January 08, 2015

Faulty Arguments, Greed, and Gluttony Put Foie Gras Back on Menu

In a court pleading written last year to challenge a California law stopping the sale and production of foie gras, attorneys for chefs and producers of fatty duck and goose liver made a Holocaust analogy, writing: "With apologies to Martin Niemoller, 'First they came for the foie gras...'"

Foie Gras Ducks
In 2004, California legislators voted to phase out force-fed foie gras after being presented with evidence of the inherent cruelty of forcing metal tubes down birds' throats to force their livers to expand. Photo: Animal Protection & Rescue League

Yesterday afternoon, after a California district court struck down the state’s first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of force-fed foie gras, they had other absurd things to say. "I've been jumping up and down for about 90 minutes," Napa Valley chef Ken Frank, who has been active in the pro-foie gras movement, told the Los Angeles Times. Providence chef Michael Cimarusti likened it to the end of Prohibition: "It feels a little like December of 1933." 

It’s nothing short of amazing to see the pent-up and dramatic hyperbole served up by people convinced of their “right” to torture animals for a table treat – for a morsel of fatty food that is the furthest thing from a staple in the American diet. I’ve seen selfishness and hedonism on display before, but this brings it all to a new level.

Nonetheless, Judge Steven Wilson, by arguing that one part of California’s foie gras ban is preempted by federal law, did strike a bitter blow against geese and ducks who are painfully force-fed so that gourmands can feast on their fatty livers. The California legislature voted in 2004 to phase out the production and sale of force-fed foie gras after animal protection groups presented legislators with evidence of the inherent cruelty of forcing metal tubes down birds’ throats to force their livers to expand up to 10 times their natural size – as a set-up to kill the ducks and extract their livers.

Yesterday’s ruling didn’t find foie gras production humane or acceptable, nor did it disturb the current ban on the production of foie gras in California. In fact, the court didn’t address the cruelty of force feeding birds at all. Instead, it found that the Poultry Products Inspection Act – a federal food safety law that has never been applied to the raising of animals for foie gras – prevents California from stopping the sale of force-fed foie gras. The court concluded that force-feeding birds is an “ingredient” of foie gras, and Congress had intended for only the federal government to regulate the ingredients in poultry products.

That’s a real reach by this judge. Not only has Congress never regulated the practice of force-feeding birds for foie gras  – or perhaps even given the subject a passing thought –  it has never regulated the on-farm treatment of farm animals at all. There are no federal laws stopping cruelty to animals on farms, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has even interpreted the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to exclude any protection for birds – including geese and ducks raised for foie gras.

And, of course, you can bet that foie gras producers won’t now be lining up for federal regulation of their abusive practices. We’ve tried before to get the federal government – through the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration – to stop the sale of force-fed foie gras, which is not only cruel but also dangerous to consumers. Each time, foie gras producers have lined up to argue that the federal government has no right to regulate them. 

This anti-regulation zealotry is also the stock-in-trade of the pork industry. When California banned the transportation and slaughter of “downer” pigs – those too sick or injured to walk – the pork industry and other meat groups took them to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that only the federal government could regulate the handling of animals at federally inspected slaughter plants. But, in fact, the National Pork Producers Council has for years fought federal legislation to crack down on the abuse of downer pigs. The pork industry is so against animal welfare standards that it even worked to torpedo modest animal welfare rules in the egg industry! 

So if the neither the state nor the federal government can regulate cruelty to farm animals, who can? The telling answer, for many factory farmers, is “no one” – they want no oversight whatsoever, and believe they have the right to treat farm animals however they want. They are happy to take enormous federal subsidies, however, in the form of price supports, insurance, buy-ups of surplus products, predator control, and so much more. These commercial producers milk taxpayers of billions, yet they do not want to adhere to any animal welfare standards. "Got hypocrisy?"

While our adversaries won a partial victory yesterday, they have not had the final say in court. The courts have rejected their line of argument before. Horse slaughter operators have argued that federal law prohibits states from banning the slaughter of horses for human food, and two years ago California shark fin traders argued that the state’s ban on the sale of shark fins was preempted by the federal fisheries law. Both cases went against them. That’s why we’re confident that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will also reject the foie gras producers’ claim that California cannot stop the sale of force-fed foie gras when this case comes up on appeal. Just a year and a half ago, in an earlier permutation of this case, the Ninth Circuit held that California had a right to ban the sale of foie gras to “prevent [its] complicity in a practice that it deemed cruel to animals.” The Supreme Court recently refused to review that ruling.

That’s the only line of argument that holds up. Under the district court’s theory in this case, California would even lack the authority to ban the use of poultry feed that is contaminated with salmonella or E coli. And any state would lack the authority to stop the sale of meat from animals that are subject to unsanitary, environmentally destructive, or inhumane conditions long before they enter federally regulated slaughterhouses – or indeed, even meat from animals raised using child labor.

We’re now asking California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is in charge of defending the state’s laws, to file an immediate appeal. We believe that the district court’s ruling is plainly in error. In the meantime, you can help by asking restaurants you frequent to never serve force-fed foie gras – because no gourmet pleasure is ever worth cruelty to animals.

January 07, 2015

'Celebrating' Corruption and Horse Abuse at Main Tennessee Walking Horse Show Event

If there was any doubt about rampant corruption in the Big Lick sector of the Tennessee walking horse show industry, the latest test results from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) put all of that to rest. As in prior years, the cheaters, scofflaws, and horse abusers were out in force and they were the big winners of last year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn. 

Walking Horse
Soring is a systemic problem that corrodes every fiber of the Big Lick horse industry. Photo: The HSUS

Data recently released by the USDA revealed that 52 percent of horses the agency randomly selected for testing were found positive for illegal foreign substances at the 2014 Celebration, the walking horse industry’s marquee event. Several of the foreign substances detected are known to be used in the soring process – the practice of deliberately injuring a horse’s legs and hooves to force them to perform an artificial, high-stepping gait – or used to hide evidence of soring. When you consider that there were far fewer horses shown at the 2014 Celebration than in 2013 or in many years prior - likely because owners and trainers inclined to flout the rules pulled their horses from the show before inspection to avoid being caught – the rate is striking.

Imagine if 52 percent of pitchers in the World Series, cyclists at the Tour De France, or running backs in the NFL playoffs were caught using illegal substances? There would be recriminations, investigations, and people ousted from the sports. Executives would be fired, and team owners stripped of their ownership rights. But not in the show world of Tennessee walking horses – there, it’s business as usual.

