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October 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Different Men, Two Different Districts—Too Bad NRA

We haven’t heard a lot from the fright-mongers of the NRA this election. On the national stage, the stakes are just too high for their kind of shrill scare tactics to attract much interest. Besides, they’re on the wane anyway. Increasingly, Americans recognize the NRA’s radical agenda for what it is—the spent politics of the fringe.

But the NRA is still plugging away. In down-ballot races, its operatives and apologists are still trying to bully the brave. Two legislative races in the swing state of Pennsylvania illustrate the absurd actions of the NRA.

Pa_pigeon_shoots Despite common sense, and more importantly despite common decency, the NRA continues to defend Pennsylvania’s practice of allowing live pigeons to be used as targets in gory exhibitions of killing—even though the animals are not consumed, the killing has nothing to do with wildlife management, and it is essentially just a killing exhibition. As you would expect, the NRA would like to frighten any policymaker who would try to bring Pennsylvania back into the family of civilized states and abolish such wanton carnage.

One of those willing to stand up to the NRA in Pennsylvania is Rep. Frank Andrews Shimkus (D-113, Lackawanna). He arrived in the legislature in 2007 as a freshman from the state’s hard-coal country. Hunting is deeply rooted in his district. Schools routinely close on the first Monday after Thanksgiving to allow their older students to participate on the first day of Pennsylvania’s annual deer hunting season.

Not so long ago, it would have been unthinkable for a legislator representing this part of the state to speak out against any kind of animal shooting. But Rep. Shimkus, who describes himself as a conservative, went even further. He introduced legislation to ban these events where hundreds of pigeons are released, one by one, to be killed. Let me add, by way of aside, that one of the most appalling things in these bloody spectacles is when wounded birds drop to the ground and are set upon by children who learn from adults to twist the neck and pull the heads off these animals.

That kind of scene doesn’t go down well at all in another part of the state, the affluent suburbs of Philadelphia represented by third-term Rep. Daylin Leach (D-149, Montgomery). He joined in co-sponsoring the Shimkus bill. He also took a leading role in pushing legislative leaders toward a vote to outlaw these Neanderthal pigeon shoots—and it now appears, finally, the legislature will face the issue head-on next session.

Pigeon Live pigeon shoots are so inhumane and unsporting that the call to relegate them to Pennsylvania’s history books is broad and widespread—from liberals and conservatives, from rural and suburban districts, from animal advocates and hunting advocates. Everyone seems to agree except the rabid extremists at the NRA.

Rep. Leach, who describes himself as liberal and is now campaigning for a seat in the state Senate, was so proud that his work for pigeons earned him the NRA’s opposition that he posted the organization’s letter against him on his own campaign website. 

"If the NRA is working against me, I must be doing something right!" the lawmaker wrote.

You said it, brother.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cast A Humane Vote This Election Day

We are just six days away from what is shaping up to be one of the most historic elections in our lifetime. While voters are weighing the economy and other pressing national concerns, advocates of animal protection also need to know which lawmakers and candidates are standing up for their interests. When you fill out your mail ballot or go to the polls on Tuesday, the Humane Society Legislative Fund wants you to be armed with information on the candidates who are fighting for animal welfare in a very determined way.

Hslf_button In our comprehensive Humane Voter Guide, you can find a list of the HSLF-backed candidates in your state. After examining the animal protection records of lawmakers seeking reelection, and querying candidates running as challengers or in open seats, HSLF has made endorsements in more than 300 congressional contests. We are a nonpartisan organization and don’t make judgments based on party affiliation, but rather on a candidate’s actions and positions on animal protection policies.

