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September 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Are Your Lawmakers Making the Grade?

As we approach the end of the 113th Congress (which spans 2013-2014), HSLF is posting a preview of our 2014 Humane Scorecard. I hope you will check it out and see how your U.S. senators and U.S. representatives have performed so far in this Congress on animal protection issues. If they did well, please thank them; if they have room for improvement, please let them know you’re paying attention, and that there is still time for them to do better before the final scorecard is wrapped up at the end of the year.

Capitol for Scorecard Blog
istock.com

In this preliminary report, we evaluate lawmakers’ performance on animal protection issues by scoring a number of key votes, but also their support for adequate funding for the enforcement of animal welfare laws, and their co-sponsorship of priority bills. We provide extra credit for legislators who took the lead on one or more animal protection issues.
 
You’ll see among the key votes this session how lawmakers sided on whether to weaken the Endangered Species Act, to curb massive subsidies to factory farms, and to open wilderness areas to sport hunting and trapping, dump toxic lead ammunition into the environment, and give a sweetheart deal to millionaire big-game hunters who want to import sport-hunted polar bear trophies. Because the Farm Bill comes up only once every five or six years, we have given weight to several critical votes—opposing the package when it included the dangerous and overreaching “King amendment,” which threatened to nullify hundreds of state and local laws on food safety, animal welfare and agriculture, and supporting the final Farm Bill when it nixed the King amendment and included an upgrade to the animal fighting law.
 
Building the number of co-sponsors on a bill is an important way to show that there is a critical mass of bipartisan support for the policy, and to help push the legislation over the finish line. Already in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in the co-sponsor counts for each of these bills, and we need to keep the momentum going with your help.

The bill to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 305 co-sponsors in the House and 59 in the Senate; the bill to end the trade of primates as pets has 143 co-sponsors in the House and 23 in the Senate; the horse slaughter bill has 181 co-sponsors in the House and 30 in the Senate; the egg industry reform bill has 151 co-sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate; and the animal fighting spectator bill has 230 co-sponsors in the House and 41 in the Senate.
 
These are impressive numbers, and they show the strength of our cause and our grassroots support. In fact, thanks to the large showing of support for the legislation making it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight, it was attached to the final Farm Bill and enacted into law in February—the fourth successful upgrade to the federal animal fighting statute in just the last dozen years. Members can still technically co-sponsor the animal fighting legislation this year, but since it’s already been enacted, co-sponsorship of the four other bills is a higher priority.

Please check the scorecard charts and call your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Thank each of them for their support of the bills that they’re already on and urge them to co-sponsor any of the five animal protection bills being counted on the 2014 Humane Scorecard that they’re not yet co-sponsoring. If they decide to join on before the end of the 113th Congress, they’ll receive credit on the final version of this Humane Scorecard that will be printed in January.

You can look up your federal legislators here, and then call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to each of your legislators. Here are the animal protection bills that will count on the scorecard and we hope will gather additional cosponsors before year’s end:

Horse for Scorecard Blog
The HSUS

Horse Soring—S. 1406 and H.R. 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; approved on a unanimous voice vote by the Senate Commerce Committee in April—to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to exaggerate their high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, and attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs and heavily weighted shoes and “stacks” that force the horse’s legs into an unnatural angle and conceal bolts. This legislation will amend the existing Horse Protection Act to end the failed industry self-policing system, strengthen penalties, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and make the actual soring of a horse for the purpose of showing or selling it illegal, as well as directing another to do so.
 
Captive Primates as Pets—S. 1463 and H.R. 2856, the Captive Primate Safety Act. Introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; approved on a voice vote by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in July—to prohibit the interstate trade in primates as pets, for the sake of both animal welfare and human safety. Primates bred for the pet trade are typically forcibly removed from their mothers shortly after birth. While they’re in high demand as infants, people quickly discover that maturing primates can be destructive, messy and dangerous. This often leads to frustrated primate owners abandoning their pets by dumping them on animal shelters, or keeping pet primates in small cages, chained in backyards, or otherwise confining them in a way that fails to meet these animals’ most basic behavioral needs, causing significant animal welfare problems. Primates can be very aggressive and regularly bite people, and also pose significant public health challenges, as these animals often carry dangerous viruses such as Herpes B, Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, and Brucellosis.
 
Horse Slaughter—S. 541 and H.R. 1094, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. Introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.—to protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. Legislators also receive credit if they voted in favor of a related amendment, offered by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Rep. Moran during markup of the Senate and House Agriculture Appropriations bills. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They don’t “euthanize” old horses—but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility.
 
