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A Humane Nation : July 2014
4 years ago

Jon Bernthal: 'Walking Tall' for Animals

AD_BERNTHAL_12_13_HIGHRES_183043I was a Jon Bernthal fan before he burst onto the screen in the fabulously successfully, award-winning first two seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead. He played the tightly wound and fiercely protective former law enforcement officer who helps lead a band of people fighting for survival against hordes of zombies overrunning the human race in a post-apocalyptic world.  I knew that he was a big animal person, thanks to a tip from his dad, Rick Bernthal, who is the chairman of the board of The HSUS.  I met Jon’s two dogs, Boss and Venice, at Rick’s house and knew of Jon’s passionate advocacy for pit bulls and his support for our efforts to crack down on puppy mills,dogfighting and other forms of abuse. 

Jon and I caught up on Saturday, just before the start of our 60thanniversary gala in Washington, D.C., and talked about his views on animal issues, his animal-loving dad, and just a bit about his movies. The gala, hosted by actor Ben Stein and also featuring CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell, was both inspirational and motivating, and we were so pleased that Jon took the time from his movie making and other activities to join us.  Here’s the trailer for one of his movies, Fury, with Brad Pitt, due out November 15thacross the nation.  And here’s my interview with him for today’s video blog.

July 02, 2014
4 years ago

New Digs, New Chance for New Iberia Chimps

I have a fantastic update to share with you today. All of the federally owned chimpanzees from New Iberia Research Center – more than 100 individuals – have officially moved to Chimp Haven, the National Chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. This is the largest group of government-owned chimpanzees to be retired, and, with this transfer, Chimp Haven’s population has doubled in less than two years. This very significant development comes as a direct result of the decision by the National Institutes of Health to work with Chimp Haven and The HSUS on a plan to transition the nation’s population of nearly all government-owned laboratory chimps to sanctuaries.

Julius, a 46-year-old chimpanzee, will join six of his offspring at the sanctuary. Photo: Chimp Haven

Chimp Haven’s total population currently stands at 212 chimpanzees, and it’s no easy feat to welcome so many chimpanzees in such a short amount of time. Chimp Haven’s decision to accept these chimps required an array of activities, including fundraising, construction of new chimpanzee housing, humanely transporting the animals, integrating them into large social groups, and getting each of them settled in their new homes.

An investigation at New Iberia conducted by The HSUS and broadcast by ABC News in 2009 was a pivotal moment in our efforts to end chimpanzee research and retire  chimpanzees to sanctuary.  To their great credit, the leadership at New Iberia has been very positive about moving this process ahead and providing a new life for the chimps.  

Ned, who had difficulty with social interactions, already has many new friends at the sanctuary. 
Photo: Chimp Haven

There’s Julius, a 46-year-old chimpanzee who fathered 29 children in captivity and who will join six of his offspring at Chimp Haven.  There’s Monkey, who once suffered severe trauma to his chin and lower lip because of a seizure and is receiving medical care. There’s Ned, who experienced head trauma as an infant, causing impaired mobility and cognition that made social interactions difficult, but who – with care and encouragement -- has already made several friends among staff and other chimpanzees in his new home.

Back in September of 2012, this group of chimpanzees was declared permanently ineligible for research but most were slated to move to another laboratory in Texas when New Iberia decided it no longer wished to maintain chimpanzees for NIH. While we supported the ineligible designation, we urged NIH to work with us to send all of these chimpanzees to sanctuary. In December of that year, a joint effort was announced between NIH, the Foundation for NIH, Chimp Haven, and The HSUS to send these chimpanzees to Chimp Haven if $2.3 million in funds could be raised for construction.

Monkey, who had suffered severe trauma to his chin and lower lip because of a seizure, is receiving medical care. Photo: Chimp Haven

The HSUS was able to help kick off the fundraising with $500,000, thanks to one of our most dedicated and generous supporters, Audrey Steele Burnand. We were later able to add more than $100,000 on top of that to provide critical support to Chimp Haven. Fortunately, Chimp Haven was able to secure the remainder of the needed funds for construction and immediately got down to the hard work of making the retirement of these chimpanzees a reality.

We couldn’t be more thrilled for the chimpanzees who will now get to live out the remainder of their lives climbing trees, relaxing in the sun, and living in larger social groups. 

4 years ago

The HSUS extends our congratulations to Chimp Haven for this amazing milestone and looks forward to more great news like this in the future as the National Institutes of Health continues its plan to retire more than 300 federally owned chimpanzees.

P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a moment to check out our People’s Silver Telly Award winning video about the retirement of this group of chimpanzees. This evocative and award-winning video, made by The HSUS last year, demonstrates the great job Chimp Haven has been doing in giving the chimpanzees a better life in their golden years.

July 03, 2014
4 years ago

Don’t Let Hot Cars, Fireworks and Extreme Weather Ruin July 4th Celebration – for Pets

A father who left his 22-month-old son in an SUV in Atlanta on a hot day is now under investigation for the boy’s death. The story’s been front page news across the nation, and it's a vivid and tragic reminder that any creature – a toddler, a dog, a cat or another – who’s unable to get out of a hot car, is vulnerable to the punishing and fatal effects of trapped, searing heat.

Patriotic dog
This Fourth of July, resist the temptation to bring your pet along on holiday travels.  Photo: iStockphoto

What’s even more shocking is how often it happens: already, this is believed to be the14th case of a child dying of heatstroke in a parked car this year -- a statistic that reminds us that raising public awareness about the dangers of summer heat can save lives.

We at The HSUS for several decades have reminded people about the dangers of dogs in parked cars, especially during the summer months. Leaving a dog inside a car for a few minutes while you run out for a quick errand might seem harmless enough, but it can be deadly. On a balmy, 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to heat up to 99 degrees. Rolling down the windows has little effect. Quickly rising temperatures can often lead to brain damage or the pet could die from heatstroke or suffocation.

One way to remind yourself to stay committed and aware is to sign our pledge that you will not leave your dog or other pet in a parked car. Then, share it with friends, along with these tips on what to do if you see a dog in a parked car. The HSUS also has a great infographic that explains the dangers of leaving dogs in parked cars.

Click infographic for larger view

This Fourth of July, we also ask that you resist the temptation to bring your pet along on holiday travels to barbecues and other celebrations. Ask yourself if it’s in your pet’s best interest to be exposed to extreme noise, startling displays of pyrotechnics and frightening smells, when the alternative is an evening lounging on the bed at home, with the TV on to dampen the strange sounds of our nation’s birthday party. Here are some tips on how to give your pet a safe and happy Fourth. Mid-year is also a great time to double check your pet’s ID tags and microchip information and update or replace them as needed, and – as hurricane season rolls in -- to come up with a disaster preparedness plan for your family and pets.

Many local and state governments are tightening restrictions on leaving pets in cars, and expanding law enforcement’s latitude to free an animal believed to be in danger. You can contact your local elected officials to discuss how your community can protect pets in this way. Let’s make it a priority to keep our pets safe and healthy.

July 07, 2014
4 years ago

A Bill for the One Percent – of Sport and Trophy Hunters

Just a few days ago, it was the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act. The act was the goal of the 1963 March on Washington and a year later it was muscled through Congress by President Lyndon Johnson and several key Democrats and Republicans. That was Congress at its best, doing something in the national interest and honoring the moral standards of our country.

