Brussels is putting business before science and conservation, say leading wildlife groups

Humane Society International / Europe

Wildestanimal/Alamy Stock Photo Shortfin mako shark

BRUSSELS—The European Union must stop allowing the fishing industry to keep and profit from endangered shortfin mako sharks ‘accidentally’ caught in the North Atlantic, or risk the species going extinct, warn leading animal protection groups Pro Wildlife, Humane Society International/Europe, and Sharkproject. While scientists, NGOs, and the EU’s environmental authorities agree that a mako shark retention ban is needed, the EU’s Directorate-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs (DG MARE) is still pushing for a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) quota of 500 tonnes for mako sharks in the North Atlantic. During a virtual webinar – hosted by Portuguese MEP Francisco Guerreiro (Greens/EFA) – the NGOs expressed their disappointment at the EU’s unwillingness to place scientific advice for shark conservation over the business interests of the fishing industry.

Dr Ralf Sonntag, marine expert at Pro Wildlife, stated “Time is running out for the mako shark, so the EU needs to act now, otherwise it risks further declines of an already endangered top predator that is essential for healthy oceans. The science is clear, only an immediate retention ban in the North Atlantic will give makos the chance to continue playing their crucial role in the marine ecosystem. In the South Atlantic, the situation is not yet as critical as it is in the North, but will probably end up following a similar trajectory if overfishing continues.”

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, added: “If fishing boats continue to be allowed to keep and profit from selling endangered mako sharks accidentally caught in their nets, all incentives for them to avoid this bycatch in the first place are removed. Not only is DG MARE’s position counterproductive, but it also risks undermining the Commission’s EU Biodiversity Strategy, which represents a binding political commitment to protecting and restoring biodiversity, including the protection of marine species. If the EU wants to demonstrate global leadership on biodiversity protection, it needs to ensure policy coherence. The EU cannot continue with business as usual ignoring scientific advice when species are threatened with extinction.”

Dr Iris Ziegler, head of international cooperation at Sharkproject, warns: “Even at zero catch it will take probably 50 years for this overfished stock to recover. Mako sharks are highly developed, late maturing sharks, with slow reproduction rates and are therefore especially vulnerable to overfishing. However, fishermen value the bycatch of mako sharks for the market value of their meat and fins and are therefore opposing a retention ban. For the industry, economic interests are clearly more important than conservation of biodiversity.”

The Intersessional meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which is also responsible for the ‘sustainable’ management of Atlantic sharks, will take place from 6th to 8th July 2021. In recent years, Brussels has blocked proposals from Canada, Senegal, and other Contracting Parties for a retention ban for makos in the North Atlantic. In so doing, the EU has consistently ignored the advice from ICCAT’s scientific body, the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics, for a retention ban without exceptions.

Fast facts:

  • Shortfin mako sharks are globally endangered, and in the Mediterranean Sea they are even critically endangered.
  • Given their threatened status and overexploitation, mako sharks were listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2019.
  • International trade and introduction from the sea are now only permitted if a so-called Non-Detriment-Finding (NDF) ensures sustainable offtakes.
  • In December 2020, the CITES Scientific Authorities of the EU stated a negative opinion for NDF for makos from the North Atlantic.
  • Spain and Portugal, the biggest fishing nations within the EU, responded to the decision by issuing a landing ban for makos from the high sea, and Spain even from national waters. Nevertheless, DG MARE continues to insist on a TAC at ICCAT and a share of 288 tonnes for EU fleets.
  • With swim speeds of more than 70 km/h, makos are the world’s fastest sharks in the high seas. As apex predators, they play a key role in marine ecosystems and the conservation of marine biodiversity. Their extinction could have massive consequences, not just in the Atlantic.

View a recording of the webinar.


Media contacts:

Humane Society International / South Africa

Maggy Meyer/iStock

CAPE TOWN—The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has released the recommendations of the Ministerial High Level Advisory Panel (the Panel) appointed in November 2019 to review existing policies, legislation and practices relating to the handling, breeding, hunting and trade of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.

