with decision-making for staff, as well as making sure people are talking to one another and feeling less isolated. They emphasise that all decisions made by senior staff should be shared with everyone, so that everyone knows what direction THL is moving in. Consequently, morale is now at an all time high." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  93. They have consulted us during the planning and analysis phases of some studies. In addition we conducted a conversation with several people involved in their research work as part of the review process.—Conversation with The Humane League (October 14, 2014). 

  94. "They’re planning to go further in this direction with their planned study of the effectiveness of Facebook ads; they’ve been following the design .impact is developing and considering points from it and expect to partner with MFA and a donor to get their version conducted by a professional research group." —Conversation with The Humane League (October 14, 2014). 

  95. "Since our founding in 2005, The Humane League’s mission has been to save the lives of as many animals as possible and to reduce as much animal cruelty as we can."—The Humane League website. Leafleting, online ads, and cage-free and Meatless Mondays campaigns have each been part of THL's work for several years. For instance, see David Coman-Hidy's leafleting history on Adopt a College, results of a survey THL distributed to viewers of their online ads in 2011, or this case study on cage-free campus campaigns, which notes that THL began campaigning for cage-free campuses in 2008. 

  96. THL's total expenditures in 2009 were $38,882,98, compared to $562,952 in 2014. Tax returns for prior years are available through Guidestar and other services. 

  97. Along with their budget expansion, they have expanded from one original office to eleven local offices. From The Humane League’s website in November 2015: "Originally founded in Philadelphia, The Humane League has grown to be a leading national presence for farmed animals with offices in Philadelphia, Boston, Maryland, Dallas, Charlotte, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, South Florida, Denver, and San Diego." 

  98. These programs prompt clear and trackable shifts in purchasing towards higher-welfare animal products from their lower-welfare equivalents. For instance, "The local cage-free egg campaigns are easier to measure for final impact, because they can learn from the dining providers how many eggs they purchase." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014).

    "They won victories at Sodexo, Aramark, and Compass Group (the world’s largest food service provider) which led to battery cages being banned in each supply chain. Then, the companies started competing for the best animal welfare policy. Sodexo made a comprehensive policy addressing numerous cruel factory farming policies, which prompted Aramark to adopt an even stronger policy that included exploring plant-based options, issuing a public statement that plant-based options are healthier and better for animals and the environment, and launching an all-vegan restaurant that they can put into any university where they work. These victories allowed THL to go down the list of top food service companies in the US and get over 35 of them to commit to banning battery cages." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  99. THL's campaigns have led businesses and colleges to switch to cage-free eggs and to stop purchasing pork produced with gestation crates. Both changes reduce suffering due to confinement. For example, "Au Bon Pain (international cafe chain with 200+ locations) — Pledged to completely eliminate gestation crates and battery cages from their supply chain by 2017." —THL Budget, Time, and Accomplishments

  100. In 2013, these include the following: "The following campuses have made a 100% switch to cage-free eggs, both shell and liquid: Brown University, Boston College, Smith College, McDaniel College, Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, Gannon University, Mt. Aloysius University, University of Illinois: Chicago and Au Bon Pain (international cafe chain with 200+ locations) — Pledged to completely eliminate gestation crates and battery cages from their supply chain by 2017. Johnsonville Sausage (one of the nation's largest sausage producers) — Pledged to eliminate all gestation crates from their supply chain by 2025. In 2009, Johnsonville was slaughtering 3,250 pigs every day, more than any other company." —THL Budget, Time, and Accomplishments

  101. "Before 2014, they had done some corporate outreach, but were mainly focused on individual universities and campuses. This year, things have changed, especially with their food service campaign. In the beginning of the year they got Sodexo, Aramark, and Compass Group to develop animal welfare policies, and after that they decided to focus on much larger companies rather than single universities….These victories allowed THL to go down the list of top food service companies in the US and get over 35 of them to commit to banning battery cages." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  102. Individuals do not follow strict purchasing policies as companies do, and advocates' contact with each individual is limited, leading to decreased ability to detect whether changes have been made. 

  103. For instance, our own study on leafleting showed some effects, as did a study carried out by The Humane League and Farm Sanctuary. The Humane League and FARM have each found some effects of showing videos. However, we emphasize that this evidence is not conclusive and in fact there is some evidence in the other direction, as with a study from The Humane League that was designed to compare the effectiveness of various leaflets and found that of the nine groups compared in their study, the group which received no leaflet experienced the most dietary change. 