That same year, Johnson signed into law another piece of landmark legislation – the Wilderness Act, which sought to preserve wild areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

One provision  in the Sportsmen's Act would provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. Photo: Alamy

The Wilderness Act is about to be weakened by Congress, and there’s nary a howl, screech, or a primal scream about it.  Today, the Senate is scheduled to take up S. 2363, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” which has three particularly odious elements to it and represents a giveaway to the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, and others who represent the extreme wing of the Washington trophy hunting lobby. This is Congress at its worst, with Democratic leaders teeing up the bill to give a couple of southern Democrats – lead sponsor Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – a political talking point as they campaign in the rural areas of their states. The fact is, though, hardly one of the hunters whom Hagan or Pryor may run across will benefit much at all from any of these provisions of this bill.

One provision would roll back the Marine Mammal Protection Act and provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. It’s one thing to shoot a deer and eat the meat, and it’s another to fly up to the Arctic Circle, drop $40,000 on a guided hunt, and shoot a threatened species – all for the head and the hide and the bragging rights that go along with it. I don’t think too many guys in small town North Carolina or Arkansas will be the least interested in that kind of hunting. It’s just the latest in a series of these import allowances for polar bear hunters, and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and just wait for a congressional waiver to bring in their trophies.

A second provision of the bill would allow sport hunters and trappers priority use in wilderness areas, even though these lands were never designed specifically for this use. This is the provision that weakens the landmark Wilderness Act that Congress established a half century ago. We’re talking here about more than 100 million acres with this change in management priorities – subordinating wilderness values and prioritizing wildlife trapping, and all the misery that comes along with it for animals.

And finally, the bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead ammunition, which is a known toxin that threatens hunters who consume wild animals and also threatens wild animals who incidentally consume prey with lead. Lead poisoning is known to be the leading cause of death for endangered California condors, and it poisons and kills as many as 130 other species, including other threatened and endangered animals. Given that hunters can use non-toxic shot – which ultimately makes their wild game meals at home much safer for their families – there’s just no reason to stifle the judgment of scientists at the EPA. President George H.W. Bush required non-lead ammunition for all waterfowl hunting in 1991, and for more than two decades hunters have used it for duck and goose hunting. Why not for other forms of hunting, too – especially now that we have so much more information to warrant this transition to a safer form of hunting?

The Senate has appropriations bills to consider, and it’s got a raft of strong animal protection bills it can take up. It is a shame that it’s filling its docket as a purely political act for vulnerable Democrats, to throw a bone to the extremist segment of the trophy hunting lobby. Rank-and-file hunters won’t know the difference, but millionaire trophy hunters will be the ones who benefit from this shameful legislation.

4 years ago

More than 100 humane and environmental organizations co-signed a letter sent today to the Senate opposing the bill. Let’s hope lawmakers pay attention. You can take action by contacting your two U.S. Senators, and urging them to shoot down S. 2363.  

July 09, 2014
4 years ago

Howling for Wolves and Voting Rights in Michigan

Almost three decades ago, I spent a summer as a Student Conservation Association ranger at Isle Royale National Park, in the farthest reaches of northern Michigan. I hiked through the beautiful boreal forests of this World Heritage site, drawn there because of the stories I’d read as a child about the relationship between the wolves and the moose on the island. Not for a moment did I ever worry about a wolf attack – in fact, I yearned for a glimpse of these elusive creatures.

Michigan's small population of wolves has to be protected from trophy hunters. Photo: Alamy

I’m back today in the lower peninsula, enjoying the Michigan summer and speaking up for wolves as the human population of 10 million grapples with the question of how it handles the 650 or so wolves who’ve reclaimed a small portion of their range, in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

Immediately after the federal government removed wolves from the list of endangered species, a majority of state lawmakers voted to open up a trophy-hunting season for wolves. The HSUS joined a larger coalition, called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, and conducted a referendum to give voters the opportunity to nullify the legislature’s precipitous and controversial action. We’re pleased to stand with the Detroit Zoo, Michigan’s native American tribes, Audubon chapters, the Michigan Sierra Club, hundreds of other groups, businesses, veterinarians, wolf scientists, and thousands of volunteers working on the ground who favor the restoration of basic protections for the state’s small population of wolves.

Before the public could even vote on the issue, lawmakers found a different means of allowing trophy hunting – by ceding authority to the seven-member Natural Resources Commission to establish hunting seasons for almost any species. They clearly feared that the voters would side with us, and tried to derail our referendum.

We responded with a second referendum, to give voters the chance to nullify the second legislative maneuver against wolves. We met their attempt to suppress voting rights with more citizen democratic action and a new opportunity to vote.

This time, the trophy-hunting lobby gathered signatures for its own wolf-hunting measure, ironically and counterintuitively as a third attempt to thwart a vote of the people. Their measure is called the “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act” – a well-dressed-up wolf hunting measure – and they have publicly stated that they want the legislature to approve it later this month or in August. The trophy-hunting lobby, by various means, wants legislators to control this issue, so they can have their way with wolves.

There’s one overriding conclusion I’ve come to in talking to people in this state. We at The HSUS and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected have confidence in the people of Michigan to weigh the issues and make the right decision. Our opponents don’t trust the citizens of the state, and they are making extraordinary efforts to block a public vote in a fair election.

Our system of government is grounded on the principle that regular people are entrusted to make election decisions, whether for candidates or issues. Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Men by their makeup are naturally divided into two camps: those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of higher classes; and those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them the safest and most honest, if always the wisest repository of the public interest.”

It’s a sad circumstance when lawmakers and their allies in the trophy-hunting community try to squelch the voting rights of citizens, in their zeal to kill animals who are rare, who’ve harmed no one, and who have a rightful place in this great state.  

July 10, 2014
4 years ago

Will Congress Heed Charla Nash’s Message?

Today, I shared the podium on Capitol Hill with the brave Charla Nash who, five years ago, suffered one of the most extensive and life-changing animal attacks in American history. After being called to help calm her boss’s adult male pet chimpanzee Travis at home, Nash suffered a disfiguring attack from the powerful 200-pound animal that left her barely alive.

Charla Nash 1
Charla Nash was joined  on Capitol Hill today by members of Congress, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. (left) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Photo: Pete Marovich/The HSUS

Today, for the first time in Washington, she told her story, advocating for the swift passage of the Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1463/H.R. 2856, which seeks to ban the interstate transport of primates for the pet trade.

In February of 2009, the enraged Travis bit off Charla’s hands and toes and essentially tore off her facebefore a police officer shot Travis to save his own life.  Travis suffered a mortal wound and staggered into his home and died in his bed minutes later.

As Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said today, the House passed his bill to ban the trade in primates as pets in 2008, but the Senate failed to act.  Just as our push for a national no-downer policy in 2003 preceded the finding of a downer cow in the food supply some months later – and a major disruption in world beef markets -- our warning about inaction in stemming the trade in primates as pets preceded the grisly and tragic circumstance of Ms. Nash and Travis in Connecticut.

Sensible policy action should not require these sorts of cataclysmic outcomes. But to have these sorts of events, and then to fail to act on policy reforms to prevent these tragedies from happening again, compounds the gravity of the inaction by Congress.

Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, in joining Blumenauer and House lead sponsor Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA. at today’s event, said a similar thing. They said they’d use all their power to shepherd this legislation through Congress, in honor of their one-time constituent. You can help by calling your U.S. senators and representatives and asking them to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act.

Charla Nash
Charla, who was attacked by a 200-pound chimpanzee, told reporters that she did not want anyone to suffer the same fate she did. Photo: Pete Marovich/The HSUS

Charla is as compelling an advocate for any bill as I’ve ever seen. And today she told a wall of reporters and TV cameras that she doesn’t want anyone to suffer the same fate she did. 

Who can argue with that from this modest and courageous woman?

In the coming days, I’ll be posting a video blog of an exclusive interview I’ve conducted with Charla.

