5 Victories That We're Thankful For This Holiday Season

November 26, 2015

Since our founding in 2005, we've been on a data-driven, cost-effective mission to reduce animal suffering. Our vision: a world where all animals are treated with respect and compassion.

Realizing a vision like this one takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. While our National Grassroots Outreach team—reaching over 1.2 million people just this year—is encouraging people to replace animal-based foods in their diets with vegan alternatives, our International Campaigns Department is busy securing changes in animal welfare policies at some of the world's largest food companies and institutions.

Aside from working with food providers to add vegan options to menus or replace eggs in foods like mayonnaise and cookies, our Campaigns team also works to end the worst cruelties found in animal agriculture. Their anti-confinement campaigns currently focus on eliminating the cruel practices of restricting animals to gestation crates for mother pigs, veal crates for calves, and cages for egg-laying hens. Each time a company sets a timeline for ending the use of these cruel devices in its supply chain, it sends a signal to meat, dairy, and egg producers that this intensive confinement is on its way out and more changes are coming. The more timelines are set, the sooner these abusive practices become history.

Though we stay busy throughout the year, it is important to catch a breath around this festive time. When facing the suffering in the world on a daily basis, we ought to keep perspective on the progress being made, to take stock in what has been accomplished over the last year, and to replenish our drive in order to continue for many more years of empowering change for animals.

Please read on for a glance into five of this year's campaign victories that we're especially thankful for this holiday. But before we get to number one on the list, we must note that not one of these victories would be possible if not for the tireless effort put forth by our amazing volunteers! Thank you so much for leafleting, for making phone calls, emailing, demonstrating, tweeting, signing and sharing. You rock.

Now, on with the list!

1. The foodservice industry leads the way toward eliminating a cruel farming practice

In February, Sodexo, Inc.—one of the world's largest food corporations with a presence in the US, Mexico, and Canada—announced that it will eliminate the use of veal crates from its supply chain by 2017 and will no longer source its eggs from caged hens by the end of 2020. This is big news as foodservice providers like Sodexo provide food for most universities, hospitals, prisons, stadiums, and other large institutions and venues across the country. The policy change was the result of the aggressive national campaign that The Humane League coordinated.

Not only was this campaign our single largest victory to date, but promptly after Sodexo's commitment, The Humane League won victories against virtually every major player in the foodservice industry. Aramark, Compass Group, and dozens of the largest foodservice companies in the US also committed to removing cages from their supply chains. These victories mean that nearly every public institution in this country has made a commitment to end support of one of the cruelest farming practices in use—a move that will reduce the suffering of millions of hens each year.

But, wait! There's more! These anti-cage commitments often open the door for improvements. Aramark released what is now an industry-leading animal welfare policy. It is part of its policy to promote plant-based meals as "better for you, the planet, and farm animals." Unprecedented!

2. The Cheesecake Factory commits to phasing out battery cage eggs and gestation crates

Even before McDonald's announced its new animal welfare policies, which led many mainstream restaurants to make similar commitments, activists across the country signed petitions and took to the streets outside The Cheesecake Factory locations displaying signs and handing out informative postcards. As a result, thousands of customers joined The Humane League's protests by raising awareness of cage cruelty on social media as well as calling and emailing The Cheesecake Factory's leadership. Months after launching this national grassroots campaign online and on the streets, The Cheesecake Factory committed to ending the use of abusive cages in its egg supply chain.

This huge win shows just how effective data-driven, results-focused grassroots campaigns can be in convincing big players to change their ways.

3. Starbucks commits to substantial reforms

After several months of public campaigning from our network of advocates, the largest coffeehouse in the world released a new animal welfare policy outlining its commitment to phase out the caging of egg-laying hens. This boycott from one of the largest chains in the world sends a clear message to the egg industry: cages have got to go. In addition to cages, the Starbucks statement goes on to oppose gestation crates, fast-growth practices for birds, dehorning, and tail docking.

This policy, which was officially updated in December 2014, was the most substantial welfare policy ever released by a chain restaurant. One of the major motivating factors behind this far-reaching commitment: a grassroots advocacy effort which included our petition hosted on Change.org that drew over 135,000 signatures!

4. Panera Bread makes plans to add more plant-based options to their menus

After meeting with a coalition of farmed animal protection groups that included campaign leaders from The Humane League, Panera Bread not only announced that by 2020 hundreds of thousands of hens will no longer be caged for its US bakery-café food menus, but that the chain will also expand vegan and vegetarian options.

"...we have been adding plant-based proteins like edamame and organic quinoa to our pantry of ingredients," said Sara Burnett, Panera's director of wellness and food policy, in the release.

This big move is indicative of our work's success moving plant-based living and a focus on animal welfare into the mainstream.

5. General Mills joins the cage boycott

Let's do this one in pictures!

First, over 75,000 people signed the petition…

Then people tweeted…

...and emailed!

Because of our grassroots volunteers taking action, one of the largest food companies on Earth was influenced to change their policy in just three weeks! Countless hens will no longer be confined in cruel, tiny wire cages for General Mills.

Do you want to be a part of making historic change for animals? Sign up here.

What are you thankful for this holiday season? Share in the comments below. Here's to kicking off another year of working together to drive progress for animals!