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March 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recognizing Humane Legislators

Last evening HSLF and HSUS hosted our annual congressional Humane Awards, where we honored a bipartisan group of legislators who led the way for animals during the last year. Several dozen members of Congress and their staff attended the event in the U.S. Capitol, and we celebrated the federal lawmakers who are using their time and talents to make the world a better place for animals. Click here to view photos from the event.

Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.
HSUS President & CEO Wayne Pacelle; Rep. Elton Gallegly,
R-Calif.; and HSLF President Mike Markarian

The top awards went to U.S. Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va., who were honored as the 2010 Humane Legislators of the Year. Gallegly and Moran are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and they are working to organize animal advocates in Congress and get them involved in the cause.

The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced reform in the policy-making arena. Both Gallegly and Moran demonstrated effectiveness in 2010 as lead sponsors of key animal protection bills that were enacted into law during the “lame-duck” session.

Rep. Gallegly was the lead author of the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which 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. The U.S. Supreme Court in April 2010 struck down a 1999 statute banning video depictions of animal cruelty as being “overbroad” but left the door open for a more narrowly crafted bill targeting crush videos. Rep. Gallegly championed the successful effort, with Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and other lawmakers, to get a new federal law on the books.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. speaks with Wayne

Rep. Moran was the lead author of the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, with Reps. 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.,to bring much-needed disclosure and accuracy to the labeling of fur-trimmed apparel. A loophole in the federal fur labeling law had previously allowed garments with $150 worth of fur or less to be sold without disclosing the fur content on the label. But thanks to this new act, labels will be required regardless of dollar value, giving shoppers important product information. Rep. Moran also championed efforts in the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that he chaired to protect wild horses, promote adoption of alternatives to animal tests by the Environmental Protection Agency, and allow the EPA to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from the largest factory farms.

In addition to the top awards for Reps. Gallegly and Moran:

  • Humane Champion awards went to 20 legislators who took the lead on animal welfare legislation and also received a perfect score on the 2010 Humane Scorecard.

  • Legislative Leader awards went to 99 legislators for their leadership as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation.

  • Humane Advocate awards went to 25 legislators who received a perfect score on the 2010 Humane Scorecard.

In total, 146 legislators—more than one-third of the Senate and one-quarter of the House (representing 38 states and two U. S. territories)—received awards for their work in 2010. We’re grateful to all of these members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership on animal protection legislation, and we congratulate them as recipients of the 2010 Humane Awards. Click here to view photos from the event.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

A journalist goes to prison for broadcasting undercover video footage. A worker is persecuted for blowing the whistle on sexual harassment. It’s not the Middle East—it could happen right here in America.
 
In the Middle East and North Africa, people are jeopardizing their lives for freedom, and included among the most basic rights are freedom of expression and of the press. The global struggle for democracy should remind us about the greatness of America and value of free speech here, including in Iowa and Florida.
 
Pigs11 Unfortunately, some lawmakers in those states don’t seem to care much about these rights. They want to shield one industry—animal agribusiness—from open dialogue about animal cruelty, food safety problems, worker abuse, and toxic pollution.
 
A bill in Iowa, HF 589, has already passed the state House of Representatives, and its companion, SF 431, has been introduced in the state Senate. A similar bill, SB 1246, is pending in Florida. The author of the Iowa legislation, Rep. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, all but proved the theory that she is trying to stop speech and expression, when she was caught on tape by WHO-TV tearing down a display by animal advocates in the state capitol. 
 
These Iowa and Florida bills would ban whistleblowers from exposing illegal and unethical practices at factory farms and slaughter plants. They target legal methods of investigative reporting and would criminalize anyone blowing the whistle on animal cruelty, food safety problems, labor abuses, sexual harassment, or dumping of toxic pollutants. 
 