P.S. It was a big day on the Hill for other reasons, too – with two hugely positive results for animals. First, the U.S. Senate blocked the so-called Sportsmen’s Act, which had terrible provisions I wrote about recently. These include expanding trapping in wilderness areas, blocking the Environment Protection Agency from regulating toxic lead ammunition, and allowing trophy hunters to import sport-hunted polar bear trophies. A combination of pro-animal Democrats and pro-gun Republicans (concerned they would not be allowed to offer amendments) blocked the bill. Here’s the cloture vote, with the “No” vote serving as the pro-animal vote. 

4 years ago

Second, Congressman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., became the 300th House cosponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518, the bill that cracks down on the sickening practice of horse soring. After such a remarkable showing of support for our position, I hope that House leaders will finally take up the bill on the House floor.

July 11, 2014
4 years ago

An Exclusive Video Interview with Charla Nash

Yesterday, I wrote about my visit to Capitol Hill with Charla Nash, the courageous woman who five years ago suffered anunthinkable mauling by a pet chimp.  She came to Washington, D.C. at my request to lobby in support of the Captive Primate Safety Act, which seeks to ban the interstate trade in primates as pets.  She spoke at a press conference with me and with lawmakers committed to passing this legislation.

Last night, she sat down with me for an exclusive interview for A Humane Nation. As you’ll see, she’s a remarkable woman with an incredible spirit, and someone who wants to be known not just as a victim, but primarily as an agent of change and reform.

I hope you’ll forward this interview to your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative and urge them to support S. 1463/H.R. 2856.  I hope you’ll also forward it to friends and colleagues and ask them to help Charla and The HSUS turn around this problem.

July 14, 2014
4 years ago

Burrowing in on Wild Horse and Burro Management

Burros are among my favorite of the animals residing at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, with their long ears and friendly stares. We have a couple hundred of rescued burros there, and visitors seem to have a special fascination with them, too. As with all of the animals at the ranch, they've landed there because of some tale of woe - in most instances, because the burros have gotten a raw deal from the federal government, which manages, or mismanages, their populations on the vast reaches of public lands in the West.

Guatemala has burros of its own and does not need shipments of burros from the United States.Contact BLM now to keep our nation's wild burros here. Photo: Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, is mandated to maintain populations of wild horses and burros in the 11 western states where they live. There are only about 40,000 wild horses and only 8,000 burros, and three quarters of the horses are in just two states - Nevada and Wyoming. The remaining states have relatively small populations, typically with 3,000 or fewer animals.  There are millions of cattle and sheep on those federal lands, yet ranchers complain of too many wild equids.

The government has been rounding up and removing horses and burros, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact.  In the process, the feds have been building a captive equine population now in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. Just last week, the BLM released new information that its personnel and contractors would round up nearly 2,400 more wild horses and burros this year. The cost of the round ups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.

For years, we have pressed the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the program, to focus instead on fertility programs to manage populations - a solution that the National Academy of Sciences also recommended in a report commissioned by the BLM. The BLM has been slow to implement the recommendations of the NAS. 

Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals. While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of WFHBA, which requires that the BLM's first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.

We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide. Through Humane Society International (HSI) and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program (HSVMA) affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries. But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM - a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation's heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.

4 years ago

We do work with BLM, through our Platero Project, to adopt out burros to suitable owners. So far this year we have placed 190 burros and we remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, thesolution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities. 

July 15, 2014
4 years ago

Frankendeer, Captive Hunts, and Captive Politicians

We know that Washington lobbyist and PR operative Rick Berman has shilled for seal clubbers, puppy millers, elephant abusers in the traveling circus industry, and all sorts of factory farming interests. His career portfolio also includes folks who peddle tobacco to teens, enable drunk drivers, promote risky tanning beds, and inject corn syrup, trans fats and mercury-laden fish into American diets. Now he’s added another animal abusing group to that list – captive hunters.

The United States may have upwards of 25 million free-roaming, wild deer. We don't need to breed more in captivity. Photo: John Harrison

Yesterdayreporter Ryan Sabalow, who conducted an 18-month investigation into the world of cervid ranching and captive hunting of deer for the Indianapolis Starwrote that the industry has hired Berman as its shill  too, specifically to help override the Missouri governor’s veto of a captive deer ranching bill. The lawmakers pushing for deer farms – against the wishes of the Missouri Department of Conservation – are the same ones pushing a “right to farm” measure on the August 5th ballot.

If that measure, Amendment 1, passes, it could forever protect puppy mills, captive hunting operations, hog factories, and other “agricultural” operations from any state regulation whatsoever.

Earlier this year, Sabalow authored a remarkable four-part series, “Buck Fever,” which exposed the breeding and captive shooting of “Frankendeer” featuring bizarrely enormous antlers. The practice of breeding and raising these mutant deer – who are shot at in fenced hunting preserves – threatens native wildlife, livestock and our food supply with potentially deadly diseases and imposes a substantial cost upon taxpayers for multi-million-dollar government eradication efforts.

Sabalow’s report notes that chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found in 22 states, first detected in captive deer herds before being found in wildlife that interacted with the captive populations. And bovine tuberculosis has spread from deer farms to cattle in at least four states. The evidence is overwhelming, with wildlife officials citing deer escaping from farms and blending in with wild populations, and researchers in Michigan setting up remote cameras along deer fences to document nose-to-nose contact between captive and wild animals. After CWD-infected deer were found on a Missouri preserve, others were found in the wild within two miles of the pen—but nowhere else in the state.

Hunters interviewed for the story rightly criticized the shooting of tame animals inside fenced pens, seeing it as a mockery of fair chase. At the Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch in Bland, Missouri, “one bull elk with a tag in its ear [was] lazily chewing its cud in a grassy meadow. It didn’t bother to turn its head as the Durango drove past…[The owner] paid about $4,500 to have the animal shipped in a few weeks earlier from a farm in South Dakota. He said he’d charge the client who put in his order to kill it about $6,500.”

The trial of one Indiana captive hunt operator included video footage of “a white-tailed deer with majestic antlers…dying of pneumonia, so sickly that a ranch hand had to poke it with a sharp stick to get it to stand. On wobbly legs, it toppled over in a snowy thicket…it appeared to be propped into a standing position, a branch through its antlers. A few yards away, a camouflaged hunter crouched in the snow, his rifle at the ready. A cameraman stood behind him filming the action, all part of a service for which the hunter paid $15,000. In the video, the hunter fires and the deer collapses, legs twitching in the snow…the hunt took place inside a 1-acre pen.”

Is that what Missouri wants, and then to protect this kind of cruelty and “sport” from any regulation?

4 years ago

How often do we see an irresponsible industry putting the rest of society at risk, seeking handouts from the federal government, and expecting the public to clean up the mess it has created? The people who breed tigers and lions for roadside zoos and photo ops dump these dangerous predators into communities, threatening public safety and fobbing off the millions of dollars in costs for their lifetime care to nonprofit sanctuaries. Burmese pythons and boa constrictors peddled over the Internet become established in the natural environment and wipe out native birds and mammals. Millions of dogs churned out by large-scale puppy mills cost unsuspecting pet owners in heartbreak and veterinary bills, and displace healthy dogs who would otherwise be adopted from shelters and spared euthanasia.

The remarkable thing is, the nation may have upwards of 25 million free-roaming, wild deer –the number one game species in the United States in terms of spending and hunter participation. If there’s any species we don’t need to breed in captivity, it’s white-tailed deer. But the greed of some, and the trophy lust of others, have been sufficient motivators to drive the establishment of 10,000 of these deer farms throughout the United States, posing tangible threats to native wildlife and to farm animals – and therefore to the established hunting and farming industries. 

