This was a year of extraordinary gains on a wide set of issues, showing the power and reach of The HSUS, Humane Society International, and our affiliates. But along with it came some terrible setbacks at the federal level – with Congress unwinding federal rules adopted in 2016 and in January 2017 to protect grizzly bears and wolves on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, loss of federal protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears, and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture delaying or dissembling rules on horse soring and farm animal protection (the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule).
This was also a year that saw The HSUS announce a major, multi-million-dollar agreement with the New York Blood Center (NYBC) concerning more than 60 chimpanzees formerly used by the NYBC in medical experiments in Liberia. And hundreds of thousands of Americans donated to help animals and people in a series of intensely powerful disasters. Our emergency responders moved more than 2,000 animals from affected areas, and brought lifesaving animal services to animals and the people who care about them in low-income areas. We made short-term and long-term investments in Puerto Rico, with spay and neuter clinics, transporting animals, and rebuilding the animal welfare capacity in the Commonwealth, and delivered tens of thousands of pounds of supplies and food to people and animals in devastated areas.
Ending the era of wild animals in traveling circus acts
In the wake of Ringling Bros. first ending its elephant acts and then shuttering its entire operation in 2017, we’ve helped push the cause of ending wild animal acts in circuses throughout the United States and across the world. Just this week, the Pittsburgh city council banned wild animal acts, just the latest in a long list of communities, including New York City and Los Angeles. In August, Illinois became the first state to ban the use of elephants in circuses, and New York state followed in October. Italy, Scotland, and other nations banned wild animal acts in circuses. The outgoing interior secretary for France’s presidential administration announced a phase-out of the use of cetaceans in marine parks and facilities in that country. While Ringling Bros. is gone, a number of small circuses cart animals around and subject them to inhumane training techniques and grueling travel. In May, The HSUS released an undercover investigation of Ryan Easley’s ShowMe Tigers Act, that revealed the mistreatment of eight tigers. The Oklahoma-based act is contracted out to branded circuses, including Shrine Circuses.
The fur-free movement surges, with Gucci, Michael Kors and others going fur-free in banner year
This was a remarkable year for fur-free fashion, with more high-fashion houses and retailers committing to a fur-free future. This summer, Stein Mart, the U.S.-based department store chain found mostly in the South, VF Corporation, the parent company of more than two dozen popular clothing brands, including The North Face, Vans, Timberland, and Nautica, and Yoox Net-A-Porter, one of the world’s leading online luxury fashion retailers for brands like Burberry, Prada, Gucci, and Michael Kors, announced they will stop selling all items and accessories made with real animal fur. In October, Gucci announced it will go fur-free, followed by an announcement from Burlington Stores that it would remove fur from all of its nearly 600 stores. In mid-December, Michael Kors announced it will phase out all fur products by the end of 2018.
Farm animals gain in the U.S. and globally
After we launched our Nine Billion Lives campaign – calling for a set of minimum standards for the care of broiler chickens that dramatically improve their welfare – more than 70 companies have agreed to phase in purchasing practices consistent with the terms set forth, including Burger King, Sonic, Jack in the Box, and Subway. The HSUS partnered with Compass Group and Aramark—two of the world’s largest food service companies—on the most extensive plant-based work in the industry to date, including chef training and menu development. An HSUS undercover investigation exposed mistreatment at industrial chicken production and slaughtering facilities in Georgia and Texas connected to the factory farm giant Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest chicken producer in the United States, producing more than a billion chickens a year. In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling reinstating California’s law banning the sale of foie gras. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by several state attorneys general and governors, including former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, seeking to overturn California’s landmark egg sales law, AB 1437, which requires eggs sold in the state come from hens not subjected to cruel confinement practices.
Our Humane Society International team worked with corporations around the world to improve conditions for egg-laying hens, from Brazil to Mexico to Colombia and Singapore. After working with HSI, Taco Holding, Mexico’s second largest restaurant operator with more than 550 restaurants across the country, announced that it will go 100 percent cage-free. Seventeen major Brazilian food companies, including JBS, Bunge, Casa do Pão de Queijo, and Sapore also announced cage-free egg policies. HSI also worked with major multinational companies, including Nestlé and Kraft Heinz, two of the world’s largest food manufacturers, to announce global cage-free egg policies, and garnered the first-ever cage-free egg commitments from Colombian, Chilean, and Asian companies. In Brazil, the fourth largest pig processor, Frimesa, committed to eliminating gestation crates, joining the country’s top three producers that have made similar commitments.