The Panel’s recommendations include a number of positive commitments, including ending the practice of captive lion breeding and the commercial trade of lion derivatives, as well as expressly recognising animal welfare as a central pillar of wildlife management policy. These were key proposals made by Humane Society International/Africa, in comprehensive written and oral submissions to the Panel, as well as comments submitted during public participation processes in species-specific Norms and Standards development.

Captive lion breeding

“Today is a massive celebration for South African lions with the government adopting recommendations to end the abhorrent captive lion breeding industry. Lions will no longer have to suffer in horrid conditions for someone’s selfie, canned trophy or have their body parts harvested for wines and powders,” said Humane Society International/Africa wildlife director, Dr Audrey Delsink.

The new policy is welcome and will be supported by most South Africans, according to HSI/Africa, which in 2020 commissioned an independent national public opinion poll on trophy hunting, captive lion breeding and associated industries. The majority of South Africans polled oppose the breeding of lion cubs for two infamous tourist activities—cub petting and lion-walking. These activities are also linked to canned hunting and the lion bone trade.

According to the organisation, South Africa is the top exporter of lion trophies in the world—and most of these are lions who originate from the country’s notorious captive lion breeding industry. An HSI analysis of trade data of mammal species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) between 2014 and 2018 found that 4,176 lion trophies were exported from South Africa (as well as 25 captive-source tiger trophies).

“We applaud the decision to end captive lion breeding and will study the other recommendations comprehensively to consider all details. We are also pleased that animal welfare considerations are now expressly recognised as a central pillar of wildlife management policy.

“Considerations of animal sentience and welfare are key to wildlife policy decisions. This was one of the main elements in HSI/Africa’s comprehensive submission to the Panel, and also forms part of all of our submissions in the development of Norms and Standards for the different species,” added Delsink.

Trophy hunting

HSI/Africa remains concerned about the centrality of trophy hunting in South Africa’s wildlife sector and the ongoing focus on generating revenue through hunting the country’s iconic species.

“We are mindful of the need to alleviate poverty through economic development in the biodiversity sector. However, after the mass of scientific evidence that was put before the Panel by HSI/Africa and other organisations regarding the harmful consumptive use of imperiled species, we are concerned that the Panel’s recommendations envisage an expansion of trophy hunting,” said Delsink.

“Our independent national survey revealed that 64% of South Africans share this concern and oppose trophy hunting. The poll results were consistent regardless of race, gender, age and income,” said Delsink.

The CITES trade data analysis between 2014 and 2018 showed that South Africa exported 574 African leopard trophies—with 98% of those wild sourced and 2% bred in captivity. In addition, 1,337 African elephant trophies and 21 black rhino trophies were also exported.

“Despite these ongoing concerns regarding trophy hunting as opposed to non-consumptive wildlife uses, today marks an important step in transforming and reframing South Africa’s wildlife policy. We welcome the department’s policy paper on the recommendations for public comments and their expressed commitment to inclusive and transparent dialogue with all stakeholders, and look forward to engaging further,” concluded Delsink.


Media contact: Marisol Gutierrez, HSI/Africa, media and communications manager: +27 72 358 9531;

One step left until Mexico is cosmetics cruelty-free

Humane Society International / Mexico

HSI Ralph, spokes-bunny for HSI’s global campaign to ban cosmetic testing on animals

MEXICO CITY—Humane Society International has welcomed a move by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies to outlaw animal testing for cosmetics, as well as the import or sale of beauty products developed with reliance on new animal testing carried out anywhere in the world after the law comes into force. The bill has now passed both legislative chambers, reaching the 90% mark in the process to becoming law. Public interest to end cosmetic animal testing in Mexico sparked 1.2 million signatures in support of a ban, within weeks of the #SaveRalph launch.

Antón Aguilar, executive director of Humane Society International/Mexico, said: “We commend Congresswoman Miroslava Sánchez, Chairwoman of the Health Committee, and all congressmen and women, for voting to ban cosmetic animal testing in Mexico. This demonstrates Mexico’s leadership in North America, which could see our country become the first cruelty-free beauty market in the continent.”