States should follow the lead of Florida, which recently banned the import of captive deer. We don’t need any more of these operations, and they certainly don’t need immunity from regulation as proposed by Republican lawmakers in Missouri. Governor Nixon has it right, and his veto of a captive deer ranching and hunting bill should stand. And on August 5, Missouri voters should reject the second part of their plan – by turning down a ballot measure, concocted by the Farm Bureau and loyally shepherded to passage by Republican lawmakers, that amounts to a get-out-of-jail pass not only for captive hunters but also for puppy millers and foreign-owned hog factories.

Paid for by The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, CEO, 2100 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. 

July 16, 2014
4 years ago

Bear Baiters Spread Doughnuts, False Claims, and Fear in Maine

In today’s Bangor Daily News, Maine hunter Joel Gibbs upends the simplistic framing coming from a vocal segment of bear trophy hunters in the Pine Tree State about Question 1 on the November ballot.

Maine black bear
Maine is the only state that allows baiting, hounding and trapping of bears. Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS

With Maine’s bear baiting season about to start later this month, the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine is attempting, with fear tactics, to rally hunters, warning them that Question 1bodes the end of bear management in the state.  In fact, Question 1 would only put a stop to certain inhumane and unsporting methods of take already illegal for other big-game species, such as deer and moose – baiting, hounding and snare trapping.

As Gibbs said in his column today, he’s killed nearly two dozen bears during the last quarter century, but has never needed to rely on shooting the animals over a giant barrel full of meat parts and jelly doughnuts, or taken aim at a bear as it clung to a tree limb after being driven there by a pack of dogs with radio transmitters on their collars. And he’d never think of shooting a bear execution style, after catching one in a snare trap.

As a fair chase hunter, Joel Gibbs is not an outlier – he actually is in the mainstream of bear hunting in America. It’s just that Maine somehow fell out of the mainstream, and it’s allowed a relatively small number of guides to turn the north woods into a vast dump site and an unsporting killing ground, mainly for out-of-state trophy hunters intent on making an easy kill to acquire a trophy.

You see, of the 3,000 to 4,000 bears shot in Maine each fall, out-of-state shooters account for more than 60 percent of the killing.  Calling the baiter a “guide” is a stretch. He’s more like a junk-food distributor and bear pointer.  Hundreds of Maine guides collectively put out millions of pounds of food for bears, in order to gain a fee of $1,500 to $3,000 to create a bear-killing opportunity. Then, they tell a seated client to shoot the biggest bear at the dump site.

The HSUS has worked with rank-and-file hunters like Joel Gibbs in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington to ban these practices by citizen initiative, just as Maine voters are proposing to do in November. Maine is the only state that allows baiting, hounding and trapping of bears.  

The guides and their allies in the trophy hunting lobby say it’s essential for management, but how can that be if no other state allows all three of these practices? And what is the behavioral and population-wide effect of dumping millions of pounds of food out for bears during a critical period prior to hibernation, especially given that every responsible wildlife management agency says it’s a mistake for humans to feed bears? Doing this grows the bear population, habituates bears to human food sources, and causes bear encounters with people.

In the last 10 years, according to Maine’s own state wildlife agency, the bear population has increased by 30 percent. This has happened even though state wildlife managers have allowed the use of these unsporting and inhumane tactics, which have drawn all of these out-of-state hunters but haven’t even stabilized the bear population. In contrast, in the states that have banned bear baiting and hounding, the bear populations and the number of human-bear conflicts have stabilized, and more people have participated in fair-chase bear hunting, generating greater revenue for those states.

I hope the majority of Maine voters follow the voting recommendation of Joel Gibbs and support Question 1. Even if a majority of bear baiters in Maine don’t take Joel’s voting advice, maybe he can teach them a thing or two about how to hunt bears, in a way that doesn’t stack the odds so badly against the bears and violate the basic precepts of hunting itself.



4 years ago

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, PO Box 15367, Portland, ME 04112.

July 17, 2014
4 years ago

Testing Our Humanity and Ingenuity on Animal Testing

Every year, 20 million animals – a number so big it's hard to wrap your mind around it – are used worldwide in chemical studies, causing immense suffering and pain. But this week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued new, updated guidance for its 34 member countries – where most of these studies are performed – which could open up a different pathway forward, one that would spare millions of creatures a miserable fate.

New OECD guidance on chemical testing could spare millions of animals from a miserable fate. Photo: iStockphoto

One document released by the OECD helps toxicologists and regulators understand how to test for skin corrosion and irritation without using animals. Traditional skin corrosion and irritation studies using animals inflict a great deal of pain and suffering on large numbers of animals – usually one to three rabbits for each test. In Europe alone, a new regulatory program focused on gathering skin corrosion and irritation information on approximately 40,000 chemicals would translate into the use of 120,000 animals under the typical animal testing protocol. This OECD document could help prompt the use of non-animal tests to satisfy these and other testing requirements.

Another document recently made public recommends new methods that use cultured cells and tissues instead of live animals to test potential hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current screening program includes five of 11 tests that use animals. In the first phase of this program, the screening of just 47 chemicals killed 27,000 animals. Many other countries around the world may require endocrine testing, with the potential for millions of animals to be killed if  traditional animal tests alone are used. This OECD recommendation too could have a dramatic positive impact.

These changes are not coming out of the blue. They are the result of our longtime efforts, mainly by scientists of our staff, to embed our concerns within the relevant science-based institutions and policy-making networks. In fact, The HSUS was instrumental in getting a seat at the table at the OECD back in 2002 and served as the first lead of the International Council on Animal Protection in OECD Programmes (ICAPO). ICAPO experts advise the OECD on the use of non-animal alternative test methods in chemical testing programs. In the European Union, the OECD establishes chemical testing guidelines that are used by industries in the member countries to develop and market new chemicals. OECD policies ultimately have a global impact, so ICAPO’s participation is critical.

We are committed to replacing the use of animals in chemical testing with faster, better, more humane science - science based on current understanding of human biology and incorporating modern technologies to provide better information for protecting humans and the environment.

You can learn more about this work at our new web site, If you’re interested in learning more about non-animal alternative methods in toxicology, read the Toxicity Testing Overview on the website – a project co-sponsored by The HSUS. For more information about non-animal testing in general, visit the HSUS' Alternatives to Animal Tests page.

July 21, 2014
4 years ago

Houston, We Have a Problem – With Bird Poisoning

Images of distressed birds writhing, seizing and flopping their wings, broadcast last week on Houston television, were tough for the public to see. Photographers for KHOU-TV recorded this horror show at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) after a contractor hired by airport authorities, in cooperation with United Airlines, intentionally poisoned grackles, pigeons and other birds, with corn kernels mixed with the deadly toxicant Avitrol®. Startled airport employees saw birds dropping out of the sky shortly after dawn on Saturday and the deaths continued through the weekend. Some birds being filmed took almost an hour to die.

Preventative and non-lethal strategies are available to stabilize populations of birds, like pigeons. Photo: iStockphoto

Aviation safety must be a priority, given that so many human lives depend on incident-free flights, and there are times when aggressive management of birds at airports is warranted. But the plan executed in Houston seems particularly cruel and unnecessary. No management authority should be able to vaguely invoke public health and safety as a rationale for this kind of cruel killing, especially when it has allowed airport bird populations to reach into the hundreds and made a minimal effort to employ preventative and non-lethal strategies first.