The USDA’s foreign substance testing results come just months after the agency released a report revealing 219 violations of the Horse Protection Act among 1,075 horses inspected at the 2014 Celebration  – double the number of violations found at the 2013 event. 

Even the Celebration’s own newly minted Veterinary Advisory Committee (VAC) – which itself was little more than a sham, with one of the three veterinarians not even apprised that he had been selected and the other two appointees firmly in the Big Lick camp – found problems with non-compliance. According to the VAC’s blood-testing program at the 2014 Celebration, 36 of the 230 horses sampled were found in violation, having been administered one or more of the substances prohibited by the VAC.  The VAC’s list – separate and apart from the USDA’s list of banned soring chemicals – was published weeks before the Celebration. The VAC even provided a corresponding clearance time for each prohibited substance, so entrants would know just how much time was needed for a particular substance to pass through a horse’s system, and still trainers tried to cheat their way to a blue ribbon and some name recognition. The VAC released the names of 30 horses it found in violation. Of those, 11 were named world grand champions; 14 other horses placed first in at least one class entered at the Celebration.

It’s shocking that such a high percentage of horses were found in violation during inspection at the Celebration, and that so many that had been passed through inspection and cleared to compete were later found to have been administered prohibited substances but still permitted to keep their titles. In no other sport – equine or human – would this be allowed to stand. It’s indicative of the degree to which participants will work to hide the indefensible torment of horses in an industry where cheating is rampant – in fact, it’s the name of the game. The VAC blood testing results combined with the USDA foreign substance results leave no question that soring and the concealment of soring is a systemic problem that corrodes every fiber of the Big Lick horse industry.  The denials and the umbrage taken by the Big Lickers about our efforts to see the federal anti-soring law strengthened are hollow protests from a deeply corrupted faction of the industry.

The recent election of Billy Young as the new president of the Walking Horse Trainers Association underscores this fact. The WHTA claims to be an organization committed to promoting and protecting the welfare of the Tennessee walking horse. Yet, it elects as its leader someone with a history of citations for violations of the Horse Protection Act. Young was just suspended at the 2014 Celebration for a violation of the HPA, and in July 2013, he was charged by the USDA under the Act. He entered a consent decree and was disqualified from participating at horse shows for eight months. He was represented in the case by a Shelbyville, Tenn. attorney Jack Heffington – who himself just recently entered into a consent decree stemming from a 2012 USDA complaint under the HPA and was likewise disqualified, for seven months.

Young’s election is a clear indication that the WHTA is either unable or, more likely, unwilling to be led by someone who is not entrenched in the horse soring world - and that the Big Lickers have no interest in moving toward sound horse practices and the preservation of the walking horse breed.  

The Big Lick segment of the walking horse industry simply won’t clean up its act, despite having had nearly four decades to do so. Legislation is necessary to eliminate the industry’s failed system of self-regulation, strengthen penalties against those who break the law, and ban the devices used in the soring process. The 113th Congress failed to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, despite the fact that 60 senators and 308 members of the House (including a majority of the majority) cosponsored the bill. We’re calling on the 114th Congress to take up this measure without delay upon its reintroduction, and end half a century of intentional abuse to a great American horse breed.

January 06, 2015

Uncaged in California

This morning, I did a series of television segments in San Diego - the latest stop in a statewide tour of California - about the implementation of the state’s landmark animal protection laws, specifically those statutes that ban cage confinement of laying hens and require any shell eggs sold in the state to conform to that standard. Many of the news anchors asked me about recent increases in the price of eggs in California and repeated the framing remarks from some critics of the laws who say the price increases are due to their recent implementation.

Laying hen
California’s statutes on cage-free eggs will usher in a new, better era of higher-welfare agriculture in the nation. Photo: The HSUS

The reality is, egg prices are never entirely stable – they fluctuate, as do other commodities, based on a wide variety of factors. Look at the price of oil, and its recent steady decline; that won’t last forever, and prices will again spike based on supply, demand, the presence of new supplies, and all sort of geopolitical concerns. Generally, eggs are a very cheap form of protein, but food retailers have long inflated prices for cage-free eggs - not because of additional, underlying costs, but simply because they could charge a premium and get away with it. Cage-free eggs are viewed as a value-added product, and farmers and retailers can get more for the product as consumers are willing to pay more – because of their strong commitment to associated values and ideas about what’s right for both people and animals.

I think some of that is going on in California – egg sellers are taking advantage of the change in policy on Prop 2 to secure some additional profits. There’s also an avian influenza outbreak in Canada and Mexico, and that is allowing more U.S. egg producers to export eggs, which has added to demand and thus increased prices in the markets. Some egg producers are shrinking their flock sizes and also making investments in cage-free systems or larger cages, but that’s just a small part of the equation and it’s also something many would do anyway. Egg farmers often have to make capital improvements once their equipment depreciates.

Prop 2 gave egg producers six years to convert their housing systems to cage-free, and AB 1437 gave food retailers four years to deal with supply chain issues. If they had started on conversion early in the process, this transition might not seem as difficult to them.

Many major producers, across the nation, are converting entirely to cage-free, and that’s a smart business move. The American public is unlikely to accept cage-based systems, since egg production is basically the last bastion of extreme confinement in industrial agriculture. The veal industry has almost entirely converted to crate-free systems, and today, Smithfield announced that it’s more than 70 percent converted to crate-free production systems for its company-owned breeding sows. These industries, with the veal industry generally being more willing to change than the pig industry, are on an inevitable course toward more extensive systems and away from crate or cage confinement.

I am traveling through California this week to rally supporters and celebrate the implementation of two important animal protection laws.

I’m traveling through California for the rest of this week to rally supporters throughout the state and to celebrate the implementation of two of the most important laws in our era of animal protection. But I’m also here to ask food retailers – from Trader Joe’s to Save Mart to McDonald’s – to honor the letter and spirit of Prop 2 and stop purchasing any animal products from cage-confinement systems. The egg industry needs to change here in California and throughout the nation, and it would be the forward-thinking business decision for this transition to start in earnest now.

I hope soon we can look back on the era of extreme confinement on factory farms as a sad but closed chapter of our history. California’s actions will kickstart the move away from cages and usher in a new, better era of higher-welfare agriculture in the nation. That’s something to celebrate, but it’s also a task that we must help along through determined, focused advocacy. 