The bill passed Mexico’s Senate last March in a single day and had since been waiting for approval in the Chamber of Deputies. HSI’s #SaveRalph film prompted renewed political movement in the Health Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, which passed the bill yesterday. Following minor amendments, the bill will be sent back to the Senate for final endorsement, which is expected to happen during the fall session.

Mexican consumers are increasingly concerned about animal welfare and disturbed by such practices, and many of them prefer products that do not involve animal suffering. A 2019 Parametría poll[1] shows that 78% of citizens place importance on making sure their cosmetics are cruelty-free when purchasing a product.

Media contact: Magaly Garibay:; 553-876-2199

[1] Poll conducted by Parametría polling agency, between October 26 and November 2, 2019, using a national random sample of 880 cases, with a margin of error of (+/-) 3.3%.

The Health Commission of the Chamber of Deputies has not handed down a decision on legislative reforms to ban these cruel practices.

Humane Society International


MEXICO CITY—Humane Society International México (HSI/México), a leading international animal welfare organization, today submitted a petition to the Chamber of Deputies’ Health Commission to ban cosmetic testing on animals. In just one week, the #SaveRalph campaign, a short stop-motion animated film sponsored by HSI, collected over one million signatures from people who are opposed to these cruel, unnecessary and highly unpopular practices.

A year ago, the Mexican Senate unanimously passed reforms to the General Health Law to ban cosmetic testing. The Chamber of Deputies has yet to debate and vote on these reforms, which, if approved, would make Mexico the first country in North America and the 41st worldwide to ban these practices.

“The Health Commission, presided over by Deputy Miroslava Sánchez, urgently needs to rule in favor of these legislative reforms. Time is running out and if a ruling is not handed down, our efforts will have been cut short, because the legislative period ends this month, which is the reason why we are today submitting more than one million signatures that symbolize opposition to these cruel and unnecessary practices and call on deputies to vote on this important draft bill as soon as possible,” said Humane Society International México (HSI/México) Executive Director Antón Aguilar.

This clearly indicates that there is broad support for a ban on cosmetic testing on animals in Mexico and that there is a market for cruelty-free products. According to a survey by Parametría, when purchasing cosmetics, 78% of Mexican consumers would like to be informed whether or not the product was tested on animals.

The HSI #SeLibreDeCrueldad (#BeCrueltyFree) campaign was a determining factor in the decision of the European Union to become the largest cruelty-free cosmetic market in the world. Similar victories were achieved in India, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Guatemala and Switzerland, in ten states in Brazil and four in the United States. Colombia banned cosmetic testing on animals last year, becoming the first South American country to do so, while Chile recently submitted a bill along the same lines.

To watch the full video in Spanish, click on the following link:

For English, see

The online petition is available in Spanish at

Media Contact:
Magaly Garibay:, cel. 555407 0502

Humane Society International

Dog on a dog meat farm
Jean Chung

SEOUL—Korean animal protection groups have joined forces to save 50 dogs from being euthanised on a dog meat farm in Yongin city after the facility was closed down by the authorities. The dogs were found by the rescuers locked up in barren metal cages without water or proper food, after the four farmers running the farm had moved off the property following a demolition order by local officials. The farm had been operating in breach of the national Animal Protection Act. Humane Society International/Korea, LIFE, KoreanK9Rescue and Yongin Animal Care Association stepped in and worked together with the local authorities to save the dogs so that the structures could be demolished.

In addition to spending their lives in the misery of a small cage, some of the dogs were caged next to the slaughterhouse on site, and were clearly traumatised from watching and hearing dogs being killed. All the dogs—jindos and mastiffs, breeds often promoted as “meat dogs” by the industry—plus “Tiny Tim”, the farmer’s small pet terrier who he relinquished, are now receiving veterinary care and vaccinations, and will all eventually be flown to HSI’s temporary shelters in the United States and Canada to find adoptive families.