Today, I wrote to city, airport and United Airlines officials, pointing out that “exclusion, with netting or by other means, keeps birds from places where they might nest, roost, or simply find shelter. Managing the habitat, such as altering the height of grass on runways, can help keep birds off airfields, and other management actions can be undertaken to deny birds access to key on-site sources of food and water, as a means of compelling them to go elsewhere.” I also noted that “frightening devices and visual repellents are commonly deployed at airports to reduce risks of bird strikes. Underlying all of these approaches is a humane population management strategy that can stabilize populations through the use of birth control via a commercially available reproductive inhibitor, OvoControl®.” Why were these types of practices not employed prior to the decision to conduct indiscriminate poisoning?

Airport authorities in Dallas-Fort Worth told the Houston Chronicle that they do not use lethal tactics, and many other airports around the nation have discarded Avitrol as a realistic means of preventing airplanes from striking birds. Avitrol is a particularly inhumane and indiscriminate poison that is marketed as a “frightening agent” because it causes birds to convulse and suffer over long periods of time. The erratic movements of the dying birds ostensibly scare other birds. The Environmental Protection Agency rightly placed new restrictions last year on Avitrol’s use

Bird killing, especially by cruel methods, is an issue we’ve been confronting for years, especially as conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at airports and aquaculture facilities, in municipalities, crop fields, feedlots and other settings where conflicts between birds and people arise. Wildlife Services, as the USDA’s program is known, kills 3 to 5 million birds a year.  The government’s approach, like the Houston airport’s, needs to be re-examined in light of the public’s concern about humane treatment of all animals.

We are fortunate to have a world populated with birds. To be able to watch their incredible feats of flight and hear their marvelous song is a source of human wonder and enjoyment. We see them around our homes and workplaces in ways we cannot often see and enjoy other wildlife. They enrich our lives. Of course, conflicts are inevitable but the challenge for us is to actively manage these in a way that does not leave a trail of death and misery in its wake.

Houston airport officials and United Airlines showed us the wrong way to handle the conflict.  Let’s take a lesson from this and move toward more humane control methods, so this grisly scenario is never repeated again. The events in Houston should be a primer for every airport in the nation on how not to handle a situation with birds and aircraft.

July 22, 2014
4 years ago

The True Cost of the Doggie in the Window

Every year, 40,000 homeless dogs pass through the doors of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, the most populous county in Arizona. That’s more than 3,330 dogs a month and almost 110 dogs each day. The influx of Chihuahuas and Chi mixes alone is so large that the shelter has set aside three of its rooms just for the tiny breeds.

Puppy mill dog
Most pet-store puppies come from puppy mills which treat the mother dogs like breeding machines and the puppies like a cash crop. Photo: Jason Miczek/AP Images for The HSUS

This seemingly unending stream of homeless pets was one of the reasonsPhoenix passed an ordinance to stop pet stores from selling commercially-raised puppies. As our investigations have documented time and again, most pet-store puppies come from puppy mills, which are typically large-scale commercial breeding operations that often cut corners on animal care and treat the mother dogs like breeding machines and the puppies like a cash crop. Every day, while shelters like Maricopa’s deal with an influx of unwanted pets, hundreds of puppies from central puppy mill states such as Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri are flowing to pet stores in communities all across the country.

The pet stores peddling puppy mill dogs in communities like Phoenix create direct and indirect burdens on shelters and rescue groups. Consumers who buy pet-store puppies on impulse – typically not knowing the dogs are coming from mills in the Midwest – later relinquish them to shelters in distressingly large numbers. These pet-store puppies, along with those purchased from websites or at open-air flea markets, clog the adoption pipeline, placing enormous burdens on municipal and county animal care and control and on private animal welfare charities.

As USA Today reported today, the owners of Phoenix’s Puppies 'N Love pet store have filed a federal lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court in Arizona, arguing that the ordinance is unlawful. But to prove the case that pet stores don’t need to sell puppy mill dogs to be successful, one need only look within the county, at the Phoenix-based Petsmart, which for years has had a policy of supporting pet adoptions in its stores nationwide without selling commercially raised puppies or kittens. It’s the biggest pet store chain in the nation, with nearly 1,300 outlets in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. In fact, many homeless dogs from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control are placed via a Petsmart Charities adoption center in Scottsdale, reducing crowding at the shelter and boosting its adoption rates.

The real costs of the puppy-selling pet stores, websites and flea markets are borne by the public and private shelters where so many homeless animals end up. When you add it up across the United States, it’s probably a $2 billion burden, and with 10,000 puppy mills churning out two to four million dogs, you can see that this is not an abstract or theoretical concern. It’s as real and practical as it gets. 

The question remains, why can’t a city try to stop the flow of puppy mill dogs into its community, given the misery that dogs endure in mills and the costs that the community bears to deal with a homeless animal problem that results in 3,300 dogs coming through just one animal welfare agency in the county in just one month? What of the hundreds of other animal welfare organizations in the country also bearing their share of the burden?

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Phoenix has joined more than 50 locales in adopting such ordinances. It’s not an attempt to restrict commerce, but to combat severe animal welfare and euthanasia problems, and to stop these businesses from passing on costs to the rest of society. These reasonable laws help to drive the market toward adoptions of homeless animals at shelters and rescue groups, and toward responsible breeders who provide proper care for their dogs.

July 23, 2014
4 years ago

Time to Make a Racket About Ractopamine in U.S. Pigs

If you have any doubt about the contempt that some leaders within the pork industry have for their own customers – to say nothing of the pigs locked in gestation crates – the dispute over a dangerous animal drug named ractopamine should dispel it. On Monday, McClatchy reported that the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is maneuvering to derail free trade talks with the European Union unless the EU agrees to accept imports of pork from pigs fed ractopamine. Ractopamine is a beta-agonist (a drug used to treat asthma in humans) that producers feed pigs, cattle and turkeys to induce rapid weight gain. It is banned or restricted in around 160 nations—including in the EU and even in Russia and China. But that hasn’t stopped the American pork industry, which now treats an estimated 60 to 80 percent of its pigs with ractopamine, from routinely using the drug. And, despite substantial evidence that ractopamine causes pigs to suffer, the American pork industry is now trying to push its product into more foreign markets, too – under their doctrine that its profits should trump any concerns from regulators, scientists or consumers about food safety or animal welfare.

Research shows that ractopamine causes pigs to become stressed and aggressive, and makes them more likely to collapse. Photo: Farm Sanctuary

There are serious questions about food safety and ractopamine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ractopamine for use on pigs after just one human health study—a study of six young, healthy men, one of whom dropped out because his heart began racing and pounding abnormally. Three years later, the FDA sent ractopamine’s sponsor a 14-page letter, accusing the company of withholding information about the drug’s “adverse animal drug experiences” and “safety and effectiveness.” The European Food Safety Authoritysubsequently investigated the drug and concluded that there was not enough data to show that ractopamine is safe for human consumption at any level. That’s concerning, especially given that a recent Consumer Reports test of pork products at U.S. supermarkets found samples testing positive for ractopamine residues.

We do know, though, that ractopamine is bad for the pigs forced to consume it. The FDA has linked ractopamine to nearly a quarter million reported adverse events in pigs (more than half of those pigs were sickened or killed)—more than any other animal drug. The most common adverse events linked to ractopamine were trembling, lameness, inability to stand, reluctance to move, stiffness, hyperactivity, hoof disorder, dyspnea, collapse and death. Our report on pig welfare cites research showing that ractopamine causes pigs to become stressed and aggressive, and makes them more likely to collapse and become “downers,” no longer able walk. Not only do these downer pigs suffer terribly when they collapse, they also become more vulnerable to abuse. We’ve conducted our own investigations of hog factories, and documented gross mistreatment of downer pigs. The pig industry vehemently fights all of our efforts to require the euthanasia of downer pigs, and to prevent additional handling and slaughter of these infirm animals (processing downed cattle is forbidden under federal law, but not pigs).

