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Humane Nation : April 2012
6 years ago

April 06, 2012

Talk Back: Watershed Moments for Animal Protection

In the past week, I’ve written about two incidents that had a transformative effect on our movement: the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina that spurred advances in disaster planning for pets as well as bringing a newfound understanding of the power of the human-animal bond, and Michael Vick’s conviction for dogfighting that drew nationwide attention to the scourge of animal fighting and gave us an opportunity to fortify the nation’s laws to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting. In both cases, we’ve tried to turn tragedies into opportunities to help animals, and to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

hsus dog

Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Since the Vick case in 2007, we've helped to upgrade more than 40 state and federal laws on animal fighting, and we continue to press for stronger laws at the state and federal levels. It’s been more controversial, among some of our supporters, to work with Vick to speak to kids in urban communities about the evils of dogfighting. While many of you think we’ve made the right tactical move in reaching these young people through such an unlikely ambassador, others still can’t stomach the idea of us working with him. I give readers the floor with a sampling of comments.

Several readers wrote in about their personal experiences with pets after Katrina:

I was in Austin, Texas when Katrina hit and we were flooded with evacuees that had made the trek to our city with their pets and valuables in tow. I remember the rally in order to find temporary homes for people with pets by the city and how difficult it was to have places change their policy to become more pet-friendly in order to address this emergency situation. You bring up a valid point; we have more love and appreciation than ever, but there is still so much misunderstanding and rejection that takes place… ―Michelle

I was one of hundreds of volunteers to drive from across the country to help pull animals out of damaged structures in the days after Katrina. I saw firsthand how The HSUS took the lead, and worked with other agencies like AHA [American Humane Association] and ASPCA to deal with that GIGANTIC problem. Thank God you guys were there. Thank God you're still there, fighting the good fight for animals. ―Joy Falk

And many readers wrote in with strong feelings about Michael Vick’s work to speak out against dogfighting:

The video was extremely heartwarming watching the children learn the importance of respecting God's precious creatures, as well as learning the valuable life lesson of forgiveness. Vick is right, "We've got to face all our demons then put them in the past..." Amen! ―Pj Bertsch

I pray to God that Michael Vick is actually being truthful with every word he spoke. I love the part when he said he made a vow to help more dogs than the number of dogs he brought harm to. I choose to believe he has a change of heart and really does realize that dogs have feelings. ―Vicki Wisehart

…I’m all for forgiving and using Michael Vick to deter dog fighting, but WHEN has he ever shown any remorse[?] You forget, he’s sorry because he got caught. ―Connie

I confess that when the Vick story first broke, I was very angry. And I carried my anger for a long time. But I'm not angry today, and I can see the good that Vick's partnership with HSUS is bringing to animals. It also opened my eyes to the reality of the animal welfare community. It makes me sad that people who cannot forgive are causing rifts in our community. If they were only hurting themselves it would be bad enough, but they are also hurting the cause. I pray that healing can come for them. ―‘RumpyDog’

April 09, 2012
6 years ago
Letter to USDA: Take Horsemeat Off the Menu

American-bred horses are not raised for food. They exist for other purposes―as work horses, show horses, pleasure horses, or racing horses―and are sucked into the slaughter pipeline by unscrupulous killer buyers, who then direct them to foreign-based slaughter plants elsewhere in North America. Horses in the racing industry, as reported recently in the New York Times, are often given drugs to enhance their performance―including painkillers, cocaine, and cobra venom. In addition, many responsible owners and veterinarians treat pleasure or show horses throughout their lives with a variety of substances and prescription drugs to provide for their comfort, health, and safety―drugs that usually carry the same warning: “Not for use in horses intended for human consumption.”  

The point is, animals given these substances are supposed to be permanently excluded from the food supply. The law doesn’t stipulate that it’s okay to give some animals used for food these substances and that’s it’s not okay for others. The substances are supposed to be kept out of the human food chain.


Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Today, The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue filed a petition asking the USDA to certify all American horses and meat from those horses as “Condemned” and thus unfit for human consumption. We made similar arguments to the Food and Drug Administration less than two weeks ago. These submissions are more relevant than ever because in November 2011, Congress decided not to block government funding for inspections of slaughter plants in the United States, opening up the possibility, for the first time in five years, of a horse abattoir reopening here.

Those who want to make a buck by opening horse slaughter plants have been actively scouting out venues in small towns in Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and other states.

A January 2012 poll confirms that 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter. Horses are not food animals, just like cats and dogs are not food animals. The vast majority of us reject the idea of killing horses for meat, just like we reject the idea of killing cats and dogs for human consumption. And while cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals are bred for the purpose of being killed for human consumption, horses are random-source animals.

