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.
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.
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.
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.
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.