In order to pass humane laws, we need to elect humane lawmakers. You can help advance the cause of animal protection by voting for candidates who are friends of animals—even if you have to cross party lines to do so. Only when the will of the millions of Americans who care about animals are mobilized can we hope to effect sweeping reforms for animals. As we approach Election Day, here are some of the races to watch that have implications for animals:

Top of the Ticket: The next president and vice president will have an enormous impact on animal protection, through the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, and other executive agencies. HSLF has endorsed Barack Obama and Joe Biden, as both senators have strong records on advocating for the humane treatment of animals. John McCain has been a lukewarm supporter and only scored 25 percent on the most recent Humane Scorecard, while Sarah Palin has a frighteningly terrible record on killing wolves, bears, and other wildlife, and the thought of a Palin administration should strike fear in the heart of every animal advocate in the country.

Motor City Madness: The Oakland County suburbs of Michigan's 9th District are ground zero for animal protection in 2008. Sixteen-year incumbent Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) has one of the worst records on animal cruelty in the entire Congress—he voted to allow the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, to continue the abuse of sick and crippled cattle to get them into the food supply, to facilitate the trophy hunting of threatened polar bears in the Arctic, and even to de-fund the enforcement of the federal law to combat dogfighting and cockfighting. The Democratic challenger, Gary Peters, was a leader in protecting animals from cruelty and abuse when he served in the Michigan Senate. HSLF is airing TV ads in the Detroit area and volunteers are canvassing door-to-door in the 9th District letting voters know about Rep. Knollenberg’s long and embarrassing record on animal cruelty.

Humane Heroes: Several congressional leaders on animal protection legislation are facing tough reelection campaigns, and HSLF is working to help keep these animal advocates in office. In the U.S. Senate, we’ve endorsed incumbent Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and others. In the U.S. House, some of our strongest leaders like Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), and Chris Shays (R-Conn.) are in competitive races. We are also backing several animal-friendly challengers who are looking to unseat incumbent lawmakers, such as Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in the Senate, and Kay Barnes (D-Mo.), Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.), and Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) in the House. And there are great candidates running in open seats, such as Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for Senate, and Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) for the House.

Prop2pig Don’t Forget the Ballot Measures: In several states, it’s not just candidate races that will have an impact for animal protection, but voters will also have the opportunity to weigh in directly on issues that affect animals. We urge Californians to vote YES on Prop 2 to stop cruelty to farm animals, and Massachusetts residents to vote YES on Question 3 to phase out dog racing. Arizonans should say NO on Prop 105 which would essentially eliminate the right to vote on animal issues in future elections, and Oklahomans should vote NO on State Question 742 which would have a similar impact on wildlife protection measures. Oregonians should vote NO on Measure 64 which would harm nonprofit organizations such as the Oregon Humane Society.

Some voters and newspaper editorial writers complain about ballot measures because they are complex and difficult to understand, but when it comes to the animal issues, it’s just plain common sense. Even a 4-year-old knows what’s right and wrong. As you get ready for election week, here’s your daily dose of cute overload—you can see why Mia is crazy about animals and urges you to vote YES on Prop 2!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Birds, Blood, and Bribes

It’s no secret that Virginia was a hotbed of illegal cockfighting until the one-two punch of felony laws passed by the U.S. Congress in 2007 and the Virginia General Assembly in 2008 started to push cockfighters out of the Commonwealth. A federal judge in Virginia recently put the new law into action and made an example of two Page County cockfighters, sentencing one to 18 months in jail and another to six months incarceration and six months of home arrest.

CockfightingBut the cockfighters are not the only ones in hot water, as Page County Sheriff Daniel Presgraves  was indicted on 22 counts last week in a public corruption scandal. The federal indictment claims that Sheriff Presgraves took bribes in exchange for promising not to interfere with a cockfighting ring in the rural Shenandoah Valley region. If convicted on all charges, he faces 304 years in prison.

Included in the indictment was the Virginia Gamefowl Breeders Association, which federal prosecutors called “a statewide organization devoted to the preservation of ‘gamefowl’ (also known as ‘fighting roosters’ and ‘cocks’) and cockfighting.” It appears that VGBA President Chester Fannon collected the money generated through paid membership and entrance fees to cockfighting matches, and used the funds to make political contributions to state and federal candidates on behalf of the cockfighters. 