  104. Our study on humane education did not detect any effects of the education, and we are not aware of other studies on humane education focused on farmed animals or on the distribution of vegetarian starter guides. 

  105. None of the studies cited in the previous two footnotes employed objective methods such as tracking in dining halls or offering food choices as part of the study to track animal product consumption, for example. 

  106. They have released the results of eight studies since we spoke to David in March 2014, at which time he expected them to release about 12 studies in the next six months: "They also expect to finish the current set of Humane League Labs research programs; they plan to release the first results on April 1st and have about 25 studies in total, with one expected to come out every two weeks from that point on." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  107. Most importantly, we believe that reporting statistical significance or other related measures is critical in helping advocates be guided by meaningful data, rather than the random trends which can affect small samples. – Smith, A. (July 23, 2014). What Elements of a Leaflet Matter? ACE Blog.

    We have discussed these issues with THL at length, and believe they now understand the importance of such statistical tests; their most recent study report uses them alongside reporting of the raw data. – Gabriel, S., Doebel, S. and The Humane League. (September 22, 2014.) Report: Is One Message or Multiple Messages More Effective for Inspiring People to Reduce Meat Consumption? Humane League Labs. 

  108. "No studies will come out in the near future. THL is currently waiting to see where THL Labs fits into the new intervention effectiveness research world." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). We take this to refer to two projects underway in late 2015, the Open Philanthropy Project’s hiring of an industrial agriculture Program Officer and an animal advocacy research project to be administered through ACE which will likely overlap with the types of work Humane League Labs has carried out. 

  109. "THL does not have professional researchers, so they do not want to duplicate other people’s work. They will decide soon on whether or not to hire someone to do labs research full time, given their funding situation." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  110. "David and Aaron (Director of Campaigns) have been involved for 3+ years each. Nick is the founder, and while still involved stopped being involved day-to-day about 2 years ago." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). Andrea Gunn joined THL as an office director in 2013.—Andrea Gunn. LinkedIn. 

  111. David Coman-Hidy joined THL as an office director in 2010.—David Coman-Hidy. LinkedIn. 

  112. Current staff who have previously served at THL as office directors or co-directors and now have other roles include David Coman-Hidy, —Andrea Gunn, Aaron Ross, Rachel Atcheson, and Rachel Huff-Wagenborg

  113. For the date of the name change, see THL’s 2007 and 2008 tax returns

  114. "Lydia, Harish, and Denise have all been on the board of The Humane League for several years. There has been some change in board membership over that time, but it has been a fairly stable group of people." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  115. "Currently all their board members are very open to changing their views based on new evidence or arguments…. Especially because they do not have term limits and the board composition doesn’t change a lot, they need to be open to new ideas as individuals, because new ideas won’t come from the board members changing. If board members were dogmatically attached to particular advocacy methods, it would hamper THL’s ability to change when it needs to change."—The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  116. "Related to the stability of the board and their tendency to operate by consensus, they are very careful about the type of person they want on their board. Currently all their board members are very open to changing their views based on new evidence or arguments. They view this characteristic as the most important thing when looking for new board members." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  117. "If board members were dogmatically attached to particular advocacy methods, it would hamper THL’s ability to change when it needs to change." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members. For examples of changes THL has made to programs, see Criterion 4

  118. "For example, within the first few months [after starting to work as the National Grassroots Director] Andrea made a thorough and professional training manual, created new meeting formats for senior staff and grassroots activists, and made a new standardized training program….Opening two new offices per semester is the limit of what Andrea can do by herself in terms of training new people. THL is careful that people who start in a new semester have a lot of handholding because it’s such a big job that it takes a while to build up confidence." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  119. "For example, within the first few months [after starting to work as the National Grassroots Director] Andrea made a thorough and professional training manual, created new meeting formats for senior staff and grassroots activists, and made a new standardized training program." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  120. "Oversight of local offices involves a weekly video chat on Fridays involving most of the staff, a bi-weekly video call between the national director and each local director lasting roughly an hour, and a bi-weekly video call between the development director and each local director. Most offices are run by a single full-time staff member—the local director—while volunteers and interns supplement a large amount of the outreach work, such as distributing leaflets and restocking news racks." —Conversation with Andrea Gunn (July 22, 2015). 

