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“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” This quote from Mahatma Gandhi has always resonated with Animal Welfare Trust’s founder and president, Brad Goldberg, whose love and concern for animals dates back as far as he can remember. It appears that animals have always loved Goldberg, too; in addition to his family’s dogs, Goldberg had many “visiting” animals growing up—a pet duck, for one.
Born and raised in Kansas City, MO, Goldberg saw a constant flow of farm animals being trucked in horrendous conditions on their way to Kansas City slaughterhouses. “Undoubtedly, this had a profound effect on me,” Goldberg said, looking back.
Goldberg received his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana with a double major in accounting and economics. He then went on to earn his Master’s degree from NYU Business School and pursue a career in investment management. All the while he developed his mind for investing wisely, he grew increasingly involved in supporting animal protection causes.
According to Goldberg, “The highlight of my career was retiring from the business world and devoting my efforts to animal protection. I formed Animal Welfare Trust (AWT) about a year before I retired in anticipation of being able to devote significant time to its activities.”
At the time it was started in 2001, attention to farm animal issues was at a very early stage and AWT thought it could make some meaningful gains in this area. “I was also fortunate to have a board that included three attorneys who were experts in farm animal issues and helped guide that aspect of our grant program,” said Goldberg.
Decades after he looked on helplessly at those trucks rolling down the highway, Goldberg was well-poised to make a real difference in the lives of farm animals. The primary areas of focus for AWT are farm animal protection, vegetarianism, and humane education.
Since its inception, AWT has made over 200 grants to organizations. Many have been early-stage entities and, by their very nature, have thus had high risk-reward characteristics. “Some have worked out very well and some have not,” he said. “In general, we believe that we have helped launch several successful organizations and projects, particularly in the farm animal protection arena.”
In its student internship grant category, Goldberg said, “We are very gratified that the majority of our grantees have moved on to careers in the animal protection field.”
Although much of AWT’s funding over the years has been traditional grantmaking, its financial support has also given rise to two public charities that are each serving a critical need: HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers), which Goldberg currently chairs, and the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.
With its sundown planned for 2021, AWT stopped taking unsolicited proposals a couple of years ago and has been focusing much of its efforts on larger but fewer grants where it hopes it can influence real change.
“In 2018, we helped launch a new Center for Environmental and Animal Protection at NYU, which follows our facilitation of the Animal Studies Initiative at NYU nine years ago,” he said. “We have also facilitated the Animal Law and Policy program at Harvard Law School and a related Animal Law Clinic, and new program initiatives at Yale Law School and Lewis and Clark’s Center for Animal Law.”
According to Brad, the academic area is not on the radar screens of most animal funders. “We like to look for opportunities where we think we can promote change, and often that might be areas neglected by funders,” he explained. Higher education animal studies programs have, thus, become a focus for AWT because it believes these are critical to changing attitudes about the exploitation of animals, and how animal welfare intersects with the welfare of people and the natural world. AWT is optimistic that its funding in this arena will have some of the largest payoffs over the long term.
Goldberg has remained committed to funding animal protection projects even as AWT spends down. He has also remained active in conservation philanthropy. “I have been on the board of the Wildlife Conservation Society for many years and have been particularly involved in supporting conservation programs in Africa,” he said.
Goldberg’s future plans include continuing to chair HEART, which he believes has tremendous potential to reach large numbers of teachers and students across the country with humane education lessons and activities.
In his spare time, Goldberg loves gardening and exploring the natural world. He also enjoys time with his two rescue dogs, Swiffer and Joplin. “Joplin was a puppy mill breeder dog and came with significant challenges,” he shared. “She is very sweet, which is amazing given what she has lived through.”
When asked if he had any “food for thought” to serve up, Goldberg shared this: “The Effective Altruism movement is all the rage, and I have some concerns that it could be causing a misallocation of funding away from great organizations and projects where results cannot be easily measured on a short-term basis. Foundations and individual donors should be confident their philanthropy will best serve the issues they are most passionate about, but that does not necessarily mean that those expected results can be measured in an evidence-based methodology. When I look back over our grant program, including our more recent focus on funding academic programs, I can find many examples of what I believe were great funding opportunities that would not have met the criteria of an evidence-based approach.”