According to the indictment, Fannon and the VGBA allegedly devised an elaborate ruse to make it look like the funds were coming from his personal account, rather than from the cockfighting profits. This criminal scheme is all too familiar to animal advocates, who have maintained for years that the various state gamefowl breeding associations are nothing more than criminal syndicates who make their living collecting door fees at illegal cockfighting events and then laundering the money back into political campaigns to block the enactment of stronger animal fighting laws.

I’m sure many of the candidates did not realize the money was tainted when they received these apparently bogus campaign donations from Fannon and the cockfighting cartel. But did any of them become suspicious when they were lobbied by cockfighters who wanted to keep weak penalties on the books and get away with a slap on the wrist? It does look a bit odd that Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is on the list of lawmakers who appear to have received contributions from Fannon, and was one of only a handful of House members who voted against the felony animal fighting bill.

281x196_cockfighting_posterThe legislation passed overwhelmingly with Republican and Democratic support and was signed into law by President Bush. But Cantor and a few other Republican holdouts—like Congressmen Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Bill Sali (R-Idaho), and Don Young (R-Alaska)—sought to keep the penalties weak and give animal fighters a free pass. Some of these lawmakers are facing tough reelection battles next week, and their animal fighting votes may come back to bite them.

There’s no doubt that strapping knives to roosters’ legs, pumping them full of drugs to heighten aggression, and forcing them to fight to the death for entertainment and gambling is cruel and inhumane. But if there was any lingering doubt that animal fighting is a scourge in our communities that leads to other social ills, this case of public corruption and bribery is Exhibit A.

The members of Congress who opposed tougher penalties for animal fighting might caterwaul about “states' rights” and about higher law enforcement priorities, but that's a smokescreen. These people just don't sympathize with animal protection values. When local sheriffs are in the pay and in the pocket of organized crime, it’s all the more reason that our federal government must play a meaningful role in rooting out this despicable abuse of animals and abuse of the public trust.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Making Sense of the Muckslinging

The Agribusiness Big Shots opposing Proposition 2 are spewing out so much manure that it’s hard to keep up on this blog alone. And I don’t just mean the literal manure which is illegally dumped into local water supplies, and which is piling up to give their neighbors sore throats, headaches, and respiratory problems. I mean the figurative manure—the lies and deceptions they are dumping on California voters.

One of their fattest fibs is the idea that there is no veal or pork industry in California, so Prop 2 is really just about chickens. Oh really? Then why have a dozen pork producer associations from all over the country funneled money into the political committee opposing Prop 2?

184x265_pig_face_usda So far, donations have come not only from the National Pork Producers Council and the California Pork Producers Association, but also from the pork industry trade groups in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania—for a combined total of $89,500. Add to that another $50,000 from the American Farm Bureau Federation, and more than $46,000 from state and county farm bureaus.

Why would these groups dump big money into the campaign if they didn’t see it as a serious threat? As the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News pointed out, “it turns out that there are indeed large hog farms in California—one up north has at least 9,000 sows in cages with no room for the mother pigs to move, and that sounds like a lot of pigs to us.”

It’s true that some of the nation’s largest pork and veal producers—like Smithfield Foods, Cargill, Strauss Veal, and Marcho Farms—have begun to transition some of their gestation crates and veal crates to group housing systems for sows and calves. But that only happened after Florida and Arizona voters passed ballot measures to ban crates. And it’s true that Corcpork—a massive hog factory farm in Corcoran, Calif.—has begun to phase out gestation crates. But that only occurred after California volunteers started gathering signatures to place Prop 2 on the ballot.

We need public policies like Prop 2 to spur change in the marketplace. And we need laws on the books that prevent the industrialization of factory farming from getting worse in the future. A massive hog farm could set up shop with a million pigs in gestation crates overnight, and who in California wants their state to become the next Iowa or North Carolina with the cruel confinement, air pollution, and water contamination that comes along with that status? Since California is one of the nation’s top dairy states—and dairy cows produce calves in order to produce milk—a thriving veal industry in the state’s future is not far-fetched.

