Author: Ludwig Raal
Credence Institute is a South African think tank that aims to advance the interests of animals — all animals. While many South Africans consider themselves "animal lovers", their affection is usually reserved for wildlife and companion animals. Many nonprofits exist that are aimed at protecting endangered species or finding abandoned pets a new home, but farmed animals elicit fewer sympathies in a society as meat-obsessed as South Africa's.
Credence is the brainchild of Brett Thompson who, after accumulating over ten years of animal advocacy experience in various countries, returned to his home country of South Africa in 2018 to start an organisation of his own. Despite a growing recognition that animals deserve moral consideration, the state of animal welfare — as well as its surrounding advocacy — is not where it could or, indeed, should be. Animal interests continue to be ignored whenever they conflict with those of humans, and, while many animal activists do important and laudable work, others use radical rhetoric and divisive tactics — activism that may come at the cost of genuine and necessary progress.
Brett and his co-founder, Ludwig Raal, have spent the last year assembling an international network of individuals from various industries, each of them offering unique experiences and expertise. Despite all of us sharing the same goal — advancing the interests of animals — some intellectual tension exists on how best to pursue it. In addition to having different experiences and expertise, our associates and fellows have diverse backgrounds and beliefs. It is possible, therefore, that some of our opinion pieces may promote contradictory messages. This is not a bug — it's a feature. At Credence, we value diversity of opinion and believe that a sincere expression of contrasting views can help achieve intellectual and ethical progress.
What, then, are our goals? And how do we plan to achieve them?
Our long-term plan is to change the public's perspective regarding animals.
We strive for a society wherein animal interests are no longer ignored for the sake of human endeavours — something that requires a significant shift in public opinion. Our research, articles and other media outreach programs are aimed at informing the public about issues relating to animal welfare and, ultimately, demonstrate that all animals deserve moral consideration and that their interests can — and should — be advanced along with our own.
Our short-term plans are to:
(1) improve animal welfare standards
(2) increase the distribution of plant-based protein alternatives
(1) Changing the way animals are treated will be pursued by both advocating for policy changes as well as working with those in the livestock industry. Despite wishing that no animal were reared for food, we recognise that lasting reform will only be achieved through incremental advances. We are, therefore, prepared to collaborate with farmers and industry — e.g. by introducing them to superior animal handling principles — if doing so improves the lives of animals.
(2) The majority of today's animal protein is produced on factory farms, which subject animals to restricted movement, mutilation without pain relief, and even death from dehydration. While many consumers want to shift responsibility to the farmers, blame cannot be placed solely on them. Everyone who buys food is, to use Wendell Berry's phrase, "farming by proxy." Reducing the number of animals exposed to conditions detrimental to their wellbeing, then, requires more people to transition away from animal protein and toward plant-based alternatives. We will attempt to make such transitions more frequent and accessible by encouraging and assisting decision-makers at various institutions to increase their offerings of plant-based products.
Given that Credence is still in its infancy, our approaches and short-term goals may continue to evolve. If you have any feedback, would like to get involved with Credence, or simply want to keep up-to-date with our latest efforts, you can explore our website or reach out to us directly.
Brett and Ludwig
Special thanks to Christopher Rimmer for letting us use his photographs of Pondo cattle visiting the beach from his Amapondo series. You can view more of his work here.