Major gains to stop cruelty to dogs, other domesticated animals throughout the world
Our HSI/Mexico team won a major victory this year when Mexico banned dogfighting nationwide and adopted felony-level penalties for dogfighting. Mexico City updated its constitution to recognize animals as sentient beings whose welfare must be protected. In Guatemala, the Congress passed sweeping anti-cruelty legislation, including a dogfighting ban, a prohibition on tail and ear docking of farm animals, and a ban on cosmetic testing on animals. The law creates the first-ever government entity in Central America that will deal specifically with animal cruelty. The Indian government announced sweeping new regulations that are expected to end the suffering of dogs bred indiscriminately and without basic needs like food, water, and shelter; improve conditions for animals sold in livestock markets; and ensure that fish sold in aquariums and fish stores are not caught using destructive fishing practices, or taken from protected areas. Our HSI/India team also succeeded in persuading authorities to ban the import of the skins of exotic animals and furs into the country. Earlier this month, the Nepalese Supreme Court banned all public culls of street dogs using poisons, beating, and shooting, and directed the Nepalese government to introduce a nationwide humane management plan for homeless animals.
The world starts to show a tilt against trophy hunting
British Columbia’s newly-formed government announced a provincial ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears, even if the hunters involved claim they eat the meat of the animal. President Trump in a tweet called trophy hunting “a horror show” and stated that decisions by his Fish and Wildlife Service to allow imports of elephant and lion trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe would be placed on hold. The incoming governor of New Jersey said that there would be no more black bear hunting in New Jersey under his watch, the Connecticut legislature rejected attempts to open a black bear hunting season, and Florida Fish and Game Commissioners blocked bear hunting there for the second year in a row. A federal appeals court upheld California’s right to bar mountain lion trophies coming into the state.
Wildlife trafficking progress
China is in the final stage of shutting down its ivory carving and ivory trade operations throughout the nation, in one of the most extraordinary acts of disassembling a major industry. In the wake of our ballot initiative win in Oregon in 2016 and following the lead of numerous states, Nevada adopted strict new measures against the trade in shark fins, ivory, rhino horns, and other imperiled species. President Trump issued an executive order stating that it shall be the policy of the executive branch to strengthen enforcement of laws against transnational crime and international trafficking, including wildlife trafficking.
HSUS, federal courts stave off mass wolf killing in northern Great Lakes region
In August, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region, affirming the outcome by a U.S. District Court. We estimate that state agencies in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin would have shot and trapped approximately 1,000 wolves this fall if we hadn’t blocked the delisting of the wolves. We are now in a furious fight to prevent Congress from reversing that decision. The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which amounts to a grab bag of anti-wildlife provisions, including wolf delisting, may see action in Congress. We need every animal advocate to contact their lawmakers and urge them to oppose any effort by Congress to cherry-pick wolves from the endangered species list in order to placate trophy hunters, trappers, and ranchers who want to kill the forebears of our domesticated dogs.
Puppy mill victories
An HSUS undercover investigation revealed that puppies were being mistreated at Chelsea Kennel Club, a boutique pet store in Manhattan, generating investigations by the New York attorney general’s office and the mayor’s office. Under pressure, the store closed down within two months. California became the first state to ban the sale of puppies in pet stores, unless they come from rescues or shelters. We drove the number of local jurisdictions that ban the sale of puppy mill dogs at pet stores to almost 250. We helped close down a commercial breeding operation in a New Hampshire mansion, saving 84 Great Danes living there in deplorable conditions, and spurring the state to consider a new law to better regulate commercial breeders. The breeder was convicted on 10 counts of animal cruelty in December and was just sentenced and ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution to The HSUS and other groups. Through our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores Conversion Program – where we work to change the business models of pet stores to forgo puppy mill sales and instead work with shelters and rescues on in-store adoptions – we’ve converted a total of 21 stores and helped adopt out more than 12,000 dogs. Earlier this year, the Courts of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits upheld laws restricting retail sales of companion animals from puppy mills and other unscrupulous breeders where animals are often raised in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, leading to health and behavioral problems for the animals, and emotional and financial burdens on consumers.
After 30-year fight, international panel embraces dolphin protection standards for U.S.
Commercial tuna fleets won’t be able to flood the U.S. market with tuna caught by chasing dolphins and setting nets on the air-breathing mammals, after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in October that the United States has not engaged in unfair trade practices with Mexico by placing restrictions on tuna imports. This has been a 30-year fight, and the WTO’s ruling may end an extraordinarily complex and multi-channel battle that has seen the debate move from the marketplace to Congress to the federal courts to the WTO.
Progress on the End Dog Meat campaign
HSI continued its End Dog Meat campaign in Asia, particularly in China and Korea. The Yulin dog meat festival in China was conducted with much less fanfare this year than in past years, as HSI continued to keep the world’s eyes on this cruel spectacle, and work with local authorities to end it. Working on a tip from activists just two days before the “official” start of the festival, authorities seized a truck transporting more than 1,300 dogs and 100 cats to a dog meat market and turned them over to activists. In 2017, HSI China helped more than 3,000 dogs rescued from the meat trade and other abusive situations. In South Korea, HSI continued to close down dog meat farms, with 10 such farms closed so far. To date, 1,222 dogs have been rescued with many brought to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada for a chance at a better life. HSI and its partners launched a campaign in Indonesia to end the dog meat trade there. Taiwan banned the sale of dog and cat meat.