It also puts to the test another big lie from Big Agribusiness—that if Prop 2 passes, California farmers would be put out of business and consumers would be forced to purchase products trucked in from other states. Donald Lathbury summed it up best in the California Majority Report, when he asked why out-of-state factory farms would spend millions of dollars opposing a measure that they argue would increase their own market share. He wrote:

Something doesn’t fit here. Maybe, just maybe, the outside egg producers that have dominated the finances of the No campaign are afraid that the old adage, “as California goes, so goes the nation,” applies in this situation. And if that’s the case, then far from exporting our egg production to other states, Prop 2 actually exports our more humane farming practices to other states, hence the fervent opposition from folks who love to squeeze as much profit as they can from stuffing six-to-eight hens in cages so small that they cannot turn around or expand their wings. After all, if they don’t have the basic decency to treat the animals in their possession with that minimal level of respect, why would they be so generous as to throw so many golden eggs into the basket of their competitors time zones away for a proposition that the opposition claims will help those same out-of-state producers’ business?

The logic of the talking point doesn’t add up, but the adding up of checks from out-of-state factory farms continues unabated. The only question that remains is whether California voters will see through this shell game on election day.

It’s clear that the factory farm executives see the writing on the wall, and they know they can no longer get away with treating animals like commodities and widgets, like nothing more than meat, milk, and egg-producing machines. Consumers and voters are demanding better, and major retailers like Burger King and Safeway are increasingly asking producers to raise their standards for animal welfare.

But that doesn’t mean the factory farms are going down without a fight—as evidenced by the big money donations to the anti-Prop 2 campaign. They’ve proven that they are able to adapt to more humane farming methods, but that it takes public policies and public opinion before they will change their miserly ways. A vote of YES! on Prop 2 will usher in these much-needed reforms.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the Truth

The battle of the airwaves is gaining pitch in California over Proposition 2—the groundbreaking measure to give farm animals a little relief from cruel confinement. But it’s always good to know a little bit about the people who are telling you how to vote.

281x226_wayne_prop2ad A new TV ad from the YES! on Prop 2 campaign rolled out this week, featuring Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. Wayne is a familiar face, arguing the case for farm animals on "Ellen," "Oprah Winfrey," and in the pages of any number of publications. He’s devoted his life and his career to the cause of making ours a better world for animals. You don’t have to guess why he’s speaking out. If you want to know what he thinks, take a look at the new ads “Cruelty and Fraud” and “Shocking Video.”

It’s a different matter with the Agribusiness Big Shots on the other side. They’ve got a new TV ad out too. It’s another contender in the gutter-politics contest for the most misleading scare tactic of the year. I mean really, haven’t voters had to endure enough of this—a ploy as tired as last year’s Halloween pumpkin.

In the opposition commercial, we meet a woman dressed in hospital greens. She’s Dr. Kara Hutton, a Bay Area pediatrician. Her supposed claim to fame, though, is that she grew up on a farm. She claims to be an expert. And she is shown in juxtaposition with an outrageous visual—a gurney with a patient on it and an ambulance. That’s right, she’s arguing the worst falsehood of all—that human health depends on treating animals cruelly.

Dr. Hutton, it’s not so. You should know better.

Right now, egg-laying hens, veal calves, and breeding sows are confined on industrial factory farms in cages and crates so small they can hardly move. It’s not for their own good. And it’s surely not for the good of humans who consume these products. It’s for agribusiness profit, pure and simple.

So, if the industry wanted a real medical expert on the subject, they wouldn’t have picked Dr. Hutton. They would have gone right to the top and called Dr. Michael Greger, author of the seminal book, “Bird Flu,” and the nation’s leading expert on food safety and factory farming.

