Why the VACI?

The new index gives a voice to animals subjected to unnecessary pain and cruelty. It informs advocacy groups and activists about the scope and intensity of human induced animal suffering. It promotes accountability for the harm that countries inflict on defenceless sentient beings. Most of all, it encourages citizens’ action geared to the enhancement of animal freedoms and well-being around the world by focusing attention on the countries and sectors where animal cruelty is most widespread, intense, and egregious.

How does the VACI work?

The basic formula for the VACI combines the following three categories:

  • The “Producing Cruelty” Sub-Index assesses countries based on the number of farm animals slaughtered each year for food within those countries, whilst acknowledging that animals are treated and protected differently in each country (“P”).
  • The “Consuming Cruelty” Sub-Index assesses countries based on their consumption of farm animals by combining the ratio of plant-based protein to farm animal protein consumed with the number of animals consumed, in each country on a per capita basis (“C”).
  • The “Sanctioning Cruelty” Sub-Index assesses countries based on their societal and cultural attitudes to animals, as reflected in the quality of the legislative and regulatory frameworks that are in place to protect animals (“S”).

The fifty countries selected for the VACI (the largest livestock producing countries) were ranked against each of the categories above. The countries were then given an overall VACI ranking. Equal weights were used for each of the three categories. The formula used to estimate the overall “Index Score” for each country is as follows:

“Index Score” = TP/H + TC/H + S.

Where:

  • H = the size of the human population of the relevant country.
  • TP (or total production cruelty) = the total number of farm animals slaughtered for food,1 multiplied by a weighting factor that was derived from the overall performance score for each country under the Animal Protection Index (L).2 Accordingly, TP = K x L.
  • TC (or total consumption cruelty) = the proportion of plant to animal protein consumed,3 plus a weighted value representing the number of animals required to be slaughtered to meet the country’s demand for meat, eggs, and dairy.4
  • S (sanctioning cruelty) = an aggregation of the Animal Protection Index indicators that track the presence and quality of protection laws and regulations against deliberate acts of cruelty (or failure to act) with respect to farm animals, i.e. (i) laws against causing animal suffering; (ii) protecting animals used in farming; (iii) government accountability for animal welfare; (iv) incorporation of OIE animal welfare guiding principles and standards into policy and legislation; (v) reporting on progress; (vi) education on animal care and protection.

Limitations

Unlike other indices, the VACI ranks the actual harm that individual countries cause to farm animals.

However, due to data limitations, it does not account for the duration of animal suffering. Reliable country based animal welfare indicators that address behaviour, physiology, reproduction, immunology and health for example, are not available. In addition, there is a lack of reliable surveys of public attitudes, causing a lack of data relevant to the Sanctioning Cruelty sub-index.

The VACI focuses on land-based farm animals, but acknowledges that animal cruelty reaches far beyond. For example, according to Fish Count up to a trillion marine animals are estimated to be killed annually. In the future, as new and reliable information becomes available, a more comprehensive index can be constructed.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggested amendments in relation to the VACI, please contact us.

  1. To measure the number of farm animals slaughtered in each country, the Index uses conservative estimates compiled by the FAO. Carcass production was calculated for 2014 (the latest year available) per head of population for all 50 countries using the FAO database on ‘producing animals / slaughtered’. All animals in the ‘meat’ criteria were selected, as well as those imported live and slaughtered. No data was available for “meat, game”, “meat n.e.s” (not otherwise specified), or “pigeon” in any of the 50 countries. See the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Livestock Primary’, FAOSTAT.
  2. The weighting was used to reflect the fact that farm animals are better protected in some countries than others. The multiplier was 0.4 for countries with an API score of A, 0.5 for a score of B and so on. Note that methods used to calculate TC involved collecting the conservative data compiled by the FAOSTAT Food Balance data, with equal weighting given to each method. See the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Food Balance Sheet’, FAOSTAT.  Further, the Producing Cruelty Index does not capture adequately the suffering associated with live animals exports, often raised in intensive farming conditions.
  3. This metric was used instead of total animal protein consumption, as it provides a better indicator of consumer choice within purchasing power constraints.
  4. The weight of meat, eggs and milk consumed in each country was divided by the world average yield per animal of meat, eggs, and milk to avoid favouring countries that rely on factory farming to increase yields per animal at the cost of increased animal suffering.