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2019 was a surprisingly good year for animal rights – here are this year’s eleven major achievements

We may be facing a big battle, but attitudes are evolving, and the years ahead look promising too

Elisa Allen
Monday 30 December 2019 13:48
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Trump signs federal law banning animal cruelty

This time last year, both The Economist and Forbes predicted that 2019 would be the "year of the vegan", and boy were they right! Wimbledon offered strawberries and vegan cream for the first time, Greggs added a vegan sausage roll to its line-up, Papa John's introduced vegan cheese pizzas, and KFC launched the chicken-free Imposter burger.

But the boom in plant-based fare is just one of the ways 2019 was remarkable for animals. As we head into a new year – and a new decade – let's take a moment to reflect on some of the advances that were made to keep animals out of laboratories, far from abusement parks, away from our wardrobes, and more.

Useless Animal Tests Were Put to Rest

Following intensive campaigning by PETA US, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer both ended their use of the "forced swim test", an experiment that's as cruel as it is worthless. Experimenters drop mice, rats, guinea pigs, gerbils, or hamsters into inescapable containers of water and watch as they frantically look for an escape. If you're wondering how watching terrified animals struggle to avoid drowning could possibly benefit humans… it doesn't.

Not to be outdone, the world's leading cereal maker, the Kellogg Company, also banned the use of animals in deadly tests for food products and ingredients.

Hair-Care Brands Showed They Care About Animals

Two of the largest global hair-care brands, Aussie and Herbal Essences, each earned a spot on the "Beauty Without Bunnies" list of cruelty-free companies – which now includes more than 4,300 compassionate companies that have banned all tests on animals anywhere in the world.

Travel Giants Took Aim at Animal-Abusing Tourism

Airbnb, Booking.com, British Airways Holidays, TripAdvisor, United Airlines, and Virgin Holidays – phew! – all banned the sale of tickets to marine amusement parks, including SeaWorld, and many went much further. Airbnb, for example, issued a new policy prohibiting tiger selfies, elephant rides, "swim with dolphins" programmes, and other activities involving direct contact with wild animals.

Parliament Stopped Clowning Around With Wild Animals' Lives

Following years of campaigning by a number of animal protection groups, parliament finally passed a bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses across England. On to a global ban!

The Queen Went Fur-Free

When everyone from luxury fashion house Prada, to Her Majesty the Queen has dropped fur, you know it's dead. Need more evidence? Ireland and Slovakia announced they will phase out fur farming, California banned fur trapping and the sale and manufacture of fur, and UK councils including Islington and Epping Town banned fur sales.

Badger Brushes, Be Gone

High-end cosmetics company NARS joined nearly 90 other brands in banning the sale of badger-hair make-up brushes. PETA Asia's investigation into China's badger-hair industry revealed that badgers are either bred on farms or captured in nature using snares and other cruel methods, confined to small wire cages, and then violently killed.

Ending Cold-Hearted Fashion

After some pushing, fashion icon and designer Victoria Beckham and department-store chain Selfridges ditched exotic skins. Farmed alligators are kept in fetid water and dank, dark sheds without sunshine, fresh air, or even basic veterinary care, and snakes are decapitated or skinned alive.

Tuk Tuks, Not Tuskers

Cambodia's most famous tourist attraction, Angkor Wat, ended cruel elephant rides, and ABTA updated its guidelines for travel companies, warning that such rides are "unacceptable" (which they are). Now, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking into prohibiting British travel companies from offering elephant rides.

Goldfish Giveaways Given the Boot

Victories came for even the smallest of animals. Multinational retail giant Walmart ended all live-fish sales, and closer to home, after hearing from concerned fairgoers, Caerphilly County Borough Council in Wales voted unanimously to ban the use of goldfish and other animals as prizes. Fish are smart, sentient, highly complex beings who deserve better than to be handed out like trinkets.

Spain Spared Bulls' Lives

Spain's Supreme Court upheld a ban on the torture of bulls during the Toro de la Vega festival, meaning no more young bulls will be stabbed to death for entertainment. This victory is part of a wider movement in Spain, as more than 100 towns have declared themselves anti-bullfighting and over 80 per cent of Spanish people oppose the cruel practice.

What the Duck?

New York said "no" to one of the worst forms of factory-farming abuse by banning foie gras. City Council Member Justin Brannan rightly commented, "Force-feeding a bird for the sole purpose of making it sick to create some bizarre delicacy is gruesome and inhumane."

Attitudes towards animals are evolving, and each new year brings exciting new victories. I can't wait to see what we'll achieve in 2020.

Elisa Allen is the director of Peta UK

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