Dr. Greger lectures and writes on the subject. In a way, he’s like Wayne Pacelle—he’s devoted his life and his career to the subject.

Oh, but I guess the industry wouldn’t want his views. That’s because he works for The Humane Society of the United States. And here is what he says:

Proposition 2’s opponents want you to suspend belief and trust them when they say that cramming six or so laying hens into a single tiny cage reduces Salmonella risk. This is science fiction, not scientific fact.

The most authoritative word on food-borne infection risk and egg production systems comes from a European Union-wide survey. More than 30,000 samples from more than 5,000 egg operations across two dozen countries were taken to measure the public health impact of removing hens from cages. Without exception, for every subtype of Salmonella reported and every type of production system examined, there was significantly lower risk of Salmonella infection in cage-free egg production.

Maybe Dr. Hutton was absent the day they talked about Salmonella risks at medical school. Or maybe she was back at the “farm” that day. Looking at Facebook suggests that Dr. Hutton’s maiden name is Demler. As in Demler Enterprises and Demler Egg Ranch—a pair of top ten contributors to the “no” on 2 campaign. Combined, they’ve thrown $436,603 into this deceptive campaign, with one of their own family members playing a doctor on TV.

184x265_batterycage_cok_r The Demler family clearly hasn’t reviewed the scientific literature indicating that caged birds have 20 times higher risk of Salmonella than cage-free birds. And they don’t have the common sense to know that cramming animals tightly into cages makes them more susceptible to disease—just as cramming yourself into an elevator or an airplane cabin with other people is the best way to catch a cold.

Californians have long experience in this kind of dirty politics. What the “no” forces are out to protect is factory farm profits, not your health. The opponents are backed by a handful of miserly corporations that won’t even give animals room to move.

By contrast the YES! on Prop 2 campaign is financially backed by more than 20,000 individual people who care about the humane treatment of animals. Scores of credible and authoritative groups, like the Center for Food Safety and the California Veterinary Medical Association, have swung behind a “yes” vote. Our coalition has no profits to protect, not a penny. We’re out to make life better for animals—and that’s good for human health too.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Joe Must Go

I led a press conference and spoke to a group of volunteers in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., this morning, announcing that the Humane Society Legislative Fund today launched a new TV ad opposing the reelection of Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg in Michigan’s 9th District.

Knollenberg_presser Surveying the national landscape on animal protection policies, HSLF has determined that Joe Knollenberg has one of the worst records on animal cruelty in the entire Congress. He has voted to allow the slaughter of American horses so their meat can be served as a delicacy in France and Belgium; to allow wealthy American trophy hunters to shoot threatened polar bears in the Arctic and bring back their heads and hides for bragging rights; to allow sick and crippled cows to be abused in horrible ways to get the poor creatures and their tainted meat into our food supply; and even to de-fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of the federal law used to combat illegal dogfighting and cockfighting. You can read more about Joe Knollenberg’s terrible record here.

Shockingly, Knollenberg’s response is that he loves animals. But he’s got a long and embarrassing record of opposing moderate animal welfare policies, and voters will see through this phony election-year conversion on animal issues. He has had 16 years in office to demonstrate where he stands on the humane treatment of animals, and time and time again he has voted against common-sense animal welfare reforms. He has had eight sessions of Congress to prove where he stands, and we say eight is enough.

Oakland County voters who care about the humane treatment of animals need to know that Joe Knollenberg is simply out of step with the mainstream values of protecting animals from abuse and harm. Michigan volunteers have joined HSLF in knocking on thousands of doors in the district, and HSLF has also sent direct mail to thousands of animal welfare supporters, telling them about Joe Knollenberg's terrible record on animal cruelty, and urging them to vote for Democratic challenger Gary Peters instead. You can watch our new TV ad here, or see it below.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rescue Ratchet

Army Sgt. Gwen Beberg of Minneapolis is ready to return home from duty, but she was hoping she wouldn’t be heading back alone. While serving in Iraq, Beberg had befriended and adopted a stray puppy named Ratchet. But the military snatched Ratchet before the pup could reach the Baghdad International Airport to catch a flight bound for the United States.

