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December 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Three Big Congressional Wins to Close Out the Year

It has been a tremendous couple of weeks for national animal protection issues, as the U.S. Congress rushed to finish business in this lame-duck session. We are on our way to having three federal policies enacted in December that have long been priorities for HSLF and HSUS, and coupled with the other achievements in Congress and the 97 new animal protection laws at the state level, they are marking 2010 as a great year for animals.

SharkreefsharkChrisDascheristock Yesterday, Congress gave final approval for the Shark Conservation Act, bipartisan legislation that will increase protection for sharks from the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning—cutting the fins off a shark and tossing the mutilated live animal back into the ocean to die. Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year, and shark finning is a major cause of massive declines in shark populations around the world, just for a bowl of shark fin soup. The new legislation requires that sharks be landed with their fins still naturally attached, the only sure way to enforce a ban on finning, and will close a loophole in the current law that unintentionally allowed vessels to transport fins obtained illegally as long as the sharks were not finned aboard that vessel. The Senate approved the bill unanimously on Monday, and the House followed suit on Tuesday; it now heads to President Obama for his signature.

Just days earlier, on Saturday, President Obama signed into law the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, an important bipartisan bill that will protect consumers and animals by bringing much-needed accuracy and disclosure to fur-trimmed products. This bill finally closes a loophole in federal law that currently allows some animal fur garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur is $150 or less, leaving consumers in the dark as to whether they are buying faux or animal fur. HSUS investigations have found jackets trimmed with animal fur being sold across the country without labels or falsely advertised as "faux fur." The law takes effect in March, and by requiring that labels disclose the animal fur material in garments, will finally put a stop to this widespread deception in the marketplace.

These successes come on the heels of yet a third recent victory in Congress, with President Obama signing into law the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act earlier in December. This statute immediately banned the creation and distribution of obscene animal torture videos that show the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling of puppies, kittens and other live animals for the titillation of viewers. When the U.S. Supreme Court in April struck down the 1999 statute banning video depictions of animal cruelty as too broad, we saw a resurgence in crush videos for sale on the Internet, and we immediately went to work with congressional leaders to pass a more narrowly crafted bill that would address this problem. Fewer than eight months later, we have a strong law on the books to give law enforcement the tools it needs to snuff out these snuff films.

These are major policy reforms that wouldn’t have been possible without strong congressional champions on both sides of the aisle, and advocates like you who took the time to make phone calls and contact your lawmakers in support of these bills. Thanks to you, countless animals now have critical protections from cruelty and abuse. As we turn the page on 2010, and this past decade, we do so with much gratitude for these accomplishments and for the support of people like you who have helped push these bills over the finish line.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keep Politicians' Paws Off Prop B

Ever since Missouri citizens voted in favor of Proposition B—the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act—in November, a few politicians have been thumbing their noses at voters and talking about overturning the will of the people. One bill has already been pre-filed to repeal Prop B in its entirety, and others are expected to severely weaken or gut the core provisions of the measure.

AbramsonBuddyPhoto-edit_0 We’ll be reminding lawmakers that Prop B passed with a clear majority statewide; in fact, a majority of voters favored Prop B in a majority of state senate, state house, and congressional districts. Prop B won in five of the nine congressional districts—three that elected Democrats and two that elected Republicans. And it had winning margins in 18 of the 34 state senate districts—eight Democratic seats and ten Republican seats—with the “yes” side ranging from 50.9 percent to 79.4 percent. Sixteen of those winning senate districts had a 17-point margin or more for Prop B.

Elected officials should respect the will of the people. Subverting the judgment of voters is not right, and it is anti-democratic. Our system is built on majority rule, and a majority of Missouri citizens—including majorities in most legislative districts—favored Prop B. The voters acted precisely because the legislature has failed to stop puppy mill abuses. It is undemocratic, and would be wrong of lawmakers to usurp the power of the people and ignore their expressed will.

Prop B was a simple measure, dealing only with setting standards for commercial dog breeding, and has no connection whatsoever to Missouri’s important agriculture and livestock economy. The opponents’ campaign was based entirely on falsehoods and misrepresentations in an attempt to confuse voters. The truth is, Prop B deals only with dogs. It does not deal with cattle, chickens, or pigs.

Some people who voted against the measure were wrongly told that existing regulations on dog breeding are adequate. They are not. Under pre-Prop B rules, a dog can be in a cage just six inches longer than her body, she can be confined in that cage and never let out, she need not ever see a veterinarian, and a dog can be huddled in a wire cage in the middle of winter—exposed to freezing temperatures. All of that was legal, and that’s why we needed Prop B.

The new regulations, requiring adequate and clean food and water, exercise, properly sized and sanitary cages, veterinary care, protection from extreme heat and cold and adequate time between breeding cycles, are very reasonable, as Missourians of good will—including responsible breeders—know. Prop B also provides a one-year phase-in so breeders have plenty of time to comply with these new standards.

