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Research

 

Overview

Our research team provides evidence-based insights through sound scientific practice and foundational research internally and externally, with collaborators. The team ensures Mercy For Animals’ greatest possible impact on the movement to construct a compassionate food system.

Resources

TOOLS AND DATA SETS

Farmed Animal Opportunity Index

The FAOI ranks 60 countries on their potential for effective interventions using 19 relevant socioeconomic indicators. This interactive tool is designed to help animal protection organizations and donors make data-based decisions on how to best allocate their resources in a global context, with the overarching goal of maximizing impact for farmed animals.

Webinar

FAOI

Role of Municipalities in Promoting Plant-Based Food Choices

Funded by the Food System Research Fund, Mercy For Animals conducted survey research to better understand current and potential food policy work related to plant-based food in municipal sustainability offices across the United States. 

Data set

Executive summary

Full report

ADDITIONAL REPORTS

Szejda, K., & Dillard, C. (2020). Antecedents of alternative protein adoption: A US focus group study. Research Report. Washington, DC: The Good Food Institute. https://go.gfi.org/alternative-protein-focus-groups

Szejda, K., Dillard, C., & Urbanovich, T. (2019). Initial consumer perceptions of cellular agriculture nomenclature: A qualitative analysis of word associations. Research Report. Washington, DC: The Good Food Institute. https://go.gfi.org/cultivated-meat-word-associations   

Dillard, C., & Szejda, K. (2019). Consumer response to cellular agriculture messaging and nomenclature: A focus group pilot study. Research Report. Washington, DC: The Good Food Institute. https://gfi.org/images/uploads/2020/01/Dec-2019-CM-Pilot-Focus-Groups-FINAL-REPORT.pdf 

Arora, R., & Bookis, A. (2020). The economic state of U.S. farming [Fact sheet]. Los Angeles, CA. Mercy For Animals. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sEeROsZzqxfbwAwZ95_YdLL5x4aCKM_J/view  

PUBLICATIONS

Niemiec, R., Jones, M. S., Mertens, A., & Dillard, C. (2021, October 1). The effectiveness of COVID-related message framing on public beliefs and behaviors related to plant-based diets. Appetite, 165, 105293. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105293

Bryant, C., & Dillard, C. (2019, July 3). The impact of framing on acceptance of cultured meat. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6, 103. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00103 

Jacquet, J., Franks, B., Godfrey-Smith, P., & Sánchez-Suárez, W. (2019). The case against octopus farming. Issues in Science and Technology, 35(2), 37–44. https://issues.org/the-case-against-octopus-farming/

Sánchez-Suárez, W., Franks, B., & Torgerson-White, L. (2020). From land to water: Taking fish welfare seriously. Animals, 10(9): 1585. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091585 

Sánchez-Suárez, W. (2018). La consciencia y su función en el comportamiento animal [Consciousness and its role in animal behaviour]. In B. Aguilera, J. A. Lecaros, & E. Valdés (Eds.), Ética animal, fundamentos empíricos, teóricos y dimensión práctica (pp. 57–70). Universidad Pontificia Comillas. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335381134_Etica_animal_fundamentos_empiricos_teoricos_y_dimension_practica

WEBINARS

COVID-19: Five-Country Survey

Slides

Alternative Proteins: Focus Group Research

Slides

Can we achieve positive welfare for farmed fishes?

YouTube

Seizing Opportunities to Create Social Change

Slides
Video
Highlights

Enhancing Communication and Messaging

Slides
Video
Highlights

Collaboration

Working with the Mercy For Animals research team presents some important opportunities for academic researchers, including access to useful data, potential new avenues of funding, support from our staff, and the chance to apply theory to practice in compelling ways.

Without a doubt, the problems associated with animal agribusiness are myriad, ranging from negative health outcomes and unsustainable environmental activities to public health threats from pandemics and antibiotic resistance to the immeasurable suffering of trillions of animals every year. At the same time, agribusiness industries are daunting in their abundance of resources, and most people view consumption of animal products as normal, natural, and necessary. Clearly, much work remains to be done, and while advocacy organizations like Mercy For Animals are committed to changing the food system, we cannot do it alone.

An examination of successful social change efforts makes clear that academics have always played a crucial role, producing objective research, stimulating conversations with power holders, and raising their voices in various venues across the public sphere. Mercy For Animals is eager to work with academics from all disciplines who have an affinity for our issues. We created this hub with the belief that we will move further faster toward our vision of a just and compassionate food system when we harness the power of collaboration. We invite you to join us. Below we highlight our current and recent projects that span a wide variety of academic disciplines.

ACTIVE COLLABORATIONS

Multinational Survey 

Crafting, deploying, and analyzing findings of a general-population survey to be conducted in 23 countries of interest to the animal protection movement. 

The survey, which focuses on attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behaviors regarding farmed animal welfare and animal product alternatives, will provide a consistent instrument to help assess movement-specific tractability in and across countries. This project will serve as phase one of a multiphase project that aims to deploy the survey in all 60 countries covered by the FAOI.


Collaborators

Chris Hopwood, professor of personality psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Zürich 

Daniela Romero Waldhorn, assistant lecturer, Department of Communication, Pompeu Fabra University

João Graça, assistant professor, Department of Communication and Information Sciences, University of Groningen 

Relational Organizing

Using surveys and survey experiments to better understand the tactics and messages most effective in encouraging people to engage in relational organizing for social change and examining how effective relational organizing tactics compare to more traditional organizing tactics, such as sending mass emails, in the specific context of promoting plant-based food choices.

