Yesterday was the 62nd anniversary of The HSUS’s incorporation. The organization, founded in 1954, has changed the political, cultural, and economic landscape for animals in the United States and abroad. We’ve got so much more work to do, but this holiday is a good time to reflect on what we’ve done together, and to give thanks to so many who’ve enabled this work.
I’m thankful to the founders of the organization for having the vision to create an organization that focuses on protecting all animals and on attacking the root causes of the problems, and not just dealing with the symptoms.
I’m grateful to the five CEOs who preceded me and made possible the growth of the organization, along with the seven chairs of the board who served and helped guide us. Hundreds of board members, and today, hundreds of council members, have been the lifeblood of the organization.
I’m grateful for the thousands of staff members whose work through the years has laid the foundation stones for the changes that have been wrought and for all of the continuing work to build on that basic structure.
I am grateful for the tens of millions of people who’ve supported the work of The HSUS. People who want to see better outcomes for animals and who invested in this work, often to the point of sacrifice, in order to enable it.
I’m grateful to the lawmakers, corporate leaders, pro bono attorneys, thought leaders, writers, and other artists, and so many other talented and influential people who’ve embraced animal protection sensibilities and done something to advance them in the real world. As I’ve long said, in so many ways, this cause is more about people than animals; we created so many problems for animals, and only we can solve those problems.
It’s all added up to some extraordinary, transformational gains. Through the years, we’ve achieved these victories and more:
Changing the legal landscape on animal cruelty. In the mid-1980s, only four states had felony penalties for malicious cruelty. Cockfighting was legal in six states, and only a dozen had felony penalties for dogfighting. With The HSUS leading the way, animal cruelty and dogfighting are now felonies in all 50 states, and cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 42. We’ve led the fight to upgrade the federal law against animal fighting four times since 2002, and to ban animal crush videos. We’ve assisted law enforcement in hundreds of cruelty and hoarding cases and animal fighting raids, and trained thousands of law enforcement officials in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. We created our Animal Protection Litigation program, which has won hundreds of rulings protecting animals from cruelty and abuse, and has successfully defended our legislative and ballot victories from legal attacks by our opponents. We operate tip lines and offer rewards to those who bring animal abusers and fighters to justice, fielding more than 10,000 calls a year.
Phasing out the era of extreme confinement of farm animals and other inhumane practices, and reducing the suffering of animals inside factory farms. We’ve thrown back the curtain on the harshest practices in industrial agriculture, led the fight to end the slaughter of downer cattle, and won pledges from the dairy industry to phase out tail docking by 2017 and from the veal industry to phase out confinement crates by 2017. Through undercover investigations, ballot measures, and corporate campaigns and negotiations, we’ve achieved a sunsetting of the use of gestation crates for breeding pigs and cages for laying hens – something few predicted as possible just a decade ago. In the last four years, we’ve worked with more than 200 of the biggest brand names in food retail—from McDonald’s to IHOP, Costco to Kroger, Target to Aramark, and Walmart to Unilever—to secure pledges against confinement. We’ve also successfully worked toward the phase-out of gestation crates in Canada and other parts of the world, and convinced the biggest pork-producing companies in Brazil to follow suit.
Saving millions of animals from euthanasia. By professionalizing our field, normalizing and promoting spay/neuter and the adoption of homeless animals, partnering with local humane organizations that have done so much to advance our shared goals, and putting our own boots on the ground to help animals in need, our partners and we have helped drive down the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats by 80 percent (from 15 million in the mid-1970s to fewer than three million today). Our current pet adoption public service campaign with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council has resulted in more than a quarter billion dollars in advertising to promote the adoption of dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups. Our Pets for Life and Rural Area Veterinary Services programs work to assist underserved communities that have no access to veterinarians, where animals are often not spayed or neutered and go without basic medical care. Our Animal Sheltering magazine is one of the most important resources for the sheltering and rescue community, and Animal Care Expo provides professional workshops and thought leadership for animal welfare leaders worldwide.
Ending invasive experiments on chimpanzees in research and persuading nations throughout the world to restrict cosmetic and chemical testing on animals. Over the last 11 years, we worked with Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end laboratory experiments on chimpanzees and establish strong federal protections for all captive chimpanzees in the United States. The era of invasive testing on chimpanzees has finally come to an end, and we are working to place these animals in sanctuaries. We have led the fight to ban all cosmetics testing on animals worldwide, including in the European Union and in India, as well as the import of animal-tested cosmetics. We have dramatically reduced the use of animals in risk assessment testing for pesticides and chemicals globally, and have an extensive program promoting the development and use of non-animal testing methods.
Curbing the worst abuses and cruelty toward wildlife. We worked to secure protections under the Endangered Species Act for African lions, and to ban the import of lion trophies from most countries into the United States in 2016, saving over 500 lions per year. We succeeded in getting 45 global airlines to stop shipping big-game trophies of the Africa Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo). In the United States, we secured federal protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes and in Wyoming, blocking trophy hunting and trapping. We’ve led the campaigns to ban bear baiting and hounding, the hounding of mountain lions and bobcats, the use of steel-jawed leg-hold traps, and captive hunting in a large number of states, the outlawing of trophy hunting of mountain lions, the commercial trapping of bobcats, and the use of lead ammunition for hunting wildlife in California. We’ve worked to curtail trade in bear parts in almost every state and the ban on trade in a number of other wildlife parts in key importing states. We are poised to strengthen rules virtually banning any ivory trading in the United States. We’ve led the fight to restrict the trade in dangerous exotic pets in 19 states and at the federal level. We campaigned against Ringling Bros., which finally ended its use of elephants in traveling circuses, and led efforts to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants in Rhode Island and California. We worked with SeaWorld to sunset the breeding and display of captive orcas and phase out theatrical orca shows. We’ve also engineered the closure of major markets for seal products and just about finished off Canada’s commercial seal slaughter (sparing two million seals since we launched the campaign a decade ago).
Cracking down on abuses of horses and dogs. We led the campaign to shut down the U.S. horse slaughter industry, helped secure a ban in the European Union on the import of horsemeat from Mexico, and we continue our efforts to close export markets. Our undercover investigations have exposed the “soring” of Tennessee walking horses—a barbaric practice where unscrupulous trainers injure the horses’ hooves and legs to induce an unnatural, high-stepping gait prized in some show rings. We have cracked down on puppy mills at the state and federal level, strengthened state regulations for largescale commercial dog-breeding operations, and helped to ban or restrict sales of puppy mill dogs through pet stores in more than 200 cities and counties. We worked in Congress to ban the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills for resale, and with the USDA to require licensing, inspection, and animal care standards for puppy mills selling directly to consumers over the Internet.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, I’m on my way to Florida to do a dig and rescue of gopher tortoises before development paves over their burrows and they are entombed. I’ll be down there with family, and it’s an opportunity to get my hands dirty and to help animals in crisis. I love that The HSUS and affiliates help animals in need but never lose sight of the bigger picture for animals. After we save some tortoises, I’ll be sending out a message that all of God’s creatures deserve their space and their place.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, and stay focused on our great, shared cause.