Animal welfare & the food transition – more information

How can we best help animals?

Many charities focus on animal welfare and the prevention of animal suffering, yet they differ considerably in their effectiveness. There are three reasons for this:

1. Focus on size. Effective charities focus on regions where an exceptionally large number of animals are suffering. In the Netherlands 25,000 animals are cared for in animal shelters every year – that is good news. However, that number pales in significance when compared to the number of animals in the livestock industry. According to the CBS, in 2021, 17 million pigs, over 2 million cattle and over 500 million chickens were sent to the slaughterhouse1.  In other words, that is over 4 cows, 32 pigs and 953 chickens per minute. This is in total, over 20,000 times more animals than in animal shelters.


2. Large numbers of animals receive the least donations. Most donations do not go to animals that need it most. In the US, each animal in an animal shelter receives about 500 dollars in donations. Contrast this to animals in the livestock industry who can expect to receive only 1% of that. For example:
An animal in a shelter costs over 1,000 euros per year. With that amount, The Humane League can significantly improve the lives of as many as 1,000 animals by providing better living conditions, convincing people to eat less meat, or through conducting research.

3. More than just animal suffering. The cattle industry is a major burden on the environment (including air, water and soil) due to emissions of nitrate, phosphate and ammonia. There is also huge water wastage – 15,500 litres of water are consumed in the production of just 1kg of beef. For pork and chicken the water consumption is 4,800 litres and 3,900 litres respectively. Furthermore, the health risks posed by eating farmed meat are high due to large scale antibiotic use in the chicken meat sector. This can lead to life-threatening antibiotic resistance in humans.

On top of all this, densely packed animals in farms are particularly susceptible to diseases such as mad cow disease, African swine fever, avian flu and Q fever. These zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans; Ebola and Coronavirus are recent examples of this.

The food transition

In order to support the rapid growth of the world’s population, 30-50% more protein sources will be needed by 20502. We need to use available food sources sparingly and make alternative choices. For example, 20 to 25 kilos of grain are needed to produce 1 kilo of beef. If people were to eat soya instead of meat, more grain would be available for human consumption2. Plant-based food carries fewer health risks, is better for the environment and leads to a fairer distribution of food in the world.
Positive developments: 45% of the over-18s eat meat a maximum of 4 days a week (flexitarian), 5% never eat meat and about a third of adults have made the choice to eat less meat3.

Donate to the most effective charities!

Our recommendations are based on the work of Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE). To be considered truly effective, charities must:

  • have the ability to save or improve the lives of many animal
  • focus on an area neglected by mainstream philanthropy
  • focus on an intervention that is feasible on a large scale.

These criteria can help you decide which charity to give to!So, for example, prioritising the eradication of the suffering of millions of animals in the livestock industry over incremental welfare increases in pets. Or, prioritising research into plant-based food sources over the improvement of animal products.

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