If you live in Missouri, contact your state legislators today and tell them to keep their hands off Prop B. You can look up their contact info, or type in your zip code to send an email. You can also send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. As the Jefferson City News-Tribune, which opposed Prop B during the campaign, wrote in an editorial:

Proposition B was among the most discussed and debated issues on the November ballot. To contend the voters were misled undermines their intelligence.

It doesn’t matter whether we—or other newspapers—opposed it, whether a vast majority of counties rejected it or whether legislators are happy with the outcome.

The initiative petition process, used to launch Proposition B, empowers people to propose public policy when their elected representatives fail to do so.

The proposition exemplifies the phrase “of the people and by the people.” And our state motto reminds us to respect the welfare and the people, including their ability to determine what that is.

With regard to Proposition B, let it be.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Truth In Fur Labeling Act Passes Senate

The U.S. Senate last night gave final approval to H.R. 2480, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, to provide a much-needed upgrade to the nearly 60-year-old federal fur labeling law. The House previously passed the bill in July, and it now goes to President Obama for his signature.

RaccoonDogPups The HSUS and HSLF have been advocating for years that a new national policy was needed to ensure accuracy and consistency in the labeling of fur-trimmed apparel, after our investigations found dozens of major designers and retailers selling unlabeled jackets trimmed with animal fur, some of it falsely advertised as “faux fur.” We stuck with it every step of the way, and are pleased to be one step closer to enacting this bipartisan law to protect consumers and animals.

Since the 1950s, any fur garment sold in the U.S. has had to include a label indicating the species of animal used and the country of origin, but there’s a gaping loophole in the current law that excludes fur-trimmed garments if the value of the fur is $150 or less. At recent pelt prices, that means a jacket could have fur on its collar or cuffs from 30 rabbits ($5 each), nine chinchillas ($16 each), three foxes ($50 each), or three raccoon dogs ($45 each), and be sold without a label indicating the fur species. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in every eight fur garments doesn’t require labeling.

Imagine if one in every eight medicine bottles or food packages didn’t have a label, especially if you avoid certain foods or medicines because of allergies, ethical or religious reasons. Consumers making well-informed decisions based on complete information is a cornerstone of a functioning market economy. Shoppers who may have allergies to fur, ethical objections to fur, or concern about the use of certain species cannot make informed purchasing choices due to this gap in the current law.

With the technological advances in synthetic fur, and the dyeing of animal fur colors like pink and green to make it look fake, even the most careful and knowledgeable shoppers and department store clerks often can’t tell the difference simply by visually inspecting the material. Especially when consumers purchase designer jackets over the Internet, they have no choice but to trust the retailer’s statements about those garments. The only way to address this widespread deception in the marketplace is to attach a label to the individual garment.

The Truth in Fur Labeling Act will finally address these problems, and will require proper disclosure in the marketplace. Fur-trimmed jackets, parkas, sweaters, vests, hats and the like will finally meet the same federal standard as other fur garments, and provide the same important product information that’s already required seven times out of eight. The bill includes an exemption for hunters and trappers who sell home-made fur items at county fairs and flea markets, but will have a major impact at department stores, online sellers, and places where the confusion and deception over fur trim has been most acute. The legislation also directs the FTC to initiate rulemaking to review and update the Fur Products Name Guide to ensure that the species names used on labels are providing consistent and accurate information to consumers.

We are very grateful to the legislative leaders who fought hard to pass this legislation—especially Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and David Vitter, R-La. We also thank House and Senate Commerce Committee and Subcommittee leaders—Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Joe Barton, R-Texas, Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Whitfield, and Sens. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., for their work to guide the bill forward and advance it swiftly through Congress. And we are grateful to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for bringing the bill to the Senate floor last night, and to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for carefully reviewing the legislation and giving his approval.

About 10,000 bills are introduced in every session of Congress, and so far in the 111th Congress fewer than 300 have been enacted. Two animal protection bills are now awaiting President Obama’s signature—on crush videos and fur labeling—and it will be a major accomplishment when they are among the 3 percent of all legislation that has made it through the entire process. With these two policies on the books, we will take major steps forward in stopping the torture of animals for sexual snuff films and in stopping the widespread deception in the fur fashion industry.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Congress Can Spare Taxpayers and Animals

President Obama’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission is making recommendations for reducing the deficit, and here at The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund we are proposing a few cost-cutting measures for lawmakers to consider in getting the country’s budget back on track. Millions of animals would be spared needless suffering and the U.S. budget would be moved toward the black with a number of key spending cuts.

Federal deficit The following deficit-reduction proposals would help protect pets, wildlife, farm animals, and animals in research, and help alleviate the burden on American taxpayers. Here are some initial ideas, and we’ll be unveiling other cost-saving opportunities in the weeks ahead:

  • Limit farm subsidies. As recommended by the Administration’s deficit-reduction commission, Congress should make substantial cuts in agriculture subsidies that benefit a relatively small number of industrial-scale producers while driving up the deficit and jeopardizing public health, the environment, and animal welfare. To start, Congress should cap the size operation that is eligible for subsidies, so enormous factory farms don’t keep getting massive handouts. And Congress should rein in subsidies that keep animal feed artificially cheap and encourage massive factory farm development. According to a study from Tufts University: “Between 1997 and 2005, factory farms saved an estimated $3.9 billion per year because they were able to purchase corn and soybeans—the main components of most feed mixtures—at prices below what it cost to produce the crops.” The commission recommends cutting $10 billion in farm subsidies from 2012 to 2020, and The HSUS and HSLF see this as a worthy starting point for discussion of farm subsidies that cost taxpayers a quarter of a trillion dollars from 1995 to 2009.

