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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Does Sequestration Mean for Animals?

Congress recessed last week for the election, leaving much business unfinished and not reaching any agreement on deficit-reduction legislation. This failure to act is likely to trigger sequestration cuts of $1.2 trillion in government spending over the next nine years, beginning in January 2013.

Animal advocates are wondering what sequestration may mean for government programs that affect animal welfare. While it is unclear exactly which programs would be cut, the cuts will apply across the board to both mandatory and discretionary programs. Here are some of the ways sequestration could impact animals:

Horses

  • Fewer funds for immunocontraception, and as a result, more horses could be rounded up each year.
  • Less money for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to prevent illegal horse soring.

Dogs

  • Cuts to inspections and enforcement actions against puppy mill dealers.
  • Less money for tests used to detect dangerous toxins found in dog food and treats.

Chimpanzees

  • Fewer funds for innovative grants, which focus on animal alternatives and human models.
  • Less money for ensuring the humane treatment of animals used in research and for setting up permanent sanctuaries for chimpanzees retired from invasive biomedical research.

Farm Animals

  • Cuts to enforcement of humane handling laws at slaughterhouses.
  • Less funding for the first humane handling ombudsman, to whom employees and stakeholders can report concerns regarding inhumane treatment.

Wildlife

  • Cuts to the enforcement of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
  • Less money for listing species under the Lacey Act or Endangered Species Act.
  • Fewer funds to rescue marine mammals that are stranded or entrapped in fishing gear.
  • Decreased funds for inspectors to ensure the humane treatment of exhibited animals.

Of course, while there are valuable government programs that need adequate funding to enforce our nation’s laws on animal welfare, there are also wasteful programs that harm animals with profligate spending. We have a number of suggestions on areas where Congress could cut—some of these programs are not huge, by Washington standards, but when you need to find $1.2 trillion, every savings counts:

  • The rounding up of burros and wild horses who are then kept at costly government holding facilities. The Bureau of Land Management would save more than $16 million in the next year by using immunocontraception to manage wild horse and burro populations.
  • Invasive biomedical research on chimpanzees, which has been found to be scientifically unnecessary and a massive drain on taxpayer funding. Ending the use of chimpanzees in federally-funded invasive research would save as much as $25 million annually.
  • Exorbitant agriculture subsidies that go to a small number of large-scale wealthy producers in an effort to encourage massive factory farm development. In addition, the Administration frequently bails out agribusiness by purchasing surplus meat. This includes the USDA’s purchase of excess pork for FY12, at a cost of $170 million to taxpayers. The amount of excess meat purchased by USDA on a yearly basis varies; for example, in FY09, USDA purchased $150 million worth of excess pork. The Administration’s deficit reduction commission recommended cutting $10 billion in mandatory agriculture programs, including farm subsidies from 2012 to 2020, which works out to approximately $1.25 billion in savings a year. 
  • The lethal predator control program, which uses inhumane methods to kill predator species, but often kills non-targeted animals, including beloved pets and threatened and endangered species. In FY12, Wildlife Services spent $69 million on operations to address conflicts with wildlife. USDA would save money if they stopped killing wildlife as a subsidy for ranchers and other special interests. Unfortunately, USDA fails to keep track of how much it spends on lethal methods. The agency should start to keep track of this information, cut $11 million from its lethal predator control budget, and shift to a more balanced approach between lethal and non-lethal management.
  • Testing on animals to assess the safety of chemicals and drugs, where economic alternative methods are available for use that does not require the use of hundreds of animals. Evaluating the cancer-causing potential of a single chemical in a conventional rodent test takes up to five years, 800 animals and $4 million.

Let your members of Congress know there are savings to be had by cutting wasteful programs that harm animals, and targeted deficit-reduction that takes aim at these terrible programs is more effective than across-the-board cuts.

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