Never underestimate the power of a group of passionate people. That is a lesson Shell has recently learned the hard way. The oil giant recently gave up its plan to drill in the Arctic after suffering tremendous backlash from environmental activists.
Would it make Shell feel better knowing that they’re not alone? Although activists may sometimes feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle, a new study by Michigan State University concluded that the work of activists is steadily contributing to legislative and societal changes, specially when it comes to green causes. These 10 cases are proof of that.
1. France cut bullfighting from its cultural heritage list
Despite the French government’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls being an avid fan of the outdated and cruel tradition of bullfighting, the country gave in to pressure from animal rights activists and removed ‘La Corrida’ from its cultural heritage list in June 2015.
By doing so, France made bullfights unprotected by UNESCO, which means in the future the practice could still be abolished and not considered a culturally historical pastime that should be preserved.
2. Universities and labs will no longer be experimenting on chimpanzees
After years of concerned citizens protesting the use of chimpanzees in medical research done by academic institutions like Stonybrook University and labs like Southwest National Primate Research Center, the message was finally heard.
Starting in September 2015, chimpanzees have been considered endangered as part of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and can no longer be experimented on unless a special permit is obtained from the National Fish and Wildlife Service. The kicker is that exactly zero labs have applied for that permit fearing backlash from animal rights groups.
3. The Navy agreed to limit sonar testing that harms whales and dolphins
For 15 years groups like the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) have fought with the U.S. Navy over its sonar testing. Blasting sonar waves under the ocean in order to locate submarines, the tests harm and kill whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions who go deaf, become disoriented, panic and develop bleeding in their ears and brain.
In 2013, despite knowing that a new test would kill and injure 2000 animals, the National Marine Fisheries Service approved plans for it. Activists sued and in a settlement the government agreed that the Navy will no longer conduct these tests in areas that are vital to the animals’ reproduction, feeding or migrating, and areas that harbor small populations of them.
4. Ringling Circus is retiring its elephants
Once groups like PETA and ASPCA showed the public what elephants went through in order to perform on the stage for ‘The Cruelest Show on Earth,’ the public listened and sided with the animals.
“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” Alana Feld, executive vice president for Feld Entertainment, Ringling Circus’ parent company’s, told the AP. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
Many cities also enacted anti-circus laws that did not allow performing animals, so profits dropped, and they had to adapt. As a result, Ringling Circus announced that by 2018 it will no longer use elephants for performances.
5. Foie Gras is banned in many countries and restaurants
Personally, we can’t see the appeal of fatty duck liver as a delicacy and thanks to the work of animal rights organizations, over a dozen countries can’t either. Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. have all outright banned the cruel production of foie gras, which involves shoving a tube down a duck’s throat to make them eat more than they ever could on their own.
World famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Ron Hoffman also refuse to serve foie gras since the tragic way in which it’s made has been exposed.
6. A lot of designers have stopped using fur in their collections
You know what puts a real damper on a shopping day? Finding out the coat you just got cost a cute and fuzzy creature its life — and in the bloodiest, most horror movie-like, can’t look it’s so bad, skinned alive kind of way, too. Animal protection groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States have had demonstrations and investigations into the fur industry for years to show consumers and CEOs that there’s nothing fashionable about fur.
Now mainstream designers like Stella McCartney, Dries Van Noten, Sonia Rykiel, Kate Spade and others are working exclusively with faux fur, sparing the innocent lives of animals.
7. EU and other countries banned animal testing for cosmetics
Thanks to the work of organizations like Cruelty Free International, more and more people are checking the labels of their lipsticks and face makeup to make sure no animal was harmed in its production — and not buying them if they were.
Showing people not just how painful those tests are on animals like Beagles and bunnies but also educating them on other cruelty-free alternatives has not only encouraged brands to stop animal testing but lawmakers to prevent the stubborn ones from continuing it.
The European Union, New Zealand, Israel and India are among the countries that have banned cosmetics animal testing and the work continues to get other countries to join the movement.
8. SeaWorld is on a downward spiral
SeaWorld is quickly realizing how activists can completely change public opinion. What was once a beloved park is now one of the most hated companies in the world thanks to the documentary ‘Blackfish.’ Since the film exposed how badly the orcas are treated and how they should never be kept in a tank, attendance for the park has plummeted, its stock devalued, profits are down and public opinion is at an all-time low, despite the company’s insistent denial.
Financial experts have even debated whether selling the park would be a better option instead of continuing to try to repair the company’s image.
9. People are divesting from fossil fuels and making sustainable investments
Over 400 institutions including Harvard and Oxford University have joined the divestment movement, removing their money from companies that own oil, coal and gas reserves. Instead, they’re investing their combined $2.6tn into clean energy and other sustainable companies. The switch is motivated by public outcry calling out companies to do their part to curb climate change and also stricter carbon emission laws coming into place as a result of increased awareness about the role of fossil fuels in destroying the planet.
10. Volkswagen vowed to become the greenest car company
Over half a million people went after Volkswagen after it refused to change its ways and make more efficient cars. The company was using its influence as the largest car maker in Europe to lobby politicians and block progress of regulations that would require all cars to be less reliant on fossil fuels. After protests at its stores, car shows and online, VW caved and agreed to lead the way to a greener future, aiming to become the world’s greenest car company and be an example to others around the world.
Not bad, huh? If you’re feeling inspired and want to make a difference in your own community, consider starting a petition and the Care2 community will rally behind your cause.