These past 12 months have been quite a rollercoaster ride. But while we adjusted to the “new normal”, animal rights campaigners made huge strides – giving us hope that a kinder, more considerate post-pandemic world is emerging. From dog races to dolphin displays, fur farms to fox hunting, here are just some of the ways in which the world has changed for the better this year.
Tougher sentences for animal abusers were rolled out
Cruelty to animals now carries a prison sentence of up to five years in England and Wales – up from a pitiful maximum of six months – thanks to legislation passed this year. The new law should act as a strong deterrent to potential offenders and sends the message that cruelty to animals is a serious matter.
Fortnum & Mason ditched foie gras
The Queen’s grocer, Fortnum & Mason, bowed to a decade of pressure from Peta and celebrity supporters when it announced it would stop selling foie gras, which is made from the diseased livers of ducks and geese. Sensitive birds are force-fed the equivalent for humans of 20 kilos of grain daily to make this “torture in a tin”, a process so cruel it’s illegal here in the UK.
Sponsor ExxonMobil pulled out of the deadly Iditarod dog-sled race
People power paid off! Protests led ExxonMobil to pull its lucrative sponsorship from the deadly Iditarod dog-sled race, during which dogs are forced to run in some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. Since the inception of the race, more than 150 dogs have died and many more were left sick and injured after being made to drag heavy sledges for a thousand miles across Alaska.
The fur industry took a massive hit
Israel made history by becoming the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur – paving the way for other countries to follow suit. The UK is expected to introduce similar legislation next year. Estonia banned fur farming and the list of designers and retailers rejecting fur grew as Canada Goose, Oscar de la Renta, French fashion group Kering, and others finally axed the cruelly obtained product. All this is great news for foxes, minks, and raccoons, whose fur belongs to them – not us.
Foxes spared a gruesome death
Trail hunting is now banned on all National Trust land, sparing countless foxes the agony of being ripped apart by hounds in the name of “sport”. Thanks to the votes of thousands of National Trust members, the board of trustees saw trail hunting for what it really is: a smokescreen for illegal hunting with dogs. The Hunt Saboteurs Association predicted some hunts would fold as a result of the decision. We hope they’ll take up alternative activities that don’t involve tormenting and killing animals.
China ended mandatory cosmetics testing
Following years of hard work and pressure from Peta entities, China dropped animal testing requirements for imported general cosmetics. While there is still more work to be done, this important decision will spare many animals the pain of tests in which chemicals are put into their eyes, applied to their shaved skin or forced down their throats. To find companies that don’t test on animals anywhere in the world, check out this list.
Swim-with-dolphins encounters banned by Expedia
Though travelling was off-limits for much of the year, travel companies continued to move forward, recognising – as Peta’s motto says – that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”. This year saw travel giant Expedia cut the financial lifeline it was giving to SeaWorld and “swim with dolphins” encounters, in which these intelligent animals are confined to barren tanks or makeshift lagoons where they can do little else but swim in endless circles.
European Parliament voted to replace animal tests
In a monumental, precedent-setting decision, the European Parliament voted to develop an action plan that will advance science and end experiments on animals. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also directed the European Commission to work with scientists, including those from Peta, towards a future without any animal testing. Speaking of the decision, MEP Anja Hazekamp said, “This action plan to phase out animal experiments is a win-win situation for humans, other animals, and the environment.”
Live-export ban to spare 3 million animals
Frightened day-old chicks and sensitive cows are among the three million animals who will be spared long, agonising sea voyages around the world, thanks to New Zealand’s compassionate decision to phase out its live-export trade over the next two years.
Vegan food – we’re lovin’ it
Fast-food chain McDonald’s made plant-based food even more accessible by rolling out a McPlant vegan burger across the UK this year. Vegan eating is on the rise, as more and more people are choosing plant-based foods to protect animals, their own health, and the environment. This new offering from McDonald’s will introduce a new audience to vegan food.
Elisa Allen is the director of Peta UK