Sunday, March 13, 2011

Animal Millionaires

Hello to all my loyal blog readers. First of all, I would like to apologize for the long hiatus between posts. I started working at a new job in mid-December, and while this has been able to meet many of my needs, it has kept me away from updating this blog for the past couple months. This blog is certainly a project I wish to continue however, and I hope to get back into fairly regular updates as I settle into my new position.

Recently, as I was getting to bed at my new early bedtime, I decided I should put together a list of goals for myself. I wrote down all of one item on this list before I got distracted and eventually fell asleep. The one item I put down on my list was, “Become an animal millionaire”.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term it is one that Erik Marcus brings up fairly regularly on his blog. An animal millionaire is someone who, through their actions, has led to a million animals' lives being saved.

What would it take to become an animal millionaire?

Some people choose to foster animals to help save them from certain deaths in shelters. I imagine I could probably foster roughly 15 cats or dogs at a time, over their roughly 15 year life spans. Given that I likely have roughly 60 years left to live myself, I could probably save 60-ish lives by fostering animals. This would also come at a cost of tens, possibly even the low hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another technique many have chosen to take for the animals is illegal direct action. Supposing I chose to put my direct action directly towards saving animals (as opposed to causing property damage), my most optimistic projection would be that I could rescue a few thousand animals before earning an extended sentence in my own cage.

This is at least far better than the marginally legal direct action group Sea Shepherd, which manages to get Japan to miss their whaling quota by a few hundred in a good year (out of a quota of roughly 1000 whales). This comes at a cost of millions of dollars to the animal rights movement, and a crew of what appears to be dozens of people. Sea Shepherd's activism comes at a cost of roughly $10,000 per whale saved and saves a mere 10 animals per person-year of work by the crew.

Legislative challenges vary greatly depending on the piece of legislation. California's proposition 2 will likely impact the lives of billions of animals once it goes into effect; although, it is unclear how many, if any, lives will ultimately be spared by this piece of legislation. This came at a cost of roughly $10 million from the YES side, and required perhaps a couple thousand person-years of work. Missouri's proposition B on the other hand will influence the lives of no more than a couple hundred thousand animals per year. It came at a cost of $1.7 million in support to the YES side and likely several hundred person-years of work.

What if we spent our time trying to get as many people as possible to go vegan? If we really put our energy into it, we could talk to several hundred, perhaps even a couple thousand people per week. Obviously the vast majority of people would not make a large lifestyle change from their brief conversation with us, but out of speaking with a few thousand people, it is not unreasonable to think we could get at least one to make a change (along with hopefully pushing many others in the right direction). In a wealthy nation like the United States, getting just one young person to go vegan will typically save the lives of roughly 2000 animals over the remainder of that person's life. Vegan Outreach makes conversing with this many people on a regular basis entirely possible. They print out booklets that, in addition to presenting information to people in a clear and effective manner, also serve as excellent conversation starters with interested people.

Using Vegan Outreach materials, one of their leafleters, Vic Sjodin, managed to pass out booklets to over 100,000 people in a single semester. You may not be the veritable leafleting god that Vic is, but any person donating a full year of their labor to the cause, could most likely get out 100,000 booklets over the course of that year. Depending on how effective of communicators we are on behalf of the animals, it is entirely reasonable that we could get 50-100 people to go vegan over this time period, at a cost of no more than $12,000 to print those booklets (plus perhaps a few thousand more in gas costs). Getting a mere 50 young Americans to go vegan would amount to a million lives saved.

All of the figures in the above table are admittedly very rough estimates. Reasonable error bars on these would be as much as a factor of ten in either direction. Yet even admitting that much uncertainty, there is a clear winner if we are interested in doing what is best for the animals, and that difference is so much so, that using this method, any one of us could easily become an animal millionaire multiple times over within our lives.

Imagine yourself taking just one day every other week to leaflet at a college campus or a concert that young people will be attending. Similarly, imagine yourself setting aside just a couple hours worth of work from every paycheck to donate to Vegan Outreach. Taking these two small steps will set you up to easily reach the goal of becoming an animal millionaire within a decade. I challenge all of you to see which of us can accomplish this simple task the most times over.