Nara Kim, HSI/Korea’s campaign manager, said “These dogs really needed our help because they would have been euthanized by the authorities without a rescue plan. We knew we had to act fast to save them, so it was wonderful that HSI, LIFE, KK9K and YACA all worked so well together as a team to get these dogs out. These efforts show how much passion there is in South Korea to end the dog meat industry. These dogs were in a pitiful state, skinny and frightened and existing in terrible conditions. It was shocking to see the slaughter area on site too with abandoned electrocution equipment and knives. I am horrified to think how many dogs lost their lives there. The sooner we can end the dog meat industry, the sooner we can see an end to such pitiful scenes of animal suffering.”

Many of the dogs were suffering from malnutrition as well as painful skin diseases and sore feet due to standing on the wire cage floor. Others had also been left with painful and untreated head and ear wounds. A number of the animals were extremely afraid of people, left tightly curled up and trembling in the back of the cage.

In-Seob Sim, president of LIFE, said: “It has been 30 years since the Animal Protection Act was established in Korea, however still so many animals are not protected properly. Government officials should make and implement policies to ban the slaughter of dogs for food. We should no longer subject this misery on future generations of dogs.”

Hyun Yu Kim, founder of KoreanK9Rescue, said: “It is significant that all these dogs are being given the chance of a new life instead of being euthanized or killed at the slaughter house. However, there are still countless dogs out there bred for meat who are still suffering. We are calling for urgent action from the government to introduce laws to ban the dog meat trade and protect dogs like these.”

Miyeon Ki, Yongin Animal Care Association, said: “I am overwhelmed by this life-saving mission for the 50 dogs who have escaped first the crisis of brutal slaughter for dog meat and then the threat of death by euthanasia, but have dramatically found a chance to live again. I think the effort to save lives in any difficult situation is the faith of animal rescue group.”

Yang-Jin Cho, Animal Protection Division, Yongin city said: “The city officials really felt bad for these dogs and hoped that something could be arranged to give the dogs the best chance. So we are really happy that these animal groups were able to help and give the dogs a future.”

Humane Society International/Korea, which has closed down 17 dog meat farms in the country, is campaigning for legislation in South Korea to end the dog meat trade. A recent opinion poll commissioned by HSI/Korea and conducted by Nielsen shows growing support for a ban on the dog meat trade, with nearly 84% of South Koreans saying they don’t or won’t eat dog, and almost 60% supporting a legislative ban on the trade.


  • An estimated 2 million dogs are kept on thousands of farms across South Korea.
  • Most South Koreans do not consume dog meat, and a growing population see dogs only as companion animals.
  • Although not part of the culinary mainstream for most people, dog meat is most popular during the Bok days of summer spanning July and August, based on its perceived curative properties during the hot and humid summer months.
  • Recent crackdowns by authorities to curb the dog meat industry include the shutting down of Taepyeong dog slaughterhouse (the country’s largest) by Seongnam City Council in November 2018, followed in July 2019 by the closure of Gupo dog meat market in Busan, and a declaration in October last year by the mayor of Seoul that the city is “dog slaughter free”. In November 2019 a Supreme Court found that a dog farmer who electrocuted dogs was in violation of the Animal Protection Act, a judgement that could have huge implications for an industry that relies almost entirely on electrocution as a killing method.
  • This farm closure was conducted under COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. At each dog meat farm closure, HSI has a veterinarian test for the presence of the H3N2 virus (“canine influenza”), at the time the dogs receive their rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, parainfluenza and Leptospira vaccines. HSI then quarantines the dogs on the farm or at a shelter for at least 30 days and the dogs are health certified again prior to transport overseas, in accordance with international export and import requirements.

Download broll video and photos of the rescue here.

*Nielsen online research conducted August/September 2020. Total sample size 1,000 people across six major cities in South Korea (Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan) weighted and representative of South Korean adults (aged 18+).


Media contacts:
United Kingdom: Wendy Higgins:, +44 (0)7989 972 423
South Korea: Nara Kim,

Queen guitarist Brian May says the UK should ‘close our borders to the cruel, outdated, unnecessary and dangerous fur trade’

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


London—CEOs and Directors from five of the UK’s largest animal protection organisations gathered today with campaigners in geometric fox masks at the gates of No 10 Downing street to submit 1 million petition signatures to the Prime Minister, calling for the UK to ban the sale of cruel animal fur.

