The truth about animal charities, cats and dogs

Article by William MacAskill and Amanda MacAskill for The Guardian UK:

As we approach December – the month when almost a third of all charitable giving for the year takes place – many of us might be wondering where we should be sending our charitable donations. Some of us will choose to give to charities such as Against Malaria Foundation, which helps to protect people in the developing world from a disease that kills almost 3,000 children every day. And yet, despite the great needs of humans around the world, many people will choose to donate to charities that help animals. In fact, it has recently been reported by the Mirror that “bequests to animal charities beat donations to human causes”, and that donations bequeathed to animals “dwarfed” those going to vulnerable and abused children.

kitten in hand

Is it true that donations to animal charities outstrip donations to human charities in the UK? The simple answer is no. The Charities Aid Foundation, which surveys people about the donations that they have made in the last 12 months, found that in 2014 only 7% of the total amount that people donated went to animal charities. This is much lower than donations to human-focused charities such as medical charities, children’s charities, and hospitals, overseas charities, and religious charities. These five causes collectively received 62% of total donations, and every one of these causes individually received more than animal charities did.

But what about bequests to charities that people make in their wills: do animal charities sweep up the biggest share of these types of donations? Again, the answer is no. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations reports that in 2009-2010, environmental charities, which includes animal charities, received only 22% of all legacy donations, while social services, research, and health charities jointly received 62% of legacy donations. The animal charity that received by far the most legacy donations was the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (£74.9m), which received less than either Cancer Research UK (£157.4m) or the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (£93.8m).

Of course, some individual animal charities do receive more than some individual human charities, as the Mirror article highlights. But this is pretty uninformative if what we want to know is whether animal or human charities received more money. When we look at the numbers, it’s clear that donations to human charities dwarf donations to animal charities, and not the other way around.

Although animal charities receive less money than charities that help humans, animal causes are clearly important to many people. So if you want to help animals, what should you do? As the Charities Aid Foundation survey shows, most people find it difficult to know which charities to give to when there are so many charities out there, and they also want to know that their money is actually helping. This is where effective giving comes in. When we give effectively, we give to those charities that we have the best evidence are making the biggest difference in a given cause area.

If we want to donate to charities that make the biggest difference to animals, it’s important for us to realise that animal suffering and death don’t just affect domestic animals such as dogs and cats. In fact, Animal Charity Evaluators – an organisation that researches the effectiveness of different animal charities – points out that for every individual dog or cat euthanised in shelters in the US, about 360 farm animals were killed. In the UK alone, about 90 million chickens are slaughtered every month. And 94% of these are raised intensively in sheds that contain about 17 chickens per square metre. Farm animals such as pigs, cows and chickens are capable of sadness and joy, just as cats and dogs are. But they are suffering and dying at much greater rates, and are receiving a tiny proportion of current donations to animal charities.

The good news is that more research is being done into how we can most effectively help animals, and our donations may be able to go a long way.

Just as with human-focused charities, there are huge differences between how much good different animal charities do. And even if we are not likely to give the majority of our money to animal charities this giving season or in our wills, we can do a lot of good by giving the money that we do choose to donate more effectively.

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/19/charity-animals-cats-dog

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