Note: This blog is part of a series highlighting how we fight—and win—for animals. This post focuses on how we’re ending the worst forms of institutionalized animal suffering by working with corporations. Our previous post in this series covered our efforts with governments and legislative bodies

It wasn’t so long ago that the pages of fashion magazines and the collections of major fashion houses showcased models draped with animal fur. I can remember fall high-fashion in Boston meant women stepping out proudly in full length fur coats.

Today, though, celebrities photographed in mink coats are more likely to be called out for supporting animal cruelty than lauded for their fashion sense. Over the past few decades, animal fur is far less perceived as a luxurious product and far more as one synonymous with animal cruelty and wasteful excess. Today, 71% of Americans are opposed to killing animals for their fur, and 81% of American consumers consider animal welfare an important factor when purchasing apparel. It’s a sea change in public opinion—and it couldn’t have happened without major corporations committing to do away with fur.

Since 2015, dozens of major fashion brands and retailers have announced fur-free policies. Some have embraced eco-friendly alternatives; others have dropped the look entirely. We’ve had a hand in nearly all those wins.

Our undercover investigations that show the suffering behind the brands, from fur to factory farms, help persuade companies to transition away from cruel practices. Here an arctic fox languishes in a bare cage on a fur farm in Finland.
Claire Bass/HSI

Just as you use the power of your dollar to support companies that make cruelty-free personal care products, food and more, we also support corporate policies that lead to progress—on a larger scale. For example, we know that the largest purchasers of factory farmed products aren’t individual consumers like you and me—they are food service companies, restaurant chains, grocery stores and other supply chain and retail stakeholders. We can give billions of animals better lives by convincing those companies to mandate change in their supply chains.

For example, by persuading McDonald’s to announce a 100% cage-free policy for its eggs in many regions where the company operates, several million egg-laying chickens will be freed from tiny cages each year. This means that their suppliers—i.e., factory farms—need to eliminate cages to keep McDonald’s (and other companies with cage-free commitments) as buyers. The result? Tens of millions of chickens with more room to spread their wings, take dust baths and more.

Egg-laying hens crammed in battery cages in India.
 Julie Janovsky/HSI

As seasoned campaigners, we sometimes use pressure tactics when corporations resist the march of progress. Our campaign to get Corteva (formerly Dow AgroSciences) to end a one-year pesticide test on dogs led to the release of 30+ beagles and a groundswell of public support for ending animal testing. Corteva is now working alongside us and others to end pesticide testing on dogs entirely.

We don’t just secure commitments and then walk away. For example, our Humane Society International Farm Animal Welfare and Protection team works closely with corporate top management, sustainability and procurement teams to implement those commitments. The power of companies to drive change on the farm is critical to achieving our goal of a cage-free world, so we connect companies with cage-free farmers, and even train farmers on how to transition to cage-free production both from a technical perspective and also by introducing them to financial institutions who incentivize higher welfare in their lending and investment practices.

If and when corporate leadership fails to engage, our skilled litigators hold corporations’ metaphorical feet to the fire, ensuring they carry out their promises. For example, although McDonald’s has made progress toward cage-free eggs, they’ve been too slow to end the use of gestation crates for mother pigs—despite promising to do so repeatedly. We’ve filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking them to investigate.

This work has meaningful downstream effects beyond the obvious. We’ve seen corporate commitments lead to advances in public policy time and time again, as legislators recognize that the business community and the public support and expect to see animal-friendly outcomes. Just a few examples: 11 U.S. states have passed bans on keeping hens in cages. We can now see an end to the cage age in the not-so-distant future in the U.S.: The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the U.S. could be up to 75% cage-free by 2025. One of the largest pet store chains in the country—Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming, which is based in Florida—sent a letter to the Orange County Commission last year in support of a ban on the sale of puppies in pet stores. (The ban passed by a 4-3 vote.) The Humane Cosmetics Act has the endorsement of nearly 1,000 companies including global beauty giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble. And to return to the case of fur, we’ve now seen California, Israel and 11 U.S. cities pass bans on new fur sales.

When I consider how much closer than ever we are to living in a fur-free world, I see a clear path forward for all our campaigns. I see a future where personal care products and their ingredients are never tested on animals. I see pet stores that feature adoptable animals, not puppies and kittens from mills. I see restaurants and grocery stores and cafeterias that serve more and more plant-based meals alongside products from animals raised outside tiny cages.

You invest in this future every time you open your wallet. We help make it happen by working with corporations to overcome barriers and adopt cruelty-free methods and business practices. Together, we’re building a better, kinder, more humane world.

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Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.