Ratchet2 Ratchet is now in the media spotlight, but it’s not just about one black-and-white mutt—it’s about a recurring problem at the Department of Defense. Although there is a deep bond between soldiers and pets, and a broad-minded concern for abandoned and orphaned animals in war zones, there are institutional policies that fail to reflect that concern.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have been leaning on the military for years to stop treating pets like enemies of the state, and to embrace more animal friendly policies. Under current military policy, American soldiers are forbidden from adopting a stray animal they befriended in Iraq. Pet and stray dogs are frequently killed in an attempt to prevent rabies although research finds that these culls are both ineffective and inhumane. And the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn’t include any prohibition or punishment for cruelty to animals. 

Fortunately, Ratchet has friends in high places, and Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) all appealed to the Department of Defense on the pup’s behalf. It appears that the lawmakers and the overwhelming public opinion have succeeded, and Ratchet will soon be on his way home. Congressional pressure can make a big difference, as it did when Congressmen Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.) helped to rescue Iraqi dogs last year.

But we shouldn’t have to rely on public outcry and congressional action every single time an individual dog and soldier are separated. At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we’re going to keep pushing this issue forward until we have won the military over to the idea of giving soldiers some kind of lawful option to bring animals home, one animal per soldier, if they can demonstrate that the dog or cat is truly a pet and is disease-free.

Please contact the Department of Defense and tell them we must have a better policy that recognizes the deep bond between soldiers and pets—for all the dogs like Ratchet, and all the men and women who serve our country.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scoring our Lawmakers on their Support for Animal Protection

The Humane Society Legislative Fund today posted a preview of its 2008 Humane Scorecard. The scorecard, which is published annually, provides the records of U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives on major animal welfare policies. This most recent report card covers 2007-2008, the two-year span of the 110th Congress.

Cover The Humane Scorecard provides an easy way for constituents to assess how their federal lawmakers acted on animal protection issues, and it helps chart the progress of our public policy work on behalf of animals. Animal protection is more than ever being treated like the serious moral issue it is on Capitol Hill, and lawmakers are debating policies that have enormous implications for animals.

During this session, Congress passed measures dealing with animal fighting, puppy mills, Animal Welfare Act enforcement, chimpanzee sanctuaries, pet food safety, the Canadian seal hunt, and a war dog memorial. Appropriators provided record levels of funding for the enforcement of animal welfare laws and support for alternatives to animal testing, cut spending for horse slaughter, and directed agencies to take action on de-clawing of cats, humane slaughter of poultry, and trophy hunting subsidies.

The 2008 report scores lawmakers on their floor votes on legislation to crack down on animal fighting; protect wild horses and burros from slaughter; stop the imports of sport-hunted polar bear trophies; bar the trade in captive primates for the exotic pet industry; support conservation programs for endangered cranes, great cats, and rare canids; and override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill that included core animal welfare provisions on animal fighting, puppy mills, and Animal Welfare Act enforcement.

We also rated legislators on their co-sponsorship of key bills such as those to stop horse slaughter;  stop the abuse of "downer" livestock too sick or injured to walk; end the use in research of random source dogs and cats (including stolen pets) from "Class B" dealers; and require the labeling of fur-trimmed apparel; and their signing of a letter requesting funding for enforcement of animal welfare laws. Members who led as prime sponsors of animal protection legislation receive extra credit.