The Iowa legislation is so extreme it would make it a crime for the news media to even “possess” or “distribute” images of such abuses. The proposals in both states are so overly broad they could prohibit taping of cruel and illegal conditions inside puppy mills and animal fighting operations. They could even turn farms into safe havens for criminal behavior, prohibiting recordings on any property where a handful of agricultural animals are present, even if it’s used for drug trafficking, prostitution, meth labs, dogfighting or cockfighting. 
 
Telling the truth is not a crime; showing the truth should not be a crime. If you live in Iowa or Florida, please contact your state lawmakers today. Tell them we shouldn’t jeopardize our most basic freedoms just to shield the agribusiness industry from public scrutiny on a host of social problems associated with factory farms. 
 
Here’s what some newspaper editorials and columnists are saying about this legislation:

This restraint of free speech cannot be squared with either the U.S. or the Iowa constitutions…The government should not have the power to penalize anyone for publishing or distributing information on issues of public concern. The law should allow the people to see what happens in these facilities and to judge for themselves whether what goes on is right or wrong.—Editorial, Des Moines Register, March 19, 2011 

This is a bad bill overall. It overreaches and would serve to stifle valuable whistle-blower activity, and could even backfire and hurt responsible operators…It would do more harm than good.—Editorial, Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 24, 2011

It also begs a question of the slaughterhouse and puppy mill owners lobbying for it: What's going on inside the facilities that you would go to such lengths to prevent people from seeing?—Rekha Basu, Des Moines Register, March 25, 2011

We do expect livestock production to be humane and lawful. We also expect safe food. And with all the gaps in our government inspection dragnet, we just might need amateurs with cameras.—Todd Dorman, Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 24, 2011

Still, why is punishment necessary for the photographer if the farm owner has nothing to hide? Whistleblowers can use photos, for example, to document conditions that might be detrimental to the food supply. That would be in the public interest.—Editorial, Treasure Coast Palm, March 26, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shooting the Bird of Peace into Pieces

Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. The Spanish flu pandemic swept the globe. World War I was just ending. A lot has happened since 1918, but one thing has stayed the same for these 93 years: Mourning doves have been protected in Iowa. Sadly, that may change this fall, under a new bill fast-tracked through the capitol this week, with hardly a word of debate. It’s one of the most cynical and underhanded maneuvers of political gamesmanship that I have seen in any state legislature.

After years of trying to open a new dove hunting season and being beaten back in the legislature, the champions of shooting doves, led by Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, held their fire this year. Dearden introduced a dove hunting bill on the day before the deadline for legislation to pass subcommittee and stay alive for the year. Dearden is the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, and he apparently rushed it through without even consulting some fellow committee members. 

Dove On Tuesday of this week, the bill was brought to the Senate floor and approved by a vote of 30-18. It was sent to the House the very next day without any committee consideration or serious vetting of the issues (an unrelated bill on raccoon hunting was stripped completely and the mourning dove language was substituted in its place). The House approved the bill on Wednesday by a vote of 58-39, and it now goes to Gov. Terry Branstad for his signature.  This is lawmaking at warp speed, with the bill pushed ahead so fast and with the obvious intention of diminishing debate and denying citizen input to an extreme extent. It is the antithesis of deliberative democracy.

We are grateful to Reps. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, and Charles Isenhart, D-Dubuque, for speaking out against the bill on the House floor, and for offering amendments to the legislation—such as prohibiting the hunting of mourning doves over bait and near residences and with toxic lead shot—which were unfortunately defeated. As Rep. Mascher told the Des Moines Register, “The whole idea was to get it through the Senate and to get it through the House as quickly as possible so the public could not weigh in. That’s unfortunate. That is really unfortunate because some of us in this chamber value that process.”

It’s not only the democratic process that will suffer if dove hunting begins this fall for the first time in nearly a century. Hundreds of thousands of birds will be shot for target practice, many of them wounded and left unretrieved to suffer and die from their injuries; doves have such a small amount of meat on their tiny bodies, especially after being riddled with lead shot, that many hunters don’t even bother to collect them. If hunting begins in September, as it does in most other states, doves will be nesting and their orphaned young will be left to starve to death.

