Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 12, Nike Halting Sourcing of Kangaroo Skins for Shoes Among Our Top Gains in 2023

We fight to tackle large-scale, industrialized mistreatment of animals, while also working to close out smaller-scale animal-exploitation enterprises that have lost any meaningful social acceptance.

When you invest in a private company and buy its stock, you expect a return on your investment. You should expect the same from a non-profit. As we approach year end, I want to run down some of our big gains and remind you of the life-saving yield that results from your investments in us.

Our work is intended to stop exploitation of millions, even billions, of animals. That’s why we take on the biggest problems for animals — factory farming, animal testing, and the trade in wildlife. Meanwhile, our campaigns are designed to finish off declining or widely criminalized forms of cruelty, such as dogfighting and cockfighting, greyhound racing, horse slaughter for human consumption, mink farming, and trade in bear parts for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Crate-Free Future

No single outcome in 2023 was more consequential for animals than the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of Proposition 12. The voter-approved ballot measure in California halted the sale of pork, eggs, and veal if derived from animals kept in extreme confinement on factory farms. It wasn’t just Prop 12 that was on the chopping block, but every state law placing limits on commerce in factory-farmed products.

After losing in the high court, the National Pork Producers Council turned to Congress for legislative relief. We immediately cast its so-called EATS Act as an extreme effort aided by Smithfield Foods, a Chinese-owned pork conglomerate in the United States that dominates production in our homeland. Though the battle is still engaged, we’ve blocked the bill so far and helped line up now more than 200 U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to oppose EATS and to prevent the unwinding of U.S. elections (e.g. Prop 12 and Massachusetts’ Question 3). Here is a run-down of some of our major work in 2023.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Prop 12 (and Question 3) as constitutional. Prop 12 and Question 3 will both be in full effect on January 1.

  • The EATS Act — a bill in Congress to repeal key farm animal protection laws such as California’s Prop 12 — is in political jeopardy. A group of 16 House Republicans said the EATS Act is at odds “with our foundational Republican principles of states’ rights, national sovereignty, and fair competition.”

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture made final new rules for farm animals raised under the “organic seal” — a legally binding designation putting first-ever farm animal welfare rules into federal law.

  • New Jersey became the 11th state to ban gestation crates just days after a conservative U.S. Supreme Court upheld Prop 12.

  • Soon after we worked in May to introduce legislation to end a federal “milk mandate” in the National School Lunch Program, the fiery death of 18,000 dairy cows at a farm in the panhandle of Texas reminded the public of the stakes for the animals, with industry consolidation putting intensively confined animals at risk from fires, zoonotic diseases and other disasters. Kids should have a choice of a nutritionally equivalent plant-based milk in the schools.

Kangaroos Are Not Shoes

We secured monumentally significant wins when we won commitments from Puma and then Nike in March and New Balance in September to halt their sourcing of kangaroo skins for athletic shoes.

  • After vigorous campaigning, we won public commitments from Nike, Puma, and New Balance — three of the five big global brands in the athletic shoe sector — to stop sourcing kangaroo skins for athletic shoes. A fourth big brand, Diadora, committed to that same policy in 2021, leaving Adidas as the outlier among the major names in athletic shoes.

  • Since the launch of our Kangaroos Are Not Shoes campaign in 2019, the commercial slaughter of kangaroos has declined by more than 700,000 animals, based on the government’s crude estimates.

  • A bipartisan group of six U.S. Representatives has introduced the Kangaroo Protection Act to halt any trade of kangaroo parts in the United States. A Senate bill will soon follow.

  • Investigations by the Center for a Humane Economy show Adidas shoes continue to be illegally sold in California. Meanwhile, we’ve helped organize protests all over the world against Adidas, the outlier among the five big brands.

Protecting Horses

This year, we saw the implementation of the first-ever federal law to establish federal horse safety rules in Thoroughbred racing in America. Too many racing tracks have turned into crash sites, and this new national authority is designed to keep horses safe.

The operations of horse slaughter plants in North America remain an even larger threat to equines. We started the year with a comprehensive investigation of the trade in horses for slaughter in Canada and Mexico. The year ended with New York State adopting an anti-slaughter law, giving momentum to our effort to codify an end to the domestic and international trade in American horses for slaughter.

