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A Humane Nation : January 2014
8 months ago

January 02, 2014

Horse Slaughter In the U.S.: The Dumbest Business Idea Since New Coke

Tomorrow, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King will be back in court seeking to block the opening of a horse slaughter plant in his state because of unresolved questions about waste disposal and unsafe chemicals in the meat. We hope he prevails. Attorney General King—joined by The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue—made similar arguments in the federal courts, which have produced a series of red and green lights for horse slaughter plant proponents over the last five months. Both King, as the state’s top law enforcement official, and the state’s Republican governor, Susanna Martinez, oppose the opening of a horse slaughter plant, so the state has hardly rolled out the welcome mat for the would-be horse butcherers and traders.

horse transport

Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Taking a step back from the legal wrangles in the state and federal courts, I am amazed that the people behind horse slaughter continue to proceed with their thoroughly unpopular gambit, given the impossibly difficult regulatory and social environment they find themselves in. The only explanation for their perseverance must be that they have some financiers willing to bear the costs in their attempt to march healthy horses onto slaughterhouse floors. There’s just no way to view horse slaughtering as a viable business in the current environment, and its future, from a strictly economic perspective, is bleak as bleak can be.  
 
You don’t find too many people seeking to open up whale processing facilities, or cockfighting arenas, on American soil, because any sane investor knows it’s a fool’s errand. There are just too many practical obstacles—legal, political, and social—in the way, even if the proponents had unfailing enthusiasm about the idea of killing whales or fighting roosters. The enterprise depends not only on the enthusiasm of the handful of boosters, but on society’s broader acceptance of the enterprise.
 
First, as the operators of proposed slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico have learned, there is major local opposition to their enterprises. They will have to contend with a battery of regulatory challenges, protests, and public criticism if they wish to operate.
 
Second, Congress is likely to shut the door on the industry, at least for the coming year. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have language in their 2014 spending bills that forbids USDA from spending any money to inspect the plants, and that means the plants won’t be able to operate. Now that a budget agreement has been reached, Congress is expected to act on that legislation by January 15th. All along, this prospect has been looming, and it defies easy explanation that these slaughter plant operators would go to the expense of setting up plants and hiring staff even as Congress acts to put a stop to it all.
 
Third, there is a highly uncertain market for their product. While there’s never been any demand in the U.S. for horse meat, the industry has relied on markets overseas, principally in Europe. But demand there has been in decline, and according to Animal People, per capita consumption is more than a pound per year in just four of 28 EU nations. Since the scandal that saw horsemeat mislabeled and sold as beef in several countries, per capita consumption rates has declined further still, due to concerns about food safety and the changing tastes of consumers.

Some big money player is probably backing the horse slaughter plants, and allowing them to make totally irrational business decisions. But it’s an economic dead end. One way or another, Americans won’t let these plants operate, just like we wouldn’t allow dog and cat slaughter plants, whale processing, or cockfighting arenas to operate. We have a great entrepreneurial spirit in America, but we also have core values. Horse slaughter just doesn’t make the cut as a legitimate business in our great country.



January 06, 2014
8 months ago

Time to Move Away from Horse and Buggy in NYC and Into Safer, More Humane World

One of the lead organizations trying to make sure that cars, trucks, and horse-drawn carriages have to dodge and weave in New York City streets around Central Park is a Missouri-based public-relations outfit called “The Alliance for Truth” that defends puppy mills and opposes efforts to upgrade anti-cruelty laws. This is the same extremist organization that orchestrated fights to block Prop B in Missouri in 2010 and Measure 5 in North Dakota – the first of which sought to impose standards in the largest puppy mill state in the nation and the second sought to make the Peace Garden State the 49th to make malicious cruelty a felony.

The Humane Society of the United States supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to ban horse-drawn carriages and calls on the New York City Council to support his effort and to reject the obstructionist tactics and phony arguments of the so-called Alliance for Truth.

During the recent campaign, just about all of New York’s major mayoral candidates – both Republicans and Democrats, including former New York Comptroller William Thompson, Jr., who conducted a high-profile audit of the industry in 2007 – pledged to end the continued use of carriage horses in and around Central Park.

carriage horse

iStockphoto
The HSUS fully supports Int. 86a, legislation which would
phase out horse carriages in New York City and replace
them with eco-friendly antique replica cars.

“The agencies entrusted with oversight here have dropped the ball,” said the comptroller after the release of that report, noting that horses were not provided with enough water, risked overheating on hot asphalt, and lacked proper veterinary care. The idea of banning the horse-drawn carriages, which are not used for point-to-point travel, but for sight-seeing in and around Central Park, has long been backed by the major animal welfare groups, including The HSUS and the ASPCA, which have voluntarily spent considerable resources in an attempt to oversee street and stable conditions for the horses.

In December, authorities arrested a carriage horse driver and charged him with animal cruelty after police observed him working an injured horse named Blondie, who had been in pain for days. There have been dozens of documented accidents resulting in injuries and deaths of New York City’s carriage horses through the years. Horses may be easily spooked by vehicles or other loud noises and put themselves and others at risk by dashing into traffic.

The HSUS will continue to work with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLAS to pass Int. 86a, legislation which would phase out horse carriages and replace them with eco-friendly antique replica cars. Passage of the law would also bolster the local tourist economy by giving current carriage drivers the opportunity to drive electric antique replica "Horseless Carriages" — a win-win solution that protects both jobs and the safety and welfare of horses and people in New York City. Other great global cities do without horse-drawn carriages, including Beijing, London, and Paris.

Currently, there are no laws protecting horses from being sent to slaughter after they are “spent” by the industry, so it is significant that Int. 86a also calls for the immediate humane retirement of more than 200 carriage horses. The HSUS enthusiastically supports this provision and offers to provide life-long, direct care for some of the carriage horses at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, in Murchison, Texas. The world-famous animal sanctuary – the largest and most diverse in the country – is operated by HSUS affiliate, The Fund for Animals, which has had its headquarters located around the corner from Central Park since its founding in 1967 by the late Cleveland Amory. Cleveland loved the last lines of the novel Black Beauty, “I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home.” And that’s the kind of life we can offer these animals once the political fight over their future has ended.

There’s no need for horse-drawn carriages in New York City and there’s a plan to provide an alternative for tourists seeking tours of Central Park. There are inherent risks to the safety of horses and humans that cannot be solved with additional regulations. We enthusiastically back Mayor de Blasio’s effort.