There are serious animal welfare concerns, of course, regarding inhumane transport and slaughter practices, as well as unethical procurement of horses never originally intended for this ignominious demise. 

To protect American horses and consumer health, we hope that USDA and also the Food and Drug Administration take American horsemeat off the global menu list for good.

April 10, 2012
6 years ago
Seal Slaughter Officially Begins in Canada: Please Help

Seal skins are being stockpiled because almost nobody in the world wants them. Yet the killing will proceed, only because of the unwitting largesse of the Canadian taxpayer. It’s an appalling example of government mismanagement at its absolute worst. I’ve asked Rebecca Aldworth, our Canadian director, for a dispatch from the ice floes (sent this morning):

I'm flying over the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence where sealers are clubbing and shooting every baby seal they find.

There are few words to describe the feelings of frustration and helplessness that overcome me when we film this slaughter. We hover a thousand feet in the air, bearing witness to horrible suffering through monitors. I watch as the sealers aim their rifles, wishing with everything in me that we could warn the unsuspecting pups lolling on the ice meters away. But we can't.

Instead, our cameras roll as the gunshot rings out, as the wounded baby seal thrashes around in agony and terror, as the sealer jumps onto the ice and runs towards the defenseless pup, club raised high.

Out here, the only defense these seals have is our cameras, and the outrage that Canadians and people the world over feel at the images we record.

The good news is that global opposition has come very close to ending the cruelty. This year, the sealing industry complained loudly that we have successfully closed markets for seal products and no one was prepared to buy seal skins. But then, at the last moment, the government intervened and provided millions of dollars of financing to a company to buy the skins just so they can be stockpiled.

Our only consolation is the knowledge that this kind of subsidy cannot be maintained in the longer term. And in many ways, this subsidy is a clear sign that the sealing industry is doomed, and it is on life support only because of a government-funded respirator.

Now, our work begins to ensure a true and final end to the seal kill. With the images of the 2012 seal slaughter, we will convince more nations to ban their trade in seal products. We will inspire more companies to join our Protect Seals seafood boycott. And we will persuade more government officials to work with sealers and their communities to implement a sealing industry buyout.

We need you more than ever to help bring this senseless killing to an end. Please stand with Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States as we work to make Canada's commercial seal slaughter history.

Please donate now and take action to help save seals.

P.S. Also check out and share our new seals infographic.


April 11, 2012
6 years ago
Force-Feeding Ducks for Foie Gras is Unconscionable Cruelty

California lawmakers conducted a serious-minded debate about farm animal welfare in 2004, passing a bill to phase out the cruel force-feeding of ducks and the sale of foie gras, or “fatty liver,” if it comes from that inhumane process. The state’s major foie gras producer, Guillermo Gonzales of Sonoma Foie Gras, agreed to the seven-year phase-out and urged then-Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign the bill. The law takes effect this July.

foie gras

Now, Gonzalez appears to be reneging on his commitment. He’s advocating an override of the law. And he’s been joined by some chefs who think it’s their right to sell foie gras, since they consider it to be such a rich and tasty product. They’ve hired some prominent lobbyists to try to overturn, weaken, or delay the law.

But my guess is they are going to run into a gag reflex from lawmakers. After all, four years after this landmark legislative achievement for ducks, California voters overwhelming passed Prop 2 to phase out the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. Among other things, Prop 2 put to rest any notion that Californians only care about cruelty to pets and wildlife. With nearly two-thirds of voters favoring Prop 2, it established beyond any doubt that Californians want to see all animals treated well, including animals raised for food.

Wolfgang Puck—erhaps California’s most famous chef—recently sent a letter to 5,000 fine dining restaurants in the state urging them to comply with the law. Wolfgang stopped selling foie gras in 2007 after working with The HSUS to adopt a comprehensive animal welfare program. Here’s a man who keeps his word.

And yesterday, the lawmaker who authored the 2004 bill, John Burton―who at the time was the Senate leader―dissected the arguments of foie gras enthusiasts in a column in the Los Angeles Times, reminding lawmakers of the tremendous anti-cruelty sentiment that lives in the hearts of so many Californians.

Our dear friend Doris Day, who lives on the Central Coast of California, also issued a letter addressed to state legislators on Monday to the same effect.

Common sense should be sufficient to tell us that it’s inhumane to force-feed birds three times a day for weeks on end simply to induce a state of disease in their livers, the final product ultimately marketed as a “delicacy.” But the science is clear, too. The force-feeding causes the animals’ livers to swell more than ten times their normal size and makes it difficult for the animals even to walk.

As Burton notes, “most people would find it hard to stomach eating any part of a diseased animal, but in the case of foie gras, it's the diseased organ itself on which consumers dine.”