  121. "Chris Liptrot has been working under Aaron Ross. They have similar personalities and both are really good at face-to-face meetings with companies." Other campaign staff also perform duties that have been done by Aaron or David Coman-Hidy for past campaigns: "In the heat of the Sodexo and Aramark Campaigns, David and Aaron Ross worked on campaigns, but both had less and less time to devote to them. So, they hired Taylor Ford, who had been interning at THL, to work on the campaigns full-time." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  122. In particular, all local campaigns must be run separately out of each office, so many people know how to run these programs. —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014).

    More specialized roles, such as training new staff, have also been filled by various people at THL in the past. For instance, while Andrea Gunn now takes the lead in training and supervising office directors (Conversation with Andrea Gunn), that role used to be filled by David Coman-Hidy and Aaron Ross. "David trains new people and stays with them for about a month, and Aaron helps them on a day-to-day basis." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  123. "In the past of course they had good employee morale, but that was never talked about as a valuable thing. They’ve really worked on staff culture this year, which has increased productivity, morale and loyalty to THL among interns and staff." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  124. "The board meets once every 4 months and also stays in touch with David via email and with THL staff in general through a Facebook group which the staff and board use for casual conversation." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  125. "Finally, office morale and staff culture are considered strong points, which feed into effective activism among staff and volunteers." —Conversation with Andrea Gunn (July 22, 2015). 

  126. "The combination of effective activism, large and positive growth over the past few years, and a supportive and friendly social support network makes THL stand out from other animal activism organizations Clare has worked with." —Conversation with Clare Farrow (September 4, 2015). 

  127. "Throughout volunteering, she has met campaign directors from other field officers and has become close with all of them. Everyone has a positive attitude and embodies the experience she had in her internship. Quilla has found this with all THL staff and volunteers she has met." —Conversation with Quilla Park (September 3, 2015). 

  128. "Another potential challenge for growth that the board and Rachel talked about is preserving the democratic nature that THL has now. Currently, everyone has ownership over their activities and feels heard; any staff member can suggest a change and have it be taken seriously." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  129. "Finally, Andrea and David have changed the hiring process to ensure that new hires fit in with THL culture. When they are hiring people, they focus a lot more on attitude and personality, whereas previously they focused chiefly on technical suitability to the task." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  130. "Michelle Kucerak and Rachel Huff-Wagenborg constitute the admin and development department. But it is important that the senior staff – David, Michelle, Rachel, Andrea, Aaron, and Ethan – meet each week on Friday, so that they avoid the problem of ‘silo’ departments. These meeting have helped the team to avoid drifting apart from one another….To deal with the problem of silo departments, they have had one or two campaign staff join the grassroots call each week and update the grassroots staff on meetings, campaign progress, and tactics, as well as fielding new ideas and brainstorming." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  131. "With Humane League Labs, they try to make everything extremely public. They think their strong suit is that they can put their money and numbers where their mouth is, and there really isn’t anything they think they would hold back." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  132. See the current site compared to the old site

  133. THL participated in our studies on leafleting and humane education, and in a joint study of leafleting with Farm Sanctuary. 

  134. They don't have a transparency policy and the new version of their website is less informative on many subjects than the older version. 

  135. "The largest example of this is their shift, starting in late 2012, away from a local model of organizing and towards a more online-based model, where they found they could be more effective."—Mercy For Animals Review

  136. "The largest example of this is their shift, starting in late 2012, away from a local model of organizing and towards a more online-based model, where they found they could be more effective."—Mercy For Animals Review

  137. "They decided to shut down those local offices, stop paying people to do direct tabling/leafleting/etc (though they still have volunteers doing those things), and in late 2012 switched to more of an online focus."—Conversation with Nick Cooney (March 20, 2014). 