The #FurFreeBritain petition, led collectively by Humane Society International/UK, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (UK), FOUR PAWS UK, Open Cages and the RSPCA, comes the day before a Ten Minute Rule Bill to propose a fur sales ban will be heard in the House of Commons. Celebrity supporter Chris Packham joined the petition hand-in virtually with a video message declaring his support for a UK fur sales ban.

Fur farming was outlawed in the UK nearly two decades ago in 2003, because it was deemed too cruel an industry to support. But since then Britain has imported more than £800 million worth of fur from countries including Finland, China, France and Poland, where animals experience terrible suffering and mental distress on fur farms. This is a double standard that needs to end – if fur is too cruel to produce in this country, it’s too cruel to sell in this country.

The 1 million petition signatures, from supporters all over the world, were submitted to Prime Minister Boris Johnson together with a letter from Brian May, which reads that the UK has “the opportunity to act as a global leader in moral standards, and close our borders to the cruel, outdated, unnecessary and dangerous fur trade”. The joint letter was co-signed by Humane Society International/UK, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (UK), FOUR PAWS UK, Open Cages and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Animal Aid, The Jane Goodall Institute, Viva!, and Brian May’s Save Me Trust. Petition platform Care2 also supported the petition, as did with a personal petition by TOWIE star Pete Wicks. A government e-petition also added 109,533 signatures to the total.

Queen Guitarist Brian May, in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “Fur farming was banned in this country almost twenty years ago, we showed great leadership on animal welfare then and now we have the opportunity to act as a global leader in moral standards again, by closing our border to the cruel, outdated, unnecessary and dangerous fur trade. I urge you, Prime Minister, to take decisive action now and make Britain fur-free!”

Claire Bass, Executive Director for Humane Society International/UK, said, “Fur farming is rightly banned here, but we’re still importing the same cruelty from overseas. The government has the opportunity to end that double standard and our million signature petition today shows that there is enormous public support for a fur trade ban. The British public, along with politicians, designers, celebrities and retailers are in agreement that incarcerating and killing animals for fashion does not reflect brand Britain, the future of fashion is fur free.”

Elisa Allen, Director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said, “Permitting fur imports flies in the face of the values held by the overwhelming majority of British people, who do not wish to support an industry in which animals are drowned, electrocuted, and even skinned alive. The government must listen to the will of the people and bring forward this much-needed legislation.”

Brian da Cal, FOUR PAWS UK Director said, “In excess of one million signatures have joined our calls to remove the sale of fur from our shores. We banned fur farming many years ago, but until we extend the same legal provisions to the sale of it, we cannot fully embrace what so many are demanding. Fur farming is a cruel practice and with brands, both designer and high street, removing it, it is clear that the use of fur is no longer in fashion. Now, the only step left is for the Government to recognise this and fully embrace that we want to be a Fur Free Britain.”

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive for the RSPCA said, “We want to see an end to an industry where animals are suffering and dying for fashion. Breeding animals for fur can be a cruel and unnecessary business that should have no place in the modern world. Even though fur is no longer farmed in the UK, it is still legal to import and sell it here. So the UK remains complicit in the continuation of the global fur market, profiting from this cruel international trade. It is shameful and it’s high time we got our house in order and made fur imports and sales illegal. Our petition calling for a Fur Free Britain has been supported by thousands of animal lovers and we hope the Government listens to our calls to end this horrific trade in the UK.”

Connor Jackson, CEO for Open Cages said, “I have looked into the eyes of deranged foxes circling their filthy cages, waiting to be killed for their fur. I have seen these sensitive wild animals reduced to clothing, denied even the most basic needs. It’s crystal clear that suffering is fundamental to the fur industry, and Britain is complicit with every day we continue to allow fur to be sold on our high streets.”
The majority of British people support the proposed fur sales ban. A 2020 YouGov opinion poll commissioned by HSI/UK shows that 93% of the British public do not wear real animal fur, and the words 79% of people most closely associate with a fashion brand selling fur are ‘unethical’, ‘outdated’, ‘cruel’ and ‘out of touch’.