All for what purpose? Doves are not overpopulated, and there is no management rationale. They do not cause car accidents, knock over trash cans, or come into conflict with people. In fact, doves are known as the “farmer’s friend” because they eat weed seeds on the ground, acting as a natural herbicide. The best argument Dearden and his allies could muster is that other states shoot doves, so Iowa should shoot them too, in an “all your friends jumped off a bridge” race to the bottom of policymaking.

The last time a Midwestern state considered dove hunting was in 2006, when Michigan voters were asked to approve a new dove hunting season after a century of dove protection. Voters heard the arguments on both sides, including a major campaign from the NRA and other dove hunting proponents, and overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 3, a statewide referendum which would have allowed dove hunting, by a landslide vote of 69% to 31%. Michigan is one of the biggest hunting states in the country, but voters rejected dove hunting in each of the 83 counties in the state, from the most urban to the most rural. Iowa does not allow the referendum process, but the results would likely be the same, as a statewide poll conducted just this week concluded that Iowa voters oppose dove hunting by a more than two-to-one margin.

Since Iowa voters won’t have their say on the issue, the decision rests with Gov. Branstad, who has already publicly stated that he plans to sign the dove hunting bill. It’s time for him to hear from concerned citizens who oppose dove hunting and it’s time for him to listen to the people of Iowa. Please call him today at 515.281.5211 and ask him to veto S.F. 464. Let’s hope that he changes his mind on the issue and musters the same political fortitude that then-Gov. Tom Vilsack (now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) exhibited in 2001 the last time a dove hunting bill made it to the Iowa governor’s mansion.

If you live in Iowa, it’s important to know how your own elected officials voted this week on the dove hunting bill. (Click here to find the names of your state legislators.) If they voted yes, please let them know how disappointed you are that they caved in to special interests and went along with this farcical process. If they voted no on dove hunting, please let them know how grateful you are that they stood up for Iowa citizens and the gentle bird of peace.

Senators Voting "Yes" on Dove Hunting:

Bill Anderson 712.898.2505
Robert Bacon 515.387.8969
Merlin Bartz 641.748.2724
Jerry Behn 515.432.7327
Rick Bertrand 712.253.7096
Dennis Black 641.975.8608 
Nancy Boettger 712.744.3290
Tod Bowman 563.652.5499
Mark Chelgren  641.777.7047
Thomas Courtney  319.759.5334
Dick Dearden 515.262.1203
Bill Dix 319.885.6790
Joni Ernst 712.621.4931 
Randy Feenstra 712.439.1244
Gene Fraise 319.528.6176
Michael Gronstal 712.328.2808
James Hahn 563.263.1208
Shawn Hamerlinck 563.843.3922
Hubert Houser 712.486.2597
David Johnson 712.758.3280
Steve Kettering 712.657.3347
John P. (Jack) Kibbie 712.852.4140
Paul McKinley 641.774.5784
Amanda Ragan 641.424.0874
Tom Rielly 641.673.5878
Roby Smith 563.386.0179
Steven Sodders 641.483.2383
Kent Sorenson 515.962.2192
Jack Whitver 515.865.6394
Mary Jo Wilhelm 563.547.4156

Senators Voting "No" on Dove Hunting:

Daryl Beall 515.573.7889
Joe Bolkcom 319.337.6280
Swati Dandekar 319.377.2087
Jeff Danielson 319.231.7192
William Dotzler 319.296.2947
Robert Dvorsky 319.351.0988
Sandra Greiner 641.636.2293
Tom Hancock 563.876.3219
Jack Hatch 515.243.4675
Robert Hogg 319.538.2247
Wally Horn 319.396.3131
Pam Jochum 563.556.6530
Tim Kapucian 319.442.5337
Matthew McCoy 515.274.0561
Herman Quirmbach 515.292.8984
Brian Schoenjahn 563.633.4065
Joe Seng 563.391.1627
Brad Zaun 515.276.2025

