The Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) is the world’s first interactive index ranking the animal welfare performance of 50 countries selected among the largest producers of farmed animal products in the world. The VACI is based on an assessment of the nature, extent, and severity of farmed animal cruelty within each country, as well as taking into account the quality of legislative and regulatory frameworks for animal protection.
Why the VACI?
The VACI has been designed for students, teachers, and the general public to consider the scope and intensity of human induced animal suffering. It promotes accountability for the harm that countries inflict on farmed animals across the 50 nations included within the VACI. Most of all, it encourages critical thinking on the issues surrounding animal agriculture and allows for a dialogue about the improvements to animal freedoms and well-being around the world where animal cruelty is most widespread and intense.
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 farmed 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 farmed animals by combining the ratio of plant-based protein to farmed 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 50 countries selected for the VACI (among 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 calculate the overall “Index Score” for each country is as follows:
“Index Score” = TP/H + TC/H + S.
- H = the size of the human population of the relevant country.
- TP (or total production cruelty) = the total number of farmed 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 farmed 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.5
Unlike other indices, the VACI ranks the actual harm that individual countries cause to farmed 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.
The VACI focuses on land-based farmed animals, but its design acknowledges that animal cruelty reaches far beyond what is currently measured at the country level. 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.
The VACI data was compiled in 2020, and the VACI will not be updated as developments arise. If you have any comments or questions in relation to the VACI, please contact us.
- To measure the number of farmed animals slaughtered in each country, the Index uses conservative estimates compiled by the FAO. Carcass production was calculated for 2014 and updated for 2018 (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, which includes those imported live and slaughtered. See the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Livestock Primary’, FAOSTAT.
- The weighting was used to reflect the fact that farmed 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.
- This metric was used instead of total animal protein consumption, as it provides a better indicator of consumer choice within purchasing power constraints.
- 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.
- The earlier 2017 VACI edition also incorporated two other policy provisions no longer rated by the API; (v) reporting on progress; (vi) education on animal care and protection.