Eggs and Hen Housing—S. 820 and H.R. 1731, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.—to provide for a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens, phased in over a period of 15-16 years (during the normal course of replacing aged equipment for many producers), which will significantly improve animal welfare and provide a stable and secure future for U.S. egg farmers. Under this legislation, each laying hen will ultimately be provided nearly double the amount of current space, along with enrichments such as nest boxes and perches that permit hens to better express natural behaviors.

Pit Bull for Scorecard blog
The HSUS

Animal Fighting Spectators—S. 666 and H.R. 366, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. Introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La, and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.; similar legislation adopted as part of the Farm Bill enacted in February 2014—to establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for knowingly bringing a minor to such a fight. Representatives also receive credit if they voted in favor of a related amendment, offered by Rep. McGovern during markup of the Farm Bill in the House Agriculture Committee. Spectators are more than mere observers at animal fights. They are participants and accomplices who enable the crime, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling wagers, and helping conceal organizers and handlers who try to blend into the crowd when a raid occurs.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Splashy Move: Obama Designates World’s Largest Marine Preserve

Way out in the central Pacific, there’s a swath of ocean twice the size of Texas where millions of marine animals now have safe haven from commercial killing, entanglement in fishing lines, and other human-caused dangers. Using special authority first exercised by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, yesterday President Obama expanded the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 490,000 square miles, making it the largest marine monument in the world.

The expansion spells greater protection for deep coral reefs, on which countless species depend for survival. The coral trade, which threatens to destroy vulnerable reefs just like those in this area, won’t be permitted.

Sea-turtle_270x240
Douglas Hoffman
The preserve is off-limits to commercial fishing.

The marine monument also creates more refuge for animals who migrate and forage across miles of sea, like manta rays and sharks. Sharks have been maligned for decades and are currently caught up in the cruel trade of shark finning  (the brutal practice of hacking off the fins of sharks, often while they’re still alive, and throwing the mutilated animals back overboard to die slowly in the ocean) around the world.

HSLF and The HSUS worked in Congress to pass the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, to strengthen the U.S. law against finning in domestic waters, and with our partners at Humane Society International, have banned the trade in shark fins in nine states and three U.S. territories to dry up consumer demand for shark fin soup. This expansive sanctuary in the Pacific further helps to keep sharks safe from this commercial cruelty.

The newly designated area also protects dozens of species of marine mammals and five species of endangered sea turtles from the countless deaths that occur when the animals become entangled in commercial fishing gear. And for the millions of birds who depend on this section of sea—foraging over hundreds of miles of water to bring food back to their rookeries on shore—the preserve means a greater opportunity to flourish and continue sustaining ecosystems on nearby land.

The Obama administration’s record on animal issues is a mixed one, but with more ups than downs. There has been meaningful progress made on issues such as cracking down on abusive puppy mills, tackling the poaching of elephants for their ivory tusks, and retiring chimpanzees from labs to sanctuaries, but they have fallen short on policies that harm animals such as stripping wolves of their federal protections and mismanaging wild horses and burros. The President’s proclamation designating the world’s largest marine reserve is a positive step not only to protect marine animals from cruelty, but also to help rebuild biodiversity and improve ecosystem resilience. At a time when the world’s oceans are under assault in myriad ways, these are good waves to make.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deer at the County Fair? Missouri Vote Keeps the Wild in Wildlife

In a late-night, nail-biting vote yesterday, the Missouri House of Representatives failed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would’ve relaxed restrictions on captive deer farms. Language in the bill reclassified captive deer as “livestock” rather than “wildlife.” The Senate had voted to override the veto, and the House failed by just one vote to get the two-thirds majority needed. As Missourinet reported

House Republican leadership kept the voting board open more than 20 minutes while it looked for the 109 votes needed for a veto overturn. When the tally hit 109 the instruction was given to close the board, but one lawmaker, Jeff Roorda of Barnhart, switched his vote from a “yay” to a “nay” at the last moment and the bill failed.

The legislature passed nearly every other veto override that came up yesterday, on issues ranging from abortion to gun rights to the budget, and the agriculture bill was the rare exception. It was a big loss for the Missouri Farm Bureau and other interests that want virtually no regulations on any type of farming, no matter how reckless or inhumane. And it was a win for family farmers standing up to Big Ag, as well as for conservation and animal protection advocates who work to stop captive hunting ranches and prevent the spread of disease to native wildlife. 