The cries of protest from some chefs―who claim that lawmakers and animal advocates should get serious and attend to more important matters―reminds me of Matthew Scully’s line in his book Dominion, wondering how “a man rising in angry defense of a table treat has any business telling other people to get serious.”

As Burton said in his piece yesterday, “We don't need to re-debate the cruelty of force-feeding. For the sake of animals and the Californians who care about them, we should simply celebrate that the 7 1/2 years of waiting is almost over.”

April 12, 2012
6 years ago
Kreider Battery Cage Egg Investigation Highlights Need for Federal Bill

Last night on, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof broke news of The HSUS’s latest undercover investigation focused on industrial agriculture—a large-scale, battery cage facility for hens in Manheim, Pa., that produces 1.6 million eggs a day. Kristof’s piece is online and in today’s print edition of the New York Times, and if you like, you may add comments to the robust discussion now occurring on the paper’s website.


Birds at Kreider Farms: Take action now to help hens

The investigation focused on an egg-producing operation run by Kreider Farms (watch the video). Our undercover investigator worked at Kreider's nine-barn facility for six weeks and documented appalling and extreme overcrowding of hens, dead birds in cages, and barn floors covered with flies. Rodents occasionally ran up and down the automated feed belts, and the ammonia smell overpowered workers because of the enormous volume of waste produced by birds in unacceptably high densities. While our investigator was there, government inspectors tested and found three barns positive for salmonella, which can be deadly to consumers. (In 2010, a salmonella outbreak at an Iowa farm resulted in the largest recall of eggs in American history—500 million of them.)

Kreider Farms is not a member of the United Egg Producers, the national trade association of the egg industry, and it does not observe UEP’s voluntary standards on space allotments for birds. Our investigator found that hens were crammed into small, dirty cages and had only 54 to 58 square inches per bird, even in the newly constructed facilities on site. One hen house held 430,000 birds, about the human population of Atlanta, yet the physical footprint of that single barn was about the size of a football field. Birds were in cages stacked six high, and there was a cat-walk between levels one and two. There were nine barns at the facility housing a total of 2 million hens, and there were typically just eight workers on duty from early morning to 4 p.m. Kreider has other farms in Pennsylvania with an additional 5 million birds.

Kreider Farms has not been a supporter of H.R. 3798, the landmark legislative agreement between HSUS and the UEP and introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). [Editor's note: After The HSUS released this investigation, Kreider stated that it now does support this legislation.] UEP leaders have recognized the need for change, and that the space allotments at 67 square inches are not adequate in the long term for the birds. That’s why they are supporting this legislation to require all egg producers using battery cages to replace them and to get on a track to double the space allotments over time for the birds. H.R. 3798 would also limit ammonia levels, ban starvation-based molting, and institute a labeling program for consumers, so they’d know what kinds of housing systems hens live in to produce eggs for the table.

There’s no better example of why this legislation is needed than the Kreider situation. Here’s a company that is cutting corners at every turn—on space, cleanliness, air quality. The company won’t even comply with the very modest, and inadequate, standards of the UEP.

“The police would stop wayward boys who were torturing a stray dog, so should we allow industrialists to abuse millions of hens?” writes Kristof. “Shouldn’t we agree on minimum standards?”

April 16, 2012
6 years ago
Ask Congress to Shoot Down Dangerous Wildlife Proposal

One of the best-known truths in American politics that’s evident in the news cycle in recent days is that a majority of the Congress is in the hip pocket of the NRA. Quite often, this means that good judgment and sound policy are cast aside in favor of hewing to the orthodoxy of this extremist organization.

polar bears

Take action today to help wildlife

Such fealty will be on display tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives, and none of us should tolerate it. The House is scheduled to take up a perfectly outrageous bill at the behest of the NRA and other players in the trophy hunting industry. It’s H.R. 4089, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012,” and it’s an omnibus bill that will weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act by allowing polar bear trophy hunters to import sport-hunted bears from Canada; open up millions of acres of sensitive public lands to hunting; and further delay the inevitable switchover by hunters from using toxic lead shot to non-toxic ammunition.

One infamous provision of this bill would allow American trophy hunters to import dead polar bears killed in sport hunts in Canada prior to their listing as a species threatened with extinction. This is just the latest reprieve proposed by hunting enthusiasts in Congress to allow for imports of polar bear trophies. Polar bears are an iconic symbol of the changes wrought by climate change in the Arctic environment. The last thing they need is trophy hunters chasing them down and then shooting them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a federal court have rejected previous requests to import trophies after 2008, and that should be the final word on the subject. There should be no more allowances of trophy hunting imports―because each time it happens, it just encourages more hunters to go up and kill polar bears and then to plead to Congress for import allowances since the bears are already dead. A series of import allowances is a de facto green light for American hunters to kill more bears.

