PETA buys Groupon shares to pressure circus deals
By Ellen Jean Hirst--Tribune reporter
April 21, 2014
Animal rights activist group PETA said Monday that it has purchased 359 Groupon shares for more than $2,000 in hopes that it can influence what circus companies are allowed to run deals on the site.
PETA said it planned to address Groupon at its annual meeting next month about setting strict standards for what circuses and roadside zoos are allowed to advertise deals on Groupon. But a PETA spokeswoman said the organization bought the stock on April 15. The deadline to buy stock to attend Groupon's annual meeting was March 31, a Groupon spokesman said.
PETA also can’t submit a formal shareholder resolution until the company’s 2016 meeting, said Delcianna Winders, PETA’s deputy general counsel.
“We’re hoping to not have to do that,” Winders said, adding that she hopes Groupon makes changes before it comes to that.
A Groupon spokesperson said the company requires animal-focused events and experiences to have clear inspection reports for animal cruelty from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for at least two years prior to their feature on our site.
"When we receive reports of potential violations, we check the merchant against our policies and -- when warranted -- remove the offer from our site," said Bill Roberts, Groupon's director of North America communications.
The animal rights group said that some circus companies that offer deals through Groupon have recently violated the Animal Welfare Act by acts such as failing to provide quality veterinary care.
One of the companies Groupon has worked with in the past, G.W. Exotic, is currently under federal investigation for the deaths of 23 tigers at its Oklahoma zoo, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said in the release. Handlers for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have also been caught on video beating and jabbing elephants with bullhooks, PETA said.
PETA has bought shares in companies it believes have a hand in the unethical treatment of animals for the past 27 years. It currently owns stock in dozens of companies, Winders said. Last year, PETA bought shares in SeaWorld to pressure the company to release its captive whales and dolphins.