12/23/2011 05:40 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2012

Within the Animal Welfare Movement, Reasons for Hope

As with many people, I find the end of the year a time of reflection. It's a good time to look back over the year, remember the goals and vision that give the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) a sense of purpose and see what progress we have made towards those goals.

When you care about animals it can be disheartening on daily basis to read news reports. Record-breaking ivory seizures represent hundreds of elephants killed for ivory nobody needs. Dogs and cats are discovered in appalling conditions, not just in disadvantaged communities but in affluent communities in the US and Europe as well. Whales, seals, tigers and other wildlife continue to be hunted for products nobody needs.

But there is reason for hope for when we take a longer-term perspective. The animal welfare movement is just that, a movement. We are working toward a cultural and political shift in the ways in which people view animals and consider our impact on them. Progress is not measured in days, weeks, months, or even years. It is measured in decades.

We know we can do better in terms of our treatment of animals. This year, there were some significant victories that give us reason to believe the change we are working for can happen.

• The EU seal ban implemented in August demonstrates that governments are listening to their people. We do not think that trade should trump animal welfare. And we have a right to demand our governments consider animal welfare when making trade agreements.
Manas National Park in India has been taken off the World Heritage Sites "red list." This, in part, is thanks to the efforts of IFAW and our partners in India to re-introduce elephants, rhinos and other wildlife into the park, which had been decimated by poaching and violence. By working with local communities and governments to ensure security, we can bring wildlife back to some of the world's "empty" landscapes.
• Near IFAW headquarters on Cape Cod, one of the world's hotspots for mass strandings of whales and dolphins, thanks to our constantly improving response equipment and techniques, we have seen the survival rate for stranded marine mammals go from just 15% in 1999 to 57% last year. By committing to a scientific approach and analysis of all our interventions, we can save more and more animals that otherwise would perish.

None of these achievements would be possible without the ongoing, steadfast commitment of our supporters around the world.

I am so grateful for the many, many people who have stood by us year-after-year as we worked to make this world a better place for animals and people. It's a long road, but we are making progress and the road gets easier as more and more people join us along the way.

My best wishes go out to all of you for health, happiness, and hope in the New Year.

-Fred O'Regan is the President and CEO of IFAW.

This post first appeared on IFAW's website. To read more about IFAW's work, please visit