Today, we officially release our 2015 annual report. I hope you’ll read it and take pride in the extraordinary progress we are making across such a wide range of problem areas for animals. Below, I’ve drawn some language from my essay in the report to give you a flavor of our biggest accomplishments for last year. In every area where we invested resources, we made game-changing gains. I’m proud to note that thanks to you, we grew our revenues by $6 million (to $191 million) and expanded our global footprint and the depth and breadth of our programs domestically and internationally. Our critics in the world of factory farming, puppy mills, and other businesses that trade on exploitation aren’t slowing us down – rather, they are sharpening the contrasts between our vision of progress and their screeching for the status quo, and it’s calling good people to stand with us. I’ve been thinking a great deal about charitable performance, and how one of the big names in charity ratings has it wrong when it comes to its assessments of organizations in the philanthropic sector.
The primary measure of a charity is not an overly simplistic ratio of program to fundraising and expense. That metric tells us almost nothing of the substance of a group, and that information has value only in ferreting out groups that are grossly abusing their charitable purposes. The key metric for any serious-minded group is impact: What did we make of your investment of time and treasure and hope? In the case of animals, did we spare them suffering? Did we prevent cruelty?
The HSUS, Humane Society International, and our other affiliates continued to provide direct services to more animals annually—171,476 in 2015—than any other group. But our biggest impact is winning support among the general public and changing the behavior and standards of corporations and governments when it comes to the treatment of animals. Our opponents don’t like our determined, strategic efforts to change the operations of factory farms or puppy mills, the slaughter of wildlife for trophies or pelts, or the slaughter of horses or dogs for humans to eat.
At The HSUS, we are delivering sweeping changes for many species across many sectors of the economy and around the globe. Here are just a few examples of areas in which we delivered victories in 2015.
- THE HSUS DELIVERED ON A LONG-TERM PLEDGE to end the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments. Over 20 years, we worked with Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make this happen. This year, after a series of major announcements over the last decade, the final blows were struck when the USFWS classified all chimps, including captives, as protected under the highest standards of the Endangered Species Act and NIH said it will no long fund invasive chimpanzee research. We also took on a new animal care facility in Liberia, stepping in and providing care for a colony of more than 60 chimpanzees abandoned there by the New York Blood Center, which profited from experiments it conducted on them for decades.
- WE BROUGHT THE NATION SO MUCH CLOSER TO ENDING the extreme confinement of pigs and chickens on factory farms. This was a breakout year for chickens. In addition to seeing California finally implement new laws banning the sale of eggs from battery-caged hens, The HSUS persuaded the biggest buyers of eggs to demand that their egg suppliers stop locking their birds in cages. This year alone, we helped McDonald’s, Costco, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Qdoba, TGI Fridays, Panera Bread, Aramark, Sodexo, Compass Group, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Dunkin Donuts, and others to declare cage-free egg policies. Our work with Walmart, America’s largest grocery chain, led the company to announce a policy supporting the “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare, which include giving animals the freedom to express natural behaviors—which they cannot do within the confines of gestation crates and battery cages.
- WE SECURED MAJOR NEW PROTECTIONS FOR AFRICAN WILDLIFE, especially lions, after a Minnesota dentist lured Cecil from a national park in Zimbabwe and shot him with an arrow. We worked with the world’s major airlines and helped to convince more than 40 of them—including all the big U.S. passenger carriers—to stop transporting trophies of the Africa Big Five (elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and Cape buffalo). If the trophy hunters cannot transport them, they won’t kill them in the first place. We also convinced USFWS to accept our petition to upgrade protections for lions, and in December the agency announced it would list all African lions as threatened or endangered. American trophy hunters exported 85 percent of lion trophies from all of Africa, so this classification is of enormous consequence. The agency rule specifically states that lions shot at canned hunting facilities will not be accepted—potentially shutting down this entire industry, which depended almost exclusively on American clients who wanted guaranteed kills of these creatures on fenced-in plots of land.
It’s been my privilege to serve The HSUS as CEO for the last 11 years, and to serve in other capacities here for a decade prior to that. I came to The HSUS because, more than anything, I felt that the nation and the world needed a strong and determined organization with the power, savvy, and resources to drive the debate about our human responsibilities to animals; a group able and nimble enough to work with leaders in government, industry, and the whole of society to effect transformational changes. We are at a turning point when it comes to the human relationship with animals, and the things we do today and tomorrow will have consequences for decades to come. It’s our special responsibility to help. Our cause is not an abstraction. It’s not an affectation or a matter of routine. It’s a matter of life and death for animals who depend on our ability to act, and to do so with the greatest skill. The generations before us included people who intentionally acted to make our country and the world a better place. They succeeded, but they left much work for us to do. The baton is in our hands. Run with us. Run fast. Run with purpose.