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Shareholder Campaign: Wyeth

Shareholder Campaign: Wyeth

Wyeth was perhaps best known for its estrogen-replacement drug Premarin, but the company also manufactured a wide range of other pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter drugs, nutritional supplements, and animal health-care products.

2004 Resolution: Give the Animals 5

With the help of PETA supporters who held stock in Wyeth, 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 countries.

Despite assurances in Wyeth’s “Animal Care Policy” that animal testing should be limited to instances when “no non-animal alternatives exist to the proposed experiment,” the company opposed our resolution and sought permission from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to exclude our resolution from its proxy statement. However, the SEC staff did not concur with the company’s arguments and ordered Wyeth to publish the PETA-sponsored resolution in its shareholder proxy materials. PETA’s resolution was brought to a vote and garnered more than 21 million shares (2.5 percent).

2005 Resolution: Premarin Mare Protection

The following year, PETA and six of its members holding Wyeth stock filed a resolution to protect women’s health and the pregnant mares used to produce Premarin (whose name is derived from “pregnant mares’ urine”). Horses used in the production of Premarin are confined to stalls with rubber urine-collection bags strapped to their groins, unable to turn around or lie down comfortably for up to six months. When their worn-out bodies can no longer produce the amount of estrogen needed, they are slaughtered. Their foals suffer as well—males are sold for slaughter, and females are used to replace their mothers on the production lines.

The resolution was largely the result of the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative—a study on the effects of Premarin, which had to be discontinued because of the significant findings of increased heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and breast cancer. Not only did these findings expose the drug’s risks to women, the subsequent drop in demand for Premarin also led to an oversupply of mares, many of whom were slaughtered for overseas meat consumption.

PETA’s resolution called on Wyeth to take the following steps:

  • Discontinue promoting Premarin and all related products until further review elucidates the risks that these drugs pose to women’s health
  • Adopt a policy protecting all mares used in the production of the company’s products, including the options of buying out farmers and placing the mares in caring homes or surrendering them to rescue organizations

Wyeth again sought the SEC’s permission to exclude our resolution from its proxy statement. The SEC staff did not concur with any of the company’s arguments and ordered Wyeth to publish the PETA-sponsored resolution in its shareholder proxy materials.

PETA’s resolution was brought to a vote and garnered approximately 14.5 million shares (1.7 percent).

2006 Resolution: Animal Welfare Policy

In 2006, PETA filed a resolution with Wyeth calling on the company to develop and make publicly accessible an animal welfare policy that would include reducing the numbers of animals used and providing social and behavioral enrichment measures for the animals used both in-house and at contract testing 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 have included “just about every major company around the world.”

Wyeth published our resolution in its proxy materials along with its opposition statement advising shareholders to vote against it. Wyeth agreed to a discussion with PETA, which failed to result in an agreement to implement the requested measures. Thus, our resolution was presented at the company’s annual meeting and garnered more than 221 million votes—a staggering 25.4 percent of the vote, which qualified it to be reintroduced in 2007.

2007 Resolution: Animal Welfare Policy

In 2007, PETA reintroduced the previous year’s resolution which Wyeth again opposed. The resolution garnered approximately 47 million shares (6 percent).

2008 Resolution: Exporting Animal Experiments

In 2008, PETA filed a resolution calling on Wyeth to issue a report on the rationale of exporting experiments to countries with lax animal welfare laws, such as China, and to include details on the manner in which Wyeth extends its animal welfare policy to its foreign laboratories. Wyeth sought to exclude the resolution, arguing that it was substantially similar to the previous resolution and that Wyeth had already substantially implemented what was called for in the 2008 resolution. In a letter to the SEC, PETA argued that the previous resolutions calling for the adoption of five non-animal tests and the posting of a company animal welfare policy were dissimilar enough from the current resolution to allow it to be submitted for a shareholder vote and that Wyeth’s Code of Conduct did not address the concerns in the resolution. Unfortunately, the SEC agreed with Wyeth, and PETA’s resolution did not appear in Wyeth’s proxy materials that year.

Wyeth was acquired by Pfizer in 2009.

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