The Beacon Journal
PERSPECTIVE: Activists say P&G must do more on testing
CINCINNATI - For years, activists angered by Procter & Gamble Co.'s continuing use of animals in product testing have marched on P&G's headquarters, lectured shareholders and even hit its former chief executive in the face with a cream pie.
P&G shareholders' meetings in the last few years have become rather sedate as the company has widely promoted its spending of millions of dollars to help develop alternatives to animal testing.
Activists say the company has made progress. They now meet with P&G executives and write letters to push for change. Still, the calm should not be mistaken for apathy, said Mary Beth Sweetland of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"If cajoling and discussing and meetings is what a company like P&G needs, then we're game," said Sweetland, who has met several times with P&G executives. "We will cease being game for this if we feel that they're not being honest."
At the shareholder's meeting Oct. 8, two animal-rights activists addressed chief executive A.G. Lafley - as irritated stockholders stood up and walked out - and four protesters held signs outside to oppose animal testing.
At prior meetings, activists lined up at microphones to lecture P&G's chief executive, while other protesters outside dressed as animals and handed out fliers to shareholders or picketed at company headquarters. One year, activists spoofed P&G's Tide detergent by driving a car painted in Tide packaging colors - with the word "Died" on it - through downtown Cincinnati streets.
In 1998, a PETA activist shoved a cream pie into the face of former P&G chief executive John Pepper at an event in Columbus.
Michael Budkie, executive director of Cincinnati-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now, reminded shareholders on Oct. 8 that he had twice been arrested at P&G headquarters during shareholders' meetings in the 1990s.
Budkie, who also helped organize a past boycott of P&G products, said he would renew such efforts unless P&G discloses how many animals it uses in tests.
"As far as I know, P&G still puts chemicals into the eyes of unanesthetized rabbits, squirts caustic chemicals onto the exposed skin of guinea pigs and still poisons rats, mice and other species," Budkie said.
The consumer products company, known for its Clairol and Cover Girl lines, says it has stopped using animals on testing of finished products - as opposed to tests of ingredients - except where required by law.
P&G executive Larry Games, who met with Budkie last week, said he understands that activists want the company to do more to eliminate use of animals in testing. But, Games said Thursday he believes that P&G has moved as quickly as it can - and has done as much as any company to develop alternatives to such testing.
If the activists have been more civil, it may be because P&G has made greater efforts to have productive and open dialogue with them, said Games, vice president for research and development in P&G's pharmaceuticals business.
"We believe that we've made as much progress as anybody can make, while protecting the health of the consumers we have," Games said.
Lafley said P&G is committed to ultimately eliminating animal testing for products. P&G spent $9 million last year on developing viable alternatives to animal testing, bringing its total investment in non-animal alternatives to almost $160 million, Lafley said.
P&G scientists have developed or adapted at least 20 alternative research methods, Lafley said.
Activists said they understand that laws require more rigorous testing of pharmaceutical and food products. But they see no need for P&G to use animals in testing of nonfood and nondrug products, even if new ingredients are occasionally introduced.
P&G at best is taking "baby steps," Sweetland said. Other major companies including Colgate-Palmolive, Gillette and Avon have managed to end animal testing, she said.
"When it comes to testing on cosmetics and personal-care products, it's a very deep frustration to know that ethically, it's such an easy choice. You just don't test frivolous products like that on animals," Sweetland said.
"They've had plenty of time to come up with a non-animal strategy for the testing of ingredients and they haven't."
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