  138. "With regard to a general grassroots approach, David feels strongly that the animal rights movement should have a network of activists, and not having that would spell death for the movement." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  139. "David would like THL to be the NRA of the animal rights movement. He wants companies and lawmakers to be afraid of large groups of people that care about animals and will take time out of their day to do something about it." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  140. "Even though THL are concerned about sustainable growth, they would in principle love there to be a professional organizer doing THL-style work in every metro area." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  141. "As long as THL has good organizers on the ground, they can be nimble in what they focus their energy on. For example, one semester THL campaigned for Meatless Mondays, then they switched all volunteers and employees to leafleting. They found the same flexibility with switching people to their corporate campaigns. Interventions may change, but THL will remain a grassroots organization: that is how they win campaigns and get media coverage." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  142. "As long as THL has good organizers on the ground, they can be nimble in what they focus their energy on. For example, one semester THL campaigned for Meatless Mondays, then they switched all volunteers and employees to leafleting. They found the same flexibility with switching people to their corporate campaigns. Interventions may change, but THL will remain a grassroots organization: that is how they win campaigns and get media coverage." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  143. "THL is no longer doing cage-free campaigns at individual colleges and universities. Almost all of these schools will stop using battery cage eggs because of their food service campaigns…. They are working with individual schools on meat reduction programs, adding vegan options, and Meatless Monday programs." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  144. "The first time they saw the effectiveness of the grassroots network was with the Sodexo campaign. THL knew that a vulnerability for Sodexo was their college clients. So, THL had office directors organize on all Sodexo campuses in the area, getting signatures and taking pictures of dozens of students holding signs. These are things you cannot do without people on the ground. THL’s grassroots-based approach was very effective in this case.
    THL have started using this approach in all their campaigns. For example, they held demonstrations outside Cheesecake Factories in malls." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  145. "The priority that THL places on effectiveness in outreach is also a strength of the organization, insofar as it allows them to focus efforts on cost-effective campaigns, reaching large audiences within a limited budget, and gives them the flexibility to change programs at any time if new information indicates a change in effectiveness." —Conversation with Andrea Gunn (July 22, 2015). 

  146. THL’s website states, "Our work is guided by a clear bottom line: How many animals are we helping? How much suffering are we reducing? Our programs are data-driven and informed by the latest research in social psychology, as well as the work of our research wing, Humane League Labs." 

  147. "In terms of impact, they aim for reducing suffering, and they hope that with Humane League Labs they’ll be able to better measure the outcome of these programs in terms of impact…. If the Humane League Labs data comes out that leafleting or any of their programs are a net zero or net negative, it would be an instant and easy decision to make a switch. They are almost entirely numbers driven in how they decide what to do." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  148. "If a researcher is merely 1.1 times more likely to conclude that these ambiguous data points "confirm the hypothesis" over someone who is truly objective, that would lead to a 1% difference in the final results—that is, the same doubling of vegetarianism that we previously saw! But the entire effect would be the result of observer bias, and not any real effect of the leaflet."—Hsiung, W. (September 18, 2013). Science or Science-y? The Liberationist. 

  149. For example, Casey Taft criticized some of HLL’s work, "These conclusions are unwarranted given the actual findings, the lack of statistical significance of differences between groups (except for differences showing those receiving no message decreased consumption the most), and the methodological issues that call into question the validity of the data.[...] When a group frames a study and misinterprets flawed results to fit their preferred mode of advocacy, they are engaging in pseudoscience. Such practices appear to be all too common in the animal advocacy realm which is disappointing and potentially dangerous. The media and other groups report the conclusions from this research assuming it is valid. The organizations that conduct this kind of work can falsely claim that their form of advocacy is "evidence-based." It is potentially harmful to animals to promote the notion of one form of advocacy as more effective than another based on flawed and seriously biased research. We can and must do better than this."—Taft, C. (October 18, 2015). Pseudoscience in the Animal Rights Movement. Vegan Publishers. 

  150. "THL meets with schools and school districts after they’ve finished campaigns. For instance, they met with Philadelphia public schools last year and got them to commit to a Meatless Monday program. They followed up with them this year to evaluate the progress and try to push them to going 100% meatless one day per week. They’ll remain in contact with all the school districts they’ve worked with to make sure they are following their commitments, provide any resources they need, and to keep pushing them towards going 100% meatless once a week while offering more vegan options." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  151. Jack Norris gave ACE some examples of the kinds of evidence advocates rely on in the absence of formal studies: "The fact that leafleters like Jon Camp have given out so many leaflets and still feel energized suggests high effectiveness to them. Leafleters also try to document it when someone approaches them and says they’ve changed their diet because of a Vegan Outreach leaflet. If possible, they get a picture of that person and add it to an ongoing slideshow, which currently has about 560 pictures. Since most people who change their diet probably aren’t in that slideshow, it’s a good sign as long as they are finding some people."—Conversation with Jack Norris (April 4, 2014). 

  152. For instance, leafleting is one of the interventions on which the most studies have been attempted. These include a readability study conducted by Faunalytics, overall effectiveness studies conducted by Farm Sanctuary in conjunction with THL and by ACE, and comparisons of the effectiveness of different leaflets by Vegan Outreach and (in multiple variations) by THL. The number of studies conducted on leafleting is unusually large, but the lack of representation of studies conducted by academics or from entirely outside the animal advocacy movement is typical. 