January 05, 2015

New HSUS Exposé Reveals Deplorable Slaughter of 'Spent' Egg-Laying Hens

California’s Prop 2 took effect on New Year’s Day, and we’ve been urging major food retailers to honor the letter and spirit of the law by not buying or selling any animal products that come from caged farm animals, with a particular focus on laying hens in cages. While continuing to advance the argument that cage-free production should be the minimum standard in California, and eventually the nation, The HSUS is also today shining a spotlight on the lives and deaths of laying hens in the Midwest. Specifically, after reviewing the report and footage from one of our brave undercover investigators who worked at Butterfield Foods Co. - a slaughter plant in Minnesota - I say, without hesitation, that laying hens are some of the most abused animals on the planet. They face abject misery and privation throughout their lives and then terror and inhumane treatment during transport and slaughter.

Hens abused for a lifetime inside battery cages meet their grisly end at the Butterfield slaughter plant in Minnesota. Photo: The HSUS

Our investigation, with results and footage released to the press, law enforcement and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, pulls back the curtain to expose the final, painful misery that “spent” hens - whose bodies are worn out by egg production and who are then sold for cheap meat - endure at Butterfield. This is, to my knowledge, the first-ever look inside a “spent” hen slaughter plant, and it reveals that birds shipped from battery cage operations throughout the United States and Canada arrive battered and emotionally helpless, with many severely weakened or debilitated by broken bones and starvation. The company has a painfully untrue motto – “We Love Old Hens.”

After a lifetime of being locked inside cages so cramped they can’t even spread their wings, these long-suffering animals are crammed inside transport cages that immobilize them. They are trucked to slaughter through all kinds of weather conditions, and always with no food or water. Birds who arrive at the plant over the weekend are simply left to languish on the trucks until the killing shifts resume again on Monday, with the birds crushed up against one another and having to endure the worst sort of overcrowding. If hens in battery cages are like eight people jammed in a tiny elevator and never able to get out, add five or six more birds (or for the analogy, five or six more people to the elevator), and you get a sense of the heart-rending and sickening overstocking of the animals in the cages on the trucks that go to the slaughter plant.

This plant—like nearly all others in the poultry industry—kills birds in an archaic process that would be illegal under federal law if the animals were cattle or pigs. And chickens and turkeys represent more than nine out of 10 of all farm animals slaughtered in our country. But since the USDA exempts birds from the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), these laying hens are not even required to be rendered insensible to pain before they’re killed.

Among the animal welfare problems we documented:

  • Each day many birds were scalded alive and forced upside down into tanks of scorching hot water in which they drown. In just one 30-minute period, the HSUS investigator witnessed approximately 45 such animals. This possible violation of Minnesota’s anti-cruelty code has been reported to local authorities.
  • Hens were removed from crates and shackled upside down while alive and fully conscious. Their removal began with workers jabbing metal hooks into the densely packed transport cages to rip hens out of the cages by their legs.
  • Birds were ineffectively stunned and inhumanely killed. After being shackled, the line of upside-down birds moved through an electrified trough of water designed to stun them—although that was not always the outcome.
Minnesota spent hen slaughter plant
Birds at the Butterfield slaughter plant are  forced upside down into tanks of scorching hot water in which they are scalded alive. Their skin turns red. Photo: The HSUS

While chickens don’t have USDA protection under the HMSA, the federal agency acknowledges that there are higher-welfare methods of slaughter available. For example, controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) is widely acknowledged as entailing less animal suffering. The USDA notes that, “The general consensus among many researchers in the United States, the European Union (EU), and Japan is that CAS is more humane than the current method of electrical stunning.”

While Prop 2 highlighted the urgent need for reform in the way egg-laying hens are treated on factory farms - itself a very acute problem in Minnesota, where millions of birds languish in cages that do not even meet the voluntary and deficient space allotment standards called for by the United Egg Producers - our new investigation highlights the urgent need for reform in chicken slaughter plants. It’s long past time that this industry - which principally slaughters broiler birds for meat - recognize that the days of terrorizing, injuring, and slaughtering fully conscious animals must come to an end. How can the leaders in the poultry sector, with a straight face and a clear conscience, continue to defy the universally accepted principle that animals killed for food must at least be slaughtered as quickly and painlessly as possible? If there are not serious and comprehensive changes throughout the industry, then consumers must consider taking their business elsewhere.

The footage below will turn your stomach, and it should shock your conscience. No small amount of protein is worth this kind of pain that these poor animals endure.

P.S. I’ll also note that many battery cage egg operations cannot even sell their “spent” hen meat for human consumption, because the birds are so sick and battered and their bones so weak that the chicken is splintered with shards of bone.  Where this meat from the Butterfield plant is going is beyond me, but consumers beware. 

January 02, 2015

Let’s Get This Stuff Done in 2015

When you support The HSUS, you back a non-profit organization rated by its peers as the nation’s number one force for animal protection. In some ways, it is incomplete to talk only of The HSUS, because we really are a constellation of organizations working in coordinated and complementary ways to drive big changes in public policy and enforcement, corporate reforms, public education and awareness, and hands on care for animals. In addition to The HSUS, there is Humane Society International, which is now operating in 20 countries; the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which does lobbying and political work; the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, which permanently protects habitat for wildlife in more than 30 states; The Fund for Animals, which runs several animal care centers; the Doris Day Animal League, which does critical policy work; and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, which aims to put veterinarians at the forefront of the cause of animal protection. 

Fb-hsus-stickwithus-2015Between these organizations, there are literally hundreds of campaigns and activities.  But I want to remind you of a few key goals for 2015, as we close the door on the prior year and look ahead to assert the role of human responsibility in our dealings with animals. 

Ending animal testing for cosmetics worldwide

We made big gains in the European Union and India in banning cosmetics animal testing as well as the sale of cruel cosmetics, and now we need to expand the map to prohibit these archaic, outmoded live testing practices everywhere. In the United States, that will include working for the passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act in Congress. 

