Our thinking on our recommendation of Wild Animal Initiative

post by Animal Charity Evaluators (AnimalCharityEvaluators), Gina_Stuessy · 2021-07-26T10:08:40.498Z · EA · GW · None comments

This is a link post for https://animalcharityevaluators.org/blog/our-thinking-on-our-recommendation-of-wild-animal-initiative


  Why Wild Animal Welfare in Addition to Farmed Animal Welfare?
  Wild Animal Initiative’s Strengths
    and Cost Effectiveness
    for More Funding
    and Culture
    and Adaptability
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We have received some questions about our November 2020 recommendation of Wild Animal Initiative (WAI) as a Top Charity, which stem from the fact that historically, we have only granted that status to charities that primarily work on farmed animal issues. We hope that this post will address any confusion about our decision.

Why Wild Animal Welfare in Addition to Farmed Animal Welfare?

Most of our research, research we have funded, and resources we provide advocates have been related to helping farmed animals. We consider addressing the suffering caused by industrial animal agriculture to be a high-impact cause area based on the scale, tractability, and neglectedness framework:

As early as 2015, ACE has included reducing wild animal suffering as a high-priority cause area based on the same framework:

The case for addressing wild animal suffering has been made by prominent economists, philosophers, and effective altruists. ACE has also hosted blog posts (2015, 2018, 2019), conducted research, and funded research on the topic. However, because wild animal welfare was—and still is—a relatively new field with very few organizations in the early stages of their development, it was only in the last several years, after seeing some progress being made, that we became more confident in supporting the cause area through our programs. We supported WAI with Movement Grants in November 2019 and July 2020, then we recommended them as a Top Charity in November 2020.

Wild Animal Initiative’s Strengths

Those interested in a fuller picture of our thoughts on WAI should read our comprehensive review, but we share some highlights here.

Programs and Cost Effectiveness

WAI is working to create a new academic field dedicated to wild animal welfare. Thus far, their work consists of compiling literature reviews and writing theoretical and opinion articles published on their website and/or in peer-reviewed journals. WAI focuses on identifying and sharing possible research avenues and connecting with more established fields. WAI also works with researchers from various academic and non-academic institutions to identify potential collaborators. Before our evaluation, they launched a new program that helps researchers develop proposals and submit them to funders WAI has identified as promising.

We believe that building an academic field on wild animal welfare is an ambitious but promising avenue for creating change for wild animals in the long term, and charities’ long-term impact is plausibly what matters most. Additionally, their work seems slightly higher than the average cost effectiveness of other charities’ work toward strengthening the animal advocacy movement, compared to the groups we evaluated in 2020.

Room for More Funding

We believe that WAI’s room for more funding relative to the size of their organization is of larger size compared to the other charities we evaluated in 2020. We also believe that their absolute room for more funding is of larger size relative to the funding we influence through our recommendations.

Leadership and Culture

We collect information about each charity’s internal operations in several ways. We ask leadership to describe the culture they try to foster, as well as potential areas for improvement. We review each charity’s human resource (HR) policies and check that they include those we believe are important. We also send a culture survey to the staff of each charity.

At the time of our evaluation, WAI had all but one of the HR policies we checked for, and they were working on the remaining one. All staff respondents to our culture survey agreed that WAI’s leadership is attentive to the organization’s strategy, and the responses indicated that WAI’s culture is overall positive. WAI has an overall level of employee engagement higher than the average of charities under review in 2020. They support representation/diversity, equity, and inclusion through their human resource activities, and all respondents to our survey agreed that WAI protects staff, interns, and volunteers from harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Strategy and Adaptability

WAI’s strategic planning process seems appropriate, and the resulting plan is thorough. Their goal-setting process is particularly well-designed, and they monitor progress on their goals frequently.

WAI shared a few examples of how they’ve adapted to successes and failures, including recognizing and addressing the need to communicate with organizations working in a similar area so as not to duplicate efforts, and ways they changed their plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


WAI is working in an important and relatively neglected area: conducting and promoting research to help wild animals. We believe that building an academic field is a promising avenue for creating change for wild animals in the long term. There are few charities working in this area, and WAI’s strengths (some listed above) led us to conclude they seem to have a responsible and thorough approach to building a collaborative community of researchers and advocates, as well as a strong strategy and healthy organizational culture. While WAI, like all charities, also has weaknesses (described in the review), we find WAI to be an excellent giving opportunity because of their strong, cost-effective programs and their thorough strategy.

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