But the bill’s even worse than that. Another outrageous provision will open up huge swaths of protected wilderness areas to public hunting, and facilitate sport hunting in national parks by requiring the National Park Service to use “volunteer” hunters to carry out wildlife management programs within the park system―even though Congress has long prohibited the practice on these lands. There are already hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, and national wildlife refuges open to recreational hunting. Yet this bill explicitly requires federal agencies to facilitate recreational hunting opportunities on nearly all federal lands regardless of impacts on traditionally protected habitats, and it exempts all federal agency decisions about recreational hunting or shooting from environmental review.

Finally, it would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from stopping the use of lead shot, which poisons millions of wild animals every year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already banned the use of lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting for more than two decades, over the objections of the NRA and the hunting lobby. Waterfowl hunting continues to thrive under the lead ammunition ban. We should use the best available science, whether it’s the Department of the Interior or the EPA, to stop the reckless poisoning of millions of animals every year.

This post was modified from its original form on 20 Apr, 18:53
April 17, 2012
6 years ago
Pioneering Higher Education for Animals

There may be 50,000 paid professionals working in the animal protection field in the United States, and millions more people advocating for animals in their daily lives. Yet for them, there’s often no place to go for meaningful serious academic training on these subjects. Knowing that so many animal welfare professionals strive to do their work better, and to help animals in the most effective manner, The HSUS created Humane Society University to help achieve that goal.


Michelle Riley/ The HSUS
Jonathan Balcombe, HSU’s chair of Animal Studies,
at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary.

This weekend, the Washington Post Magazine ran a great feature on Humane Society University and the field of animal studies overall. The magazine highlighted photos of our faculty and students, as well as animals at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland.

HSU's College of Arts and Sciences offers classes online and in Washington, D.C., for students seeking academic degrees including bachelor’s degrees, graduate certificates, and master’s degrees. You can find out more about degree programs and apply online on HSU’s website.

HSU's School of Continuing Education offers online professional development courses as well as in-person workshops on topics such as disaster response, illegal dogfighting, and animal cruelty that can be scheduled anywhere in the United States. The university’s programs teach important skills and information for animal sheltering professionals, law enforcement officers, humane educators, disaster volunteers, and many others.

There is a growing need throughout society―and especially within academia, industry, government, medicine, and in the corporate and nonprofit sectors―for individuals who understand and can act upon the myriad social, cultural, political, and scientific challenges associated with the treatment of animals. That need promises to expand the prospects for those seeking careers in animal care, animal welfare policy, and organized animal protection, and that’s the need that HSU is trying to meet.

April 18, 2012
6 years ago
Time for Trapping Reform in Oregon

More than a decade ago, voters in Oregon rejected a ballot measure to restrict the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-crushing traps, largely because the trapping and hunting lobby convinced voters the measure would restrict the use of traps to kill gophers and moles. The actual purpose of the measure was to stop the recreational and commercial use of particularly cruel traps used to catch and kill animals for the fur trade.

Since its narrow evasion of the strong standards proposed in 2000, the state’s trapping lobby hasn’t given an inch. In fact, Oregon lags woefully behind neighboring western states in its trapping regulations. The state’s trappers can wait as long as 30 days before checking their traps. Tragically, caught animals can languish and die slowly from shock, dehydration, or exposure to the elements. These animals could be family pets, hunting dogs, protected wildlife, or mother animals with their young. The traps, and apparently the trappers, don’t care. Especially for a state that has staked out a reputation for its progressive attitudes toward animals, this terrible suffering is a disgrace.


Photo: Predator Defense
Maggie, a pet dog tragically killed by a trap in Oregon.

Now, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission has a new opportunity to take a modest but important step in restoring some balance to this picture. Joined by Predator Defense, the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Portland Audubon, and Cascadia Wildlands, The HSUS has filed a legal petition with the commission to reform the state’s trapping regulations. The petition would require trappers to check their traps every 24 hours, post signs nearby to warn people, and set traps at least 100 feet from areas used by the public.

Many argue that all use of traps and snares is outdated and unacceptably cruel, and we are mindful of calls across the Beaver State for even stronger rules. This is motivated largely by the unacceptably high rate of family pets being injured or killed in traps and snares. Just in the first two months of 2012, at least half a dozen pet dogs were caught in traps and snares in central Oregon.

Most of these incidents could have been avoided with these new rules. The traps would have been forbidden in areas used by the public, and would have been clearly designated by visible signs.

Other western states have instituted common-sense rules without dire financial consequences to the trappers or the commercial interests who hire them. This should be an easy call. It’s time for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to finally take a stand for the people of Oregon, who care deeply about the safety of their pets and who want to see all animals spared from a slow, horrific death in a trap or snare.

