Jan. 19, 2007 – A high-end juice company criticized and protested by animal-rights activists for testing its products on animals announced Wednesday that it has stopped all such testing and "has no plans" to resume.
POM Wonderful, which produces a line of pomegranate juices and other beverages, has been targeted by several animal-defense groups over testing considered excessive and cruel. The company, which markets its products as having many health benefits, said that 20 percent of its research budget was used for testing on mice, rats and rabbits.
In a letter to retailers announcing the decision to cease animal experimentation, POM attacked the animal-rights groups and said it would not "be bullied or extorted." As recently as last month, the company defended its involvement in animal testing, stating it was "helping to save human lives."
POM was not required to test its products on animals to determine safety for human consumption. Instead, the companyâ€™s tests were conducted to see if pomegranate juice was beneficial to treating conditions like prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction and birth defects.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which launched a boycott, petition and letter-writing campaign, said its representatives tried to meet with POM executives to discuss alternatives to animal testing, such as human clinical trials. But "POM refused to abandon animal testing," according to PETAâ€™s website.
As recently as last month, the company defended its involvement in animal testing, stating it was "helping to save human lives."
An anonymous group called the Animal Rights Militia also launched a campaign against POM, distributing a letter in December that said more than 400 bottles of POM juice had been tampered with.
"Those who drink the contaminated juice won't die like the animals in POM labs," wrote the group, "but the diarrhea, vomiting and headaches will hopefully send a strong message that people will no longer allow innocent, defenseless animals to be tormented and killed for a health juice and to line the pockets of profiteers who donâ€™t have feelings for those weaker than they are."
Though the threat was concluded to have been a hoax, at least one chain, Wild Oats Markets, temporarily removed POM juice from some stores. According to a POM press release, company officials found no evidence that products were contaminated.
Masked protestors also demonstrated at POMâ€™s offices and at employeesâ€™ homes, and the company said that it received bomb threats.
The activistsâ€™ campaign may have prompted Whole Foods, the largest "natural foods" grocery chain, to take notice. According to Reuters, that company announced Wednesday it would eliminate all POM products if the company continued to finance animal testing.
PETA says two smaller stores in California, Johnâ€™s Garden Fresh and Berryvale Natural Foods, also announced they would not sell POM drinks until the company pledged an end to animal testing.
Though POM says it stopped all animal research, it refused to sign a petition from PETA promising as much. PETA told Reuters it would continue to boycott POM products until the companyâ€™s owners provided an assurance that animal testing would be ended for good.