This project is funded through a National Science Foundation grant.

 

Collaborators

Rebecca Niemiec, assistant professor, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department, Colorado State University

Megan Jones, research scientist, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department, Colorado State University

Gregg Sparkman, postdoctoral researcher, Princeton University

Samy Sekar, research fellow, Polarization and Social Change Lab, Stanford University

Precision Fermentation: Naming and Framing

Conducting focus groups in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Singapore to determine name and frame preferences of likely early adopter and early majority consumers of animal-free dairy products made with real milk proteins.

 

Collaborators

Garrett Broad, associate professor, Department of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University

Daniel Bowman, PhD candidate, School of English, University of Sheffield

COMPLETED COLLABORATIONS

Effectiveness of COVID-Related Message Framing on Public Beliefs and Behaviors Related to Plant-Based Diets

Conducting a randomized trial with an online sample to examine (1) the impact of a message that uses the saliency of the COVID-19 pandemic to highlight the risk of disease transmission from factory farms, (2) the impact of a message that uses the saliency of the COVID-19 pandemic to highlight the threat to workers’ health created by factory farms, and (3) whether these messages are more effective at changing beliefs about and behavioral intentions toward plant-based eating, compared with more traditional messages that highlight the environmental, personal health, or animal welfare implications of consuming factory-farmed meat. 

 

Collaborators

Rebecca Niemiec, assistant professor, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department, Colorado State University

Megan Jones, postdoctoral research associate, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department, Colorado State University

Andrew Mertens, researcher, University of California–Berkeley

Role of Municipalities in Promoting Plant-Based Food Choices

Surveying municipal sustainability office staff to explore four primary research topics: (1) practices currently pursued by municipal sustainability offices or related external programs; (2) perceptions of various stakeholders of specific potential policies or programs related to sustainable food choices (i.e., how attractive and feasible interventions are); (3) barriers to implementing such policies and programs; and (4) the relationship between plant-based food choices and issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. 

 

Collaborators

Rebecca Niemiec, assistant professor, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department, Colorado State University

Kayla Redd, undergraduate research assistant, Colorado State University

INVITATION TO COLLABORATE

If you are interested in collaborating with Mercy For Animals on a research project, please fill out the short form below:

Contact

Please reach out to our team at [email protected].

The Team

Andie Thompkins, PhD
Director of Research

Andie’s background is in human-animal interaction, with training in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience methodologies. Andie has extensive experience in organizational direction and has served in various research and leadership positions in academic and nonprofit environments. At Mercy For Animals, Andie provides planning, assistance, and oversight for research activities, and she liaises with senior leadership to support strategic decision-making in promotion of the organization’s vision and mission. Outside work, Andie enjoys photographing wildlife, listening to live music, and spending time outdoors with her husband and companion dog.

Courtney Dillard, PhD
Social Change Researcher

Courtney’s background is in audience and context analysis, persuasive strategies, and social movement studies. She holds a bachelor’s in communication studies from Vanderbilt University, a master’s from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. Courtney has been active in the animal protection movement for the past 30 years. Prior to joining Mercy For Animals she combined an academic career with pro bono activities aimed at improving the communication strategies of various groups in the movement. At Mercy For Animals, she supports teams seeking to increase effective paths toward social change for farmed animals. Using a variety of methodologies, Courtney conducts social science research focused primarily on attitudes and behaviors regarding farmed animals and animal product alternatives. Outside work, Courtney can be found traveling, eating vegan junk food, and trying her hand at poetry.

Dennis Powers, PhD
Economist

With a background in agricultural economics and the economics of common resources, Dennis has led research projects entailing both theoretical and statistical modeling related to the socioeconomic sustainability of traditional agricultural and irrigational systems. At Mercy For Animals, Dennis conducts research on the economics of transitioning from factory-farmed animal products to plant-based alternatives to those products at all levels of the supply chain. In particular, this research supports the Mercy For Animals Transfarmation program. Outside work, Dennis enjoys hiking, trail running, pretty much all other outdoor activities, and hanging out with his family.

Walter Sánchez-Suárez, BVSc, MPhil, PhD
Animal Behavior and Welfare Scientist (Consultant)

Walter holds a degree in veterinary science, a master’s in moral philosophy, and a doctorate in animal biosciences and neuroscience. He also has post-doctoral experience in comparative psychology. At Mercy For Animals, Walter provides scientific support and strategic insights on agricultural practices, especially on topics related to animal behavior, welfare, and sentience; public health; environmental conservation; and sustainability. Outside work, Walter loves the great outdoors (and the great indoors!).

Sebastian Quaade
Research Intern

Sebastian holds a bachelor’s in economics and mathematics with a minor in human rights. He has been part of numerous economic research projects, particularly those focused on gender and development economics. At Mercy For Animals, Sebastian conducts research on the economics of transitioning from factory-farmed animal products to plant-based alternatives to those products at all levels of the supply chain. In particular, this research supports the Mercy For Animals Transfarmation program. Outside work, Sebastian enjoys cooking, dancing, and reading.