(Absent: James Seymour and Pat Ward)

Representatives Voting "Yes" on Dove Hunting:

Dwayne Alons 712.439.2479
Richard Anderson 515.281.3221 
Richard Arnold 641.535.6313
Clel Baudler 641.743.6327
Josh Byrnes 515.281.3221
Royd Chambers 712.324.2694
Dennis Cohoon 319.752.5057
Peter Cownie 515.281.3221
Betty De Boef 515.281.3221
Dave Deyoe 515.382.2352
Cecil Dolecheck 515.281.3221
Jack Drake 712.778.2538
Greg Forristall 712.486.2271
Joel Fry 515.281.3221
Julian Garrett 515.281.3221
Pat Grassley 319.983.9019
Chris Hagenow 515.274.1652
Bob Hager 515.281.3221
Chris Hall 515.281.3221
Erik Helland 515.986.1030
Lance Horbach 641.484.2348
Daniel Huseman 712.434.5880
Stewart Iverson 515.281.3221
Ron Jorgensen 515.281.3221
Jeff Kaufmann 515.281.3221 
Jerry Kearns 319.524.1570
Kevin Koester 515.963.9996
Steven Lukan 563.921.3725
Jim Lykam 563.391.1919
Glen Massie 515.281.3221
Kevin McCarthy 515.281.3054
Linda Miller 563.449.9956
Brian Moore 563.528.0837
Dan Muhlbauer 712.653.2838 
Rick Olson 515.265.8877
Steven Olson 563.659.9096
Kraig Paulsen 319.294.2062
Ross Paustian 563.320.2874
Kim Pearson 515.224.2126
Brian Quirk 641.394.4550
Dan Rasmussen 319.334.6138
Henry Rayhons 641.923.2979
Walt Rogers 319.277.5587
Kirsten Running-Marquardt 319.892.3008
Thomas Sands 319.729.2280
Jason Schultz 712.676.2109
Tom Shaw 712.841.7691
Jeff Smith 712.337.4243
Chuck Soderberg 712.546.6136
Annette Sweeney 515.855.4340
Jeremy Taylor 712.277.0898
Linda Upmeyer 641.923.3398
Guy Vander Linden 317.796.0979
Nick Wagner 319.447.4870
Ralph Watts 515.993.4850
Matt Windschitl 712.642.4334
Mary Wolfe 563.243.4652
Gary Worthan 712.732.6340

Representatives Voting "No" on Dove Hunting:

Ako Abdul-Samad 515.244.4003, ext. 16
Chip Baltimore 515.281.3221
Deborah Berry 319.233.9934
Ruth Ann Gaines 515.281.3221
Mary Gaskill 641.682.6417
Curtis Hanson 515.281.3221
Mary Ann Hanusa 515.281.3221
David Heaton 319.385.9342
Lisa Heddens 515.292.1748
Lee Hein 515.281.3221
Bruce Hunter 515.256.8010
Charles Isenhart 563.557.1261
Dave Jacoby 319.358.8538
Anesa Kajtazovic 515.281.3221
Dan Kelley 515.281.3221
Jarad Klein 515.281.3221
Bob Kressig 319.266.9021
Vicki Lensing 319.338.6148
Mark Lofgren 563.272.8683
Mary Mascher 319.351.2826
Helen Miller 515.573.4901
Jo Oldson 515.255.2805
Tyler Olson 319.535.0635
Janet Petersen 515.279.9063
Dawn Pettengill 319.610.3412
Scott Raecker 515.276.5987
Renee Schulte 319.431.6150
Mark Smith 641.750.9278
Sharon Steckman 641.424.9362
Todd Taylor 319.396.8587
Phyllis Thede 563.441.0630
Roger Thomas 563.245.1084
David Tjepkes 515.352.3573
James Van Engelenhoven 641.628.1675
Andrew Wenthe 563.427.4831
Beth Wessel-Kroeschell 515.292.2904
Nathan Willems 319.455.3014 
Cindy Winckler 563.324.7927
John Wittneben 712.362.4797