January 07, 2014
7 months ago

Smithfield Continues to Change Playing Field – for Pigs

For more than a decade, The Humane Society of the United States has been focused on ending the use of small, restrictive cages used to confine breeding sows (known as gestation crates) within the pig industry. In 2007, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork company, broke new ground by announcing that by 2017, 100 percent of its company-owned breeding operations would be free of these iron maidens. But while a majority of the breeding pigs in Smithfield’s supply system are in company-owned facilities, a very large portion still come from contractors. This gap meant that a very substantial population of “Smithfield” pigs would be left to linger in gestation crates indefinitely. Today, Smithfield announced that it will correct that deficiency.

pig in crate

The HSUS

Following recent announcements from more than 60 of the world’s largest food retailers – McDonald’s, Burger King, Safeway, Costco, Oscar Mayer and dozens more – that they will eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains, Smithfield has decided to extend its gestation crate phase-out plan to the independent contractors in its breeding system. Specifically, Smithfield is telling its contractors that if they make plans to get rid of their gestation crates, they’ll have their contracts extended; if they refuse to convert, their contracts are unlikely to be renewed. They’ll have eight years to make the conversion – a long time, to be certain, but a welcome path forward, with earlier conversion meaning better contracts.

Smithfield’s continued progress toward ending the lifelong confinement of sows means that other big players in the industry have little room to maneuver. The top producer is telling the world that a transition away from gestation crates is not just an aspiration, but is in the works, is economically viable, and is likely to be achieved in the near term. And we continue to help major food retailers commit to switching their purchasing to crate-free producers. We expect that cascade of announcements to continue. Meanwhile, nine states have banned gestation crate confinement, and a number of states will consider similar legislation this year.

The fact is, Tyson Foods, Seaboard, and other major pork producers are increasingly out of step not only with the American public, but with their own industry and their customers.

One day, in the not too distant future, all people will regard the era of immobilizing sows in crates barely larger than their bodies as a sad chapter in the history of American agriculture. Many people, once the transition is complete, will wonder how industry leaders for so long defended this form of animal privation and daily misery and how lawmakers and others in positions of power didn’t do something about it sooner.

January 09, 2014
7 months ago

Even More Progress for Pigs in Gestation Crates

On Tuesday, Smithfield Foods announced it is upgrading its animal policies by providing incentives for its contract farmers to move away from gestation crates.

gestation crate

The HSUS
Tyson sent a letter to farmers in its pork supply system
indicating that gestation crates ought to be replaced
with alternative housing systems.

Today, Tyson Foods, another major pork producer, also took steps in that direction. The company, whose production is conducted primarily through its contractors and independent suppliers, has sent a letter to all the farmers in its pork system outlining desired improvements in its animal welfare program. While the letter contains several promising points on a variety of issues, like encouraging a shift away from “euthanizing” sick or injured piglets through blunt force trauma and urging the development of pain relief during castration and tail docking, the stand-out, in our view, is Tyson’s language on the issue of sow gestation crate confinement.

“We believe future sow housing should allow sows of all sizes to stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs,” writes Tyson, indicating that gestation crates – which prevent those behaviors – ought to be replaced with alternative housing systems. “We’re asking the contract farmers who manage Tyson-owned sows,” it continues, “to implement improved ‘quality and quantity of space’ standards in the design of any newly built or redesigned gestation barns beginning in 2014. We also strongly encourage the hog farmers who sell market hogs to Tyson to improve quantity and quality of space standards for sows when they or their piglet suppliers re-design or build new gestation barns.”

Unfortunately, Tyson’s letter does not mandate anything of its suppliers with regard to sow housing, nor does it outline any timeline by which alternative housing systems must be in place. Nonetheless, this is big movement from an important company. Tyson may still have a ways to go when it comes to shoring up a gestation crate-free supply system, but its first steps on this issue – like all steps on the path toward a more humane way of living or conducting business – are most welcome.

P.S. In response to this news, The HSUS has withdrawn the shareholder proposal on gestation crates that we’d previously submitted for Tyson’s 2014 proxy.

January 10, 2014
7 months ago

HSUS’ Family Planning Work - for Elephants

It was momentous that Smithfield Foods and Tyson made announcements this week indicating they are moving away from gestation crates as an accepted method of confining pigs. Momentous in another way was China’s action to destroy six tons of ivory this week as a statement against the killing of elephants for trinkets. In their own way, each announcement is not only hopeful, but startling.

What’s also a bit startling, when it comes to elephants, is that animals who are generally disappearing from the landscape also have localized populations that are abundant – sometimes too abundant for their own good or for the people who live in neighboring communities.

elephant

Guenterguni/iStock
A recent study shows elephant contraception is a humane
and effective form of population control.

This issue is most acute in South Africa, especially in the country’s many small parks and private conservancies. So in these cases, the challenge is controlling these subpopulations, and for us, doing it humanely.

A new study published in the Dec. 2013 edition of the “Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine” concludes that the use of immunocontraception to control growth of populations has no detectable behavioral or social consequences – one of the remaining questions about the use of immunocontraception in African elephants.

Audrey K. Delsink, the lead author of the study and Humane Society International’s field director of the Greater Makalali Elephant Contraception Program in South Africa, concluded along with her colleagues that the 11 years of research showed that immunocontraception had no detectable behavioral or social consequences in their study group of elephants, providing a convincing argument for the use of sustained immunocontraception in the medium to long term as an important tool for elephant management.

The HSUS and HSI have funded cutting-edge research on the use of immunocontraception in African elephants since 1996. Immunocontraception is a non-hormonal form of contraception that is based on the scientific principles of disease prevention through vaccination. The immunocontraception vaccine contains agents that, when injected into African elephant cows, causes an immune reaction that prevents eggs from being fertilized by sperm.

Delivered remotely by dart gun, the contraceptive vaccine is being used to successfully control elephant populations in 14 parks and reserves in South Africa.

According to Delsink, “The results of this study demonstrate that concerns about the negative behavioral impact of the use of immunocontraception on African elephants are unfounded. We hope that elephant managers will fully embrace and use this technology to control elephant population growth in a proactive, effective and humane manner.”

We are proud to have been able to support this research for nearly two decades and are pleased that it has resulted in this widely accepted, effective and completely humane way to control elephant population growth.

January 13, 2014
7 months ago

Beef Tax: It’s What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

What if every time someone acquired a dog – either through adoption from a rescue group or shelter, a purchase over the Internet or at a pet store – they paid a hidden fee on that transaction, and the entire pot of money accrued through these fees went to The HSUS? Well, I feel confident we’d do great things with the bounty, such as promoting adoption or spay-and-neuter programs, or perhaps research on canine health disorders. There would be lots of socially beneficial ways to spend the millions sent our way.