Eliminating gestation crates and battery cages and other inhumane factory farming practices

Yesterday, we watched with excitement as Prop 2 and a related law took effect in California to establish that farm animals have the right to lie down, turn around, stand up, and fully extend their limbs– a watershed moment in our campaign against factory farming. We led the fight to pass these measures, and we’ve also fought to defend them against lawsuits and other attempts to undermine them. As I write, we’re working full-tilt to promote and facilitate compliance in the Golden State. But we’re also busy gearing up for a year of continuing efforts to secure anti-confinement laws throughout the nation, to work with the biggest food retailers to see that they no longer purchase animal products that come from animals confined in cages or crates, to work with major institutional food service providers to cut their meat use, to reduce financing for extreme confinement systems in emerging and developing economies worldwide, and to support and collaborate with small family farmers committed to the highest standards of animal care, including the interests of farm animals in being able to live healthy and happy lives, free from confinement.

Driving down euthanasia in the United States, and promoting humane street dog management programs throughout the developing and industrializing world

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur/For HSI

We work tirelessly to curb the abuses of puppy mills here and abroad, rescuing animals, pushing higher standards, restricting importation, and working to persuade pet stores and the public to prioritize animals from shelters and responsible breeders over those offered for sale by puppy mills and their retail partners. We are also working in underserved communities, in urban and rural regions, to bring spay-and-neuter and other services to animals and the people who care about them. Our charge extends to helping dogs in the developing world through our innovative capture, neuter, vaccinate, and release (CNVR) method.

Putting a stop to horse slaughter and horse soring throughout North America

We’ve fought the horse slaughter industry toe-to-toe in the legislative arena, the courts, the frameworks of international trade and diplomacy, and in the public arena, and 2014 was a turning point, with gains in the United States and in Mexico. But the horse slaughter industry is one that just won’t stay dead, and we’re going to have to meet its relentless campaigning in defense of an indefensible proposition.

The same is true for the horse soring racket, now in turmoil and disarray after several years of big setbacks dealt out by The HSUS and its partners and by federal, state and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies. We’ve investigated the trade, helped to secure the first convictions of soring trainers, and successfully pushed for heightened enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.  For its part, the horse soring faction in show competition has done its mighty best to halt our progress, especially when it comes to passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act.  This year, we’ll do everything we can to get it across the finish line, and you’ll see the best from The HSUS as it seeks to convert the broad support for this legislation into action toward its passage.

Passing anti-cruelty laws throughout the world, to create a legal framework that allows for prosecution of people who engage in malicious cruelty.

In 2014, we achieved a milestone by achieving our goal of establishing felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty in every state.  Now we want to do that throughout the world, to normalize the notion that animal cruelty is not just a moral problem, but a legal one as well.  We’ll continue our vigorous efforts at home and abroad to end dogfighting and cockfighting.

Ending the bloody ivory and horn trade to save elephants and rhinos from poaching and trafficking.

Photo: Mike Dabell/iStockphoto

Poachers kill tens of thousands of elephants and rhinos each year, with people in far-off markets wearing or consuming ivory or rhino horn and perhaps not realizing that they are contributing to the decline of the largest land mammals on the planet. Although the federal government has announced its plans for a  war on poaching and the ivory trade, trophy hunters and other interest groups have gotten in the way of final action and implementation. We’re fighting their blocking maneuvers and continuing our efforts at the multinational level and in the states in the United States to crack down on the problem, focusing more on the demand that drives the killing on the ground in Africa and Asia.

Of course, we’ll continue our efforts to end commercial sealing and whaling; protect wolves, bears, lions, and others from trophy hunting and other unfair and inhumane hunting and trapping practices; mount an offensive against drugging of horses on race day; complete the transfer of chimps from laboratories to sanctuaries; end the trade in dangerous exotics as pets, and much more. We hope you’ll redouble your commitment to The HSUS and its family of organizations this year, in order to put us in the greatest position to drive reform in the tremendously wide-ranging and challenging arenas in which we work.

Stick With Us in 2015 »

December 31, 2014

High-Impact HSUS Victories for Wildlife on Land and at Sea in 2014

The December 19th ruling by a federal judge in favor of wolf protection in the Great Lakes capped a remarkable set of gains for wildlife at home and abroad. We are not afraid to take on the tough fights and to confront both callous disregard and calculated cruelty to wildlife.  In the latest in a series of look-back blogs on the events and campaigns in 2014, here’s my run-down of our extraordinarily diverse and high-impact wildlife work for the year.

Delivering results and protections for wolves

Photo: iStockphoto

A federal court ruling in December rewarded our litigation strategy by restoring federal endangered or threatened designations for wolves in the Great Lakes and blocking trophy hunting and trapping indefinitely. Thanks to a September ruling in another lawsuit to which we were party, wolves are also off the hunting and trapping menu in Wyoming, and back on the federal Endangered Species list.  In Michigan, we successfully halted the trophy hunting of wolves for the 2014 season through victories on Proposals 1 and 2, and stopped the Michigan legislature’s attempts to designate wolves as a game species and hand off decision-making on hunting and trapping seasons to a group of unelected political appointees at the Natural Resources Commission.

Saving seals

The World Trade Organization’s appellate body upheld the European Union's right to ban trade in commercial seal products. The HSUS and HSI submitted amicus briefs in the case, which marks the first time the WTO has recognized animal welfare as a legitimate basis for domestic legislation banning the import of inhumane products. 

Securing bans on ivory and rhino horn

Photo: iStockphoto

We drove ivory, rhino horn, and shark fin bans across the nation and pressed these issues in the global arena, including a campaign in Vietnam that dropped rhino horn consumption by 38 percent. We championed the enactment of laws in New Jersey and New York to stop the import or sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn – the first such laws in the United States. We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose a new federal effort to crack down on the ivory trade. We worked with federal lawmakers to allow increased collaboration among enforcement agencies on illicit trafficking activities, and to secure tens of millions of dollars in funding to curb the poaching of elephants and rhinos and trafficking in their parts.

Protecting sharks from overfishing and finning

The HSUS won its lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s denial of an HSUS petition to list porbeagle sharks, whose populations have declined by more than 90 percent over the last few decades, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

We helped enact a law in Massachusetts banning the shark fin trade, as we’ve now done in nine states, and a federal court granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging California’s recently-enacted ban on the sale of shark fin products

Curbing Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean

Minke whale
Photo: Alamy

The International Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling that Japan’s whaling activities violate the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling's moratorium on commercial hunting. Attorneys for Humane Society International helped devise the legal theory that Australia used for its argument, that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling programs are disguised commercial whaling, and HSI-Australia worked to keep the Australian government onside with the lawsuit and the strategy behind it, despite a change in government.