Last autumn, Defra Minister Lord Goldsmith stated that “Fur farming has rightly been banned in this country for nearly 20 years and at the end of the transition period we will be able to properly consider steps to raise our standards still further. That is something the Government is very keen to do.” The campaign has also received cross party political support from 140 MPs who have signed Early Day Motion 267 against real fur imports.

Fur Facts:

  • A total of 1, 065, 247 signatures have been added to the Fur Free Britain petition to date.
  • More than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year worldwide including mink, foxes, raccoon dogs, chinchillas and rabbits—that’s equal to three animals dying every second, just for their fur.
  • Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been banned and/or is in the process of being phased-out in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Most recently the government in Hungary declared a ban on the farming of animals for fur including mink and foxes, the French government is currently debating a ban on mink fur farming, and the Irish government has made a commitment to bring forward legislation in 2021.
  • Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming, and in Finland the majority party of the coalition government recently announced its support for a ban on fur farms.
  • In the United States, California became the first US state to ban fur sales in 2019 following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood. Legislators in Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York and Massachusetts have introduced fur sales ban proposals. A bill introduced in Washington state would ban the production of fur.
  • Mink on more than 420 mink fur farms across 12 countries have been found infected with COVID-19, leading to mass culls. The potential for zoonotic disease spread, and for mink fur farms in particular to act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans, is another compelling reason for governments around the world to call time on fur, by banning farming and sales.


Media contact: Leozette Roode, HSI/UK Media and Campaigns Manager, e t +27 713601104

Heartbreaking film illustrates the need to end cosmetics testing on animals

Humane Society International / Global

Andy Gent
Andy Gent.

What happens when an all-star director, puppeteer, cast and crew join forces with a global leader in the animal protection movement? Meet Ralph, a stop-motion animated rabbit who is the new spokesbunny for Humane Society International’s fight to end animal testing for cosmetics.

Written and directed by Spencer Susser, Save Ralph is a docu-style short that tells the story of a rabbit who works as a “tester.” Released this spring in 5 languages, the film features the voices of Ricky Gervais, Taika Waititi, Zac Efron, Olivia Munn, George Lopez, Rosario Dawson and more.

Painful experiments have left Ralph blind in one eye and suffering from skin irritation and a constant buzzing in one ear, but he reassures the viewer that he’s just doing his job to ensure humans have safe shampoo. In this edited interview with HSI, puppeteer Andy Gent talks about bringing Ralph to life and how he hopes the heartbreaking character helps end cosmetics testing on animals around the world.

Why do you think using stop-motion animation helps tell Ralph’s story?
There’s a nice thing about animation in that it opens your eyes to many things without showing all the reality, but it’s a good communicator. And I think Ralph epitomizes that. He is very empathic, very emotive, and he’s trying to be really strong in the face of doom in his world. So, bringing that to life in the character, we’ve got to make sure that he can change his expressions, that he has the physicality, the structure in his body to move in a way that can act out and tell the story. Often with animation, just the eyes can be used as an acting device. You don’t need to move the rest of the puppet. So we spend a lot of time making those right. The beauty of stop-motion animation—I think the beauty of animation, full stop—is that you can tell very complicated, very challenging stories and bring them to life in a nonthreatening way that helps to educate and inspire people.

How did you create such intricate sets and characters?
When you watch and re-watch the film, hopefully you’ll see the attention that’s been paid to all the details. We created the wallpaper, the electrical sockets and the kitchen utensils, and we used real carpets. It took about five weeks to cover Ralph in fur (fake fur, of course), three weeks to do his eyes, one week for his teeth and his tongue, three weeks for his mechanical body, another two weeks for his head, and then weeks of set building to make every tiny element down to the curtains, the toothbrushes, the cookie jar absolutely perfect for Ralph. It’s an endless amount of work, and we’ve done it because that’s how we get the audience to believe that what they’re looking at truly is Ralph’s world. It was a genuine labor of love for us all. We all fell in love with Ralph and wanted to help HSI tell his story so that we can end animal testing for cosmetics.

