The remarkable work of The HSUS’s Investigations unit was profiled today in the nation’s second-most popular newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. If you are a WSJ subscriber, you can read the article online. If not, keep an eye out for a newsstand copy.
The piece, “Humane Society Probes Put Pressure on Firms” by the paper’s Jane Zhang, recounts the impact of our investigation into the now infamous Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. as just the latest example of our work to spur industry reforms:
In recent years, a range of businesses have felt the squeeze from the organization, which is separate from local humane societies that deal mostly with animal rescues and pet adoptions. In the fashion industry, Tommy Hilfiger Group and others pulled garments from the marketplace last year after the Humane Society found that the trimming on some apparel was dog fur labeled as faux fur or as other animal fur. A spokesman for Tommy Hilfiger says the company’s garments are now free of animal furs, starting with the spring collection.
When several other companies, including Neiman Marcus Group and Macy’s Inc., didn’t act as quickly, the Humane Society filed a complaint last year with the Federal Trade Commission. An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment.
And on her broadcast today, Oprah Winfrey addresses the puppy mill crisis in America. I was a guest on the show, and I suspect that part of the reason The HSUS was invited to participate was that our investigators have conducted three recent operations to expose different elements of the puppy mill industry.
Our work toward corporate policy reforms is also mentioned in Jane Zhang’s WSJ story:
Faced with a Humane Society campaign, some businesses have negotiated big changes. In 2006, the organization alerted Ben & Jerry’s, a unit of Unilever, to a video detailing the harsh treatment of hens by an egg supplier. The group demanded the ice-cream maker switch to eggs from cage-free hens, and within weeks, Ben & Jerry’s was inundated with calls and emails from Humane Society supporters.
Our investigations focus on exposing abuse (such as the puppy mill investigations), often as a catalyst for public policy reforms. The investigations are also undertaken to pressure corporate actors to do better.
Responding to the wishes of mainstream America and to the ethical imperatives that The HSUS highlights, many of the nation’s leading corporations have set an example and become leaders in reforming to improve animal welfare. Yet others still cling to outmoded or inhumane practices. It is precisely for the latter circumstance that our Investigations unit stands at the ready—along with the other machinery we bring to the battles that must be waged.
Today, I also want to say a word about Martin Luther King, Jr., on the anniversary of his assassination 40 years ago today.
The founders of The HSUS set up their new organization in late 1954, just a few weeks after Dr. King was installed as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. Within a year, the young preacher found himself leading a bus boycott that gained international attention and was the catalyst for the civil rights movement.
The HSUS has always been a place for people of different backgrounds who share the common bond of protecting animals and, we believe, our animal work is grounded in the approach King advocated. We are a non-violent campaigning organization that uses the wide variety of tools of reform acceptable and available in a civil society. On this day, I recall King’s account of the early days in Montgomery: “I insisted that every church member become a registered voter and a member of the NAACP and organized within the church a social and political action committee—designed to keep the congregation intelligently informed on the social, political, and economic situations. The duties of the Social and Political Action Committee were, among others, to keep before the congregation the importance of the NAACP and the necessity of being registered voters, and—during state and national elections—to sponsor forums and mass meetings to discuss the major issues.”
We agree with Dr. King that an engaged and informed citizenry is vital to the success of our own good work. And on this anniversary of his tragic death, we remember him.