But no doubt, there would be a hue-and-cry from some parties, especially our adversaries in the puppy mill industry and other animal-use sectors. They would, to put it mildly, object that not all would-be pet owners favor our animal-welfare work. They’d add, I’m sure, that it’s wrong for dog owners to be forced to unwittingly finance a portion of the work we do.

That’s not, of course, how money comes into our organization. Everyone who donates to The HSUS does so intentionally – they send a check or give us a credit card number to show their support. Fortunately, there are millions of Americans behind us, and thanks to their generosity, we’re able to conduct a dizzying array of programs.

cow

The HSUS

Yet, the meat lobby isn’t financed through voluntary contributions from ranchers. Several major meat industry trade groups – most notably the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association – get a pork barrel of money from a mandatory fee imposed on the sale of every animal produced within their respective industries. It’s called a “check-off program,” but no producer or consumer has a choice to opt in or out. It’s like a federal tax on every one of them.

In the latest issue of Washington Monthly, reporter Siddhartha Mahanta deconstructs, in an extraordinary and lucid way, the check-off program that benefits the beef industry. “Nearly 99 percent of all the beef tax dollars collected by the government, some $45 million a year, winds up in the hands of just one group, the NCBA, which relies overwhelmingly on this public money to support itself,” he writes. “With its membership having shrunk from 40,000 in 1994 to 26,000 today,” according to Mahanta, “only 7 percent of the NCBA’s revenue comes from membership dues.” 

He continues, “Fewer and fewer actual ‘cattlemen’ belong to the organization, while more and more complain that the NCBA presses for policies that undermine their own way of life and the public’s interest by favoring large packers and other corporate giants.” 

Fred Stokes, founder of a farming group called the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and a man who has seen hundreds of thousands of family farmers pushed off their land and out of agriculture partly because of NCBA’s policies favoring industrial agriculture and packing houses, says, “In being forced to pay the beef check off, cattlemen are funding their own demise.” 

The NCBA lobbies, to the chagrin of many family farmers, for packer ownership of livestock, subjecting producers to the price controls imposed by a handful of slaughtering and processing companies, such as IBP and JBS Swift. It fights country of origin labeling standards, even though Americans want to know where their beef is produced, and the information also helps retailers in crisis and recall situations.  It also advocates for federally subsidized predator control programs that kill millions of animals a year, often on our public lands. It has lobbied, for the last three years, aggressively against minimum animal welfare standards for laying hens, even though the egg industry itself favors this reform. It’s lobbying for the King amendment to the farm bill, which would nullify state animal welfare and food safety laws – against the wishes of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Sheriffs’ Association, among others.

NCBA claims all of the “check-off” funds are used for promoting beef eating, and not for lobbying. But animal advocates and even many rank-and-file family farmers, including those at the OCM, believe differently.

But even if these critics were wrong, and NCBA had a very precise and lawful accounting of all of its dollars, “Would you be happy if the government gave the National Rifle Association a dollar for every gun sold in the United States on condition that the NRA spend the money strictly for promoting the use of guns and no other purposes?” notes Mahanta. “Perhaps you would, but either way, such a flow of public money would without a doubt make the NRA more powerful in everything it did, and with the inherent complicity of the government. If nothing else, the NRA could put the money toward covering its current overhead costs, thereby freeing up resources for other purposes, like, say, opposing background checks.”

cont.
7 months ago

The hypocrisy is, NCBA and so many other meat industry groups claim that The HSUS should give all of its money to animals in shelters, and forget about the other 99 percent of animals at risk, including animals used in industrial agriculture. Our promotional materials, and very specific fundraising appeals, call unmistakable attention to our campaigns against puppy mills, seal killing for fur, dogfighting, the trade in exotic pets, the slaughter of horses for human consumption, invasive experiments on chimpanzees, the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms, and other forms of mistreatment – issues our members care deeply about and give us money to tackle.

Not only are they wrong about The HSUS, but their hypocrisy, when one considers the way the group is bank-rolled, is mind-numbing.

January 14, 2014
7 months ago

Emergency Response Gets Life from Firefighters

Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast, turning the world upside down for so many people and animals. The nation rallied to help the region, and that included rushing in to help animals and the people who care about them. In addition to the enormous response we mounted, The HSUS worked hard to help pass the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PET Act in the months after the disaster response faded. The PETS Act requires local and state disaster plans to include provisions for household pets and service animals in a major disaster or other emergency event.

In addition to some states forming State Animal Response Teams in the wake of the PETS Act, many communities created Community Animal Response Teams trained to assist the people helping animals and the animals themselves during crisis situations. We also created our Animal Rescue Team, which is called on by local agencies when a cruelty case or a natural disaster is too large for a local group to handle on their own.

training

Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, Inc.
Firefighters lead horses out of a simulated barn fire
during a training.

One leap forward happened very recently in the United States: the National Fire Protection Association, with a membership of 70,000 individuals, included a chapter and annex on animal rescue. This group has an audience of primarily firefighters and first responders, and publishes more than 300 codes and standards each year. This addition to the guide, which is often referred to as providing the de-facto standards for those in technical rescue, has been in the works for several years and this year marks the first time that animal rescue has been covered in the standard. It includes several techniques for both small and large animals, as well as what signs to look for in an animal’s behavior that indicates if the animal is afraid, aggressive, or shy, among other things.

The chapter and annex that have been added to the NFPA standard address the different levels of training that first responders can take. This includes the awareness level, which trains those responding first to the scene (most often firefighters) to have the basic knowledge to keep themselves and their colleagues safe, and to minimize stress on the animal while they intervene or call upon others with more specialized training. Knowing whom to ask for help, and quickly, can be a life-or-death decision for an animal in crisis.

If every fire department in the United States had the training to assess a situation involving an animal in distress and knew what expertise it called for (whether it be a vet, local CART team, technical animal response team, or animal control agency), emergency response would improve drastically for animals, including those not covered in the PETS Act, which is limited to household pets and service animals.

This latest development in emergency response for animals, years after the PETS Act passed, shows the catalytic impact of legislation. While not everything changed immediately with the PETS Act, there have been a series of incremental improvements to first response and animal care brought on by its enactment. For example, today the New Jersey Senate is scheduled to consider A-3445, sponsored by Assembly Members Annette Quijano, Connie Wagner and Joseph Cryan. This legislation would permit pet owners to board public transportation with domesticated animals during emergency evacuation.

It’s great that the NFPA has seen the importance of including animals in their standards, and I hope that momentum continues to build so that we as a nation are better able to serve people and animals in crisis situations.

