Shareholder Campaign: General Electric
General Electric (GE) is a leading diversified manufacturer that
markets a wide range of products for the generation, transmission,
distribution, control, and use of electricity. Over the years, it has developed
or acquired new technologies and services that have considerably broadened the
scope of its activities. Most of the animal testing at GE was conducted by the
company's chemical division, either voluntarily or as part of
government-sponsored testing programs, including the Environmental Protection
Agency's high production
volume (HPV) chemical-testing program in which GE repeatedly ignored
basic animal welfare protections.
2004 Resolution: 'Give the Animals 5'
With the help of a PETA supporter who held stock
in GE, a resolution was filed in the fall of 2003 calling on the
company to "Give
the Animals 5"—replace five crude and cruel animal tests with state-of-the-art
and scientifically valid non-animal methods that were already in use in other
PETA's resolution garnered more than 229 million shares (3.86
percent), a number large enough to allow us to introduce the resolution again
the following year.
2005 Resolution: 'Give the Animals 5'
Despite its progressively worded "Animal Care and Use Policy,"
GE again opposed our GTA5 resolution and sought permission from the Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC) to exclude our resolution from its proxy
statement, arguing that it dealt with ordinary business matters that are not
subject to a vote by stockholders. However, the SEC staff did not concur with any of the company's arguments
and ordered GE to publish the PETA-sponsored resolution in
its shareholder proxy materials.
After the SEC's ruling,
PETA contacted GE's corporate secretary in a good-faith effort to establish a
constructive dialogue as an alternative to bringing our resolution forward at
the company's annual meeting. Despite a productive teleconference call and
indications that GE might be amenable to a series of terms proposed by PETA in
exchange for the voluntary withdrawal of our resolution, an agreement was never
finalized. PETA's resolution was brought to a vote at GE's annual meeting and
garnered almost 207 million shares (3.3 percent).
2006 Resolution: Animal Welfare Policy
In 2006, PETA filed a resolution with GE calling on the company to
extend its animal welfare policy to include social and behavioral
enrichment measures for the animals used both in-house and at contract testing
The resolution was largely the result of the horrors uncovered in
the independent contract testing laboratory Covance Inc., whose officials boasted
that their clients included "just about every major company around the world."
GE again challenged our
resolution, partly on the grounds that since animals cannot communicate their
own needs, the company was not responsible for addressing them. Again, the SEC
ruled in PETA's favor and ordered GE to publish the PETA-sponsored resolution
in its shareholder proxy materials. GE published our resolution, along with its
opposition statement advising shareholders to vote against it.
Negotiations with GE prior to the annual meeting resulted in withdrawal of the
resolution; PETA and GE worked together to reduce the company's use
of animals and to improve environmental enrichment measures for the animals
used. During this period, GE made great strides in instituting environmental
enrichment programs with its contractors worldwide. However, when GE sold its
chemical division and acquired Amersham, a UK-based pharmaceutical company, it
cut off contact with PETA. Amersham has since become a part of GE Healthcare.
Resolution: Transparency in Animal Use
As a result of GE's refusal to
work with PETA following its acquisition of Amersham, PETA filed a resolution
calling on GE to establish a reporting system that includes the number and
species of animals the company uses in experiments and information on the
manner in which the company collaborates with FDA and other regulatory agencies
to provide data from non-animal methods. GE excluded the resolution from the
proxy materials, claiming that PETA did not provide proof of continuous
ownership of GE stock. PETA disagreed, arguing that GE's claim lacked merit as
PETA provided sufficient proof at the time of submitting the resolution. Unfortunately,
the SEC sided with GE, and the resolution was excluded from the proxy materials
Resolution: Transparency in Animal Use
upon PETA's 2010 resolution, PETA's 2011 resolution requested that the board
issue an annual report to shareholders disclosing the number and species of all
animals used in-house and at contract research laboratories and the company'
plans to reduce and phase out animal testing wherever possible.
asked the SEC for permission to exclude our resolution, alleging that the
proposal was vague and indefinite in that it did not define or clarify the phrase
"the use of animals" and did not "limit the scope of the report
to activities undertaken by the Company."
argued that the resolution explicitly limited the scope of the requested report
to animals used in-house and at contract laboratories by GE, and thus, GE was
not unable to implement the resolution as it claimed, but rather was simply
disinclined to do so. PETA argued that since unwillingness or disinterest in
undertaking a task was not the same as an inability to do so, GE should not be
allowed to exclude the proposal.
The SEC agreed with PETA, writing that
it was "unable to conclude that the proposal and supporting statement,
when read together, are so inherently vague or indefinite that neither the
shareholders voting on the proposal, nor the company in implementing the
proposal, would be [un]able to determine with any reasonable certainty what
actions or measures the proposal requires." In other words, the SEC did
not agree that GE would lack the power or authority to implement the proposal,
and the proposal was included in the proxy materials.
PETA's resolution was
brought to a vote and garnered almost 10 percent (452 million shares) and GE agreed
to resume discussions with PETA.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.