4 years ago

More broadly, the dispute over ractopamine shows the arrogance of the leadership of the pork industry, which insists on using a dangerous drug and then complains when other nations and American consumers don’t want their pork. They have some sort of expectation that they are the parents and they will tell the children to eat whatever is on their plate. It reminds me of their stubborn refusal to stop using gestation crates—coffin-sized crates that confine pregnant sows so tightly that they can’t even turn around – and their disregard of public attitude surveys that show that consumers in every state oppose their continued use. NPPC criticized McDonald’s and a cascade of other major food retailers that have made public pledges to phase out their purchase of pork from operations that confine the sows so severely. These retailers are telling the pork industry that if the industry won’t pay attention to the wishes of consumers, then retailers will. The mentality of the industry is best summed up by an NPPC spokesman who told a reporter in 2012 the following: “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around…” The NPPC, and some others within the industry, seem to think that their customers exist to serve them, rather than they to serve customers.

These obstructionists are facing a major challenge from within their industry, with major producers splitting from NPPC on gestation crates and ractopamine. Smithfield Foods, for example, has committed to phasing out all of its gestation crates and to reducing its use of ractopamine. And just last month, we were pleased to announce that Cargill is following suit in eliminating gestation crates. Now it’s time for the pork industry’s laggards to step up—and for the obstructionists at the NPPC to get out of the way. Neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture or U.S. trade negotiators, nor their counterparts in the E.U., should buckle to the unreasonable demands and the unsafe and inhumane policies of the leadership of the U.S. pork industry. 

July 24, 2014
4 years ago

Updates on Urgent Battles for Animals  Today, some updates on important issues in our orbit.

Ag-gag legislation

California downer cow abuse
Our investigations like this one at a California slaughter plant have unearthed shocking animal abuse. Photo: The HSUS

Last night, former HSUS undercover investigator Cody Carlson and I appeared on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton to talk about the concerted effort by agribusiness interests to stifle animal welfare investigations of factory farms and slaughter plants. This was an in-depth treatment of the issue, with undercover investigative footage broadcast on MSNBC. It was especially nice to see Rev. Sharpton, who has his own considerable political following, associate himself with animal protection, and he vowed to keep on top of the subject.

While the industry’s lobbyists were able to ram an ag-gag bill through in Idaho (after the state’s powerful industry was angered by Mercy for Animals’ shocking exposé of animal cruelty), they failed in every other state, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Vermont.

Missouri right to farm amendment

Missouri already has a longer-standing ag-gag law, and now interests there are trying to prevent any further state regulation of any agricultural operations, whether it is factory farms, puppy mills, or captive deer hunting facilities, by enacting a constitutional amendment that provides a “right to farm.”  The proponents of this ballot measure, led by the Missouri Farm Bureau, are spending hundreds of thousands as an investment in deregulating these industries for good. But the state’s opinion leaders are having none of it. All of the state’s major newspapers – including the St. Louis Post DispatchKansas City StarJoplin GlobeJefferson City News Tribune, along with many small town papers – have urged voters to oppose Amendment 1. Family farmers, including the Missouri Farmers Union, have joined The HSUS in saying that Missouri should not protect foreign or state corporations from hurting animals, degrading the land or fouling water. We can win this fight, and we must. To get involved go to

USFWS suspension of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suspension on the import of sport-hunted trophies from Zimbabwe should be broadened to include all African countries that permit elephant hunting. Photo: Alamy

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed thesuspension of the import of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe. Given the crisis situation African elephants are facing, with tens of thousands of elephants slaughtered each year for their ivory, this is good news. 

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Hunting these majestic animals in a head-hunting exercise does not enhance their survival and the suspension should be broadened to include all African countries that permit elephant hunting.

Massachusetts bans shark fin trade

Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts signed legislationbanning the possession and sale of shark fins in the state. The HSUS worked to pass the bill, along with our allies at the New England Aquarium, MSPCA-Angell and Fin Free Massachusetts. This is the latest victory in our campaign to end the cruel practice of shark finning, in which sharks’ fins are cut off and the fish are then thrown back into the ocean, leaving them to drown. Annually, as many as 73 million sharks are slaughtered worldwide. Massachusetts is the ninth state to ban the sale and possession of shark fins.

Michigan wolves petition

There is yet another attempt by the trophy-hunting lobby in Michigan to nullify ballot measures that would  protect wolves from needless killing. Photo: Alamy

Michigan’s state Board of Canvassers certified a pro-wolf hunting petitionfor the November ballot. This petition represents yet another attempt by the trophy-hunting lobby to nullify ballot measures to protect wolves from needless killing. We have an amazing coalition of humane groups, Native American tribes, environmentalists and scientists intent on protecting the state’s small population of wolves, who were just removed from the list of federally endangered species. We want to let Michigan citizens vote on these issues in November, and we are urging the politicians in Lansing to stop undermining fair elections. Pledge to protect Michigan wolves here.

Comment period on constricting snakes ends today

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFW comment period seeking additional information for the listing of five species of large constrictor snakes—boa constrictor, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda—as injurious species closes today. So there is still time for you to write the agency to urge them to end the inhumane trade of these beautiful, wild creatures. It has been more than four years since USFWS proposed listing nine species identified as “medium” or “high risk” for colonizing the southern tier of the United States. In 2012, USFWS got only half the job done, listing only four species. Almost all of Florida’s major newspapers – from the Sun Sentinel to theOrlando Sentinel to the Tallahassee Democrat – have urged the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action, since that state has become ground zero on the issue.

This post was modified from its original form on 25 Jul, 19:50
July 28, 2014
4 years ago

Show Me the Money: Corporate Ag Bankrolling Missouri’s Amendment 1

The people who tried a full-on repeal of Prop B – the 2010 voter-approved ballot measure to crack down on cruelty to dogs in a state that had become notoriously known as the puppy mill capital of the United States– are now trying to pull a fast one on Missouri voters in a statewide vote next Tuesday, August 5th. The state has long had a statutory “right to farm” provision. Now, through Amendment 1, they want a “right to farm” provision in the state constitution, far more sweeping in effect, that reads in part that “farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in the state.” 

What would Amendment 1 mean in practical terms? Assuming the worst-case scenario:

  • The state could not restrict foreign ownership of factory farms, or impose standards for animal care on these megafactories. That should concern every family farmer.
  • The state could not restrict captive shooting of deer on hundreds of cervid ranches in the state. That should concern every sportsman, since deer farming ranches are at odds with the North American Wildlife Management Model and it is documented that these deer farms have been major incubators for Chronic Wasting Disease, a progressive, fatal disease that threatens wild deer populations.
  • Missouri's standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial dog breeding operations might be fully repealed, creating a free-for-all for puppy mills in the state.
Puppy mill dog
If Amendment 1 passes, standards for the care of dogs in Missouri puppy mills might be fully repealed. Photo: Shannon Johnstone

Amendment 1 is a radical, overreaching, dangerous ballot measure brought forward by organizations, led by the Missouri Farm Bureau, that opposed voter-approved ballot measures to outlaw cockfighting and to crack down on puppy mills.

Just about every major paper in the state has urged voters to oppose Amendment 1.  Here’s what they have to say:

“….[c]reating a constitutional protection for all agricultural enterprises could create a haven for corporate farms that pollute our environment and put undue pressure on family farms.” Springfield News Leader: July 26, 2014.

Amendment I is “a measure designed to protect corporate agriculture rather than the traditional family farm.” Joplin Globe: July 13, 2014.  

“Changing the state constitution to give extra protection to an industry that has had its way in Missouri since the founding of the state shuts consumers out completely.” St Louis Post-Dispatch: June 16, 2014.

