Chimps, Lions, and the Five Freedoms for Farm Animals Take Center Stage: Top 10 Victories of 2015

By on December 23, 2015 with 8 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

EDITOR’S NOTE: GOOD NEWS! The HSUS and the New York Blood Center have announced an agreement to provide long-term sanctuary for the Liberian chimpanzees. READ THE UPDATE »

Looking back on 2015, think Cecil, Ringling, McDonald’s and Walmart, the National Institutes of Health, the FBI, the European Union, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They were just a few of the big names at the center of so many big things that happened for animals. It was the highest-impact year in the history of The HSUS and its affiliates, with successful campaigns across many different sectors of our economy, government, and culture. This year, we ended the use of chimps in invasive experiments; took unmistakable steps toward phasing out the use of battery cages in egg production; made gains in the legal framework to crack down on the ivory and rhino horn trade, the commercial trade in seal parts, and the killing of African lions on canned hunts in South Africa. We saw Ringling commit to winding down its traveling elephant acts; took great steps to dramatically reduce the use of animals in chemical and cosmetic testing; extended the ban on horse slaughter in the United States; and so much more. I hope this roster of accomplishments not only gives you pride, but hope. This litany shows that change is not only possible, but it is unfolding in a most serious way all around us

Ending the era of extreme confinement on factory farms

As Meatingplace magazine editorialized not long ago, when it comes to locking pigs in gestation crates, “HSUS has almost single-handedly forced pork producers to change their policies.” Now the same is happening with battery cages. The HSUS has led the fight for laying hens for years, but 2015 was the year of greatest results for these long-suffering birds by far. In addition to launching a ballot measure to ban the production and sale of battery eggs in Massachusetts, The HSUS persuaded the biggest buyers of eggs to demand that their egg suppliers stop locking their birds in cages. This year alone, we persuaded McDonald’s, 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. Egg Industry magazine has just reported, “Market demand for cage-free eggs is spurring a shift to cage-free housing, which may be the most significant development of 2016 for U.S. egg producers.” 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—something made impossible by practices like gestation crates and battery cages. Our sister organization, Humane Society International, convinced Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest baking company, to announce a commitment to go 100 percent cage-free globally. JBS, owner of SEARA, the second largest pork producer in Brazil and the world’s largest animal protein company, agreed to phase out gestation crates from its entire supply chain by 2025.

Closing the door on invasive experiments on chimpanzees once and for all

No chimpanzees will again be used in government-funded research, after a 20-year campaign by The HSUS that reached its tipping point this year. There are major, almost-impossible-to-overcome obstacles to using chimps in privately-funded research, thanks to our successful petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify all chimps, including captives, as protected under the highest standards of the Endangered Species Act. We are now working to retire all chimps in laboratories to sanctuaries, and we led a coalition of organizations to step in and provide continuing care for a colony of 66 chimpanzees abandoned in Liberia by the New York Blood Center, which profited from experiments it conducted on them for decades.

We blocked an effort to remove federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming,

We blocked an effort to remove federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming, Photo by Alamy

Combating inhumane animal tests, turning toward 21st century science

The Senate passed landmark provisions to dramatically reduce the use of animals in safety tests for a storehouse of 85,000 chemicals. Congress also included language in its year-end spending bill to provide an additional $53 million to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the NIH. The NCATS program invests in the development of non-animal approaches, — such as the human-on-a-chip program — which are more predictive and ultimately more effective than relying on animals. The omnibus bill also included language withholding five percent of USDA research monies until the agency certifies it has updated its animal care policies and has a fully functioning Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, in the wake of the scandal at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. The bill cracks down on Class B dealers rounding up cats and dogs from random sources—including flea markets, free to a good home ads, and even stolen pets—and funneling them into research labs.

Protecting predators abroad and at home

Our petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resulted in the first federal protections of African lions, with one subpopulation listed as threatened and one as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. With stringent trophy import restrictions, this listing should slow to a trickle the large number of lion trophies previously imported into the United States, and dry up the U.S. clientele for South Africa’s lion canned hunting industry. In the wake of the killing of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter in July, we also worked to secure agreements with major airlines to end the shipment of hunting trophies, with 45 airlines ultimately instituting some type of ban. In the United States, we blocked an effort to remove federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming, after our successful 2014 lawsuits restored protections for these American predators. Our work in Congress prevented the states from killing as many as 1,000 wolves a year. With our strong backing, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to end bobcat trapping across the state, which will spare more than 1,000 of these creatures annually.

Our work has helped to close most of the major international markets for seal products and more than two million baby seals have been spared a horrible fate.

