Giving Lucky a Name and a Face: Increasing Animal Advocacy Activism Among Meat-eaters Using the Identifiable Victim Effect

Rakefet Cohen Ben-Arye

Rakefet pursued a master’s degree in Social and Organizational Psychology at Bar-Ilan University and is now on a Ph.D. track where she continues to work on the identifiable animal victim effect. [email protected]

Author’s Note

What was your thesis topic?

Diets based on animal products are costly to our health and the planet and often inflict suffering on animals. In this study, we aimed to elicit animal advocacy among omnivores using the identifiable victim effect, a well-documented phenomenon in which presenting an identifiable victim, compared to anonymous or statistical victims, evokes greater caring and helping behavior. We explored whether this finding extends to farm animal victims, particularly among omnivores who may have a material interest in the outcome (i.e., the slaughter of farm animals). Consequently, due to their dietary lifestyle and consumer support of the meat industry, they may be perceived as complicit in the victimization. In Experiment 1, omnivore participants indicated a greater likelihood to sign and share a petition to save an identified runaway calf (presented with a name and a picture) from slaughter than several unidentified runaway calves. In Experiment 2, we extended these findings to actual petition signing, along with reporting support of the petition. In Experiment 3, we further replicated the identifiability effect using real donations to save the runaway calf (calves) from slaughter and demonstrated it is limited to a single-identified victim. Additionally, we found that feelings of sympathy (Experiment 1) and ambivalence towards meat (Experiment 3) mediated the effect, whereas concern, empathy, identification with animals (Experiment 2), and ecological identity (Experiment 3) moderated it. Omnivores who scored high in concern and ecological identity, and low in empathy and identification with animals were more susceptible to the effect. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

What do you think the stronger and weaker parts of your thesis are?

The strength of our research lies partly in its practical applicability. It provides clear insights into real-world applications and potential impacts.

However, a limitation is that it relied on self-reported online questionnaires.

In future studies, I would like to see an emphasis on measuring actual behavior, particularly in terms of buying habits. Additionally, it would be beneficial to include smaller farm animals like chickens and fish, which are consumed in larger numbers, to broaden the scope of the research.


In what ways do you think your topic improves the world?

While this effect has been extensively studied, our research is among the few that specifically explore its benefits for farm animal victims.

Additionally, it is the first study to successfully elicit animal advocacy among non-vegan and non-vegetarian individuals using the identifiable victim effect.

These insights could lead to more effective strategies in animal advocacy.

In what ways have you changed your mind since writing it?

Since completing my thesis, my views on leveraging people’s irrationality have shifted.

As an Effective Altruist, I initially found it almost painful to observe even rational people succumbing to common fallacies and biases, including the identifiable victim effect.

However, I’ve come to realize that if we want to make impactful changes without facing an uphill battle, it can be more effective to work with certain biases rather than against them.

This includes using the identifiable victim effect strategically to elicit support for all victims in similar situations, not just him or her.

What recommendations would you make to others interested in taking a similar direction with their research?

  • Congratulations on Your Achievements: Celebrate your progress in both career and activism.

  • Work Hard: Understand that research is highly competitive. It’s a “publish or perish” environment, and most papers don’t get cited even once. Be the one who publishes! Push yourself more than 99% of other hard-working researchers.

  • Commit to Lifelong Learning: Take courses on platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn, Coursera, and others. Study hard skills, such as R programming, as well as soft skills, like networking, teamwork, and communication.

  • Stay Updated with AI: Use the latest versions of AI tools like Chat GPT, Jenni AI, and Penelope AI for research assistance. However, always adhere to the journal’s guidelines regarding AI and double-check your sources for facts.

  • Be Willing to Pay for Knowledge: Recognize that the internet is moving towards a paid model. Knowledge is power now more than ever. It’s not spending – it’s an investment.

  • Join The EA Community: Get involved with communities like Effective Altruism, which are likely to engage with your research.

  • Utilize All Connections: Capitalize on both strong and weak ties in your professional network, as both groups were shown to be crucial.

  • Maintain a To-Do List: Write down all the people and organizations you want to share your papers with.

  • Self-Advocate: Remember, if you don’t promote your work, no one else will. Write detailed thank-you emails to researchers you cited and include a link to your paper.

  • Seek Varied Advice: Get advice from professionals as well as family and friends. Trust other scientists and focus on collaboration.

  • Share Resources: Eventually, it doesn’t matter for the animals if you are the one publishing a novel study or another researcher you helped. Sharing with others encourages you to advance further since it levels the playing field in terms of knowledge.

  • Grab the Opportunity: This is your chance to make a difference while expanding your knowledge and skills. Grab it!

For any inquiries about my research or any other question in your career, you are more than welcome to reach out to me at [email protected]


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