Unless you’re the CEO or another executive of one of the many companies that we target through our shareholder resolution campaigns, you may not know that we often take our efforts to the boardroom. A great way to influence companies is from within, so we use donated shares of a stock or purchase the minimum amounts of stock in companies that support cruelty to animals. As a shareholder, PETA can attend and speak at annual meetings, share information on animal issues, and submit resolutions that call on the companies to make kinder decisions for animals.
Thanks to our generous supporters, we have submitted more shareholder resolutions than any other nonprofit organization anywhere in the country for any cause. Our shareholder campaigns enable us to push for all kinds of changes that help animals.
Amid the COVID-19 downturn, we took advantage of low prices to buy up stock in nearly two dozen companies—including Ralph Lauren, Urban Outfitters, and Guess—to push them to ban wool, mohair, and cashmere. When Canada Goose made its initial public offering, PETA snapped up shares so that we could persuade the company to stop using coyote fur trim and down. We’ve also invested in Bed Bath & Beyond to urge it to drop down and in Prada, LVMH, and Hermès to pressure them to drop exotic skins.
Our Starbucks stock lets us push for an end to its surcharge on nondairy milks. With our shares of Hormel and other meat companies, we’re directly urging CEOs to save the lives of animals and slaughterhouse workers by switching to producing only vegan meats.
We’re using our insider status as a stockholder in SeaWorld to get the abusement park company to stop forcibly breeding dolphins and whales and to send these animals to seaside sanctuaries. We’re also fighting censorship by owning shares of Facebook and the billboard company Lamar Advertising—both of which have previously blocked content from PETA.
Going Inside the Boardroom to Get Animals out of Laboratories
Our shareholder resolutions have been especially effective in pushing pharmaceutical companies to end the cruel, ineffective forced swim test. This barbaric and widely discredited experiment involves dropping mice, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, or other small animals into inescapable beakers filled with water and forcing them to swim for their lives—supposedly to test the effects of antidepressants.
Pharma giant AbbVie made history in 2018 when it became the first to end the forced swim test. Its groundbreaking decision was a result of PETA’s shareholder resolution, which led to a meeting with the company’s executives.
Pfizer, the world’s third-largest pharmaceutical company, soon followed suit in response to PETA pressure, banning the forced swim test in October 2019. We have submitted numerous shareholder resolutions to the company, urging it to replace crude and cruel animal tests with state-of-the-art and scientifically valid non-animal methods, require enrichment measures for animals used in experiments, and more.
Next came Bristol Myers Squibb, which banned the forced swim test in January 2020 in response to PETA’s shareholder resolution and our intensive campaign, which included videos, ads, protests, and hundreds of thousands of e-mails from supporters.
So far, 14 companies, including Bayer and Johnson & Johnson, have dropped this ineffective test. It’s only a matter of time before the remaining holdouts, such as Eli Lilly, concede. PETA submitted a shareholder proposal at the company’s virtual annual meeting this year, asking it to assess the effectiveness of the forced swim test and report its findings to shareholders. The corporate giant should pay attention, because this misleading test yields positive results for compounds that aren’t prescribed as human antidepressants—such as caffeine—and negative results for compounds that are. Even Eli Lilly’s bestseller Prozac hasn’t yielded consistent results when studied in forced swim tests.
Speaking out at these meetings not only helps PETA win campaigns against these companies but also shows consumers and shareholders that while profit remains a priority, profit at the expense of ethics is a hollow reward.