Getting the fur out

This year, we saw the national spotlight focused on big retailers passing off real fur as faux—a problem that The HSUS has worked to expose for years. The Today Show in December aired an investigative segment highlighting this issue and teaching people how not to be duped during the holidays. An ordinance banning the sale of fur apparel within West Hollywood city limits was upheld – The HSUS had filed an amicus brief in support of the city. We added 13 new companies to our list of companies and brands that have announced that they don't sell animal fur or are phasing in a fur-free policy.

Protecting lions and ending or blocking inhumane and unsporting wildlife practices

African lion
Photo: Alamy

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted a legal petition by The HSUS and HSI to list African lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Once finalized, this rule would severely limit imports of lion trophies, and require the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action to protect lions from extinction.

We helped Virginia pass a law that will phase out existing fox pens, and prohibit any new pens from opening. We stopped the expansion of a spring bear hunt in southeast Oregon. In Indiana, we killed a bill that would have allowed captive hunts for cervids and in Missouri we defeated a veto override that would have reclassified captive cervids as livestock, enabling captive hunting operations. 

Halting the use of deadly poisons

After pressure from The HSUS, Reckitt Benckiser, maker of d-Con brand mouse and rat poisons, announced that it would stop fighting the Environmental Protection Agency on the cancellation of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGAR), which kill wildlife, and will stop making non-compliant products by the end of 2014.

Helping captive wildlife

Photo: Alamy

We helped pass a law in West Virginia to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals, leaving just five states – Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin – without laws on the keeping of exotic animals as pets. And we successfully defended Ohio’s landmark prohibition on possession of dangerous wild animals in a federal appeals court. Rhode Island passed a resolution urging circuses not to use bullhooks on elephants, as did the City of Oakland, California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised, at our urging, to restrict the trade in four additional species of large, constricting snakes.

Advancing humane wildlife management

We launched a five-year research project at The Village of Hastings-on-Hudson in New York to humanely stabilize and substantially reduce the local deer population via the immunocontraception vaccine Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP). We supported the first deer surgical sterilization project ever approved by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. As a result of our efforts, Austin, Texas and Riverside, Illinois have created humane coyote management policies for solving conflicts among people, pets and coyotes. These policies emphasize coexistence and tolerance for coyotes, rather than cruel and ineffective trapping and killing programs.  

Expanding protection for right whales and dolphins

Right whale
Photo: iStockphoto

The HSUS reached a settlement agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service to expand critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales. In 2009, we petitioned the agency to significantly expand habitat protections to include all of the whales’ nursery and breeding and feeding grounds. The HSUS also won a lawsuit challenging approval of the Navy’s “low-frequency active” sonar training program in the Pacific Ocean, with respect to the harm done to bottlenose dolphins. Scientific evidence has documented that this sonar testing physically harms marine animals, disrupts their communications, and leads to coastal strandings.

In addition to these policy and courtroom gains, the HSUS wildlife team provided hands-on rescue/transport/rehabilitation to more than 4,700 wild animals in 2014. This includes over 300 prairie dogs, more than 650 gopher tortoises, 67 desert tortoises; 260 burros, countless deer, coyotes, ducks, snakes, and orphaned baby wildlife. Humane Wildlife Services rescued over 2,400 animals and launched a regional service program at the South Florida Wildlife Center.  In total, The HSUS assisted more than 400 communities nationwide to coexist with wild neighbors, including coyotes, geese, beavers, and deer.   

December 30, 2014

Gains for Dogs and Cats (and Humanity) in 2014

Our relationship with animals, as a society, is full of contradictions. We say we love animals and we have laws forbidding cruelty, but there’s so much abuse that goes on every day. That’s true in looking at the wide range of relationships we humans have with both wild and domesticated animals. But it’s even true with our pets, though each year we are seeing tangible progress to make the world better for our dogs and cats, by rooting out cruelty and neglect and promoting kindness and compassionate care.

Today, I round up some of our 2014 gains for dogs and cats. At The HSUS, our goal is to make sure that every cat and dog has a safe, loving home; that healthy, treatable pets are no longer euthanized; that puppy mills are permanently shuttered; that dogfighting and other forms of exploitation of companion animals are ended; that animals in underserved communities in the United States and developing nations around the globe are no longer subjected to harsh control methods; and that we find ways to manage them humanely.

Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

South Dakota: Stronger Animal Cruelty Penalties Enacted

South Dakota became the 50th state to set felony penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty, including felony penalties for cockfighting, which is now a felony in 41 states and a misdemeanor in the other nine. Prior to 1986, only four states had animal cruelty laws that allowed for felony-level punishment. Today, thanks to the hard work of animal advocates and lawmakers, every state and the District of Columbia has some form of a felony animal cruelty law. This is a milestone for The HSUS and also for our movement.

Federal Puppy Mill Imports Rule Passed

Other nations will no longer be able to raise tens of thousands of dogs in puppy mills and flood the U.S. market with them, thanks to a federal rule finalized in August. The rule prohibits the import of young puppies into the United States for resale. This long-awaited rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will save thousands of puppies a year from enduring harsh, overseas transport, during which many became sick or died. We also fended off a legal challenge to a 2013 federal rule that brings thousands of large-scale dog breeders, who sell puppies directly to consumers, under the regulatory authority of the USDA.

Federal Animal Fighting Spectator Ban Passed

The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, passed as an amendment to the Farm Bill, makes it a federal crime to attend or bring a minor to an animal fighting spectacle. Under the new law, everyone involved in animal fights is subject to arrest and prosecution. We’ve already seen the law put to use in Ohio earlier in December. And a few weeks ago, a federal judge handed down some of the stiffest penalties ever to dogfighters involved in a network in Alabama and Georgia that we helped raid last year.

Pets for Life Expanded

Our groundbreaking Pets for Life program now has a foothold in underserved communities in 26 cities across the United States, providing critically needed free spay-and-neuter and pet wellness services to areas where more than 85 percent of the pets have not yet been sterilized. With partners like PetSmart Charities, Pets for Life is working to both cut down on the population of homeless pets and increase access to basic services for pets and the people who love them. To date, we’ve reached more than 61,000 pets in underserved areas.