January 15, 2014
7 months ago

Paying Top Dollar to Kill the Rarest Mammals

Today in Hanoi, Vietnam, buses are carrying the message that buying, selling, and transporting rhino horn is illegal – a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison in that country. The messages are part of Vietnam’s National Rhino Horn Demand Reduction Campaign, initiated and implemented by the government of Vietnam in cooperation with The HSUS’ international arm, Humane Society International. This multi-faceted communications campaign, which began in August 2013, has reached millions of Vietnamese citizens, with a special focus on messaging to young people about the importance of not consuming rhino horn products. With only about 28,000 rhinos of five species left in the wild, and millions of potential rhino horn users, reducing demand for horn is the key to saving rhinos from extinction.  Indeed, the poachers only kill the rhinos because they make money from it.  No demand, no dollars.

rhino

Our constructive, strategic activities to protect rhinos are in stark contrast with the tactics of the Dallas Safari Club. On Saturday night, the club auctioned off a permit to hunt an endangered black rhino in Namibia, which is home to fewer than 2,000 of these prehistoric-looking beasts. The winner of the auction agreed to pay $350,000 for the right to kill a black rhino, something highly desired by trophy hunters who seek to add the rarest animals to their trophy collections. Because the black rhino is listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), the winner will need to get an import permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FW to bring the trophy home.

The ESA makes it clear that such permits should only be granted when the import will enhance the survival of the species in the wild. Once the winner applies for the import permit, there will be a 30-day comment period. We plan to provide evidence to the FWS that trophy hunting a member of a critically endangered species is harmful to that species. We invite you to sign a petition that we will submit along with our comments showing that people do not support issuance of the import permit. The U.S. government needs to understand that the American public does not support the Orwellian idea of killing endangered species to save them – even if it comes with a big cash pay-out.  Where will it end?  Will a Safari Club International (SCI) member offer $1 million for the opportunity to shoot an orangutan, $2 million for an Asian elephant, and maybe even more for a Siberian tiger?  The first rule of protecting the rarest animals in the world is to protect each living member of that species.

Groups like HSI are putting money into rhino protection – in the range states and in the states where rhino horn is sold, and we aren’t demanding an opportunity to shoot, capture, snare, terrorize, or baste a rhino.  We just want them to live unmolested, protected from human harm and spared from sacrifice for any purpose – spiritual or material.

The black rhino auction and hunt provides a window into the world of competitive trophy hunting – where SCI members are in a global race against one another to rack up more trophies, of rarer and rarer animals, in order to gain more recognition within the pantheon. 

Earlier this week, these trophy hunters got a gift from the Congress. Tucked with the $1.1 trillion spending package was a rider allowing for three endangered antelope species –scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle – to be killed in captive hunts here in the United States without any oversight. These “canned hunts” are the antithesis of fair chase, where shooters kill captive animals for trophies, often spending thousands of dollars to do so.

While the FWS currently allows captive hunting of endangered antelope, the agency requires any would-be hunters to obtain a federal permit, and these permits are only issued when the killing is found to enhance the survival of the species in the wild. It’s a not-so-subtle attempt to shoot a hole in the ESA, for the benefit of a handful of trophy hunters. The fight to protect endangered species continues against many perpetrators, including competitive trophy hunters who value animals more dead than alive. People like these apparently gain some measure of self-worth by filling their dens with frozen faces of the world’s most glorious, and often rarest, mammals.

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2014/01/paying-top-dollar-to-kill-the-rarest-mammals.html

January 17, 2014
7 months ago

An Open Letter to Agriculture Journalists and Leaders

In an era of sweeping change in communications, the long-standing principles of American journalism are being tested and challenged. Some journalistic principles are enduring, however, and for good reason. The enterprise depends on a commitment to establishing and reporting facts, and to communicating them with accuracy and fairness. This is a foundational component of a civil and democratic society.

hsus logo

This is one of the reasons for my disappointment in the tone of coverage given to The HSUS by more than a few members of the agricultural press over the last several years. Some writers with industry trade journals and other information outlets in the sector have settled into an unquestioning reliance upon false claims about The HSUS, including those being spun by the highly discredited and disreputable public-relations operative Rick Berman, who’s fought the medical community on tanning beds and trans fats, Mothers Against Drunk Driving on alcohol use and automobiles, unions on minimum wage issues, and anti-smoking groups on behalf of major tobacco companies.

At one level, it’s a boon for an advocacy organization to have a Darth Vader-type adversary, since it reminds supporters of our effectiveness and the stakes. In the time that Berman has been conducting his brand attack, we’ve driven rather extraordinary changes in society and more than doubled in size. He’s an extreme example of the third-party players in American politics who will say just about anything to sow division and polarization, mainly to line their own pockets.

At The HSUS, we don’t expect everyone to agree with all of our positions, and we understand we’ll get push back on our attempts to stop extreme confinement of animals on industrialized farms, to stop tail-docking of cows, and to advance other limited reforms. We get it, and that’s all part of the discourse and rough-and-tumble of debate about serious issues. It’s also one of the reasons that we operate with such transparency, and are so active in communicating what we do and what we stand for. Here are some specific elements of our governance and our approach that I’d ask you to consider:

  • In addition to having hundreds of people in leadership on our national, state and issue councils, The HSUS is governed by a 27-member unpaid board of directors, including the CEO of a Fortune 500 company; the retired managing partner of the Washington office of one of the biggest law firms in the United States; the former Secretary of the U.S. Senate; a Rhodes Scholar, Olympian, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives; medical doctors who have spent their careers at Harvard and the Mayo Clinic; the CEOs of several major companies; and a host of other dedicated, sincere, and professionally successful people who are highly selective about their philanthropic commitments. These people not only care about animals, but they are sophisticated when it comes to matters of business and non-profit management. They take no money from The HSUS, and they are among its most generous donors. Not one of them would be party to malfeasance or misuse of funds, and certainly not all of them!
  • The caricatures of The HSUS – which has the highest ratings from Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau – as either a super-rich enterprise that drains money from animal shelters or an organization that is working to stop all animal use, are ludicrous on their face. The founders of The HSUS were consummate pragmatists, and one great original purpose for the organization was to complement the work of local humane societies by working at a national level. It is no accident that as we have grown, so has the rest of the animal welfare movement, with a proliferation of species-focused organizations and a general surge in the fortunes and professionalism of the sheltering and rescue communities. These other groups don’t wish to see The HSUS duplicate their efforts, but to augment the broad work of animal protection in ways that they cannot.
  • For 60 years, The HSUS has been about protecting all animals, including, but not limited to, companion animals. Our magazine is called “All Animals,” our web site screams out “all animals,” my daily blog covers the vast array of our programs affecting hundreds of species. It’s all available for any discerning person – a supporter, a donor, a journalist, or a critic – to learn about our work. If we are misrepresenting ourselves as the group that runs local animal shelters, we sure have a funny way of showing it, shouting from the rooftops as we do about the many campaigns we run, including core initiatives on dogfighting, puppy mills, whaling, sealing, gestation crates, bear baiting, lead ammunition, and dangerous exotics as pets, many of them issues that no local societies have the reach or the resources to work on. Why is it hard to believe that there are millions of Americans who care about fighting for the interests of all of these animals, as well as the companion animals we also help in so many ways?

