In 2011, The HSUS was named the number-one organization by Philanthropedia (part of GuideStar) in the latest rankings of national animal protection groups, based on the highest impact for animals. The rankings were compiled by outside experts throughout the field of animal protection—including shelter directors, veterinarians, senior staff members of animal nonprofits, and professors and researchers. Consistent with that rating, and our general approach of working to secure tangible, game-changing results for animals, here’s a list of what I believe are the top 10 victories we achieved in 2011. (Click here to watch a special 2011 victories video.)
- End of invasive experiments on chimpanzees within sight. The HSUS and other groups blocked the transfer of 187 chimps from a warehouse in New Mexico to a laboratory in Texas, where the animals could have been used again for invasive research. When the National Institutes of Health bowed to pressure and halted the transfer, it also agreed to a Congressional request to create an expert panel to assess the necessity of chimp research. In December, the Institute of Medicine determined that experiments on chimpanzees were “largely unnecessary” and NIH halted any new funding for chimp experiments. Bipartisan bills in Congress to phase out the use of chimps have broad bipartisan support, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, following submission of an HSUS-led petition, is reviewing whether to list captive chimps in the U.S. as an endangered species, which could end their use in invasive research, entertainment, and the pet trade. We hope to see all of the surviving chimps sent to sanctuaries.
- The HSUS reached an historic accord with the United Egg Producers to work together to enact federal legislation that would phase out barren battery cages for all 280 million laying hens in the United States. The proposed legislation would give hens nearly twice as much space and would mandate labels on egg cartons to inform consumers about how the eggs were produced. The legislation will be introduced in January. This year, General Mills, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Barilla, Whataburger, and SAGE Dining Services announced that they will switch a portion of their eggs to cage-free. In addition to numerous universities, the U.S. Army base in Fort Lee, Va.—one of our largest bases in the word—switched entirely to cage-free eggs this year after working with The HSUS. Our campaigns in India to ban force molting and our other efforts to improve the lives of laying hens in other countries are also gaining great momentum.
- Smithfield recommitted to phasing out the use of gestation crates by 2017. After an undercover investigation by The HSUS, and a shareholder resolution and legal action with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Smithfield—the world’s largest pork producer—got back on track with its commitment to end the extreme confinement of breeding sows in tiny cages. Ohio became the eighth state to enact rules to phase out gestation crates. We are now planning a campaign to get major retailers to stop buying pork from operations that use these crates.
- Year of the Shark: California, Oregon, and Washington banned the sale and possession of shark fins, following action by Hawaii the previous year, as a way to curb the killing of sharks for their fins for soup. In January, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act into law as a means of cracking down on shark finning in federal waters. We saw good movement on legislation and administrative regulation in Canada, China, the European Union, Latin American, the Pacific Islands, and the European Union as well. In related work, we filed a lawsuit for the protection of porbeagle sharks and advanced our shark-free marina efforts, to stop the killing of sharks in contest kills.
- Botox agreed to phase out animal testing for its enormously popular anti-wrinkle treatment. After The HSUS and Calvert Investments filed several shareholder resolutions urging Allergan to replace the Lethal Dose 50 test, the company announced a new procedure that avoids using animals in testing batches of Botox© products. The LD50 test for Botox causes animals considerable suffering and results in death by suffocation. Allergan expects the new method will reduce its use of animals in Botox testing by 95 percent within three years.
- The Russian Federation, Khazakstan, and Belarus banned imports of seal products from Canada. Since we launched our campaign to end the seal hunt in 2005, markets throughout the world have closed to seal skins and other products, and the annual kill has declined by 85 percent. The kill quota for 2011 was 400,000 seals, but just 38,500 were killed, and 361,500 seals were spared from slaughter.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a final rule to tighten the ban on the use of double-decker trailers to transport American horses to slaughter. These trailers have caused horrific injuries and death for many horses. The HSUS is building support for federal legislation to outlaw any slaughter of American horses for human consumption, and the House and Senate bills have more than 175 cosponsors. Also, Congress approved the first funding increase in decades (a nearly 40% jump) to strengthen USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which prohibits the cruel practice of “soring” show horses—deliberately inflicting pain on their legs and hooves in order to make it painful for them to step, so they’ll exaggerate their gait and win prizes.
- The HSUS paid out its 100th reward to citizens who provide information that results in the arrest and convictions of illegal animal fighters. The HSUS released undercover video footage exposing 17 illegal cockfighting rings across Texas. That investigation resulted in lawmakers strengthening the state’s law, to ban possessing fighting roosters or being a spectator at any animal fighting event. Hawaii also passed a law banning attendance at dogfights.
- The HSUS changed the lives of tens of thousands of animals through direct care. Spay Day, organized by The HSUS and Humane Society International, sparked nearly 700 events worldwide to spay or neuter more than 48,000 dogs and cats. The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team worked with local law enforcement and agencies to save more than 8,000 animals from life-threatening cruelty and natural disasters. The HSUS provided hands-on care to more than 60,000 animals at our animal care centers, medical units, at temporary shelters we set up after intervening with law enforcement agencies in puppy mill, hoarding, and other cruelty cases.
- Combating Puppy Mills and Protecting Pets: We achieved record funding in Congress for enforcement of federal laws to protect animals, including an annual increase of $5 million for oversight of the Animal Welfare Act; that was on top of an additional $4 million in FY 2011 specifically targeted for large-scale commercial puppy mills. The Shelter Pet Project—a collaboration of The HSUS, the Ad Council, and Maddie’s Fund—released a new collection of game-changing TV, print, radio, online, and outdoor ads to promote adoption of shelter pets nationwide and to reduce the euthanasia of healthy animals. The ad campaign has generated $50 million in advertising since its launch in 2009, and is expected to generate an additional $50 million with the latest round of ads. Since the campaign started—coincident with so many good efforts from other organizations working on the problem, and our own campaigns targeting all aspects of the pet overpopulation challenge—the euthanasia of shelter pets has declined by 10 percent, and in two years, the percentage of pets adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups into loving homes has risen from 27 percent to 29 percent.
This is just a snapshot of some pivotal accomplishments. There are so many other examples of progress—everything from 90 new laws passed in the states to protect animals, to 30,000 street dogs sterilized in Bhutan by our international veterinary teams, to the staging of an international conference on purebred dog health, and the introduction of an international resolution setting the stage for the elimination of animals in product testing. It was an exciting year for our work.
Of course we saw some setbacks and tragedies in 2011, too, such as removing federal protections for wolves in the lower 48 states and the release and shooting of dozens of exotics animals at a private farm in Ohio—the latter incident reminding the nation about an out-of-control exotic animal industry that puts animals and people at risk every day. We all grieved for the people and animals of Japan after the calamity that struck there, but immediately went to work to build up the infrastructure for animal protection there, as we did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. We hope and expect to make 2012 a banner year for animals, with still greater success on all fronts. We look forward to working with so many individuals and organizations committed to animal protection. The HSUS will do its best to work together with others of like mind and to help lead the fight to protect all animals in the days ahead.