  153. For instance, leafleting is one of the interventions on which the most studies have been attempted; we don’t know of any studies on it published in peer reviewed journals. Existing studies include a readability study conducted by Faunalytics in which the reading level of various materials was calculated using several methods and various field studies conducted by Farm Sanctuary in conjunction with THL and comparisons of the effectiveness of different leaflets by Vegan Outreach and (in multiple variations) by THL, some of which used exclusively retrospective self-report to determine whether changes in diet were made, while others used self report by the same participants at two different times. The number of studies conducted on leafleting is unusually large, but the lack of representation of studies conducted by academics or from entirely outside the animal advocacy movement is typical. 

  154. "Each new study is sent to representatives from MFA, VO, HSUS, ASPCA, CIWF, PETA, FARM, etc. as soon as it is published."—Conversation with The Humane League (October 14, 2014). 

  155. "With Humane League Labs, they try to make everything extremely public. They think their strong suit is that they can put their money and numbers where their mouth is, and there really isn’t anything they think they would hold back. So far, a lot of their sharing has happened through people emailing them and asking for information, but recently they’ve started publishing the results and data from their current round of studies on the Humane League Labs site." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  156. Through mid-2014, Humane League Labs reports typically did not contain reporting about statistical significance or the robustness of survey findings. For instance, a report from May 2014 gives results like "Those who received a booklet that discussed pigs, cows, and chickens reported diet changes that spared 150% more animals than those who received a booklet that only discussed chickens (4.41 animals spared per all animals booklet vs. 1.79 animals spared per chickens-only booklet)." Because the report did not contain any information about statistical significance or confidence levels, ACE and other advocates used the provided data to attempt to determine whether these findings were statistically significant, and were unable to find significance for any finding from the report. Starting in September 2014, some form of statistical analysis intended to guide inference can be found in all Humane League Labs full reports, although not always in the summary blog posts. 

  157. "THL does not have professional researchers, so they do not want to duplicate other people’s work." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  158. "No studies will come out in the near future. THL is currently waiting to see where THL Labs fits into the new intervention effectiveness research world." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  159. THL has done field work on studies conducted by other groups before, such as ACE’s leafleting and humane ed studies. 

  160. "However, those already vegan who are advocating the reducetarian concept have drawn criticism for watering down the vegan ethos and further encouraging speciesism against non-human animals."—The Big Discussion—REDUCETARIAN—should vegans promote this approach? (November 7, 2015). The VegFest Express. 

  161. "Creating life-long vegans should be our end goal since this has the greatest potential for minimizing harm to animals. Moreover, if we continue to promote the notion that it is acceptable to exploit animals in moderation, we fail to challenge societal norms that make all forms of animal exploitation possible, ensuring that we will never see the end to all animal use."—Taft, C. (November 1, 2015). Misuse of "Effectiveness" Language in Animal Advocacy. Vegan Publishers. 

  162. This could be seen as an application of the "door-in-the-face" strategy, as discussed by The Academic Abolitionist Vegan, "The door-in-the-face technique suggests that if one makes an initial over-the-top request (which will likely be denied), but then counters with a more reasonable request, people will be much more likely to agree... Regulationists might decide that asking people to go vegan (getting a rejection) and then asking them to reduce consumption might be a good application of this theory. However, recall that it is not how small the request is that is important, only that it is smaller. Therefore, abolitionists might ask interested parties to reject speciesism, go vegan, and become active for the animals (a potentially overwhelming lifestyle decision that might put off some), but then counter with a request that they simply go vegan...or ease into veganism over the course of a few weeks...or commit to signing up for a vegan newsletter."—Wrenn, C. (November 15, 2014). Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Door-in-the-Face. The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. 

  163. THL’s website states, "Our work is guided by a clear bottom line: How many animals are we helping? How much suffering are we reducing? Our programs are data-driven and informed by the latest research in social psychology, as well as the work of our research wing, Humane League Labs." 

  164. "In this study, the combination message of "cut out or cut back on" meat and other products appeared to work best. It led to more reduction in animal product consumption than encouraging "vegetarian" eating (the difference was statistically significant) or "vegan" eating (the difference was trending toward statistical significance)."—Report: Which Request Creates the Most Diet Change, "Vegan," "Vegetarian," "Eat Less Meat," or "Cut Out or Cut Back On" Animal Products? (September 20,2015). Humane League Labs. 