“Amendment 1 is a concerted effort to shield factory farms and concentrated agricultural feeding operations from regulations to protect livestock, consumers and the environment.” Kansas City Star: June 23, 2014.

“The amendment is likely to create some new litigation without good purpose….Amendment 1 is clutter. Vote ‘no.’” Columbia Daily Tribune: July 15, 2014. 

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“Amendment 1 protects the farming practices of corporate farmers absolutely…..The right to build factory farms--including those with thousands of hogs confined next to family farms? Spraying poison over our homes and farms that can also drift over towns?” West Plains Daily Quill: July 22, 2014.

“This bill is NOT good for farmers. It will greatly increase further consolidation of agriculture, increase proliferation of genetically modified patented life forms, and destroy local control of the spread of the consolidating (ie. Family Farm Destroying) CAFO’s.” Ozarks Sentinel.

Amendment 1 could “give big corporate agriculture an even bigger advantage over family farms.” Christian County Headliner News:July 22, 2014.

“If you see the ghost of Proposition B in [Amendment 1], your eyesight is excellent. Proposition B, our readers will recall, is the animal welfare law approved by voters in 2010 but then changed dramatically by lawmakers.” Jefferson City News Tribune: June 8, 2014.

The measure has been funded almost exclusively by corporate and commodity agriculture groups who want no standards in agriculture, including on puppy mills. It’s so overreaching that a remarkable array of groups are opposed to it – including family farming groups such as the Missouri Farmers Union and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center; humane organizations such as the Humane Society of Missouri, Great Plains SPCA, and the ASPCA; conservative organizations such as the Missouri Libertarian Party and the Locke and Smith Foundation; good government and religious groups such as the League of Women Voters of Missouri and Missouri Faith Voices; and environmental groups such as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

Missouri voters should cast their ballot against Amendment 1 on August 5th. And please spread the word to Missourians you know.

Paid for by The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, CEO, 2100 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. 

July 29, 2014
4 years ago

Right to Know, Wrong to Sow

This morning, I awoke to unseasonably cool weather in Washington, D.C. As the day progressed, we got a different kind of cool – the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a blow to the National Pork Producers Council’s efforts to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from and affirmed Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules adopted by Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gestation crate
Consumers have a right to know where their meat is coming from so they can choose to avoid meat from inhumanely raised animals. Photo: The HSUS

The USDA issued the rule last year, which simply requires meat product labels to show the country in which the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. That proved too much transparency for the NPPC, which joined with other meat industry lobbyists to sue the USDA over the rule, claiming corporate meat processors have a constitutional right to withhold such information from consumers.

We countered by partnering with the Organization for Competitive Markets, United Farm Workers of America, American Grassfed Association and three independent family-owned farms to defend the labeling rule. In our amicus brief to the D.C. Circuit Court, we argued that consumers have a right to know where their meat is coming from, so that they can choose to avoid meat from inhumanely raised animals. Kevin Fulton, an independent rancher and member of our Nebraska Agriculture Council, explained that “country-of-origin labeling allows consumers to make an educated choice, which ultimately helps the American family farmer.”

Today the D.C. Circuit Court agreed, finding that consumers have a legitimate interest in knowing where their food comes from. The court rejected the meat industry’s turn-logic-on-its-head argument that it had a First Amendment right to not inform consumers about the origins of their meat. This ruling is a major setback, and expense, for the NPPC and others in industrial meat production.

The attack on the labeling rule is just the latest attempt by the NPPC to shield the public from a close look at its business model, as well as its efforts to thwart progress on animal welfare. For years, the NPPC has been backing “ag-gag” laws that criminalize investigations into the cruel and unsanitary conditions at factory farms. And the NPPC fought to scuttleour agreement with the United Egg Producers, which would have provided customers with information on the carton about how the eggs were produced (e.g., “eggs from caged hens&rdquo.

I’ve written about the NPPC’s stubborn defense of gestation crates, which even the pork industry’s own animal welfare consultant, Dr. Temple Grandin, says “have got to go.” And last week I blogged about how the NPPC is trying to forcepork from pigs treated with a potentially dangerous drug, ractopamine, onto European consumers.

If the NPPC is proud of its product, and its methods of production, neither country-of-origin labeling nor more transparency on the farm should cause them the least of concern. But when you see the inside of these industrial confinement facilities, and understand the drugging practices on industrial farms, you can well understand why they want to conceal the reality from their customers. The HSUS will continue to work for more transparency, more humane treatment, more awareness and more conscious shopping by consumers.

July 30, 2014
4 years ago

Prejudice and Pit Bulls

Dogs have a great capacity to forgive and forget. It’s a characteristic on display in so many cases where dogs have been dealt a terrible blow or bad hand from callous people. Despite their experiences, animals who’ve known only hardship so often come to trust again in the presence of people who really care. That’s why I was so struck by an article in the latest issue of Esquire magazine where the writer, Tom Junod, writes about his own experience with his adopted pit bull-type dogs.

There is no credible evidence that shows pit bulls are overrepresented among classes or breeds of dogs who bite.
Photo: Meredith Lee/The HSUS

The pit bull “has become less a type of dog than a strain of dog that still makes many Americans deeply uncomfortable,” Junod writes. “We might accept pit bulls personally, but America still doesn't accept them institutionally, where it counts; indeed, apartment complexes and insurance companies are arrayed in force against them.”

Here at The HSUS we believe that dogs called &ldquoit bulls” are just dogs, and we fight against misperceptions and prejudices. One of our most recent legislative fights, in Maryland, corrected a legal problem that declared all pit bulls as dangerous, despite their individual personalities or their record of gentle behavior in the home. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill removing the declaration of “inherently dangerous” from any­­ breeds or types of dog. He, and state lawmakers, corrected a policy grounded on unfamiliarity and, one might also say, ignorance.

While any pit bull type dog can do damage when they bite, because many of them are strong and agile, there is no credible evidence that shows pit bulls are overrepresented among classes or breeds of dogs who bite. Professional animal expert organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, concur that bad behavior among dogs relates more to improper socializing of the animals, and not to the inherent characteristics of the breeds or types. In 2014, reflecting the increasing acceptance of that principle, three more states added themselves to the list of those which prohibit breed-specific restrictions in their borders – now 17 in total. Pit bull-type dogs are among the most popular pets in America, and they are perhaps the most persecuted of dogs, too.  Many sheltering and adoption organizations are doing tremendous work in their communities finding new homes for dogs by keeping their focus on making great matches between dogs and people that will last a lifetime, and that includes pit bull-type dogs.

I am heartened by the stories like one that came out of Alabama this week, as the latest chapter in our anti-dogfighting work and our attempt to rehabilitate and adopt dogs wrongly conscripted into the world of dogfighting. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that most of the dogs rescued from a dogfighting operation, which The HSUS assisted Alabama law enforcement officials with in November last year, had found new homes. It took a lot of effort on the part of our animal care team, and both expertise and faith among local animal welfare groups and potential adopters. These dogs teach us a lesson about both forgiveness and resiliency and the power of good influences in their lives.

The HSUS is committed to advancing companion animal welfare by providing access and information to communities, keeping pets in their homes and leading a paradigm shift in animal welfare philosophy. Pit bulls are special not because of their breed, but because they are dogs. And like any other dog, they deserve to be kept safe with loving families.

July 31, 2014
4 years ago

Red Nor Blue: United We Stand for Dogs and Cats

Are we a cat nation or a dog nation? It’s, of course, more of a mixed situation, with a good number of households, like mine, having representatives from both camps. But as The Washington Post reports, there are some geographic variances at work in our nation. According to data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats outnumber dogs in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and on the West Coast, while dogs outnumber cats across the South. Massachusetts and Maryland are the most cat-friendly states, with almost two cats for every dog, while Arkansas and New Mexico vie for the title of most dog-friendly state.