  • The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act has taken effect and applied new race-day anti-doping and other animal welfare standards at the track. The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action called for “zero tolerance of horse deaths on America’s racetracks,” as deaths mounted and the new Authority assumed a national role in horse safety at tracks.

  • New York State enacted the nation’s strongest ban on horse slaughter for human and animal consumption, joining California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas in banning horse slaughter for human consumption.

  • Our continent-wide investigation revealed that the extraterritorial slaughter of American horses is rapidly waning but still presents a merciless journey for 20,000 equine victims a year.

  • With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly endorsing a ban in Canada on live export of horses for slaughter, we asked President Biden to make a similar commitment in the United States. We are pressing Congress to pass the SAFE Act as an amendment to the 2024 Farm bill.

Animal Fighting Is the Pits

It’s hard to fathom that there may be as many as 20 million fighting birds in our homeland (and tens of thousands of dogs bred and raised for fighting). That’s precisely why we are working to fortify the legal and enforcement framework to shut it all down, including by providing for a private right of action in new federal legislation called the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act.

  • Our investigations uncovered an immense scale of illegal animal fighting in the United States, including high rates of smuggling animals back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico.

  • With our pressure, investigations, and securing of funding for enforcement in past years, arrests of animal fighters are surging throughout the United States: a top Pentagon official arrested for dogfighting; multi-state dogfighting rings broken up in Indiana and New Jersey; Oklahoma seeing its first set of cockfighting arrests.

  • We introduced the FIGHT Act in Congress to step up enforcement even further and to finish off animal fighting in our nation.

  • The U.S. House approved our amendment to stipulate that $1 million or more will be spent on enforcement actions against cockfighters and dogfighters under federal law.

  • In the first half of the year, Animal Wellness Action parried cockfighters’ maneuver to weaken the animal-fighting law in Oklahoma — the “cockfighting capital” of the United States. And later in the year, we got the Oklahoma governor to reverse himself after we publicized a video he made for viewing a cockfighting rally. After we alerted the public to the governor’s pro-cockfighting encouragement, YouTube took Stitt’s video down because it violated their community standards against animal cruelty.

Modernize Testing

Regulators, scientists, and other stakeholders are acknowledging that the passage of the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 last year was a momentous gain in the effort to replace animal testing with 21st-century strategies. More than 400 outlets have provided continuing coverage of this revolutionary development, including Science Magazine, Science Direct, American Association for Cancer Research Journals, and numerous other science and medical outlets, and also publications in Korea, Israel, and Australia. “I strongly believe that if the U.S. can do it,” a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom stated, “we can do it too — and make a success of it.” The impact of the new legislation is reverberating globally.

  • FDA Modernization Act 2.0 tremors are being felt across the globe. Regulators, scientists, and other stakeholders are acknowledging that the passage of the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 last year was a momentous gain in the effort to replace animal testing with 21st-century strategies.

  • In the wake of the passage of our landmark FDA Modernization 2.0 (December 2022), animal use in labs is dropping. Charles River Laboratories, a supplier of animals to labs, reported that its use of non-human primates has dropped 25% in 2023. FDA, though, is delaying a revamp of regulations governing drug-screening in wake of passage of the FDA Modernization Act. We are working with lawmakers to push FDA to speed up the transition away from animal testing.

  • We’ve drafted new legislation to compel the FDA to implement the new law with urgency.

The progress outlined above represents just a portion of our work. We are pressing ahead and building for success in a raft of other campaigns, such as End Greyhound Racing, Get the Lead Out (in sport hunting), and ReThink Mink. We’ll bring our relentless, strategic approach to all campaigns in the days and months ahead. As usual, we’ll need your support, and we are immensely grateful for all you do as advocates and donors to breathe life in our work.

Dear reader: If you support substantive policy work to protect animals, please consider donating to the Center for a Humane Economy today. You can give any amount one time, or make it a monthly gift, as many of our supporters do. Thank you for helping us fight for all animals. Please go here to make your contribution.