  165. Your Choice, the Vegan Outreach leaflet most targeted at college students and most used by THL, contains language like "You already eat lots of meat-free food," "eating vegetarian or vegan has many benefits," and "Whether you decide to cut out meat entirely or just cut back, you can make a big difference for the world at every meal." 

  166. "This relates to research I was a part of this past spring at the University of Arizona. One of the many interesting take-aways from those studies was that the general public thinks veganism is impossible, and vegans are, to put it kindly, annoying." Ball, M. (August 10, 2015). Understanding the Numbers for Better Advocacy. 

  167. In a general poll about food, 49% of those surveyed had a favorable impression of vegetarians, while 38% had a favorable impression of vegans.–Public Policy Polling. (February 26,2013). Americans pick Ronald McDonald over Burger King for President. 

  168. "Overall, people who make a small change become about 10% more likely to make a similar but larger change down the line when encouraged to do so."—Cooney, N. (August 21, 2012). Welfare Reform and Vegan Advocacy: The Facts. 

  169. For instance, MFA had a third party firm do polling of women age 13-35 about terms they found appealing on leaflets, brochures, etc, and found "vegetarian" was better received than "meat-free" or "vegan", according to the reporting in Nick Cooney’s book Veganomics. But a recent THL study found the exact opposite of the MFA one when they asked about diet change instead of how likely people would be to take a brochure: "cut out or cut back on" meat and animal products worked the best, followed by "vegan", though not all differences in effectiveness were significant. And no studies tracked outcomes over the course of years or in entire communities. 

  170. For example, in the paper, "Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events," Jacy Reese argues that there’s a lack of historical precedence relative to other tactics for individual consumer change as the primary focus of a social movement, and that various streams of evidence from social psychology and other fields suggest it’s not as promising as other approaches for helping animals in the long-run. 

  171. "In any event, consumer action alone is unlikely to constitute the sole, or even the greatest, response to the animal welfare issue."—Anderson, J. (January 1, 2011). "Protection for the Powerless: Political Economy History Lessons for the Animal Welfare Movement"

  172. "Moreover, the movement’s focus on mass consumer dietary change has little historical or empirical basis, despite being our movement's main strategy."—Burns, B. "Why Beyonce Going Vegan is Bad for Animals". 

  173. "Most abolitionists did not see the free produce movement as being vital to the cause. A few dedicated proponents were able to stay completely away from slave goods but a number of other abolitionists endorsed the concept only when convenient. Many more ignored the issue altogether. The movement never grew large enough to gain the benefit of the economies of scale, and the cost of ‘free produce’ was always higher than competing goods. Though William Lloyd Garrison in Boston, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, initially proclaimed at a convention in 1840 that his wool suit was made without slave labor, he later examined the results of the movement and criticized it as an ineffective method to fight slavery, and as a distraction from more important work."—Wikipedia entry on the free produce movement, a relatively well-studied historical example of a movement focused on individual changes in consumption. 

  174. "Being a cynical old git, I have always been deeply suspicious of the grand claims made for consumer democracy: that we can change the world by changing our buying habits."—Monbiot, G. (November 6, 2009). "We cannot change the world by changing our buying habits". 

  175. Reese mentions the example of the anti-slavery movement that, from its beginnings, focused on its opposition of slavery as an institution. "From its inception, however, the [anti-slavery] activists focused on a radical call for complete abolition, rather than incremental reform for slaves or individually changing the behavior of slave-owners or consumers of slave-produced goods." -Reese, J. (July 14, 2015). Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

  176. "They’re simply looking for the activity that will help the largest number of animals. The Meatless Monday campaign is a good example. This semester, after talking with HSUS about why they’re doing a lot of Meatless Monday activities and how many meals it changes, they’re trying Meatless Monday campaigns instead of cage-free egg campaigns. For example, if Philadelphia were to do Meatless Mondays in the public schools, they have 166,000 students, so about 90,000 animals should be spared, based on the number of meals that would be changed. Boston is a lot smaller, with 57,000 students, and therefore only about 30,000 animals could be spared per year. When they looked at that data, it was hard to argue that they should continue cage-free campaigns for right now. Instead they should focus on this to give it a shot. It's possible they won't succeed in any, though this is unlikely. Even a single success would increase the number of animals helped.
    If the Humane League Labs data comes out that leafleting or any of their programs are a net zero or net negative, it would be an instant and easy decision to make a switch. They are almost entirely numbers driven in how they decide what to do." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (March 20, 2014). 