  • Eliminate U.S. Wildlife Services’ lethal predator control program. A branch of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services spent $57 million in fiscal year 2009 to address conflicts with wildlife—both lethally and non-lethally—in the name of protecting livestock, crops, private property, natural resources, and human health and safety. While there is a legitimate need to resolve wildlife conflicts, the federal funding spent particularly on lethal predator control—government agents using poisons, aerial gunning, steel-jawed leghold traps, and other inhumane methods to kill coyotes, mountain lions, wolves, and other predator species—is a wasteful hand-out to private ranchers, and in some cases the government spends more money than the losses attributed to these creatures. Lethal controls are often ineffective because other predators just move in to the same territory and fill the void. Lethal controls are also dangerous: of the 13,355 animals killed in FY 2009 by M-44 sodium cyanide explosive devices, 500 were non-targeted animals including beloved pet dogs and cats, as well as bobcats, foxes, black bears, turkey vultures, owls, songbirds, raccoons, skunks and opossums. Even threatened and endangered species are killed with the indiscriminate, lethal methods used by this wasteful federal program.

  • Utilize technologically advanced, humane alternatives to costly round-up and removal of wild horses on federal lands. The Bureau of Land Management would save more than $200 million in the next 12 years by using immunocontraception to manage wild horse and burro populations instead of rounding up the animals and putting them in government holding facilities. Fertility control to manage wild horse populations in the West is not only more humane, and would reduce the stress of round-ups and long-term holding in government pens, but would also help the agency get off the fiscal treadmill of rounding up horses and keeping them on the government dole.

  • Chimps in research Cease invasive research on chimpanzees and send laboratory chimps to sanctuary. The National Institutes of Health annually spends an estimated $63 million on chimpanzee research and maintenance in barren but costly laboratory cages. Few of them are used in active research, since chimpanzees have largely failed as a research model. Another $6 million has gone toward breeding chimps since 2002, despite a prohibition against such breeding. Every federally owned chimp born into the system is a $1 million dollar commitment by the government—with an average cost of $20,000 per chimp annually, and chimps living up to 60 years—and it’s much less costly to retire the animals to sanctuaries where they live together in natural settings rather than being warehoused individually.

  • Stop the use of animals for military training. The Department of Defense spent an estimated $26 million during FY 2007 on programs using animals for trauma “training, education, and/or instruction for personnel,” according to the Biomedical Research Database. In some cases, these animals are stabbed, shot, burned, and even subjected to chemical agents, as military personnel practice patient-stabilizing procedures. Meanwhile, human-like, high-tech simulators are more realistic and cost-effective, with one program yielding an estimated savings of 74 percent.

  • Refocus government safety-testing efforts on high-tech, animal-free approaches. Each year federal agencies spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars to assess the safety of chemicals, drugs, and even natural plant extracts. Evaluating the cancer-causing potential of a single chemical in a conventional rodent test takes up to 5 years, 800 animals and $4 million. For the same price and without any use of animals, as many as 350 chemicals could be tested in less than one week using ultra-fast robot-automated cellular toxicity and gene-expression tests. These sophisticated, animal-free methods are already used by some companies and federal agencies to determine testing needs and priorities, while others—such as the Environmental Protection Agency under its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, in a recent decision which could retard the research’s benefits to assessing massive numbers of chemicals—have chosen to dig in their heels and cling needlessly to obsolete animal tests.

  • Stop NASA’s proposed radiation experiment on monkeys. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)  has plans to spend $1.75 million on an experiment that will expose monkeys to harmful radiation in an attempt to study the effects of low doses of radiation over time in humans. Extensive radiation research has already been conducted on primates (and other species) and their physical and psychological suffering has been documented, including hair and tooth loss, lethargy and self-mutilation. This experiment will not yield new or relevant information and is unnecessary.

  • Cut surplus meat purchases. The federal government continues to bail out factory farms by purchasing their surplus pork and spent-hen meat. The practice is not only costly, but it does nothing to encourage such farms to rein in their production or clean up their cruel, unhealthy, and environmentally damaging methods. The government spent about $150 million purchasing excess pork in FY 2009, and in many cases is dumping the worst products on our nation’s school children, such as meat from “spent hens” used up by the egg industry, with fragile bones that break easily and splinter into their flesh. A USA Today report last December detailed: “From 2001 through the first half of 2009 … the government spent more than $145 million on spent-hen meat for schools.” Research has shown that as many as 24 percent of hens suffer broken bones following commercial “depopulation,” or removal from their cages. Of spent hens transported for slaughter, as many as 98 percent of carcasses have broken bones by the time they reach the end of the evisceration line.

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