  • cont.
    7 months ago
  • There are countless ways to help animal shelters and rescues that don’t involve pass-through grants. We provide training and resources to professionalize the field, host the nation’s largest trade show for animal shelter and rescue professionals, publish “Animal Sheltering” magazine and animalsheltering.org, and sponsor a national public service advertising campaign together with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council that, in the last three years, has resulted in more than $150 million in advertising to promote local shelters. When The HSUS conducts rescues of animals from puppy mills, dogfighting operations, or cruelty or hoarding cases, we fill gaps in the nation’s humane infrastructure or handle cases that might bankrupt some local groups.
  • The television ads that we run – which are a small part of our promotions – specifically include language that says “Local humane societies are independent from The HSUS.” Could we be more clear? Throughout our web site, this sort of language is reinforced: “Local humane societies and SPCAs are independent entities and are not run by The HSUS or any other national entity. The HSUS works with local humane societies and supports their work through training, evaluations, publications, and other professional services.”
  • We have always done so much more than just help animal shelters, a core component of the animal welfare movement, but just one part of it. While we’ve never laid claim to running every local shelter – and no group does nor could they ever perform such a task, since there are thousands of such groups – let me mention that The HSUS provides hands-on care to thousands upon thousands of animals, conducting an extraordinary range of programs. What’s more, the domesticated animals pictured in our television ads were rescued or cared for by our staff, or were the subject of an investigation we conducted.
  • Finally, let me ask how you’d react, as individuals who are proud of agriculture, if some animal advocate wrote a column saying the American Farm Bureau Federation was dishonest because it should be giving all of its money to individual farmers, or the National Pork Producers Council should give all of its money to individual pig farmers? It would be laughable, since these organizations have broader responsibilities to represent the interest of the entire industry. One would think that person extraordinarily naïve for making such an unsophisticated, unknowing claim about these organizations, right? It is no different when such a disingenuous charge is made about The HSUS and other national animal welfare groups.
  • The HSUS is highly scrutinized because it tackles tough, controversial issues. We talk about all the issues we focus on, we are the number one animal-care provider in the United States, and we campaign aggressively to advance our animal welfare agenda. Our adversaries would rather that we not focus on them, and we understand that. But this is who we are, and we’re going to continue that work because we think that it’s right and because that’s what our members support. We are not troubled by critical questions, and we are always willing to answer them. And while we’ll always deal with people who will try to define us in false ways, we’ll continue to hope that serious-minded journalists – whether they work for an industry trade publication or a general news-gathering organization – will work to separate fact from fiction and treat the broad topic of animal welfare with the seriousness it deserves.

    Sincerely,

    Wayne Pacelle

    http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2014/01/an-open-letter-to-agriculture-journalists-and-leaders.html


    January 21, 2014
    7 months ago

    Getting Horses off the Menu

     duchess

    Photo by Jennifer Kunz

    With President Obama signing a comprehensive federal spending bill for 2014 on Friday that includes language barring horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S., we can take comfort that slaughter plants about to start chewing up horses in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico won't get that chance, at least for the foreseeable future.The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue, with a timely intervention from former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and actor Robert Redford, held them off in the courts until the Congress and the President took final action on the spending bill last week. Not since 2007 have slaughter plants been killing horses for human consumption on U.S. soil., and we're pleased to see that ban extended.

    While this was a hard-fought and important victory, it is incomplete.  American horses are still going to slaughter, in Canada and Mexico, and that should trouble every horse advocate. Most of these horses are perfectly healthy, and not a single one of them was raised for human consumption.These horses travel a long, zigzagging route to get on the dinner plates of a relatively small number of consumers in Belgium, France, Italy, and Japan. Horsemeat isn't a staple in any of these countries.

    Last week, Humane Society International renewed calls for the European Union to issue a moratorium on the import and sale of North American horsemeat following the adoption of a strong and wide-ranging European Parliament report entitled, â��The food crisis, fraud in the food chain and the control thereof.â���  The European Commissionâ��s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has repeatedly expressed concern about American horses going over the border because of concerns about the validity of the vendor statements about the animals and the substances administered to them throughout their lives. The Parliamentary report urges both the â��Commission and Member States to act on the findings of FVO audits with regard to fraudulent medical treatment records of animals destined for slaughter for export to the EU, and to exclude meat and other animal products from third countries, which cannot be guaranteed to be compliant with EU food safety requirements from being placed on the EU market.â��

    The horsemeat trade is a cruel one, and it is unsafe for consumers because these animals were not raised for food.�  During their lives on the race track, in the pleasure barn, or on a farm or somewhere else, theyâ��ve typically been dosed with substances unfit for human consumption.� 

    And what of our values about animals?�  We wouldnâ��t gather up dogs from random sources and send them to slaughter because a small group of foreign consumers want to eat their meat.� We wouldnâ��t start slaughtering retired laboratory chimps and other captive primates in the U.S. because we could make a profit by selling to some bush meat consumers.�  We are not going to allow a few Americans to start killing whales because a few people have a taste for humpback or beluga.�  Thereâ��s more that governs human behavior than appetite alone.

    And the notion that we should be slaughtering American horses is either historically inconsistent, or simply ungrateful.�  Not only have we Americans almost exclusively steered clear of eating horses for food during our 200 or so year history, but weâ��ve cherished their role in helping us settle the nation, in carrying us into battle, entertaining us with the speed and their gait, delighting us as companions, and conducting work that added value to our economy and helped us earn a livelihood.� 

    How miserable now to treat them as a cheap commodity, valued principally as some ephemeral side dish for people living on other continents.