(Absent or not voting: Mark Brandenburg, Patrick Murphy and Kurt Swaim)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shooting Tame Animals is Not an Economic Stimulus Program

Hunting advocate and environmental writer Ted Williams recently wrote a feature story for Audubon magazine, titled “Real Hunters Don’t Shoot Pets,” exploring the so-called “canned hunts” that allow paying customers to shoot tame animals stocked in fenced pens for guaranteed trophies. He spoke with leaders of the fair-chase hunting community who passed a Montana ballot initiative to ban canned hunts in 2000, wildlife biologists who are concerned about captive wildlife spreading deadly diseases to native deer and elk populations, and outdoor writer David Petersen who said “contract execution” and “pay-to-slay” are more appropriate terms “since there is no hunting involved.” Williams exposed the fake hunters at Safari Club International who drive this canned hunt mania by offering trophy awards and record book listings for the shooting of captive, exotic animals.

Ram_270x224 Animals in captive hunts often come from private breeders, exotic animal dealers, or roadside zoos. Frequently, these animals have been hand-raised and bottle fed, so they have lost their natural fear of people. The animals are often accustomed to eating at a feeding station at regular intervals—a setup that guarantees a kill for paying customers. The odds are so stacked in favor of the trophy seeker for a pre-determined outcome that even if the animals were not trapped inside a fence, they wouldn’t even bother to flee from people or the sounds of gunfire. Fortunately, as animal advocates, responsible hunters, and wildlife biologists speak out against these drive-thru killing operations, about half the states now ban or restrict them. Most recently, in 2009, Tennessee banned new canned hunts from opening but grandfathered in existing ones; in Vermont, wildlife managers and legislators are working to stop the last canned hunts in the state and make sure that wildlife remains in the public trust.

But some state legislatures are moving in the opposite direction, and are considering harmful bills to promote canned hunts—threatening to turn back the clock on fair-chase hunting and jeopardizing the health and safety of native wildlife. Canned hunt proponents and their politician allies are even getting creative, using the bad economy as an excuse to claim that opening more faux hunting ranches will provide jobs and income to the states. There is a movement afoot by opponents of animal protection to treat wildlife as livestock—bred on game farms for enclosure behind fences and as targets to be ranched, shot, and killed at close range.

They are penny-wise and pound-foolish, of course, as an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease or tuberculosis from just one of these canned hunts to the native wildlife population can cost states millions of dollars in wildlife disease management, and lost tourism and hunting license revenue. CWD outbreaks have been reported in 19 states—in 11 of these states, CWD was present in captive wildlife populations. New cases of CWD have been reported in Illinois, West Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas already this year. Although there must legally be fencing around canned hunts, animals often can and sometimes do escape from these facilities, and can even establish wild populations. Once present, CWD becomes increasingly difficult to control.  Attempts to halt the spread of the disease can cost taxpayers millions of dollars. 

On Wednesday, a bill in Georgia (SB 188) that sought to allow the killing of endangered species at captive hunts was defeated. Additionally, bills to promote canned hunting were defeated in Mississippi (SB 2530/HB 927), West Virginia (HB 2527/SB 351), and Indiana (HB 1299). Humane advocates are also working to defeat harmful canned hunting legislation pending in Tennessee (HB 1112/SB 1568) and Michigan (SB 27). On the other hand, a positive bill is now pending in New York (AB 4475/SB 3157) that would prohibit the canned hunting of exotic mammals in the state—a long overdue measure that should have been enacted in 2003 had it not been for the veto of then-Gov. George Pataki. State lawmakers around the country should shoot down these bills to expand canned hunts under the guise of economic development, and should end this inhumane, unsporting, and biologically reckless practice by putting the lid on canned hunts where they still exist.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tell USDA: Stop Cruelty to Downer Calves

Last month, in response to a legal petition filed by The HSUS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tentatively approved new rules to protect downed calves—those unable even to stand up on their own—from abuse. Under current federal law, slaughter plants have the option of setting aside calves who are too weak or injured to stand—so-called “downer” calves—and slaughtering them later. These infant calves, some just days old, can suffer extreme abuse including repeated electric shocks, kicking, and beating as workers try to drag the helpless animals to the kill box.

