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June 11, 2012

Investing In a Better Future for Animals

At McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting last month—in front of a packed room of investors, board members, executives, and reporters—Paul Shapiro, HSUS’s vice president of Farm Animal Protection, engendered a round of applause for the company’s groundbreaking commitment to eliminate gestation crate confinement of pigs from its pork supply chain. 

The HSUS was at McDonald’s meeting as more than just a guest—we were also there as an investor, albeit a minor one. Since 2007, The HSUS has strategically acquired shares in nearly 100 of the nation’s largest companies whose business operations affect the lives of animals. Our portfolio spans the food, clothing, and pharmaceutical industries because companies in these sectors routinely engage in purchasing or testing practices that swallow up enormous numbers of animals.

Breeding pigs in gestation crates
The HSUS has strategically acquired shares in nearly
100 of the nation’s largest companies whose business
operations affect the lives of animals.

Like many investors, we care about the social responsibility of the companies we invest in. The humane treatment of animals is an important corporate concern, and we use our position as a stockholder to generate progress for animal welfare throughout these industries. Progress for animals improves the bottom line and helps these companies stay competitive in the marketplace. By filing shareholder proposals calling for reforms, attending annual shareholder meetings to address pressing issues with corporate executives (and to thank them, when they implement animal-friendly policies), and by challenging companies’ positions on animal welfare issues with regulators at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, we are working to make sure that animal welfare is an essential part of the thought process for the companies’ leaders.

What progress, exactly, has all this helped bring about?  Here’s a sample of just some of the important steps companies in our shareholder portfolio have taken after The HSUS’s interventions:

 

  • Sears, Steinmart, Talbots, True Religion Brand Jeans and Iconix—which owns the Rocawear clothing line—stopped using fur altogether.
  • Clothing retailers Nordstrom and Bluefly.com agreed to stop selling products that contain raccoon dog fur, and starting this fall, leading luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue will not accept products made with Chinese raccoon dog fur.
  • Dozens of major food companies committed to phase eggs from hens not confined in barren battery cages into their products.  These companies included: Pepperidge Farm, Carnival Cruise Lines, Cheesecake Factory, ConAgra Foods, Denny’s, IHOP, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Kellogg, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Marriott Hotels, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and Wendy’s.
  • Some of those same food companies—and others—also committed to phase gestation crates out of their supply chains, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Kroger and Safeway.
  • Allergan—a major pharmaceutical company—committed to, developed, and secured FDA approval for a new procedure that avoids using animals in testing batches of Botox products.  This move  is expected to reduce use of animals in Botox testing by 95 percent within three years.
  • Idenix—another pharmaceutical company—committed to a company policy against the use of chimpanzees in invasive animal tests.

We are thankful to these companies that have moved in the right direction to improve animal welfare.

Whether through private dialogue with these companies, filing shareholder proposals calling for reforms, or challenging companies’ animal welfare policies at the federal level, we have made sure that countless animals—from chimps to chickens—now have better lives as a result of our work with corporate America. It’s a tactic we’ll continue to employ in order to help build a more humane economy.

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