P.S. Yesterday, as expected, the NRA had its way with the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican leaders put an NRA dream bill on the House floor, in the immediate aftermath of the group’s national convention, and only two Republicans voted against the measure to allow imports of sport-hunted polar bear trophies; to make it easier to hunt wild animals in national parks; and to block the authority of EPA to restrict the use of toxic lead ammunition. See how your legislator voted on the bill and on an amendment that Rep. Gary Peters sponsored to strip the odious polar bear hunting provision. This bill is a travesty, and we’ve got to stop it in the Senate.

We’ll keep on fighting to protect wildlife from cruel traps and the extreme trophy hunting lobby. You can learn more about our campaigns and how to help.

April 19, 2012
6 years ago
First-Quarter Blog Favorites: Progress for Farm Animals, Horses, and More

Now that we are nearly three weeks past the first quarter of 2012, I thought I’d give you a list of the top 10 blogs of the period, the ones you read and remarked upon the most. Not surprisingly, the most popular blogs focused on progress―like the gains we made in relation to McDonald’s, L’Oréal, and horse diving, and the introduction of the federal legislation to ban barren battery cages.


You also showed a great interest in our undercover investigations of horse soring and pig factory farms. And you paid attention to areas where efforts at reform fell short, such as the Obama administration’s half-measure on restricting the import of snakes and the U.S. Supreme Court’s adverse ruling overturning a no-downer law we helped to pass in California.

Of course, you also looked closely at the post on Rick Berman, the front man for industries that want to go on exploiting animals. He spent hundreds of thousands on deceptive advertisements attacking The HSUS, and with this blog and other outbound e-mail, we raised an additional quarter-million dollars or so to augment campaigns we are already conducting against animal abuse of the sort that Berman defends. Now whenever Berman attacks, we are going to turn his offensives into opportunities. We’ll raise more funds so that the anonymous funders backing Berman know how self-defeating their support really is. In fact, they’ll face more heat than ever from The HSUS. We don’t run from our attackers, we charge the front lines, and we don’t relent.

1. McDonald’s Moving to End Gestation Crates

2. Shocking New HSUS Investigation Leads to Arrests, Horse Rescue

3. C Minus: Subpar Score for Obama Administration on Animal Welfare Issues

4. Give ‘Dr. Evil’ a Taste of His Own Medicine

5. New EPA-L’Oréal Partnership Could Help End Animal Testing for Cosmetics

6. The Way Washington Works

7. Bon Appétit Adopts Strong Farm Animal Welfare Measures

8. California Downed Animal Law Struck Down, Hens Legislation Introduced

9. HSUS Documents Animal Abuse at Major Pork Producers

10. Horse Diving Act Belongs Only in the History Books

April 20, 2012
6 years ago
Defenders of Cruelty Distort the Truth

In our field, we are used to seeing the defenders of cruelty go to great lengths to obscure the facts, to justify their misconduct, or to turn black into white. As it happened, this trait was on display this week in spades.

battery hens

Birds at Kreider Farms during our investigation.

First, there was, to put it charitably, the eyebrow-raising claim by the U.S. Zoological Association’s Joe Schreibvogel that Terry Thompson―the man who released his exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio, and then killed himself―was murdered. Schreibvogel suggested that Thompson, the perpetrator of one of the worst tragedies in the history of the captive exotics issue, was actually the victim of a vast plot designed to advance stronger legislation. This ludicrous idea got the response it deserved.

Then, there were the serial self-contradictions from spokespersons for Kreider Farms about The HSUS’s investigation into the cramped confinement of hens at its Manheim, Pa., factories. Whether it concerned the evidence of salmonella in its facilities, the nature of inspections at Kreider, or the simple fact of whether or not The HSUS had actually placed an investigator at the company, Kreider couldn’t seem to find its way to the truth. We helped, as our press statement made plain.

And finally, there was the discomfiting news that the American Kennel Club was throwing in its lot with trophy hunters and others in California seeking to defend the inhumane and unsporting practice of hunting bears and bobcats with packs of radio-collared dogs. At the end of the day, hounding is cruelty to bears, bobcats, and dogs, and it’s just Orwellian for an organization that seeks to “advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership” to condone it. But AKC has done still worse, insisting in a letter to legislators that hounding “enhance[s] the bond between humans and canines.”

In these and similar cases, one sees a persistent theme―the idea that the cruelty and misery are concoctions of a great conspiracy or scheme, rather than the consequences of heartless people taking liberties with helpless animals or making excuses for those who do.  

6 years ago

April 23, 2012

Remembering John Hoyt, a Leader for Animal Protection

Since its founding in 1954, The HSUS has had just six chief executive officers―and that stability at the top has been a key factor in the organization’s sustained growth, program achievements, and influence in American culture. For nearly half of that time span, John Hoyt was president. John’s name and good deeds are writ large upon the annals of our history, and also in our hearts.

