Just this week, I reported on our progress toward a federal dogfighting ban in Mexico and the shutdown of a major dog meat trading and slaughter hub in South Korea. Our work abroad is expanding at a rapid and ambitious pace, as we continue to apply the skills, resources, and approaches that have made our domestic work hit with such force. It’s been a banner year for our global arm, Humane Society International, with new offices and representatives, coverage in an increasing number of countries, and countless animals rescued, helped, and saved.
Making gains for farm animal welfare
In 2016, our movement to end cruel cage confinement around the world gained extraordinary ground, with some of the world’s largest food corporations joining in. After working with HSI, Burger King agreed to phase out gestation crates and battery cages throughout Latin America, and Arcos Dorados, which operates McDonald’s in 20 countries in the region, committed to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs, as did other leading restaurant operators, totaling thousands of restaurants in Latin America alone. In Canada, every major grocery chain representing thousands of stores, Tim Horton’s, the country’s largest restaurant chain, fast food chains Burger King and A&W, and food service company Aramark all committed to transitioning to 100 percent cage-free eggs. McDonald’s South Africa announced plans to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs. Compass Group and Sodexo, both leading food service providers, announced a global cage-free policy in partnership with HSI. Alsea, the largest restaurant operator in Latin America and Spain, announced a cage-free egg policy after several years of talks with HSI specialists. HSI also pushed successfully for banning the sale and production of foie gras in Goiania, Brazil. We’ve also partnered with major institutions, including governments, food service providers, and culinary schools around the globe, to promote and implement meat reduction programs.
Taking on the dog meat trade in China and South Korea
Our work to end the cruel dog meat trade continued full force in 2016. We rescued and cared for 175 dogs and cats bound for slaughter at the annual Yulin festival in China, and next week we are flying 111 of these amazing survivors back to Canada to be placed in forever homes. We also assisted our local Chinese partners in the rescue of more than 3,000 dogs and 3,000 cats from the dog and cat meat trade. Our work to end this gruesome spectacle is moving forward as we continue talking to officials in China and keep the global media’s eye focused sharply on this event. We permanently closed down our largest dog meat farm to date in South Korea, rescuing and rehoming 250 dogs, and helped five farmers transition out of the trade into humane livelihoods. Significant evidence that positive change is happening in South Korea came this month, when the officials of the city housing the largest dog meat market in the country announced that it would close down and assist the dog meat vendors with creating new businesses.
Ending animal testing
More than 100 million animals suffer and die each year in laboratories around the world. HSI’s team of scientists and policy experts work with countries everywhere to replace outdated animal tests with cutting-edge non-animal techniques. This year, we successfully pushed in Europe for the adoption of an animal-free testing strategy for skin allergy based on the “Tox21” paradigm — a step-by-step plan to modernize toxicity testing and better predict human responses to chemicals without involving animals. HSI also helped enact a ban on cruel and obsolete rabbit eye and skin testing for drugs in India, and bans on animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients in Taiwan and the State of Para in Brazil. We received a commitment from the Australian government to follow suit in the coming year. HSI’s extensive efforts in China to provide training in animal testing alternatives to companies and government authorities has borne fruit through the country’s adoption of two alternative tests for cosmetics—an important step forward for a system that until now has only accepted animal test results.
Rescuing animals in disaster-struck Haiti
We provided emergency animal rescue and treatment for animals in Haiti, following the devastation left by Hurricane Matthew. The HSI team set up emergency clinics and provided treatment for approximately 1,500 animals, including horses, cows, donkeys, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, pigs, mules, calves, and chickens.
Striking at dogfighting in Latin America
Last week, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved national anti-dogfighting legislation by an overwhelming vote of 291 to 1, taking the country a major step closer to a countrywide ban on the barbaric practice. The outcome is a direct result of HSI Mexico’s anti-dogfighting campaign launched in 2016 with the support of legislators, celebrities, and high-level Mexico City officials. The campaign collected over 200,000 signatures against this cruel spectacle. HSI also helped enact animal cruelty legislation in El Salvador, including a dogfighting ban and the requirement that animal welfare be included within public school curricula. Similar legislation was also enacted in Honduras that included a dogfighting ban and protection for all species of all animals, including wildlife and farm animals.