We hope you’ll study this scorecard and use it as a tool to ensure that your legislators represent your interests in Washington, D.C. Let legislators know that you’re watching and you appreciate their support for pro-animal legislation; or if they haven’t done enough, let them know you’d like to see them do more. Here are some of my favorite highlights from the 2008 Humane Scorecard:

  • A bipartisan group of 39 Senators and 108 Representatives representing 42 states and two U.S. territories led as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation and/or scored a perfect 100—more than one-third of the Senate and nearly one-quarter of the House.
  • The average Senate score was a 49, with Senate Democrats averaging 67, and Senate Republicans averaging 30.
  • The average House score was a 56, with House Democrats averaging 75, and House Republicans averaging 33.
  • Nineteen Senators scored 100 or 100+ (15 Democrats, 2 Republicans, 2 Independents). 
  • Five Senators scored zero (No Democrats, 5 Republicans).
  • Sixty-six Representatives scored 100 or 100+ (60 Democrats, 6 Republicans).
  • Thirteen Representatives scored zero (No Democrats, 13 Republicans).
  • The New England region led the pack with an average Senate score of 81 and an average House score of 92.
  • The Rocky Mountains were at the bottom with an average Senate score of 22 and an average House score of 33.
  • California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, and Vermont are the only states in which both Senators scored 100 or 100+.
  • New Hampshire and Oklahoma are the only states with an average Senate score of less than 10.
  • Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the only states with an average House score of 90 or above.
  • Alaska, Oklahoma, and Utah are the only states with an average House score of 20 or below.

I would especially like to acknowledge the following 7 Senators and 23 Representatives who scored the highest possible 100+ for receiving a perfect score and also leading on animal protection legislation:

  • Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.)
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
  • Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-Tenn.)
  • Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)
  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
  • Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.)
  • Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.)
  • Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
  • Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
  • Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.)
  • Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. James Moran (D-Va.)
  • Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio)
  • Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vote "Yesh!" on Prop 2

If you open your daily newspaper this coming week, chances are you will be greeted with a message of compassion for farm animals. That’s because Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the comic strip MUTTS, has dedicated a full week beginning this Sunday to the theme of protecting farm animals from cruelty.

10122008titlepage MUTTS is syndicated in more than 700 newspapers in 20 countries. In California alone, it reaches 4 million households—and could not come at a better time as voters in that state gear up to decide on Proposition 2, a statewide ballot measure that would stop the worst factory farming abuses.

Patrick and I will be together next week at the Jack Gallery in Los Angeles for an exhibition of his newest collection of paintings on paper and canvas, and a benefit for the YES! on Prop 2 campaign. I had a chance to talk to Patrick about his work, and I wanted to share some of his thinking—and an exclusive sneak peak at next week’s MUTTS—with blog readers.

Michael Markarian: Fans of MUTTS read about the adventures of Mooch and Earl, but also about a wide range of animal protection issues, from the conservation of tigers to the rescue of shelter animals. Why is it important to you to incorporate animal protection into your work?

Patrick McDonnell: In MUTTS I try to see the world through the eyes of animals. This has made me more conscious of how tough many of them have it on this planet. In 2000 I was asked to join the Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States, and became even more aware and involved. I felt that my strip could address (hopefully, for the most part, in an entertaining way) some of these issues and help give the animals a voice.Mutts1018083rdpanel

MM: How do your readers and fans respond to some of the animal protection issues included in MUTTS?

PM: Most readers know that animal protection issues are integrated into MUTTS. I hardly ever get negative feedback about these topics. On the contrary, many people respond positively—my favorite aspect in doing MUTTS is hearing from people who are inspired to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, or to volunteer to help animals.

MM: What inspired you to run a whole week of strips on the humane treatment of farm animals?

PM: Prop 2 is just too important to not tackle. Even though the reform will be modest, it puts a stake into the ground that the way we treat farm animals matters.

MM: Why is Prop 2 important to you, and what can your readers do to help?

PM: Because 20 million animals will be directly impacted, suffering less, if this measure passes. It will also send a clear message to the factory farm conglomerates that, once people are made aware, they will not tolerate the way most animals raised for food are treated in this country.