Gas Chambers Eliminated

Part of our longtime work with shelters includes helping them transition to humane euthanasia methods. In 2014, we helped close 14 carbon monoxide gas chambers in Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah, and in Alberta, Canada. The use of these chambers was banned outright in Delaware, North Carolina, and the commonwealth of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. We’ll continue to pursue not only voluntary closures of gas chambers at individual shelters, but statewide bans through additional legislative efforts in 2015.  

Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Cat Populations Humanely Managed

There are tens of millions of unowned cats living on the streets. We helped to pass three pro-Trap-Neuter-Return bills and 46 pro-TNR ordinances in 2014, to cut down on the number of homeless cats, to more actively manage feral cat communities, and to reduce the high euthanasia rate for cats in shelters—70 percent of cats in shelters are put down each year. On top of all that we continue to reinforce our strong messaging to members of the public that their cats are safer indoors.

Breed Discrimination Battled

Breed specific legislation is on the decline, and The HSUS is working hard to ensure that this trend continues. In 2014 we played a leading role in the repeal of the last statewide breed-specific law in Maryland and supported two new laws in South Dakota and Utah that prohibit localities from enacting breed-based legislation.  Now 19 states have similar laws. Remaining breed-specific legislation exists on a local level and our ongoing outreach to local officials has led to Madison, Wis.,Moreauville, La., and others moving away from considering breed-based laws and towards a community-based animal-services model. Moreauville this fall passed an archaic ordinance that banned pit bulls and Rottweilers, and stated that dogs would be removed from their homes and destroyed beginning December 1, with no exceptions or appeals. The ordinance was repealed after The HSUS added pressure to an already mounting public outcry. Actress Nikki Reed and HSUS reps paid a visit to O’Hara Owens, a young girl with special needs who was at the center of media attention as she fought to protect her therapy dog, Zeus from the Moreauville ordinance. 

Pet Adoptions Increased

We reached more Americans than ever before through our partnership with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council on The Shelter Pet Project, a public service campaign encouraging people to make adoption their first choice when adding a pet to their family. The latest fun and lighthearted public service announcements and interactive online ads launched early in 2014 and so far this year the campaign has generated over $38 million in donated media – and $210 million since its launch in 2009. It has been seen by over eight million people across the United States. We’ve also teamed up with Disney to produce a new round of PSAs focused on Disney's new franchise, Palace Princesses, which will roll out in March. And lots of celebrities have been showing their shelter pet love, including Paul Shaffer of the the Late Show With David Letterman, and Bellamy Young of NBC’s Scandal.

Pet Stores Converted

Six additional pet stores converted from selling commercially-raised puppies to offering only shelter dogs and puppies as part of our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores conversion program, making a total of 11 stores that we have assisted in converting in less than two years. More than 1,500 shelter pets have been adopted due to these conversions.

Animals Saved

The HSUS Animal Rescue Team deployed throughout the nation, and included among the animals rescued were 1426 dogs and 137 cats – 999 from puppy mills, 143 from animal fighting operations, and 716 from situations tied to hoarding and neglect. Our veterinary teams deployed to Indian reservations and other impoverished regions and provided valued and often times urgent care to animals in need. We also provided ongoing care for more than 100 dogs seized the prior year from the second largest animal fighting rescue in U.S. history that took down 14 major players in dogfighting, and we helped engineer the first dogfighting busts ever in Costa Rica. Our global arm’s street dog teams directly touched and treated thousands of dogs in Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, and other nations throughout southeast Asia, and we helped rescue street dogs in Sochi, Russia, during and after the Winter Olympics.

There is no organization that works on as wide a range of companion animal issues as The HSUS, helping homeless animals in the United States and abroad and taking aim at the biggest industries that harm dogs, whether they are fighting rings, greyhound racing operations, or puppy mill enterprises. Some of the animals we’ve saved are featured in year-end videos you may have seen. We thank you for supporting this lifesaving work that we do every day.

December 29, 2014

The Animal Issues That Made Headlines in 2014

Grassroots groups are vital to our movement, something I’ve known since my earliest days of on-the-ground activism during college. But even then, while hosting educational events and organizing demonstrations, I held the view that the most important element needed for the success of the animal protection cause was to have a large, powerful organization that could help unite the disparate strands within our field and drive results from lawmakers, the courts, and business leaders. The HSUS is that group, and there’s never been an organization quite like it, getting results and engaging millions of members and other supporters who are working collectively to secure tangible gains for animals.

Our movement is rich with devoted, self-sacrificing advocates doing remarkable work in their communities. But it is critical that our movement, while never forgetting the individual animal in need, also attack the root causes of problems, so that animals are not put into a situation of distress in the first place. In today’s blog, I provide a rundown of the issues that captured the most public and press attention in 2014 – propelled by an organization with the muscle and knowhow to turn ideas into practical reforms.