How did you approach conveying the grim reality of Ralph’s situation while still making a film that people will want to watch?
We applied a lot of love and attention in showing the physical suffering of being used as a tester¬—the skin rashes, the scars and swollen red eye. Ralph is such a sweet character, he tries to downplay the awfulness of what is happening to him, but his injuries tell the true story and in a way that draws the audience in rather than makes them look away. Your heart breaks for him because when he’s trying to convince the audience that everything’s OK, he’s really trying to convince himself. Of course, it’s not OK. But stop-motion animation allows us to tell this tragic, upsetting truth about something awful and unjust in a way that recruits people to win this fight with us.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of working on this project?
We’ve worked on this for months and months and months. We know the ins and outs of every single part of it all, but when you play the roll back, everybody’s welling up in tears at the end. So I think you can see from that there’s a personal investment in it. It’s not just about telling a story in a film or in advertising. People working on this have connected to it, and when we see it played back, we’ve stopped thinking of Ralph as a stop-motion animation puppet and instead as a character telling a story that makes you want to change things.

How do you hope people react to the film?
I hope they all take Ralph into their hearts in the same way that we all have and get involved, because he really needs our help.

“I stopped eating animals about eight years ago, but I didn’t know how else I could help. When the opportunity to create a new campaign for HSI arrived, I thought it was the perfect way to give animals a voice. Save Ralph creates awareness that animals are still being tested on for cosmetics around the world. It’s a call to action to help end this horrendous practice for good. I hope it strikes a chord and moves people to do something about it.” — Spencer Susser, writer/director of Save Ralph

Humane Society International

Trevor Mogg/Alamy Stock photo

WASHINGTION—Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a guidance urging governments around the world to take immediate action to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease spread in traditional markets.

Humane Society International urges governments to adopt the recommendations by WHO, OIE and UNEP to place emergency regulations suspending trade in live caught wild mammals and shutting down food markets selling these animals. Over a year ago, HSI pleaded to governments and released a science-based white paper calling for this type of action against wildlife markets and trade in wildlife. We congratulate WHO, OIE, and UNEP for taking this step towards ensuring safety for public and animal health. Concurrently, we urge the U.S. Congress to swiftly pass the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2021 as the most effective step toward ending the exploitation of wild animals and protecting global communities from future zoonotic diseases.

The guidance calls on governments to take the following six actions: (1) suspend trade in live caught wild mammals for food or breeding purposes and close food markets that sell live caught wild mammals (until effective regulations and risk assessments are in place); (2) improve standards of hygiene and sanitation in these markets; (3) develop regulations to control the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases from wild animals in these markets; (4) train food and veterinary inspectors and enforce new regulations; (5) strengthen animal health surveillance systems to catch the emergence of a pathogen early on; and (6) develop and implement campaigns to communicate risk of consuming and trading wildlife.

“It’s imperative that all countries heed this call from the world’s health authority in order to prevent the emergence or spread of future pandemics,” said Teresa Telecky, vice president of Wildlife for Humane Society International. “If this had been done after SARS, we may have been spared the COVID pandemic and all the suffering it has caused.”


Media contact: Wendy Higgins, director of international media:

Humane Society International / Mexico


MEXICO CITY—Hacienda Santa Bárbara, an eco-hotel in Tlaxcala, Mexico, has committed to improving farm animal welfare by exclusively sourcing cage-free eggs for all of its menu items by the end of 2021.

Hacienda Santa Barbara is a hotel from the 17th century, which has been converted to an ecological destination, using only locally produced products to reduce its carbon footprint.

Javier Zamora, owner of Hacienda Santa Bárbara said: “We are committed to working with our suppliers to use eggs from cage-free birds. We started this project with a goal to provide our clients with the best quality food, and for us this means it must be sourced from producers who employ higher animal welfare  and more sustainable production methods.”

Arianna Torres, corporate policy and program manager for HSI/Mexico, said: “We congratulate La Hacienda Santa Bárbara for committing to offer only cage-free eggs on all its menus, joining the more than 200 companies worldwide that have already made this promise.”

