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2014: Looking Back At A Year Of Progress For Animals

The year 2014 was not just our strongest year ever when it came to tangible progress and our accomplishments for animals; it was also our biggest year in terms of public support – which, in a mass membership organization like ours, reflects popular support for our work and goals and an intentional decision by individuals to invest in that work. Our donors make our success possible, and last year, based on preliminary unaudited findings, The HSUS and its affiliates received $190 million in donations, bequests, and other revenue. When you compare just contributions received from the public to the prior year, donations were up more than $10 million over 2013.

We also have more volunteer engagement than ever – with hundreds of people all across the nation serving in leadership roles in our organization through our board of directors; national and state councils; District Leader Program; Faith Advisory Council; State Agriculture Councils; councils devoted to farm animals, companion animals, and horses, a veterinary council; and many others. We honor our donors and volunteers, and we treat their support of our work with care and resolve to use their funds and labors for the good of all animals. While together with our affiliates we provide more hands-on care to animals than any other group, our most important mission is advocacy, so that animals don't get into situations of crisis or distress in the first place. Our backers understand that we take on the biggest fights for animals, and they know too that many of the forces we are fighting are often well-funded corporate interests that profit from cruelty to animals. They know that when our opponents attack us, it's because we are the biggest threat to animal abusers and because we're having the biggest impact in the field.

Above all, though, we measure our success by results for animals, not dollars in or dollars out. And on that measure, I'm happy to report that 2014 was also a record year, as we helped pass more state animal protection laws (139 laws) than ever before and achieved so many other transformative changes for animals.

  • We fortified the legal framework against animal cruelty: We helped make South Dakota the 50th state to adopt felony-level penalties for animal cruelty – a milestone in our movement. We helped persuade Congress to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. We helped persuade a federal appellate court to uphold the federal law banning obscene depictions of animal cruelty. And at our urging, the FBI agreed to include animal cruelty crimes as part of its uniform crime report.
  • We secured a raft of new policies to end the era of gestation crate confinement. In particular, we helped secured sweeping corporate animal welfare policies from Nestlé and Starbucks, and pathbreaking announcements on gestation crates from Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods,Cargill, and Clemens Foods.
  • We blocked horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States, securing language defunding horse slaughter inspections in Congress for the 2014 and 2015 federal spending bills, and made gains against the North American horse slaughter industry with a new European Union policy forbidding horse meat from Mexico.
  • We made gains all over the world against the commercial slaughter of wildlife, by winning a key appellate panel ruling before the World Trade Organization, upholding the European Union's ban on seal product imports from Canada; we conceived the strategy more than a decade ago that led to the International Court of Justice ruling that Japan's commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean is illegal under United Nations laws; and we won gains against the wildlife trade by banning the trade in shark fins in Massachusetts and ivory and rhino horn in New York and New Jersey.
  • We led the effort to restore federal protections for wolves in four of six states where they were targeted for trophy hunting, by winning two court rulings and winning two ballot measures in Michigan in commanding fashion.
  • We continued our relentless campaign against puppy mills by helping to shepherd in a new federal rule into law banning the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills for resale, and helped win a court ruling affirming the soundness of the federal puppy mill retail rule. We worked to convert pet stores to shed puppy sales and to switch to adoption programs, and won local ordinances stopping the sale of dogs from mills.

Sixty years ago, there was no group like The HSUS anywhere in the world. In November 1954, Fred Myers joined with a dozen or so advocates across the country to form a new kind of organization, one that would tackle the largest and most controversial abuses of animals, and give no quarter to the perpetrators of such cruelty. They headquartered The HSUS in Washington, D.C. to underline its focus on stopping national cruelties – those beyond the capacity of local groups and shelters to address. And they immediately set to work on the most entrenched national cruelties the humane movement faced: the pipeline of animals heading into laboratories, and inhumane slaughter practices for farm animals.

Sixty years on, I'm proud to report that The HSUS, which Myers and the others founded with their modest personal savings, has built on that foundation – propelled by steady leadership through six decades (the organization has had only six CEOs and seven board chairs in its history). Last year we touched the lives of countless millions of animals in situations of crisis and need, through compelling public education, new laws, transformative corporate reforms, dramatic investigations and rescues, precedent-setting lawsuits in the courts, and compassionate direct care. We now operate in 20 countries, as the tentacles of Humane Society International reach far and wide.

We're working as hard as we can to build on these successes in 2015, to achieve more positive changes for animals in puppy mills, animal fighting operations, factory farms, the fur and wildlife trade, horse slaughter operations, and so many other abusive situations. Of course, we can't achieve any of this without your support. Thank you for your support of The HSUS, and I hope you'll join us as we seek to make 2015 another record-setting year.