Last Sunday, April 15, John died at his home in Fredericksburg, Va., after a long infirmity, just several weeks after celebrating his 80th birthday with family and friends. 


John Hoyt

Fred Myers and our other founders had a powerful vision for a new kind of organization, and between 1954 and 1970, they established The HSUS as a new and vibrant and distinct force for the good. They achieved some remarkable things―including the passage of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act in 1958, and the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1966―but they lacked the resources to bring their vision to full realization. 

It was John Hoyt who, more than anyone, developed The HSUS and built a solid organization, extending its reach into all 50 states. Leaving the ministry and his position as pastor of the prestigious First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., he came to The HSUS and brought together a talented group of professionals in a burgeoning field. They, in their own ways, pushed the ideals of animal protection into legislative bodies, corporate board rooms, and the consciousness of the American public. He and Paul Irwin, also a minister and the man who immediately succeeded John, built the organization into the biggest and most powerful animal protection organization in the country. John also helped to found the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Humane Society International, and through them, he extended a message of compassion and mercy throughout the world. That work is being felt in thousands of places across the globe every day. 

Today, The New York Times published an obituary that conveyed some of the richness of John’s legacy. The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal carried similarly evocative accounts of his great life, last week. Inevitably, the passing of a dear friend and colleague triggers a profound sadness. Still, to see John justly recognized for his formidable achievements and his purposeful life was a comfort to all of us who knew and loved him. Like so many of us here at The HSUS, I would not be here without him, and the work we do today builds on the foundation stones he laid. 

John’s wife Trudy and their four daughters, Anne, Julie, Karen, and Peggy have given so much of themselves to our cause, and we will forever be grateful to them for supporting and helping to make possible John’s many contributions to our work.  

Even with the retirement or loss of tremendously influential individuals, a social movement must have the capacity to endure. John knew that meant building an institution that could stand the test of time and deal with adversity. He left so much to us, and it’s our solemn responsibility to take our cause to the next level, to fight cruelty wherever we see it, and to confront institutional exploitation, no matter if it’s done by the most powerful forces in our society. John saw things just that way. RIP.

April 24, 2012
6 years ago

Help Us End Animal Testing for Cosmetics Worldwide

Was the shampoo you used this morning tested on rabbits or other animals? What about your lipstick?

Wouldn’t it be nice to shop care-free, knowing that every cosmetic product produced and sold—not only in the United States, but globally—was made without subjecting animals to cruel testing methods that cause them pain and suffering?


This desire may soon become reality, with the fight to end cosmetics testing on animals going global like never before. The HSUS and Humane Society International—with its offices in Australia, Canada, Europe, and India as well as outreach programs in several developing cosmetics markets—just launched the Be Cruelty-Free campaign, the largest-ever worldwide effort to stamp out animal testing for beauty products.

The campaign calls on consumers, legislators, and companies around the globe to join forces to end the use of rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and other animals in painful tests to assess the safety of cosmetic ingredients and finished products.

While hundreds of companies have already gone cruelty-free, others continue to test cosmetic ingredients on animals. Different countries have different laws on testing of cosmetics. U.S. law does not require companies to test ingredients used in cosmetics or their ingredients on animals—it only requires them to ensure that products are safe and free of harmful contaminants. Testing cosmetics on animals is already banned in the European Union, and a further EU ban on selling cosmetics that have been tested on animals in other parts of the world will take effect in March 2013.

To make cruelty-free cosmetics, companies can choose from thousands of established cosmetic ingredients that have already been proven to be safe. For new ingredients, there are an increasing number of non-animal tests available, and they’re almost always quicker, cheaper, and more accurate than conventional animal testing, which many experts consider a scientifically unreliable way to test products, since animals and humans can respond very differently to the same chemicals.

Please take action by signing our petition to end cosmetics testing in the U.S. and to stop the sale of beauty products tested on animals at If you live outside the U.S., sign our international petition at

April 25, 2012
6 years ago

Burger King Leads the Charge for Better Animal Welfare

Minutes ago, I broke the news on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that The HSUS and Burger King are jointly announcing that the world’s second-largest fast food burger chain will eliminate both battery cages and gestation crates from its U.S. supply chain. According to its new policy, BK will only do business with pork suppliers that have detailed plans to end their use of gestation crates. The company will also switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs for all of its domestic locations within five years—the result of a discussion on laying hen welfare that opened up five years ago between The HSUS and the fast-food giant.

With this announcement explicitly disapproving the extreme confinement of farm animals, Burger King has set a new standard for animal care in the food retail sector.