  177. "Since our founding, much of The Humane League’s work has been carried out on college campuses and with college students. This includes extensive leafleting at colleges, running online advertising targeting college students, winning cage-free egg campaigns in campus dining halls, setting up vegetarian starter guide stands in campus buildings, and carrying out humane education and speaking events on campus[...] In addition to the huge amount of diet change that this advocacy work will accomplish, we see this program as having a second major benefit: creating more human capital for the animal protection movement." —THL Accomplishments Q1-Q3 2015

  178. A Gallup poll conducted in the US in 2015 found that 32% of respondents supported animals having the same rights as people, while an additional 62% said they should have some protection. But the best estimates for the percentage of Americans who are vegetarian are much lower, around 2%. 

  179. "One of the most important effects of consumer action seems to be in building social identity. Additionally, shifting consumption can lead to attitude change by mitigating cognitive dissonance." -Reese, J. (July 14, 2015). Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

  180. Two animal advocacy organizations that are most often associated with confrontation are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). DxE has written about some of their reasoning behind confrontation, including this blog post

  181. "Going inside a restaurant, and breaking the rules of Pollan’s table fellowship, does not just convey a stronger and more confident message, however. It also feeds a cycle of viral storytelling that has been vital to every movement’s growth."–Hsiung, W. (April 8, 2014). Why DxE Brings the Message Inside

  182. One way to see what a group focuses on is to look at where they spend their time and money. See our THL Cost Effectiveness Estimate (2014) for information about what THL spends money on, and THL's Budget, Time, and Accomplishments for how they divided their time in a recent year. 

  183. "Examples of promising confrontational tactics include marches and other forms of direct action, although they seem to involve considerable risk of backfire effects and encouraging a powerful opposition, making their effectiveness highly dependent on certain conditions."—Reese, J. (July 14, 2015). Confrontation, Consumer Action, and Triggering Events

  184. "The image of America’s police departments has been tarnished in recent months, with shootings and chokings of unarmed black men sparking nationwide protests charging racial bias. But a new poll includes a surprising finding: The episodes might have actually increased white Americans' belief that their local cops treat blacks fairly."–Clement, S. (December 9, 2014). Whites Are More Confident Than Ever That Their Local Police Treat Blacks Fairly. The Washington Post. 

  185. THL is very aware of their volunteers’ varied interests and levels of comfort with outreach: " And Rachel and Lydia both pointed out that they tailor volunteering opportunities to the individual volunteer; for instance, while volunteers do a lot of leafleting or tabling, some volunteers who aren’t comfortable doing outreach do work on their computers, contribute food for events, or make copies of print materials for the organization." —The Humane League Site Visit - Leafleting and Meeting with Board Members

  186. "They are working with individual schools on meat reduction programs, adding vegan options, and Meatless Monday programs. THL has had a few victories at universities, which leads to them reducing the amount of meat that they serve and gets them to promote Meatless Monday and plant-based eating. THL has had more success with school districts, including the Baltimore public school district, The Philadelphia public school district, and the Boston public school district." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  187. "They have learned that having face-to-face relationships with firms is valuable for a few reasons. Firstly, it accelerates victories for campaigns because it makes the threats seem more real. This makes the campaign progress a lot faster. Secondly, even companies like Sodexo, who don’t like THL due to previous campaigns, are still willing to come to the table in order to avoid future campaigns. They are also willing to work with Aaron, thanks to his personality." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  188. "One strength is that they’re not afraid to be aggressive if they have to. They are willing to do anything it takes to win a campaign. This has enabled them to win campaigns very quickly compared to other advocacy organizations which are not comfortable being aggressive to corporations through publicly drawing attention to their practices.

    The biggest weakness is that this style of aggressive campaigning can also lead some companies to avoid associating with THL." —Conversation with Aaron Ross (July 23, 2015). 

  189. We ourselves have expressed this concern, such as in our report on corporate outreach, even though we believe overall that humane reform has a net benefit on the likelihood of further improvements for animals. 