Our work has helped to close most of the major international markets for seal products and more than two million baby seals have been spared a horrible fate. Photo by Rebecca Aldworth/HSI

Tackling wildlife trafficking

President Obama announced a proposed rule to virtually eliminate the ivory trade in the United States, and China’s president made the stunning announcement that his nation will replicate the U.S. policy. In Congress, the House passed a bipartisan anti-poaching bill to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to combat global wildlife trafficking, and the omnibus bill appropriated millions of dollars for anti-poaching work. We pushed legislation enacted this year in California to close the loophole in that state’s long-standing ban on sales of ivory and also banned the rhino horn trade —an enormous blow to the trade in the United States. In collaboration with philanthropist Paul Allen, we helped to win an overwhelming majority for a November 2015 ballot measure in Washington state to enact the nation’s most comprehensive anti-wildlife trafficking law—covering 10 different species or taxa of wildlife. With our help, Texas became the 10th state to prohibit the sale, trade, purchase, and transportation of shark fins. We blocked an attempt to repeal a California ban on importing or selling kangaroo parts, used in pet food, shoe leather, and other fashion items. The ban has the potential to end the use of kangaroo parts throughout the nation.

Saving seals and protecting whales

The European Parliament and Council of the European Union voted overwhelmingly to strengthen the E.U. ban on the trade in commercial seal products—a resounding win against opponents in the sealing industry and international fur trade. Our work has helped to close most of the major international markets for seal products and more than two million baby seals have been spared a horrible fate since 2009 alone as a direct result. Australia’s federal court ruled in HSI Australia’s favor, fining a Japanese whaling company for killing whales in the Southern Ocean. In other good news for whales, a U.S. federal court upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s denial of an application from the Georgia Aquarium to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales.

Ending the use of wild animals in traveling acts

In one of the biggest announcements of the year, Ringling Bros. agreed to phase out its performing elephant acts, after a multi-year fight led by The HSUS and several other animal protection organizations. We helped pass ordinances banning the use of bullhooks on elephants in Austin, Texas, and Richmond, Virginia.

Our Pets for Life program hit a milestone of 100,000 pets helped with veterinary care and services in underserved communities, Above, Laser (left) and Diesel, dogs who received help through Pets for Life.

Our Pets for Life program hit a milestone of 100,000 pets helped with veterinary care and services in underserved communities, Above, Laser (left) and Diesel, dogs who received help through Pets for Life. Photo by Nicole Marie Thomas/For The HSUS

Rescuing animals in crisis, cracking down on puppy mills, helping people and pets

We’ve conducted rescues of dogs from four dog meat farms in South Korea, saving hundreds of animals from a cruel fate — part of a major campaign to end the farming of dogs for their meat. Chinese advocates, supported by Humane Society International’s task force, helped intercept 2,300 dogs on their way to slaughter. In the United States, we partnered with local law enforcement in a vast number of puppy mill, hoarding, and animal fighting cases, including a large, recent rescue involving 166 dogs and cats on one property in Ohio. In response to floods in South Carolina and wildfires in California, The HSUS assisted with local sheltering and rescue efforts in both areas of need. We helped to convert 12 pet stores from selling puppies to adoption programs and to pass dozens of local ordinances to restrict selling puppy mill dogs, fending off legal challenges from the puppy mill industry in the process. Seven state and federal courts upheld the sales restrictions. Our Pets for Life program hit a milestone of 100,000 pets helped with veterinary care and services in underserved communities, while our affiliated Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association/Rural Area Veterinary Services also hit the 100,000-animal milestone, providing more than 60 days of clinics with more than 300 veterinary professionals at a value of $1.5 million of free veterinary care just this year.

Stopping horse slaughter and soring

We secured language in the omnibus spending bill to bar any American horse slaughter plants from reopening. In late August, we released the results of our second major undercover investigation of a Tennessee walking horse stable, and definitively proved that big-name trainers and barns continue to defy the law and sore horses. This investigation gave momentum to the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, for which we’ve secured the support of nearly 300 Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Fighting cruelty

The FBI, with our encouragement, announced it will begin tracking incidents of animal cruelty. We worked with a bipartisan group in Congress to introduce the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, the first-ever general federal animal cruelty bill. We had key wins in Utah, making it the 42nd state to adopt felony penalties for cockfighting, and in Tennessee, where a nearly unanimous legislature passed a bill to ban spectators at animal fights. On the international front, our India office worked to get a pledge to end the Gadhimai Festival in Nepal—the largest animal sacrifice in the world. In April, we launched a unique initiative bringing together Puerto Rican government actors, including animal control, shelters, and law enforcement agencies, to crack down on animal abuse through extensive enforcement training, donation of evidence gathering kits, and a humane education program in all K–12 public schools. Already we have trained more than 1,200 teachers, administrative staff, and social workers in Humane Education, and 800 prosecutors, law enforcement personnel, animal control workers, and shelter leaders in reducing animal cruelty. We’ve launched a similar program in Oklahoma. With our help, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kansas, Nevada, and Michigan ended or committed to end their use of carbon monoxide gas chambers for the purposes of animal euthanasia.