    Action items: European authorities should clamp down on the trade, since thereâ��s no way to track the drugs that went into horses in America, during the years prior to slaughter.�  And the Congress should build on its de-fund provision by banning live exports of horses for human consumption.�  The Safeguard American Food Exports Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541, introduced this year by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., does exactly that, helping horses avoid a pitiful fate and forbidding the sale of toxic meat.

    cont.
    7 months ago

    Please make sure to take action on this issue by contacting your member of Congress, asking them to support the SAFE act.

    http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2014/01/getting-horses-off-the-menu.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=humanenation

    January 22, 2014
    7 months ago

    Japan’s Shameful Butchery of Dolphins

    Since the release in 2009 of the chilling documentary “The Cove,” and thanks to a much-welcomed tweet last week from newly minted U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy condemning the “drive hunt,” the herding and butchering of dolphins in the small inlet in Taiji, Japan is unlikely to go unnoticed.  Last week, fishermen captured and trapped 250 bottlenose dolphins, and they killed 30 of them just yesterday.

    cove

    Dolphins in the Cove photo courtesy of the Cove/Participant Media

    The drive hunt is barbaric. The fishermen use small motorized boats to locate pods of dolphins and other small whales, and begin herding the animals toward shore, using the noise of the boats' engines and the banging of pipes underwater. There are reports, too, of the use of underwater explosives. Once the animals are on the shore or in the shallow bay, fishermen then get into the waist-deep water and move through the pods, stabbing animals to death, in full view of the other pod members. These highly intelligent animals are slaughtered for meat, pet food, and fertilizer. The fishermen spare the best specimens and sell them to marine parks, consigning them to a less violent but still grim fate, abducted from their families, never to return to their natural homes, and sentenced to life in concrete tanks.

    In the late 1980s, marine parks and aquariums (including U.S. parks) and the U.S. Navy began purchasing live animals from Japan, paying many thousands of dollars for each animal. This contributed to the profit-making of the Taiji hunters. In 1993, a California marine park sought to import several dolphins from Japan, but the U.S. government stipulated that the dolphins could only be imported if they had been captured "humanely."  Because the capture violated the conditions of the permit, the government prohibited the import. Since then, no dolphins have been imported into the U.S. from Japan.  However, there are other markets and willing buyers to take the animals, mainly in Asia and the Middle East. 

    In response to all this, there have been global demonstrations, boycotts, congressional resolutions, the global distribution of “The Cove,” and most recently, Ambassador Kennedy’s courageous statement. All the while, Japanese officials have defended the slaughter and capture as their cultural right, retorting that U.S. citizens eat beef and hunt animals for sport. The Taiji hunt, whilst the most notorious, is one of a number of hunts of dolphins and small whales conducted in Japanese waters. In any one year, in combination, these hunts may claim the lives of some 20,000 cetaceans. 

    But there has been some progress in Japan. A growing number of supermarkets in Japan have stopped selling whale and dolphin meat, including AEON, Ito-Yokado (7-Eleven’s parent corporation), Seiyu, and more. In addition, our supporters have helped us end the sale of dolphin meat on Internet market sites like Amazon and Google. However, Yahoo! Japan continues to sell whale and dolphin meat products. 

    The government of Japan is ultimately responsible for the killing of these highly intelligent marine mammals, known well to us for their heroic efforts to protect drowning seafarers or to protect swimmers from sharks. We can help repay these creatures for their long-standing, documented record of altruism by continuing to bring pressure on those who profit from this spectacle in Japan.  In the end, we must act together make it plain that it’s only a tiny fraction of people in the world who would exhibit such callousness and cruelty to animals who deserve so much better from our species. 

    http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2014/01/japans-shameful-butchery-of-dolphins.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=humanenation

    January 23, 2014
    7 months ago

    Factory Farmers Off to Slow Start on Ag-Gag Bill in 2014

    Last year, HSUS led the fight in fending off “ag-gag” bills in 11 states, with particularly feverish battles in Indiana, Tennessee, and Wyoming – all states where we’ve conducted investigations that led to exposes of abuses, whether puppy mills, horse soring, or gestation crate confinement. We are geared up to fight renewed battles this year, but the good news is, the early skirmishes are decidedly in our favor.

    pigs

    the HSUS

    Lobbyists for livestock industries succeeded, prior to 2013, in passing six state statutes to make it a crime for a whistleblower, under certain circumstances, to document patterns of animal abuse on factory farms and other animal-use facilities, but last year, we halted the spread of these statutes. On Wednesday, last year’s ag-gag bill in New Hampshire met its final demise due to opposition from a strong coalitionof public interest groups. And earlier this week in Indiana proposed legislation seems to have been stripped of its most problematic anti-whistleblower provisions.

    These bills are often pushed by legislators who feign an attempt to help animals – for example. by requiring us to turn over footage just as our investigation launches. But once we present our case, sensible legislators realize how simply hiding animal abuse from a public which cares about animals is really the aim.

    A year ago, the HSUS was fighting nearly ten ag-gag bills simultaneously; thus far in 2014, only one has been introduced. We have no doubt that more bills will be brought forth by the industry in 2014, but it appears that at least some agribusiness interests realize the whole strategy is backfiring – and the bills themselves are drawing more attention to routine problems, such as tail docking of dairy cows, extreme confinement of pigs, or mistreatment of dogs on puppy mills. Millions more Americans are asking themselves, “what do factory farms have to hide?” Media coverage sparked by the controversies, such as thiscompelling piece by Rolling Stone, has exposed the sordid truth about how chickens, pigs and other animals are abused on factory farms. In fact, the National Pork Producers Council studied coverage of the ag-gag issue and “found that 99 percent of the stories about it were negative.”

    It’s no wonder that one of the world’s foremost expert on farm animal welfare Dr. Temple Grandin says that ag-gag bills are “the stupidest thing that ag ever did” or that the San Francisco Chronicle called the efforts “the worst PR gaffe since New Coke.”

    Thankfully, some companies are realizing their time and resources are better spent working with us to make commonsense animal welfare reforms that all stakeholders—roducers, retailers, animal protection groups and consumers—can support. For example, the HSUS’ progress on ridding the pork industry of cruel gestation crates continues to accelerate. With your support, we’ll keep fighting efforts by agribusiness interests and puppy mills to silence their critics and we’ll work to drive reforms that improve the lives of so many animals.

    http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2014/01/factory-farmers-off-to-slow-start-on-ag-gag-bill-in-2014.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=humanenation

    January 24, 2014
    7 months ago

    Hong Kong Gives Swift Kick to Ivory Traders

    ivory

    Twelve thousand pounds of ivory that was destroyed in 2013
    photo by USFWS

    Earlier this month, the Chinese government destroyed more than six tons of confiscated ivory held in government stockpiles, signaling the new resolve of the People’s Republic of China to crack down on the illegal ivory trade and to reduce ivory consumption. On January 23, the Hong Kong Government’s Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) decided that it will destroy 28 tons of ivory stockpiles from past seizures—the largest cache of seized ivory to be destroyed to date, anywhere in the world.  This action signals that the fight against the ivory trade is global, and it’s finding increasing favor in critical parts of Asia, among consumers and government officials.