  190. "It is not just a little ironic that a representative of the Meat and Livestock Commission understands perfectly what is going on here? "Happy" meat makes "the whole thing look more acceptable." "Happy" meat means more meat eaters and more slaughtered animals."–Francione, G. (February 7, 2007). "Happy" Meat/Animal Products: A Step in the Right Direction or "An Easier Access Point Back" to Eating Animals? Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach. 

  191. "There is a clear trend that suggests Chipotle and McDonald's are playing something close to a zero-sum game for customers. U.S. bar and restaurant sales grew just 2.9% in 2014, according to Technomic. After inflation, restaurants are fighting for a larger slice of a fixed pie."–Cooper, T. (March 4, 2015). Why Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Will Eat McDonald's Corporation's Lunch. The Motley Fool. 

  192. "The key findings of this study can be summarised as media coverage of animal well-being and welfare has (i) reduced US pork and poultry demand and (ii) largely reallocated expenditure to non-meat food rather than across competing meats." – Tonsor, G. T., & Olynk, N. J. (2011). Impacts of Animal Well‐Being and Welfare Media on Meat Demand. Journal of Agricultural Economics. 

  193. "Animal advocates give awards to slaughterhouse designers and publicly praise supermarket chains that sell supposed "humanely" raised and slaughtered corpses and other "happy" animal products. This approach does not lead people incrementally in the right direction. Rather, it gives them a reason to justify going backwards. It focuses on animal treatment rather than animal use and deludes people into thinking that welfare regulations are actually resulting in significant protection for animals."–Francione, G. (February 7, 2007). "Happy" Meat/Animal Products: A Step in the Right Direction or "An Easier Access Point Back" to Eating Animals? Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach. 

  194. "While cage free eggs may be more humane than battery cage eggs, they are still far from ideal...Offering minor improvements for the way we treat farmed animals is a small step, however, it should not be misinterpreted as a win."–Buff, E. (January 12, 2015). Why California’s New Animal Welfare Law is a HUGE Lesson for Animal Activists. One Green Planet. 

  195. Although most advocates agree that it is less bad for an animal to be raised for food with less suffering, some believe that the act of farming animals is intrinsically harmful and even if we reduced or eliminated suffering in animal agriculture, it would still be very bad. Gary Francione has made claims that seem to suggest this view, such as: "They are angry that I am what they call an "absolutist" who maintains that we cannot justify *any* animal use. They are right. I am an absolutist in this regard—just as I am an "absolutist" with respect to rape, child molestation, and other violations of fundamental human rights. Indeed, I would not have it any other way. Absolutism is the only morally acceptable response to the violation of fundamental rights whether of humans or nonhumans."—Francione, G. (November 4, 2015). A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE ANGRY WITH ME—AND THEY ARE RIGHT. The Abolitionist Approach. 

  196. Cage-free systems might also cause or increase some welfare issues, suggests a study "conducted by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group of animal-health scientists, egg suppliers and major food companies such as McDonald’s Corp. and Sysco Corp."

    "Mortality rates in the cage-free system were double those of the other systems, due in part to hens cannibalizing each other or excessive pecking. The hens’ beaks were trimmed, "but they still were able to inflict damage on each other," said Joy Mench, co-lead researcher on the study and an animal-science professor at UC Davis.

    On the other hand, cage-free hens had the strongest leg and wing bones—diminishing the potential for breakage—while small-cage hens had the weakest.

    Indoor air quality was worst in the cage-free system, the study showed. In such systems, hens stir up dust while walking on the floor, which contains some of the birds’ manure, elevating ammonia levels." —Kesmodel, D. (March 18, 2015). Cage-Free Hens Study Finds Little Difference in Egg Quality. Wall Street Journal. 

  197. "Secondly, even companies like Sodexo, who don’t like THL due to previous campaigns, are still willing to come to the table in order to avoid future campaigns." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015). 

  198. It’s possible that THL grassroots activists could notice changes in public sentiment when they talk to the public in the course of their advocacy. However, it is very difficult to identify trends from this kind of anecdotal data, and the trends could take place in populations different from those THL typically encounters during leafleting and other outreach. 

  199. "For example, thanks to Josh Balk’s [of Hampton Creek Foods] relationship with Compass Group, Compass Group have switched to Just Mayo for all their mayonnaise, which has removed an unbelievable number of eggs from the supply chain. Similarly, THL is campaigning for Shake Shack to sell veggie burgers at the moment. This kind of work would be very valuable: directly, for the animals involved, and indirectly, for the news coverage produced." —Conversation with David Coman-Hidy (October 1, 2015).