The new rules, if finalized, will remove the option of slaughtering calves who cannot stand and require that downed calves, like adult downed cows, be immediately and humanely euthanized. In 2009, an HSUS investigation of a Vermont slaughter plant revealed the horrifying abuse to infant calves, and removing the possibility of letting these calves linger indefinitely at slaughterhouses will help to prevent such cruelty.

Hslf_bilboard_downer_calf As part of the process, USDA is requesting comments from the public on whether to make this change permanent. Click here to urge the USDA to protect calves from abuse by permanently adopting these new rules. The agency needs to hear from all concerned Americans that the abuse of calves cannot be permitted to continue.

The HSUS’ petition was filed in the wake of its 2009 exposé of Bushway Packing, Inc. in Grand Isle, Vt., where investigators documented unacceptable and callous cruelty to infant calves, some just days old with their umbilical cords still attached, including repeated electric shocks, kicking, and even cutting off a hoof and partial decapitation of conscious animals. The HSUS investigation prompted state and federal officials to shut down the slaughter plant and open an investigation that resulted in a felony aggravated animal cruelty conviction.

More than 50,000 citizens wrote to the Secretary immediately following news of the Bushway case, urging the agency to close the downer calf loophole and make other needed reforms, including establishing an ombudsman’s office to take whistleblower complaints. The agency announced in December 2010 that an ombudsman will be appointed to focus on humane handling concerns.

USDA has made important progress under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership on stronger enforcement of humane handling and slaughter laws, puppy mill regulations, and other important issues. Eliminating the option of holding downer calves indefinitely will be another important step forward and will stop a tremendous amount of suffering for these young creatures. Please take a moment to tell the USDA to make these changes permanent. Your voice will go a long way in helping to end this unconscionable cruelty.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Feral Fray in Utah

At the start of this year’s state legislative season, the Colbert Report singled out a Utah bill by Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, for raising the bar on legislative lunacy. Oda’s bill, HB 210, would allow people to kill cats, dogs, and other animals believed to be feral, through shooting, blows to the head, or decapitation. Never mind if people’s pets get caught in the crossfire because a neighbor believes them to be unowned. It’s basically a free pass for the killing of any animal, and Utah could become a legal training ground for people who want to get their start in animal cruelty.

Cat_feral_fence_270x224 It looked like this bad idea had been put to sleep, but Oda’s bill had nine lives. A House committee rightfully stripped the bill of its feral-killing provisions, but then Oda was able to restore much of the legislation—this time only allowing the rampant killing to occur in unincorporated areas of counties where hunting is not prohibited—on the House floor. The House passed HB 210 by a vote of 44-28, and it’s now pending in the Senate. 
 
Several lawmakers have spoken out against this putrid policy. Minority Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake, pointed out that the bill encourages people who want to “satisfy their own perverse sense” by torturing animals for fun, and House Minority Leader Dave Litvack, D-Salt Lake, called it “an embarrassment” to the state of Utah.
 
There’s now a real threat that this measure will become the law of the unincorporated land, and would represent a major step backward at a time when there are more effective methods than ever to address the management of feral animals by humane means. Trap-neuter-return programs, for example, can bring communities together to improve the health and quality of life for feral cats and prevent more from being born into this dangerous and difficult existence.
 
Rather than bring people together to solve problems, however, the Oda bill would likely turn neighbor against neighbor. People could shoot each other’s pets at will in neighborhood disputes as long as they can claim they had a “reasonable” belief that the animal was feral. And as Stephen Colbert asked, “Who better to decide what’s reasonable than someone willing to club a collarless cat to death?”

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