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Shareholder Campaign: Pfizer

Shareholder Campaign: Pfizer

Pfizer is the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, manufacturing a diverse array of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and consumer health-care products. 

2004 Resolutions: ‘Give the Animals 5′ and Donations to Support Animal Research

As a corporate shareholder in Pfizer, PETA filed a resolution 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 countries.

Despite its progressively worded “Animal Care and Use Policy,” which included the company’s stated commitment to the reduction and replacement of animal tests, Pfizer opposed our resolution. Nonetheless, 104.4 million shares (2.2 percent) were voted in favor of the resolution at Pfizer’s annual meeting.

2005 Resolution: Donations to Support Animal Research

Later that same year, the Financial Times of London reported on July 29, 2004, that Pfizer and two other pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, donated £4 million to British universities to promote medical research and training specifically using animals. In response, PETA and six of its members who held Pfizer stock filed a resolution calling on the company to cease making donations to promote the advancement of animal testing and donate equivalent funds to promote non-animal-based test methodologies.

Pfizer again opposed our resolution and sought permission from the U.S. 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. Regrettably, the SEC staff concurred with Pfizer’s arguments, and PETA’s resolution did not appear in Pfizer’s proxy materials that year.

2006 Resolutions: Animal Welfare Policy and Donations to Support Animal Research

In 2006, PETA submitted two resolutions to Pfizer. The first resolution called 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 laboratories.

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.” 

Pfizer again challenged our resolution, partly on the grounds that since animals cannot communicate their own needs, the company was not responsible for addressing them. The SEC ruled in PETA’s favor and ordered Pfizer to publish the PETA-sponsored resolution in its shareholder proxy materials.

The second resolution specifically addressed the issue of Pfizer’s donations to support animal research, calling on the company to report to shareholders its justification for promoting animal testing despite publishing an animal welfare policy that professes a commitment to non-animal methods of testing.

Pfizer published both our resolutions in its proxy materials, along with its opposition statements that advised shareholders to vote against them. Our resolution on amending the company’s animal welfare policy garnered 6.4 percent of the vote, while our resolution on justification for the promotion of animal testing won 5.3 percent of the vote (more than 279 million and 232 million shares respectively). Both resolutions qualified to be reintroduced in 2007.

2007: Exporting Animal Experiments and Donations to Support Animal Research

In 2007, PETA filed another two resolutions with Pfizer. The first resolution called on Pfizer to issue a report on the rationale of exporting experiments to countries with non-existent or lax animal welfare laws, such as China, and to include details on the manner in which Pfizer extends its animal welfare policy to its foreign laboratories.

The second resolution, similar to the one filed the previous year, specifically addressed the issue of Pfizer’s donations to support animal research, calling on the company to report to shareholders its justification for promoting animal testing, despite having published an animal welfare policy that professes a commitment to non-animal methods of testing.

Both resolutions were brought to a vote at Pfizer’s annual shareholder meeting. Our resolution on justifying the company’s increasing exports of animal research to countries such as China garnered 8.5 percent of the vote, while our resolution on justification for the promotion of animal testing won 7.3 percent of the vote (approximately 358 million and 308 million shares, respectively).

2008 Resolution: Exporting Animal Experiments

In 2008, PETA again submitted a resolution to Pfizer calling on the company to issue a report on the rationale of exporting experiments to countries with non-existent or lax animal welfare laws, such as China, and to include details on the manner in which Pfizer extends its animal welfare policy to its foreign laboratories.

Pfizer challenged our resolution, claiming the proposal dealt with “substantially the same subject matter” as resolutions of previous years merely because it addressed the “health and welfare of animals used in research testing.” Unfortunately, the SEC agreed with Pfizer, and PETA’s resolution did not appear in Pfizer’s proxy materials that year.

2011 Resolution: Transparency in Animal Use

In the fall of 2010, PETA filed a resolution requesting that Pfizer issue an annual report disclosing the number and species used in all in-house and contract laboratories and Pfizer’s plan to reduce and phase out animal testing. Pfizer opposed the resolution, claiming its current animal welfare policies were sufficient. Almost 198 million shares (4.5 percent) were voted in favor of the resolution.

2012 Resolution: Accountability in Animal Use

In the fall of 2011, PETA filed a resolution asking Pfizer’s board to issue an annual report to shareholders detailing the criteria used by the company’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) for evaluating the company’s use of animals in painful and lethal experiments, the committee’s final decisions, and plans to promote non-animal methods in research.

The resolution was the result of Pfizer’s poor animal welfare history. Pfizer’s own IACUC violated the law by allowing primates to be housed in solitary confinement, which is so traumatic for primates that they develop such stress-induced pathological behaviors as self-mutilation and ceaseless rocking. In 2007, Pfizer was cited when animals were burned in a study that the IACUC did not properly review. In 2010, the U.S. government cited Pfizer’s IACUC for failing to ensure that experimenters who used animals in painful procedures at the very least conducted a search for alternatives. USDA reports showed Pfizer had violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) multiple times, such as when a dog was scalded to death because workers put his cage through the wash while he was still in it.

Additionally, Pfizer was a client of Professional Laboratories Research Services, a contract laboratory in rural North Carolina that was shut down after a PETA undercover investigation documented dozens of AWA violations, including employees slamming dogs and cats into their cages and using pliers to pull teeth from an inadequately anesthetized dog, animals living on wet concrete in pools of urine and waste, overdosed cats convulsing and bleeding from their noses, and dozens of other violations.

Pfizer again challenged our resolution, claiming that it was substantially similar to a previous proposal in that both addressed the welfare of animals used in research in some manner.

PETA’s response was that Pfizer was arguing for an improperly broad interpretation of the rule, which would mean that all proposals that relate in any manner to the welfare of animals used by the company in research, development, and testing, no matter how remotely, concern “substantially the same subject matter” for purposes of this rule.

Unfortunately, the SEC agreed with Pfizer, and our resolution did not appear in Pfizer’s proxy materials in 2012.

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