    More than 46,000 supporters of our global affiliate, Humane Society International, responded to our call to support the Hong Kong ivory destruction. HSI president and CEO Dr. Andrew Rowan wrote to the ESAC, laying out reasons in support of the destruction. HSI has met and communicated with AFCD and ESAC as well as collaborated closely with advocates of Hong Kong for Elephants. This campaign, coordinated with the work of local advocates during the past year, helped produce the government’s January 23 decision.

    Elephant poaching has reached an unprecedented level. Last year poachers massacred at least 35,000 African elephants. With less than half a million elephants left in the wild in Africa, if this killing rate persists, African elephants could be extinct in two decades. Poachers poisoned or shot elephants with machine guns, and hacked off the tusks of elephants while the animals were still alive. This slaughter of elephants, for jewelry, trinkets, or statuettes – conducted in many cases by the Janjaweed, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Al-Shabaab, and other terrorist groups -- is unconscionable, and it is robbing African nations of the value that live elephants would bring to these nations in the form of wildlife tourism for decades.

    elephants

    African Elephants at a waterhole, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
    Photo by Nico Smit/iStock

    Reducing consumer demand for ivory reduces the incentive for poachers to massacre elephants and for traffickers to engage in illegal ivory trade. Destroying stockpiles of seized ivory, as the recent examples of the U.S. and China have demonstrated, is a great way to raise awareness about the elephant poaching crisis and reminds current and potential buyers to eschew ivory.  So many people don’t connect their purchase of ivory with the epidemic of poaching, and we are reminding people that you can draw a straight line from the purchase of this product to the killing of elephants in their native habitats.

    HSI will continue our public education programs with local partner groups in China and Hong Kong on elephant protection as well as work in concert with relevant government officials and agencies to implement stronger laws to reduce ivory consumption. Here in the U.S., as the second largest market in the world for ivory, there is work to be done. HSUS and HSI are working with lawmakers in Hawaii and New York to ban the sale of ivory to reduce the U.S. prominent role in the cruel ivory trade.  We’re likely to expand that effort to other states, toward the goal of creating no safe haven in any part of the world for this blood trade in ivory.

    January 27, 2014
    7 months ago

    HSUS Undercover Investigation Shutters NJ Slaughter Plant

    This morning, The HSUS publicly released footage of our latest undercover investigation into slaughterhouse abuses and the continuing mistreatment of downer calves – in this case, at the Catelli Bros. slaughter plant in suburban Monmouth County, New Jersey. The HSUS provided footage and other investigative materials to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urging enforcement action, and as a result the Department shut down the plant last Friday.

    Our undercover investigator documented calves being forced to rise to their feet by men who wrapped the calves’ tails around their hands – lifting the entire weight of the calf by this appendage.  One calf with a broken leg was dragged by a chain around his neck and other calves were struck, kicked, pulled by their ears, and sprayed with water. The plant manager warned workers not to take some of these actions when the USDA inspector was around – an indirect admission that he knew that workers were breaking the law on animal handling.  

    You may recall our 2009 investigationof Bushway – a calf slaughter plant in Grand Isle, Vermont, where we found calves too weak to walk being kicked, shocked, thrown, and dragged to slaughter. That case prompted The HSUS to file a petition with the USDA asking that the agency close a loophole in the regulations that allowed these downed calves to be set aside to see if they could recover enough to walk onto the kill floor.  The USDA requires euthanasia for downed adult cattle at slaughter plants, but the rule excludes calves.  Where humane handling is concerned, the problems are the same; no bulls, cows, or calves should be subjected to this treatment, regardless of their age or gender.

    Our investigator captured still-conscious calves trying to right themselves on the bleed line. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) – which The HSUS works to secure substantial funding for each fiscal year -- requires that animals be unconscious before they are shackled and hung upside down so their throats can be slit. Our investigation also found that some calves undergoing shechita (ritual slaughter) remained conscious for more than two minutes after their necks were opened up. Unfortunately, the HMSA doesn’t specify how soon ritually-slaughtered animals should reach an unconscious state.

    Bernie Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University watched our video and wrote, “Of all the atrocity videos I have viewed, the current video of the slaughterhouse at Catelli Brothers must be ranked among the three worst.” The treatment of the calves at Catelli outraged Dr. Rollin enough to write: “The conclusion to be drawn from this video data is self-evident. This plant should be closed down immediately”

    It took an HSUS undercover investigation released in 2008 to prompt USDA, a year later, to act on our long-standing demand that downed dairy cows not be abused.  That investigation at the Hallmark slaughter plant in southern California showed “spent” dairy cows being shocked, water-boarded, and, in some cases, tormented by being tossed around on the sharp tines of a front-end loader.

    It’s been more than four years since our Bushway investigation about downer calf abuses.  Our Catelli Bros. investigation shows that similar abuses are still occurring. There is a federal law prohibiting cruelty in slaughter that has been in place for more than half a century  - it was the first campaign of the HSUS at the time of its founding in 1954.  But in too many quarters we see its basic requirements being ignored by those charged to observe and to enforce it, and in this case, we see a glaring deficiency in the law that needs to be corrected regarding the abuse of downer calves.  While we applaud USDA for shutting down this plant,  we should not need HSUS investigations to call out these abuses plant by plant. Stronger enforcement and more consistent legal standards on downers are what USDA should serve up.

     

    http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2014/01/hsus-undercover-investigation-shutters-nj-slaughter-plant-.html

     

    January 28, 2014
    7 months ago

    Farm Bill Plows Under King Amendment

    On top of major gains in Congress in recent weeks to get government-owned chimps out of labs and to prevent the resumption of commercial horse slaughter on U.S. soil, we are poised to see a major upgrade of the federal law against animal fighting and to kill off the destructive amendment from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to nullify a host of animal welfare laws.

    pit

     dog rescued from dogfighting.
    Photo by Kathy Milani/HSUS

    We’re likely to have a powerful new weapon in our war against organized dogfighting and cockfighting operations with approval by a House-Senate conference committee of a final Farm Bill package. Last night, after months of tense negotiations, the conference committee sent the gargantuan bill to the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote, and that package includes an HSUS-backed animal fighting measure.  That provision will create two new federal crimes: attending any animal fighting spectacle or bringing a child under 16 to such an event.  We worked with our allies in Congress to introduce this legislation three years ago – and with Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Senate Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-IL, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Rep. Tom Marino, R-PA, and others to get it added to the Farm Bill – to give law enforcement additional tools to round up the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting.                                                                                                             

    The bigger news though related to the Farm Bill is that the conference committee nixed the “King amendment,” which was originally folded into the House Farm Bill during committee.  Authored by long-time anti-animal welfare politician Steve King, the amendment had the potential to negate most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agriculture products. King aimed to nix state laws protecting farm animals, but the measure was so broadly written that it could have preempted laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish and standards for fire-safe cigarettes. A broad coalition of groups and individuals opposed the King amendment, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, County Executives of America, Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Mississippi and Arkansas Attorneys General, Iowa Farmers Union, Safe Food Coalition, and professors from 13 law schools (see full list of more than 500 organizations, newspapers, officials, and others who publicly stated their opposition).