  • Laying hens
    Photo: The HSUS
    Treatment of laying hens in battery cages: Two major multinational corporations, Nestlé and Starbucks, announced decisions to modify their purchasing practices and to use only cage-free production. Unilever pledged to conduct research to eliminate the universal practice within the industry of macerating or suffocating the male chicks. A federal court rejected a challenge to California’s laying-hen-welfare laws, which are set to take effect in 2015. Congress chose not to act on a national agreement between The HSUS and United Egg Producers, even though the accord showed that traditional adversaries can find common ground – an outcome that editorial boards and so many other opinion leaders throughout the country celebrated.
  • Treatment of sows in gestation crates: In my view, this was the biggest story of the year, with the largest names in pig production, Smithfield, Tyson, Cargill, and Clemens Food Group, making announcements that the crates must go. Starbucks and Nestlé joined dozens of other major retailers in saying they’d phase out their purchase of pork from operations that severely confine the sows. We garnered national media attention for the subject, including multiple segments on the Daily Show, CNN, the New York Times and more, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill banning the crates. He was widely criticized in New Jersey and throughout the nation for serving his presidential aspirations and pandering to Iowa pork producers. We conducted national investigations, including at a hog facility in Kentucky. The issue also attracted international attention, with Brazil, Canada, and India taking action to rid their nations of these crates.
  • MAINE-BLACK-BEARS-5561_207679
    Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS
    Unfair bear hunting methods in Maine: The fight over bear baiting, hounding, and trapping drew extensive media coverage, with the national press shocked that trophy hunters use these unfair and inhumane methods to kill 3,000 bears in the state. Although voters narrowly rejected the measure, there was growing consensus in Maine that bear trapping and hounding have to go. Maine is the only state that allows bears to be trapped.
  • Trophy hunting of wolves: It’s been an uphill fight, but we’ve been clawing our way to win protections for wolves in the Great Lakes states and also in Wyoming. We won two critical ballot measures in November in Michigan, where the battle has been engaged most meaningfully. And we won two federal lawsuits, one to restore endangered or threatened status for wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and the other to restore protections in Wyoming. We are hoping to indefinitely turn around the killing of these animals with cruel and indiscriminate steel-jawed traps and snares, baiting, hounding, and electric calls.
  • Walking horse
    Photo: The HSUS
    Tennessee walking horses and soring: We built enormous support for this issue in Congress – with 60 Senators and 308 House members signing on to the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. There have been continuing exposés and legal proceedings against trainers continuing to injure horses. Attendance at this year’s Celebration was down again, with just three entrants in competition for World Grand Champion. The industry created a phony veterinary committee to do its bidding, and The HSUS helped expose it. A powerful coalition has been assembled to get this legislation over the finish line in 2015.
  • King amendment: The fight over the provision offered by U.S. Representative Steve King as an amendment to the Farm Bill was one of the highest profile debates on this massive agricultural package. Papers throughout the country urged lawmakers to reject King’s proposal, and in the end, that view prevailed, to the delight of The HSUS and other animal protection, environmental, food safety, worker rights, and states’ rights groups. The National Conference of State Legislators, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the County Executives of America all opposed the King amendment.
  • Ag-gag and right to farm measures: With the increasing resonance of our anti-farm-animal-confinement campaigns targeting gestation crates and battery cages, there’s been a resulting backlash from agribusiness interests. For the second year in a row, they mounted major efforts in a dozen states to criminalize investigations at factory farms.  We were able to defeat all but one of the measures, and united with law enforcement and civil liberties groups in fighting them.  Some states also tried to pass “right to farm” measures, with the hot-button state being Missouri. There, Amendment 1 appeared on the ballot, and despite innocuous-sounding language, it passed by less than one percent of the vote – in fact, by a .2 percent margin that triggered a recount. Almost every newspaper in Missouri opposed the measure as bad policy, and the ballot question had the opposite effect its framers intended – it showed the weakness and vulnerability of the farm lobby in Missouri.
  • Dog
    Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS
    Animal fighting: The HSUS worked with law enforcement throughout the country on a wide variety of raids of fighting operations, including one last week in eastern Tennessee. In a case that came to light last year in Alabama and Georgia where we played a central role, a federal judge imposed harsh sentences – some of the toughest penalties ever in a dogfighting case. We also got attention from the enactment of a provision in the Farm Bill to make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight.
  • Horse slaughter plants prevented from opening: It felt all year that horses were living on a knife’s edge.  Three horse slaughter plants were set to open – in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico -- and The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue held them off in the courts, until we were able to work with our allies to get language in the annual spending bills for fiscal year 2014 and then 2015 to prevent slaughter plants from opening. Toward the end of the year, we got a huge boost when the European Union halted imports of horsemeat from Mexico, which kills tens of thousands of horses for that market.
  • Chimpanzee
    Photo: Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
    Charla Nash and exotics: The woman who was so tragically disfigured and brought within an inch of her life by a captive chimp came to Congress at our urging to speak out for comprehensive policies to restrict the private ownership of dangerous wild animals, including chimpanzees and other primates. West Virginia passed a law to end the keeping of exotic pets, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service readied final action to ban imports and interstate trade in four species of large constricting snakes.
  • Curbing Elephant and Rhino Poaching: It is estimated that every 15 minutes, an elephant in Africa is killed for ivory. With the United States providing the second largest ivory retail market in the world after China, major changes are needed not only internationally, but domestically. This year, the issue garnered headlines everywhere, and The HSUS leveraged some of that attention to pass state ivory trade bans in New York and New Jersey, shutting down the largest markets for ivory on the East Coast. Internationally, we are working with local groups in China to reduce demand for ivory and raise awareness of the elephant poaching crisis, and in Vietnam, to drive down demand there for rhino horn.

Certainly, there were other big stories for animals this year, with the critically acclaimed documentary Blackfish continuing to weaken the standing and popularity and stock price of SeaWorld. Films like Noah and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes not only highlighted important issues for millions of moviegoers, but showed off computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology, obviating the need for live animals in movies. There’s also been considerable attention on the effort to ban carriage horses in New York City, stellar work by the New York Times to expose death and drugging in the horse racing industry, and major attention to puppy mills and to gas chambers and euthanasia of animals in shelters. Taken together, all of these stories and all of this robust discussion, generally with a favorable spin, are the necessary antecedents to lasting reform.


Here's how you can become a Humane Hero for animals.

December 24, 2014

Terrain for Farm Animals Shifted in 2014 – Our Biggest Gains in Agriculture

The HSUS and Humane Society International are about protecting all animals. And nowhere is that more evident than our campaign to help the biggest category of animals at risk – farm animals. With legislative, corporate, judicial, rural outreach, and public awareness campaigns, we have generated major reforms within agribusiness. This year turned out to be one of our most impactful ever, and here is a rundown of our 10 biggest gains:

  • Pig
    Photo: Matthew Prescott/The HSUS
    Following a major 18-month HSUS campaign, Tyson Foods—among the biggest meat producers in the world—reversed its position in defending gestation crates by advising its contract farmers that “future sow housing” should allow animals to turn around and engage in other basic behaviors prevented by crate confinement. Tyson’s announcement came just days after we prevailed in our efforts to persuade Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—to extend its group housing policy to its contractors, a move that will positively affect several hundred thousand pigs. Months later, Cargill – the largest private corporation in the United States – announced with us that it will phase out gestation crates from its supply chain. And Clemons Food Group (Hatfield Pork) made a similar announcement with us, too.

  • As 2014 came to a close, coffee giant Starbucks made a groundbreaking announcement that it will put in place a North American cage-free egg policy. The company has pledged to phase out gestation crates for pigs and cages for chickens, eliminate the use of artificial fast growing practices that cause chickens to suffer chronic pain, end the dehorning, tail docking, and castration of animals without anesthesia, and move away from the most inhumane chicken slaughter practices. We also helped persuade the largest food manufacturer in the world, Nestlé, to announce a similar policy to eliminate a range of cruel factory farming practices, including cages for laying hens, tail-cutting of dairy cows, castration, and forced rapid growth of poultry. And also in the realm of gains with huge multinational food corporations, we worked with Unilever to announce its intention to be the first major egg user to seek alternatives to the standard industry practice of killing male chicks.