There was once a time when action on social concerns like animal welfare and sustainability in the food industry was rare. Now, emerging public consciousness about animals, combined with productive collaboration between The HSUS and corporate leaders like Burger King, is beginning to change that dynamic. Animal welfare is becoming an important element in corporate social responsibility.

Just in the last two months, The HSUS has worked with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Compass Group—the world’s three largest restaurant chains and largest food-service company—to announce important supply chain commitments that benefit animals. Each of these companies has declared that they’ll get gestation crates out of their U.S. supply chains, with Burger King also announcing an end to the battery-cage confinement of hens producing eggs for its American locations.

Some companies are still lagging, however. Recently, The HSUS filed shareholder proposals with top pork producer Seaboard Corporation and restaurant chains Bob Evans, Tim Hortons, and Domino’s over their inaction on the gestation crate issue. It’s up to them now to follow the example of the pacesetters in the fast-food industry and do the right thing for animals and consumers. No more cutting corners when it comes to extreme confinement of animals on factory farms.

With the big three fast-food companies shunning gestation crates, the message is unmistakable to the pig industry: stop circling the wagons to defend an unacceptable production system, and chart a future course without these crates.

BK’s decision on eggs is also a signal to Congress that it should pass H.R. 3798, which would ban the barren battery cage and allow producers to opt for colony cages, cage-free, or free-range production systems. The egg industry wants to begin the transition away from barren battery cages, and it’s better for animals, for the industry, and for consumers if it’s done with a national minimum standard on a definite timeline—not state by state or company by company on different time tracks and with varying rules.

April 27, 2012
6 years ago

Animal Issues Hanging in the Balance

This was a week filled with major news at The HSUS, with some pivotal decisions and progress.

white hen

- On the programmatic front, the big news was Burger King’s announcement, which I broke on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, that the iconic restaurant chain would stop buying pork and eggs from animals kept in extreme confinement. Since January, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King have all committed to ending their purchasing of pork from factory farms that rely on gestation crates―an improbable series of campaign successes. Together, these developments signal the beginning of the end of gestation crate confinement in the United States, despite the intransigent attitude of the pork industry. For its part, the egg industry, led by the United Egg Producers, already has agreed to a pathway for change. Now the Congress must stop delaying and get to the task of approving legislation to codify a joint HSUS-UEP accord to ban the barren battery cage. The House measure is H.R. 3798, and a Senate version is coming.

- Ohio took one giant step toward passing legislation to stop people from acquiring dangerous wild animals as pets. It’s been a terribly long, slow process, given that it’s six months since the tragedy in Zanesville, but the 30-to-1 Ohio Senate vote on SB 310 was resounding. Now it’s on to the House, and it’s our hope that there are no more attempts to water down this legislation.

- In California, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved legislation to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats, by a 5-to-3 vote. The practice is so repugnant that it calls to mind Oscar Wilde’s famous quote about “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” The bill will now move on to the next committee or to the Senate floor. If the bill gets bogged down somewhere and fails, you can count on The HSUS to take this issue to voters in 2014, since 83 percent of California voters want to see the activity banned. If we are forced to do this, we may expand the scope of the measure to warrant the investment that would be required in doing an initiative.

- We are working to build opposition in the U.S. Senate to block a horrible bill that passed the House last week―H.R. 4089―that would not only allow sport-hunted polar bear trophies to be imported into the United States, but open up dozens of units of the National Park Service (NP to sport hunting. The House action was an appalling cave-in by the House, mainly Republicans, to the NRA, which had just completed its national convention. In addition to opening units of the NPS to wildlife killing, it has a price tag of $12 million. The movement of this bill represents Congress at its worst, pandering to a destructive special-interest group and swelling the deficit.

- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported today that the number of commercial dog breeding facilities in Missouri has declined by about 800 since 2009, when we launched the Prop B campaign. It’s amazing that the puppy mill industry and the state’s agriculture groups fought us every step of the way on this issue, even succeeding in punching some holes in the law right after voters approved it and before it could even take effect. The data on the shrinkage of the large-scale commercial dog breeding industry in Missouri confirms that there was indeed a horrible problem in the state, since so many puppy mill operators had such terrible conditions that they could not, or would not, comply with the limited standards set forth in what remains of Prop B.  Last week, in a remedial action, the Missouri House passed a bill to repeal a tax on animal shelters and rescue groups―correcting a particularly outrageous add-on to the prior year’s effort to roll back Prop B. We’ve agreed to work with lawmakers on that and some other animal welfare policy corrections and to suspend our Your Vote Counts campaign for the time being.