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Animal Rescue and Care, Animal Research and Testing, Companion Animals, Equine, Farm Animals, Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Horses among Top 10 victories of 2015 by Humane Society - | December 27, 2015
  1. Paula Aviles says:

    It’s truly amazing to see the list of all that you have accomplished. To every fellow member, to volunteers, and specially to the HSUS staff I want say thank you. The world is changing thanks to the hard work of the HSUS and the ever growing number of people who will not settle for a world that tolerates cruelty. What a wonderful way to end the year and I know we are all ready to go even further in 2016. To those that are not yet members of HSUS I urge you to join, volunteer, and donate. Happy Holidays.

  2. Patricia says:

    Thanks for all your good work across all areas of animal abuse. On animal research, when animal advocates maintain that animals matter in their own right, that amounts to acknowledging the possibility that something could be beneficial to us, but still morally dubious.

    Animal research is expensive both in monetary costs and animal suffering, and we need to ask if we couldn’t have achieved better results for the same money, spent on something other than animal research.

    In a world in which we know that most serious illness (cancer, diabetes, heart disease) is due to dietary and lifestyle choices and is highly preventable, it’s likely that nutritional or lifestyle education would produce greater returns for health than animal research. It should not just be accepted without question that when people fail to take responsibility for their lifestyle choices, that animals can be tormented and sacrificed to save them.

    We never hear researchers or animal-testing advocates address this ethical question. Why not? Well, one answer is that there is not a lot of money in promoting prevention, so doctors and pharmaceutical companies are happy to oblige their patients with the newest little purple pill or surgical intervention. An entire mega-industry is built upon this kind of irresponsibility and greed, and it rides on the backs of animals.

  3. Sally Palmer says:

    These wonderful victories with long lives behind and ahead of them remind me of the battles fought in public health against tobacco and the lack of seatbelt use. First connections began to be made in personal and professional lives about the damage resulting from these issues, and then the data was collected and presented and both praised and reviled, and some people went omg and others went don’t tell us what to do. But despite protests about the cost of implementing changes the omg people went to work, doing everything from putting warning labels on tobacco products to passing no-smoking ordinances community by community, from counting seatbelt usage car-by-car to lobbying their legislators about unsecured children crippled and brain-damaged from 35 mph wrecks. And now, not really so long after those battles started, I just recently had the joy of seeing people watching a Coach Bear Bryant bio totally shocked at his smoking on the field, and a once-arrogant smoker apologizing for his bad habit and swearing to his children he’ll quit. Yesterday I saw a cousin who swore he’d never let the government make him wear a seatbelt not think twice about putting his grandchild in a carseat and buckling up himself. And looking at car ads today it was great to see car safety as a top factor in selling and buying cars where before it was a much-feared expense. I am having those same joys now reading this blog about the hard-fought progress by The HSUS and others knowing that unthinking acceptance of animal protection in its many forms is growing every day. This is one of the most profound changes in world history, and you are so right, Wayne Pacelle, it is awesome to watch it unfold.

  4. Eric Mills says:

    Most state legislatures reconvene in early January. Now’s the time to contact your reps, urging them to introduce much-needed animal welfare legislation. A few suggestions:

    Ban glue traps – cruel and indiscriminate; pets and wildlife are frequent victims;
    Ban rodenticides – ditto
    Require on-site veterinarians (not merely “on call”) at all rodeos;
    Ban the rodeo’s cruel “horse tripping,” “steer tailing” and calf roping events;
    Ban use of lead in all hunting and fishing;
    Ban goldfish and other live animals as “prizes” at fairs and carnivals;
    Ban importation of non-native frogs & turtles for human consumption.

    If in doubt as to who your state legislators are, see the “Government” pages in the front of your local telephone book.

    As Dr. Seuss’s Lorax says, “Unless someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

    Thanks for caring,
    Eric Mills, coordinator
    Oakland, CA

  5. Cheechako says:

    All I can say Applause applause applause to all involved fighting the animal cruelty. Beside wishing the best for all living creatures on earth so they can play,jump,run,sleep,eat,learn from their parents etc… I truly desire all damn ones be eaten by lions,sharks, orcas., and so on. I want them to disappear soo bad. We must fight this spreading the word and forming conscience to people all care is about them and only them. Peace out.

  6. Ruby Tyus says:


  7. frank mike says:

    Great article…….. I’m delighted to see web site talking about Animal abuse and so on. As WOMEN IN FARMINGghana, are also fight against the curse of animal abuse. Thanks

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