Lily and zoe
New data show cats are more popular in the blue states while dogs are more popular in red states. With my cat Zoe and my dog Lily, I am trying to stay bipartisan.

These numbers also line up quite neatly with voting performance, especially on the red-blue state divide. Cats are typically more popular in blue states, while dogs are more popular in red states. That led the Post to coin the terms, “demo-cats” and “re-pup-licans” (with my cat Zoe and my dog Lily, I’m trying to stay bipartisan).

Overall, though, we’re a nation that loves cats and dogs pretty equally. Just under a third of U.S. households live with cats, while just over a third live with dogs. But there are more cats overall because each cat household typically has more cats. All up, Americans now live with an estimated 74 million cats and 70 million dogs (not to mention 3.7 million birds, 1.8 million horses and millions of other creatures great and small).

That so many Americans have welcomed animals into our homes is cause for celebration. We now share our homes with four times more companion animals than we did in the 1960s (the human population has only doubled since then). And we share a deeper bond with them than ever before: 90 percent of us consider our cats and dogs family members, while 80 percent of us would risk our lives for them.

But cats and dogs still face far too much cruelty, neglect and abandonment in this country. Puppy mills aggravate this problem, by breeding hundreds of thousands of puppies and bollixing up the adoption pipeline, while often relegating the mothers to lives of deprivation and suffering.

Consider these statistics:

• Every year, as many as eight million cats and dogs end up in animal shelters where, tragically, roughly 2.7 million healthy and treatable animals are euthanized.
• Cats make up about 70 percent of animals euthanized in shelters, with many relinquished for solvable behavior problems. 
• Dogfighters chew up tens of thousands of animals in pursuing their vicious and barbaric form of “entertainment” and gambling.

Here at The Humane Society of the United States, we’re committed to confronting the biggest threats to cats and dogs. Our puppy mill campaign works to shut down abusive breeding operations across the country. Late last year we scored a major victory, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture promised to start regulating the online sale of puppies (our litigators are now defending this rule in federal court). We are anxiously awaiting a final rule from the USDA banning imports of puppy mill dogs from foreign nations.

4 years ago
Zoe after a vigorous game of chasing her favorite toy bug.
At The HSUS, we won't rest until every adoptable cat and dog in America finds a home as loving as those millions of cats and dogs already enjoy.

We’re also working tirelessly to reach our goal that no adoptable cat or dog is ever euthanized. In partnership with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council, we run the Shelter Pet Project to make adoption the first choice for every cat and dog lover. Already the Project has generated more than $170 million of donated ad time to spread this compassionate message.

We’re scaling up our work to keep dogs and cats in homes, fighting against relinquishment and abandonment and deficient care for pets. And we’re expanding our innovative Pets for Life Program into more underserved areas, to provide reduced cost spay and neuter, and outreach and services on compassionate pet ownership. We are now touching 27 communities quite directly with this program, and celebrating the human-animal bond in communities where people often don’t have the means or access to important services for animals. Our work to keep pets in their homes also includes tools for pet owners, shelters and rescues to resolve problem cat behaviors – the reason most often cited for cat relinquishments – and we are working to protect outdoor community cats and provide solutions to conflicts between cats and wildlife.

The trend is positive: euthanasia rates have fallen several times over since the 1970s, when an estimated 15 million cats and dogs were put down in shelters every year. But we won’t rest until every adoptable cat and dog in America finds a home as loving as those that millions of cats and dogs already enjoy, and we also won’t rest until we put the dogfighters and mills out of business. As a nation of cat and dog lovers, that’s the least we owe these animals.

August 01, 2014
4 years ago

‘Right to Farm’ or Right to Funnel Illegal Money Into Missouri Campaign?

Today, the Missouri Farmers Union sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for a formal investigation into the potentially illegal use of federal pork check-off funds for a last-minute lobbying blitz in favor of Missouri’s Amendment 1, an overreaching and radical “right to farm” measure to be decided next Tuesday by voters there. The constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by state lawmakers, pits industrial agriculture and major commodity groups against the state’s family farmers and state and national animal protection, environmental, religious and good government groups.

Veal crates
The Kansas City Star called Missouri's Amendment 1 "a concerted effort to shield factory farms" from regulations to protect animals, consumers and the environment. Photo: Farm Sanctuary

According to campaign finance reports required under the state’s election disclosure laws, the Missouri Pork Association, which receives the state’s share of national pork check-off funds, and its affiliated Missouri Pork PAC, have collectively sent more than $235,000 in contributions to Missouri Farmers Care, the Big Ag front group leading the "yes" campaign for Amendment 1. Much of that money came in as the fight over Amendment 1 became highly competitive, with the “Yes on 1” campaign realizing they’d suffer a major reputational hit if they lost the race. The financial shell game between the affiliates – all of which operate from the same address -- is of great concern because most of the Missouri Pork Association’s annual revenue comes from federal check-off dollars, which are not allowed to be used for lobbying purposes.   

Under federal law, farmers of certain commodities (including beef, pork and soybeans) are required to pay a percentage of their sales into a check-off fund. These funds are intended to be used to promote the sale of farm products – not to lobby for state or federal legislation or ballot measures. There have been major questions raised, and cases filed that are still active in the courts, by The HSUS and pig farmers who believe that the National Pork Producers Council and state pork councils, like Missouri’s, may be diverting funds for illegal lobbying activities.

“There simply is no way this adds up,” said Wes Shoemyer, a family farmer and HSUS Missouri Agriculture Council member, in a statement today. “The organizations working for the corporate interests based in New York and Beijing will apparently stoop to any low to push the Missouri family farmer off the land. They need to be held accountable to us as Missouri family farmers who pay this type of federal tax on every pig sold. We deserve to know if they have illegally used our own money to lobby against the interests of family farmers.”

Amendment 1 seeks to enshrine into the Missouri Constitution a right for corporations and others to engage in any activities they consider “farming” for perpetuity – whether it’s confinement of dogs in puppy mills or sows in gestation crates. Amendment 1 might also protect canned hunts and captive deer farms, which are a threat to native, free-roaming deer populations because of the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. Neighbors of giant hog farms and family farmerswho are being squeezed by Big Ag are fighting back and have joined with The HSUS to fight the ballot measure. 

In addition to the use of potentially illegal check-off funds, the campaign for Amendment 1 has gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars from Indiana multimillionaire Forrest Lucas. In 2010, Lucas invested hundreds of thousands of dollars against Missouri’s Proposition B, which set standards for the care of dogs at commercial breeding operations. The anti-animal welfare group he subsequently formed has lobbied against measures in other states to set felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to dogs, cats and horses, battled local efforts to promote spaying and neutering of pets, and fought against efforts to bring relief to dogs who are continuously chained outdoors.

4 years ago

Almost all of Missouri’s daily newspapers have editorialized against Amendment 1. The Kansas City Star called Amendment 1 “a concerted effort to shield factory farms and concentrated agricultural feeding operations from regulations to protect livestock, consumers and the environment.” The Joplin Globe called it “a measure designed to protect corporate agriculture rather than the traditional family farm.”  The Christian County Headliner News, Columbia Daily Tribune, Jefferson City News Tribune, Lake Sun Leader, Ozarks Sentinel, Springfield News-Leader, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Warrensburg Daily Star Journal, Webster County Citizen and West Plains Daily Quill have all urged voters to oppose the amendment. 

Watch what Missouri’s Food for America and the CEO of the Humane Society of Missouri have to say about Amendment 1.

Paid for by The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, CEO, 2100 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. 

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