CINCINNATI — Procter & Gamble Co. shareholders Tuesday overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to bar the personal-care and household products giant from using animals in safety testing.
The proposal, drafted by a national animal rights organization, received just 2.2% of the vote at the shareholders' annual meeting. Company officials had warned that approval would present a roadblock to product development.
Because it failed to get at least 3% of the vote, the proposal can't be resubmitted to shareholders for two years. Supporters said they would continue to fight the use of animals in testing by P&G and other companies.
"We're well on our way in terms of having shareholders think at what price Procter & Gamble is developing new products," said Susan Rich, spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Washington-based group drafted the proposal on behalf of a P&G shareholder.
About two dozen animal rights demonstrators, some of them with their dogs in tow, passed out leaflets outside the company's new downtown headquarters as shareholders met. A helicopter flew an animal rights banner over P&G's twin towers.
P&G Chairman and Chief Executive John G. Smale, presiding over the meeting, emphasized that the company is using fewer animals and finding other ways to test the safety of products. He apologized when his tone of voice indicated frustration.
"I guess if I seem upset--I feel you're attacking us in an area in which we've been leaders--I'm sorry," Smale told Rich.
The animal rights activists agreed that P&G has been a leader in moving away from the use of animals, but said much more needs to be done.
The proposal would have forced the company to stop all animal testing not required by law, to tell stockholders which products are tested on animals, and to begin phasing out products that can't be legally marketed without animal testing. Rich said the proposal's third requirement probably drew the most objection from shareholders because it involved the company's financial standing.
In other matters, shareholders again voted down a proposal to elect directors annually instead of giving them staggered terms as a means of discouraging takeover bids. The shareholder proposal, also rejected at last year's meeting, received 11.6% approval.
Smale told shareholders that he expects record earnings for the first quarter of its fiscal year, when unit volume set a company record for a three-month period. P&G reported sales of $17 billion in its recent fiscal year.