Making global progress on ending the elephant ivory and rhino horn trade
The United States announced a near-complete ban on the ivory trade, and we led the successful ballot campaign in Oregon to ban the sale of 12 types of animals most targeted by wildlife traffickers, including whales, elephants, lions, and tigers. We also helped enact a ban on the ivory trade in Hawaii, long a haven for ivory traffickers. At the global level, we successfully pushed for a ban on the domestic ivory and rhino horn trade in France and in all French territories, making France the first European country to implement such a ban. So far, 1.5 million children in Vietnam have received a copy of HSI’s I’m a Little Rhino book, which has been made into an animated television show that is currently airing on national Vietnamese television. To date, the campaign has reached an estimated 35 million Vietnamese people, or more than one-third of the population. HSI also led the effort for the first-ever public destruction of rhino horn and ivory in Vietnam.
Gains at CITES and IWC
We helped increase and add protections for 113 species at the 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including pangolins, barbary macaques, African grey parrots, African pygmy chameleons, arboreal alligator lizards, silky sharks, thresher sharks, devil rays, and more. In a marker of continuing momentum for our anti-ivory-trade campaign, the parties approved a resolution recommending the closure of domestic ivory markets that contribute to elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade — the first time that a United Nations body has agreed on the urgency of shutting down ivory markets worldwide. The parties to CITES also rejected a proposal from Swaziland to allow limited international trade in rhino horn, which could have had potentially disastrous consequences for the remaining global rhino populations. At the International Whaling Conference in Slovenia, we successfully led efforts culminating in an agreement that the body will now address bycatch (the incidental capture of animals in fishing gear and nets) which kills an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises each year.
Gains for companion animals
We helped achieve a temporary ban on dog culling and animal fighting in Bangladesh. We helped implement a ban on imports of foreign dogs for breeding and commercial use in India. We helped spay or neuter approximately 52,000 animals in Asia, and approximately 225,000 dogs were vaccinated in Asia as part of HSI’s street dog program. We spayed or neutered an additional 15,000 dogs and cats in Latin American countries, including Guyana, Bolivia, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador.
Striking at animal cruelty worldwide
India’s Supreme Court upheld a prohibition on Jallikattu, where bulls are subdued by young men, often resulting in injury to the bulls and people. We persuaded the state of Goa in India against legalizing bullfighting. In Assam, also in India, we succeeded in getting a court order to ban bulbul fights, where tiny songbirds are starved and forced to fight each other, and buffalo fights, where hundreds of bulls bleed profusely and are severely injured. We helped end the Kots Kaal Pato fiesta in Mexico — a 100-year-old festival in which animals were hung-up like piñatas and beaten to death, and have committed to collaborate on humane alternatives to celebrate the fiesta. We rescued 199 animals from cruelty situations in Mexico, and 300 animals from cruelty situations in Costa Rica. Our work to close global markets for seal products kept seal fur prices depressed in Canada and another 330,000 baby seals survived the annual slaughter, as a result. The global outrage we helped generate in response to the gruesome spearing of a bear by a U.S. trophy hunter compelled the government of Alberta to ban spear hunting.
Protecting chimps abandoned in Liberia by the New York Blood Center
Since 2015, The HSUS and HSI have been taking care of a group of more than 60 chimpanzees who were abandoned on a series of islands in Liberia without food and water, by the New York Blood Center. This work is being carried out at great expense and a number of corporations and celebrities – from Citigroup to Kate and Rooney Mara — have stepped up to support us. The chimps are thriving under our care, even as NYBC has refused to take responsibility for their upkeep. The work to protect the chimps will continue in 2017 and it will include the establishment of an office in Liberia by HSI, even as we attempt to get the NYBC to fulfill its duties to support the chimps.