Prop 2 sets a new standard. If you live in California, you can be part of the solution by voting YES! If you do not live in California, you can tell your friends and associates who do live there about the importance of Prop 2. You can also work to get similar ballot initiatives started in your own state. Hopefully it will also make readers think about their own eating choices.

101220083rdpanel_2 MM: A theme for this week’s strip seems to be that farm animals are speaking out and informing people of their plight. What would the animals say if they could really speak to us?

PM: Be kind. We are fellow beings sharing the wonder of this beautiful planet, and we are truly at your mercy.

MM: There is a long tradition of political and social commentary in comic strips and editorial cartoons. Do you see animal protection as part of this history in your field?

PM: Not so much in the past, but today there are quite a few vegetarian and vegan cartoonists who sometimes tackle these issues.

MM: In addition to MUTTS, you’ve published a number of wonderful books. (Of course, my personal favorite is Shelter Stories, since Misty is in there!) Tell us about your latest book, South, and your current book tour.

PM: South is a children’s picture book about friendship and helping one another. It’s centered on Mooch helping a little bird migrate south. This book was fun for me to “write”—it has no words.

MM: This week you will be at the Jack Gallery in Los Angeles. What will be on exhibition there?

PM: Recently I began doing large paintings of the MUTTS characters. The exhibit will include paintings on canvas and paper, drawings and lithographs. Some of the art is based on the South book. There will also be four paintings having Prop 2 as the inspiration with all the money going to fund Prop 2, along with a Prop 2 themed MUTTS comic strip. 

MM: In addition to your professional work, you sit on the board of directors of HSUS and govern the work of the organization. How do you view HSUS’s role in the animal protection movement?

PM: HSUS is pivotal. We are the largest animal protection organization in the world and have been getting amazing results in many key areas: disaster relief, investigative work (including puppy mills, animal fighting, factory farm abuses), stopping horse slaughter, protecting endangered species including the gray wolf, and bringing the horrors of the seal hunts and shark contests to light. I am particularly optimistic about the results we will see from HSUS’s Animals and Religion initiatives. With Wayne Pacelle (and you) relentless and running at top speed, the animals’ future could not be in better hands. I am so proud and honored to be a part of HSUS.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Ballot Measure That's Fit to Endorse

A few months back, The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof called California’s Proposition 2 “the most important election this November that you’ve never heard of.” And now, the full editorial board of the newspaper of record is doing its part to make sure as many people as possible do hear about Prop 2. It’s certainly a rare move for a national newspaper to weigh in on a state election occurring on the opposite coast, underscoring the significance of Prop 2 for the entire country. The New York Times officially endorsed the animal protection measure today, and I have reprinted the editorial in its entirety below.

October 9, 2008

EDITORIAL

Standing, Stretching, Turning Around

The goal of the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act — Proposition 2 on the state’s November ballot — sounds extremely modest. It would ban the confinement of animals in a way that keeps them from being able to stand, sit, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs. The fact that such fundamental decencies have to be forced upon factory farming says a lot about its horrors. We urge California voters to pass Proposition 2. We urge every state to enact similar laws.

Americans are becoming increasingly aware of how and where food is raised. With that should come real concern. The mantra of industrial farming has always been efficiency, but efficiency has come to mean a pregnant sow — millions of them — confined in a gestation crate barely 2 feet wide and only as long as she is. It means veal-calves rendered virtually immobile in crates barely large enough to contain their bodies. It means endless rows of laying hens kept in battery cages so small that the birds cannot even stretch their wings.

No philosophy can justify this kind of cruelty, not even the philosophy of cheapness. Proposition 2 will not just improve the square footage available to these suffering animals. Reducing the concentration of animals will also help reduce the water and air pollution created by factory farms. It will also begin to redress the imbalance between small farmers and the huge corporations that have acquired vertical, and fundamentally anti-competitive, control over the meat industry.

To a California voter still undecided on Proposition 2, we say simply, imagine being confined in the voting booth for life. Would you vote for the right to be able to sit down and turn around and raise your arms?

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