  • In a major victory resulting from both The HSUS’s recent success in corporate reform and HSI’s tireless campaigning, Canada passed new regulations banning lifelong cage confinement of sows.  Brazil’s biggest pork producer also committed to phase out crates, and the government pledged to work with producers to phase out the practice.

  • COW_CALF_ISTOCK_000005667259MEDIUM_55191
    Photo: iStockphoto
    The HSUS implemented new Meatless Monday policies in Boston Public Schools and dozens of other school districts across the nation. That list includes many big cities, as well as Knowledge Universe, the largest provider of childcare in the United States, with more than 2,000 locations globally. We also partnered with Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food service company, to launch perhaps the largest campaign of any company in its sector centered on replacing meat with plant-based foods. These institutional meat reduction campaigns help spare vast numbers of animals from factory farms and slaughter plants.

  • Our undercover investigation at Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Kentucky, revealed sows confined in gestation crates being fed ground up intestines from piglets who had recently succumbed to a highly contagious diarrheal disease.  Also in Kentucky, we helped to ban veal crates, making the state the 8th state to ban this cruel practice, and the 10th state to ban a form of farm animal confinement.  

  • An HSUS investigation at the Catelli Bros. calf slaughter plant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, resulted in a two-week shutdown, after our undercover investigator documented cruelties that included calves being forced to rise to their feet by men who wrapped the calves’ tails around their hands – lifting the entire weight of the calf by this appendage.  One calf with a broken leg was dragged by a chain around his neck, while other calves were struck, kicked, pulled by their ears, and sprayed with water.

  • We defeated the notorious King amendment in Congress, a reckless measure that threatened to nullify state farm animal protection laws, and we killed 11 of 12 ag-gag bills that threatened our undercover investigations. 

  • CHICKEN_000006847019NICOLAI_100627
    Photo: iStockphoto
    Perdue Farms and The HSUS announced the settlement of two federal cases in New Jersey and Florida concerning Perdue’s “humanely raised” claim on its Harvestland chicken labels. The settlement required the plaintiffs to dismiss their claims with prejudice, in exchange for Perdue agreeing to remove the “Humanely Raised” label claim from its Harvestland chicken packaging.

  • A federal court granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging AB1437 -- an HSUS-sponsored bill that bans the sale of eggs from battery cages in California. The court found that a half dozen attorneys general do not have standing to file their case, ordered that the case can never be refiled, and concluded that their theory for why the egg law will harm consumers is without merit. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take an appeal of the 9th Circuit Court ruling upholding California’s landmark ban on force feeding ducks to produce foie gras. In August, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with The HSUS and members of a community fighting a massive new gestation crate pig factory in Todd County. This facility planned to drink up eight million gallons of groundwater per year.

In the category of near misses, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill to ban gestation crates, after it passed both the Assembly and Senate by wide margins. The fight attracted hugely favorable national media, generating massive news coverage, including multiple hits on The Daily Show and MSNBC. We also fell just 2,000 votes short, out of  one million cast, in our effort to defeat Missouri’s Amendment 1, a right-to-farm measure supported by Big Ag interests in that state.

While the gains outnumber the near-misses by a wide margin, we are committed to delivering results for all farm animals, at home and abroad. The momentum is with us, but there is no inevitability of progress in dealing with a problem so massive and an opposition so formidable. More than any other issue, our farm animal protection efforts show that The HSUS is the nation’s most effective voice for farm animals, and we’ll continue with these efforts in 2015 with an earnestness and a resolve and a set of strategic actions you will be hard pressed to see anywhere else.

December 23, 2014

Starbucks: That’s a Latte Progress for Animals

As we approach the January 1st implementation date for California’s Proposition 2 and A.B. 1437– two historic animal welfare laws that ban the production and sale of eggs from hens kept in extreme confinement – I’m elated to share the news of the decision by Starbucks to put in place a North American cage-free egg policy, as part of a broader set of commitments concerning animal welfare. We’ve called on major food retailers to get on board with the principles of Prop 2 and to adhere to a cage-free standard, and Starbucks is today committing to do this and more. We hope that other major retailers in California and throughout the nation will follow the lead of Starbucks – one of the biggest brands in food and beverage.

cage-free hens
The decision by Starbucks to go cage free is business savvy because increasingly consumers want to see farm animals treated with decency. Photo: The HSUS

We’ve been working for years with this enormous company – which has more than 12,000 retail outlets in the United States, including more than 2,000 locations in California – to improve its animal welfare standards. Today Starbucks pledged to do the following:

  • Phase out gestation crates for pigs and cages for chickens.
  • Eliminate the use of artificial growth hormones, and for poultry, artificial fast growing practices that cause chickens to suffer chronic pain.
  • End the dehorning, tail docking, and castration of animals without anesthesia.
  • Move away from inhumane chicken slaughter practices.

On a statement on its website, Starbucks announced: “Specifically, our priority is to ensure we offer food made with ingredients such as cage-free eggs, gestation crate-free pork, and poultry processed through more humane systems such as CAK [controlled atmosphere killing]. For each focus area listed above, we’re working with the industry on creating reasonable timeframes. As one example, we have significantly expanded our cage-free egg offerings since 2008, increasing our purchases year over year, and are committed to continue to do so.”

While the time frame for the switchover has not yet been announced by Starbucks, this may be the most comprehensive animal welfare policy of any national restaurant chain, because this announcement includes both shell and liquid eggs (which are used for its pastries, which it sells in such volume). And what Starbucks is doing is not only better for animals, it’s also business savvy. Consumers simply don’t want farm animals being caged, or genetically manipulated to grow unnaturally large, or mutilated without pain killers. We live in a society where major corporations increasingly recognize that its customers want to see animals treated with decency.

We’re thankful for our partnership with Starbucks, and excited about its announcement today. On the eve of the implementation of Prop 2, it’s an especially significant pledge. Whether through policies from major corporations, or waging winning campaigns to pass monumental laws, I’m proud that our team’s efforts are helping to create a food system that better reflects American values of compassion and mercy to all animals.