    The HSUS and HSLF express their thanks to the conference committee members, especially Chairwoman Stabenow and Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Rep. Jim Costa, D-CA, who led the effort to keep the King amendment out of the final package, and also to the bipartisan group of 23 Senators and 169 Representatives—led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Schrader, and Gary Peters, D-Mich.—who wrote to the conference committee leaders opposing the King amendment.

    Although we’re disappointed the final Farm Bill didn’t include important reforms curbing agribusiness subsidies to large-scale factory farms, we are pleased that the conference report preserved Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) of meat products and the GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration) rule, given that we support labeling and competition provisions to give small farmers a fair chance to make it in the marketplace. 

    Because the Farm Bill nixed the King amendment and did not nullify COOL and GIPSA provisions, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and other meat lobby trade groups announced they will oppose the Farm Bill.  They didn’t get their way in seeking a repeal of animal protection laws and denying the public the right to know what country their food came from, so they want to dump the entire bill (despite the taxpayer largess they’ll enjoy if it passes).

    We are disappointed that the Farm Bill did not include a landmark agreement between HSUS and the United Egg Producers to provide better living conditions for laying hens, but we’ll now redouble our efforts in Congress to get that measure passed through different legislative avenues.

    In the meantime, we’ll be urging lawmakers to pass the Farm Bill, driving a stake into the heart of the King amendment and fortifying our nation’s commitment to rooting out dogfighting and cockfighting crimes.

     

    January 29, 2014
    7 months ago

    No Sweet Home for Some Animals in Alabama

    The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team has been on the ground in Alabama cracking down on cruelty and rescuing animals, helping to seize roosters from a cockfighting ring in Covington County, and removing dozens of dogs from deplorable conditions in Fayette County, in separate cases within the last few days.

     

    rooster

    One of the roosters rescued Saturday evening.
    Photo by Frank Loftus/HSUS

    On Saturday night, our rescue team, alongside Alabama’s Alcohol Beverage and Control Board investigators, closed in on a suspected cockfighting ring in Andalusia while a fight was in progress, resulting in the arrest by authorities of six suspected cockfighters and the seizure of nine birds.

    Alabama has the ugly distinction of having the weakest anti-cockfighting law in the country; its maximum fine of $50 for fighting birds in a public place is shocking and embarrassing. However, with a felony aggravated animal cruelty charge, all six men taken from the ring could face more severe penalties, including jail time. We’re hopeful that sort of charge will help put a stop to the barbaric practice of roosters being forced to fight to the death, with knives tied to their legs so that the animals can slash and kill other animals.  It marks a new offensive in our fight against cockfighting in states where it’s been treated like a parking violation in the past. Forcing two animals to kill and maim each other in staged combat is clearly malicious cruelty, and we hope other agencies elsewhere will follow suit and use these tools to root out animal fighting wherever it occurs.

    rescue

    One of the dogs rescued on Monday with Chris Schindler of the Animal Rescue Team
    Photo by Megan Hellar

    Just two days later, our team assisted in the court-ordered removal of dogs from a Berry, Ala. property. This rescue is part of an ongoing case we have been involved with since late October after our help was requested by local law enforcement; it involves 80 counts of animal cruelty against four individuals. Our efforts, alongside those of the 24th Circuit Drug Task Force, have ensured that more than 80 dogs will no longer be living in these deplorable conditions and instead will be going to several of our Emergency Placement Partners, where they can start the path to adoption into new, loving homes.

    We work on the big-picture issues to prevent animals from ending up in distress, including our efforts in the current Farm Bill to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fighting spectacle.  But we also come to the aid of animals in crisis, assisting local groups and law enforcement agencies especially in areas where their resources are overwhelming by large cruelty cases. These actions in Alabama over the last few days illustrate that commitment occurs on a daily basis here at The HSUS, and that we are fighting every day to attack both the root causes and the symptoms of cruelty. 

     

    January 30, 2014
    7 months ago

    Ending “Commercial” Exploitation

    There are so many indicators of cultural, corporate and political change for the good of animals. One is the creative and often provocative advertising on display not only during the Super Bowl, but in advance – where companies and ad agenciespush out their creative content in traditional and social media and get a national discussion going about their brands. Each year, it used to infuriate me to see baby or juvenile chimps dressed up and featured in commercials, because I knew what those chimpanzees would endure throughout their lives, and I also knew that the trainers would discard those chimps once they got big and leave it to the animal welfare community to pay for their care for the expected duration of their lives, sometimes as long as another half century. It costs our movement about a million dollars per chimp based on expected lifespan.

    bud

    Photo by Budweiser

    Happily now, instead of dressed-up chimps, we are getting much more advertising that promotes heart-warming pet adoption and the virtue, care and goodness associated with the human-animal bond. The Budweiser ad, featuring a puppy and a Clydesdale, extols the bonds between animals and people and even between animals and animals – and the joys we get from animals. They’re further celebrating that bond by asking users to join in on their #bestbudshashtag, posting photos of themselves with their pets to their social media channels. We’ve also heard reports that Budweiser has a not yet leaked ad featuring puppies from Southern Paws Rescue, an animal rescue in Illinois that will be aired in the 4th quarter. And the Audi ad takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the idea of not experimenting with something that may go wrong – like a fictional “Doberhuahua” fad breed – and instead making the right choice to adopt a one-of-a-kind, unique pet from an animal shelter. 

    There is change afoot on other fronts as well. Today, we announced that pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. recently decided that it will no longer conduct or financially support biomedical research on chimpanzees for the foreseeable future and will favor alternative methods. In recent years, several other pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk, have adopted similar policies prohibiting or severely restricting chimpanzee use. 

    While many of these companies did so at the request of The HSUS (either through shareholder resolution efforts or direct talks with company representatives), many others have chosen to adopt policies on their own after a 2011 Institute of Medicine report found nearly all chimpanzee use for research to be unnecessary. Private companies seem to be following the lead of the federal government by moving away from chimpanzee research. We hope that the remaining private companies using chimps will get on board, so that the use of chimps in invasive experiments stops in both publicly and privately funded institutions.

    Chimps don’t belong in commercials, and they certainly don’t belong in laboratories. It’s good to see the signs that the larger society views it that way too.

     

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