The lives of countless farm animals improve when companies go cage-free. In Mexico, there are tens of thousands of egg-laying hens. The country’s conventional industrial production systems confine chickens for their entire lives in tiny cages made of wire, known as “battery cages.” These cages are so small that the chickens cannot even fully stretch their wings. Common sense and science agree that restraining animals for virtually their entire lives causes significant harm, depriving them of the opportunity to express important natural behavior.


Media contacts: Laura Bravo, Mexico: 5554561476;

BC’s factory fur farms are a petri dish for global pandemics and must be banned, says HSI/Canada

Humane Society International / Canada

Raccoon dogs and foxes intensively farmed for fur in Asia, filmed November-December 2020.

MONTREAL—The World Health Organization has published its report, WHO-convened Global Study of the Origins of SARS-CoV-2, and identified fur farming as an area of interest in the search for the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The joint WHO-China study suggests that wild animals intensively bred on farms for fur fashion and other purposes could have become infected at the farms and then been transported to a wildlife wet market where the outbreak began.

Market traders in China display, sell and butcher a variety of wild and domestic animal species including mink, raccoon dogs and foxes, which are known to be susceptible to SARS viruses. Millions of these animals are farmed for fur in China and other regions, including Canada.

The report states that introduction through an intermediary host is considered to be “likely to very likely” as a possible pathway of emergence. One of the specific recommendations in the report calls for surveys for SARSr-CoVs in farmed wildlife that have the potential to be infected, including “those bred for fur such as mink and raccoon dogs in farms in China, in South-East Asia, and in other regions.” The report further noted “SARS-CoV-2 adapts relatively rapidly in susceptible animals (such as mink). The increasing number of animals shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 includes animals that are farmed in sufficient densities to allow potential for enzootic circulation.”

In 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available), over 1.7 million mink and over 2300 foxes were killed on Canadian fur farms. To date, there have been two COVID-19 outbreaks on factory fur farms in Canada, both occurring at mink farms in British Columbia.

Kelly Butler, wildlife campaign manager at Humane Society International/Canada, said: “We are calling on the BC government to take immediate action to end factory fur farming in British Columbia. These facilities cause horrendous animal suffering and were opposed by the vast majority of people in BC before they were exposed as reservoirs for COVID-19. Countries the world over are closing their factory fur farms in response to the grave public health and animal welfare threats they present. There is simply no excuse for the BC government to turn a blind eye to these tangible threats and allow these inhumane, dangerous and economically nonviable fur factories to continue to operate.”

Dr Peter Li, China policy expert at Humane Society International, said: “The WHO report provides a stark and sobering warning about the devastating public health risks of exploiting wild animals in unsanitary, overcrowded and inhumane factory farm systems be that bamboo rats and badgers for human consumption, pangolins for traditional medicine, or raccoon dogs and mink for fur fashion. Cramming millions of animals together in these abusive industries creates a perfect petri dish for pandemics, and unless we ban farming for fur and the wildlife trade, we will continue to play Russian roulette with global public safety.”


  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been documented on at least 422 mink fur farms in 11 different countries in Europe and North America since April 2020, including Canada (2 farms), Denmark (290 farms), France (1 farm), Greece (23 farms), Italy (2 farms), Lithuania (2 farms), Netherlands (69 farms), Poland (1 farm), Spain (4 farms), Sweden (13 farms) and the United States (16 farms).
  • The few fur farms operating in BC exist solely to produce fashion items. They provide negligible employment, damage local environments, pose a significant public health risk and consume millions of tax dollars in government handouts.
  • In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, just under 270 000 mink were killed on fur farms in BC.
  • 85 percent of British Columbians oppose the killing of wild animals for fur (Research Co, 2020 ).
  • In 2014, a British Columbia fur farm was the subject of an investigation by the BC SPCA that uncovered deplorable conditions and egregious neglect and animal suffering. Many animals were missing limbs, digits and ears, and one animal—mysteriously paralyzed—had to be euthanized on site.
  • Numerous BC scientists have called on the BC government to take action on fur farming.

Download photos and video from the China fur farm investigation


Media contact: Michael Bernard, deputy director of Humane Society International/Canada:; 613.371.5170