6 years ago

kitty the chimp

Michelle Riley/The HSUS

- A U.S. Senate committee conducted a hearing on a bill, S. 810, to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments and retire federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuary. The legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support, especially after an Institute of Medicine panel declared that the use of chimps in invasive experiments is “largely unnecessary” and pointed out that there are alternative methods in the two areas where chimps may still be useful. Stay tuned for updates on this issue; the House bill, H.R. 1513, has 166 cosponsors. It’s wrong to do this to chimps, and it’s yet another form of animal exploitation happening thanks to the unwitting largesse of the American taxpayer.

- Another Senate committee approved a bill containing urgently-needed funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce key animal welfare laws, including a modest increase to oversee the federal law that prohibits the cruel practice of “soring”―where show horses are subjected to caustic acids, sharp objects, and other techniques to cause them intense pain, so they’ll exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes.

P.S. On the organizational front, during the last week, The HSUS’s board of directors elected a new chair, Rick Bernthal of Potomac, Md. Rick, the seventh chair in the history of the organization, succeeds Anita Coupe. Both Anita and her immediate predecessor as board chair, Dr. David Wiebers, received the organization’s highest honor, the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal, for their exceptional leadership.

April 30, 2012
6 years ago

In the News: Horse Racing and the Federal Government’s Wildlife-Killing Program

A big part of The HSUS’s enterprise of helping all animals is to carry out research and investigations and to shine a light on cruel and unacceptable practices, as a precursor to driving substantive reform. In recent years, there’s been a decline in hard-hitting investigative journalism, so that task often falls even more heavily on groups like The HSUS to do the digging and even the reporting. But today, in two major newspapers, I am pleased to share solid and in-depth front-page news stories exposing animal exploitation―one in The New York Times on horse racing and the other in The Sacramento Bee on predator-killing by our own federal government.

horse racing

Last month, I wrote about the first installment in a three-part look by a team of reporters at the New York Times into horse racing. That piece looked broadly at the industry, but specifically at the carnage on New Mexico’s race tracks. Today’s article by Joe Drape, Walt Bogdanich, Rebecca R. Ruiz, and Griffin Palmer focuses on abuses and breakdowns throughout the industry, while exposing an incredible number of breakdowns at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

Horse racing, which I wrote about more than two decades ago for a national animal protection magazine, has always had its share of cheaters and animal exploitation. In these last two decades, things have become even worse, partly because there is no national regulatory authority setting standards and policing the industry. It’s something of a free-for-all, with states setting their own rules. The state associations are controlled by race horse owners and others involved in the racing industry, and the rules are lax―allowing drugging of horses on race day; running horses on surfaces that are too often hazardous, and starting them too young; permitting reckless breeding that makes the horses vulnerable to breakdowns; and discarding them and selling them off to the horse slaughter industry when they don’t perform well. Some industry racing associations and some states have adopted minor reforms, but the bulk of the problems that I saw 20 years ago are still rampant in the industry.

Congress hasn’t done anything about the problem. A few lawmakers are trying to change that, however, and today, Congressman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., conducted a field hearing in Pennsylvania on a bill to halt the use of performance-enhancing drugs in racing: the Horse Racing Improvement Act, H.R. 1733, introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (with a companion bill introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, S. 1733). Medicating injured horses to get them onto the track, or giving them performance enhancers, are both thought to be major contributors to breakdowns that kill horses and jockeys. One horse owner cited in the Times story, Michael Gill, had nine horses die on the track in 10 months―a sickening record for a guy who runs through horses as if they were just old cars.


Photo: John Harrison

The Sacramento Bee reported on a different sort of failure of government: in this case, too much government. For 80 years, as a subsidy to western ranchers and other private interests, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars operating a ruthless and indiscriminate wildlife-killing program, which is now euphemistically called Wildlife Services. Today’s story by Tom Knudson, the second installment of three parts, recounts how the agency is slaughtering coyotes to boost big-game populations for hunters in Nevada. Ironically, the predator-killing is not doing much to help raise deer numbers, but it’s doing a very good job of boosting populations of rodents and other small mammals injurious to agriculture.

We at The HSUS have demanded reforms of this program for years, but a coordinated lobbying effort by the Farm Bureau, the NRA, and state agriculture and fish and wildlife agencies has blocked bills and amendments to get the government out of the business of slaughtering predators and other wildlife with your hard-earned tax dollars. Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have been leading the effort in Congress to turn this problem around and have introduced H.R. 4214, The Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide Elimination Act, to stop the use of these two highly toxic poisons for predator control.

6 years ago

At the very least, it’s time for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make changes in this program, including banning the use of sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 by this agency, as called for by H.R. 4214 but within the Secretary’s power to do administratively. These poisons have no place in our federal wildlife management or damage control efforts. Write to Secretary Vilsack and urge him to end this cruel and reckless poisoning program.

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