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    Research Round-Up: A Guide for Farmed Animal Sanctuaries

    A close-up profile photograph of a white sheep.
    Photo Credit: James Gibson / We Animals Media

    Resource Acknowledgment
    The following resource was originally written by Björn Ólaffson for Faunalytics, a nonprofit organization that specializes in providing animal advocates with access to the research and analysis of various animal issues. We are so grateful for their collaborative efforts and contributions to the Open Sanctuary Project. To check out the original resource, please click here.


    In this resource, created in collaboration with the Open Sanctuary Project, we gather together research insights to help farmed animal sanctuaries do their valuable work. Faunalytics conducts and collects social science research—much of which can benefit the managers and staff of farmed animal sanctuaries. In this brief guide, we highlight some studies that we think can help sanctuaries the most. While much of this research is specific to the U.S., many of the lessons can be applied to other contexts. Keep in mind that these studies don’t concern welfare—if you’re looking for welfare-related resources, check out the Open Sanctuary Project or search the Faunalytics library with a specific question.

    Promoting Your Value to Funders

    To demonstrate the role of sanctuaries in the animal movement, use this Faunalytics original study. In it, we found that non-vegans who toured a sanctuary reduced the amount of animal products they consumed, even months after the tour was complete. These results provide a great demonstration of sanctuaries’ value to the movement in the form of diet change advocacy. 

    To demonstrate how farmed animal sanctuaries may benefit society at large, read this study summary. Its theoretical framework can help you position the aims of your sanctuary for guests and donors. 

    To demonstrate sentience or consciousness in farmed animals, check out these resources: this study on chickens (or this helpful summary), this analysis of pig cognition, or this analysis of cow cognition (or this study summary). While it might seem obvious to sanctuary staff and volunteers, some people may need scientific evidence to believe that farmed animals are capable of complex thoughts or emotions. This research can also be helpful in grant applications. 

    Advocating Your Message to Non-Vegans

    To brush up on your understanding of vegan messaging, we have a range of studies: this one on meat reduction messagingthis one on animal cruelty messaging, and this one on “reduction” vs. “elimination” messages, among others. While exploring these resources, it’s important to remember that there is no single perfect vegan message that resonates with everybody. This means that, when offering tours, make sure to combine different messages together for non-vegan audiences (climate, heath, welfare, and justice) while also balancing positive and negative information. For example, don’t just explain the horrors of factory farming, also discuss the benefits of veganism and the animal movement. 

    To understand how to use social media better as an advocate, check out our first Tactics In Practice resource. In it, we go over the science of social media advocacy and give seven research-backed, easy-to-implement tips on how to improve your social media outreach. Social media posts from sanctuaries can benefit the vegan movement by encouraging diet change and other pro-animal actions. 

    To tailor your message to different demographic groups, use this demographic breakdown which tracks how different groups are more likely to take certain pro-animal actions. For example, we can see that rural folks are less likely than urban folks to order a vegan option at a restaurant, but are just as willing to donate to a farmed animal advocacy organization. Use this tool to change your “ask” based on who you are talking to. 

    To understand how to use graphic images and videos better, check out this study summary or its related Explainer video. In short, use graphic, violent images very cautiously, making sure to balance them with positive, optimistic, and calls to action. It should also be shown with consent, so ask people if they are comfortable seeing graphic images first. 

    To increase the odds of turning someone vegan, read this factsheet about social norms. For example, instead of saying “there are a lot of vegan options in supermarkets these days,” say “every year, more and more vegan alternatives are arriving in stores.” Also, make sure you identify the audience you are speaking to and speak to where they’re from. For example, “‘Most humans can thrive on a vegan/plant-based diet’ is fine”, but “lots of people in [county] are vegan these days!” is much better because you identify the specific audience you’re talking to. 

    To understand how children view animals and meat, read these two studies summaries. To summarize—adults tend to justify eating meat with social norms while children are more likely to reject meat based on moral reasoning. The children in the study were also more likely to consider aesthetics and benevolence when valuing animals (more than adults did). So, when talking to children, you can use moral arguments, stress the animals’ cute attributes, and explain how kind the animals are. 

    Obtaining Donations

    To understand donor characteristics and the behavior of people who give to animals, read this Faunalytics original study. 

    To get a better understanding of people who donate to farmed animal causes, read this follow-up analysis to the above study. Here, we pay close attention to demographics, diet, and motivation. People who donate to non-companion animal causes are equally likely to be male or female (unlike companion animal donors, who tend to be women), more likely to work with animals, more likely to be activists, and more likely to donate online. However, only 8% of farmed animal donors are vegan or vegetarian, which means you should still be targeting non-vegan people for donations. 

    To learn what type of animals to promote on social media to increase donations, read this study. In it, we can see that omnivores were more likely to sign a petition and donate to a sanctuary after seeing farmed animals given a name and a face (as opposed to a group of animals). This means sanctuaries can try to promote individual, named animals on social media or other materials to spread awareness of animal welfare, similar to Esther the Pig

    Recruiting Volunteers

    To understand the motivations of volunteers, check out this research-based blog post. It also details the five most important ways to retain volunteers—if your sanctuary is struggling to attract or retain volunteers, start here!

    To understand “compassion fatigue” in volunteers, read this study summary. While the study specifically examined companion animal shelters, the concept of compassion fatigue may also benefit farmed animal sanctuaries – providing more support, rotating through different roles, and mandating grief and stress training in staff were all shown to reduce compassion fatigue. 

    Faunalytics Would Love to Hear from Your Sanctuary!
    If you have more questions about how to use or conduct research in your sanctuary work, Faunalytics is here to help! Come to our free, virtual office hours, peruse our Research Library, or sign up for alerts to stay up-to-date on research. Finally, thank you for all the work you do for animals!

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