DEER_blog
Deer in Missouri should be treated as wildlife, not livestock.
John Harrison

When he vetoed the legislation in July, Gov. Nixon noted that “White-tailed deer are wildlife and also game animals—no matter if they’re roaming free, or enclosed in a fenced area,” and that the Department of Conservation should not be “stripped of its authority…in order to protect narrow interests.”

In fact, there is plenty of evidence that Missouri’s deer farms need more regulation, not less. In the Indianapolis Star’s outstanding investigative series “Buck Fever”, reporter Ryan Sabalow notes that chronic wasting disease has been found in 22 states. It’s usually been first detected in captive deer or elk herds before later being found in nearby wildlife.

And bovine tuberculosis has spread from deer farms to cattle in at least four states. Wildlife officials in Missouri and other states “cited gaps in fences, or reports of escapes, at hunting preserves where CWD was found.”

In fact, the report notes, “The discovery of chronic wasting disease in Missouri in 2010 and 2011 is one of many cases that offer strong evidence that farms have helped spread the disease.” More than 30,000 wild deer in the state had been tested for almost a decade without a single positive result.

But after 11 infected deer were found on two game farms, 10 others were found in the wild within two miles of one of the pens—and nowhere else in the state. Missouri officials spent more than $1 million dealing with the outbreak of the disease, which didn’t exist in the wild in Missouri until it was introduced on the preserve.

The shooting of tame animals inside fenced pens not only spreads disease but also makes a mockery of fair-chase hunting. Sabalow cites a case at the Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch in Bland, Missouri: “One bull elk with a tag in its ear [was] lazily chewing its cud in a grassy meadow. It didn’t bother to turn its head as the Durango drove past…[The owner] paid about $4,500 to have the animal shipped in a few weeks earlier from a farm in South Dakota. He said he’d charge the client who put in his order to kill it about $6,500.”

Why would lawmakers put the entire hunting and livestock economy at risk just so a few people can claim a trophy with an easy kill of a tame animal? It’s just common sense that deer should be treated as wildlife, not livestock—after all, when’s the last time you saw a deer shown at the county fair?

Unfortunately, there are special interests that want to profit from the commercialization of wildlife, no matter the costs to the state or public health, and there are politicians who blindly support their agenda, no matter how extreme. Thankfully, in this case, they fell short in their attempt to gut the restrictions, and common sense prevailed.

Friday, September 05, 2014

100 Years of Solitude: Extinction Story Calls for Action Today

This week marked a dark centennial in our relationship with animals. On September 1, 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died alone in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.

It’s rare that we know the exact date a species became extinct, but in this case, we know it’s been 100 years since the extermination of passenger pigeons, which used to number in the billions in the United States.

New-pass-pigeon
The passenger pigeon's extinction story has modern implications.
iStock.com

The birds were once so common that they would darken the skies for hours or even days at a time. Yet they were wiped out in just a few decades in the late 19th century, largely due to unregulated market hunting, even on their nesting grounds.

This vast commercial slaughter was enabled by new technologies such as the telegraph, which helped to lead hunters to their flock locations, and railroads, which transported box cars of pigeon carcasses to buyers in urban cities.

The plight of the passenger pigeon is a reminder 100 years later that we must redouble our efforts to protect imperiled species and do all that we can to crack down on the commercial killing of wild animals.

The Endangered Species Act is now under attack by members of Congress who want to roll back protections for rare creatures on the brink of extinction. The House has passed H.R. 4315, which would undermine the work of professional wildlife scientists and obstruct their efforts to list species as threatened or endangered. And it's considering a raft of other bills next week to continue gutting the ESA.

The Senate is considering S. 2363, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” seeking to punch holes in our federal conservation laws by encouraging the trophy killing of threatened polar bears and the pumping of toxic lead ammo into the environment which poisons eagles, condors, and other birds.

A century later, we still have commercial killing of wild animals for profit, although it’s sometimes dressed up as "wildlife management." Elephants and rhinos are butchered for their tusks and horns. But fortunately states are taking action to ban the trade in these products, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to tighten the rules on ivory sale.

Wolves, just recently stripped of their Endangered Species Act protections, are killed for trophies and fur pelts, but Michigan voters are fighting back and working to stop the abuse by politicians and special interests. Black bears are lured to piles of jelly doughnuts and rotting meat and caught in traps so professional guides can sell an easy kill at point-blank range to rich trophy hunters. Maine voters are working to end those cruel and unsporting practices and will vote on the issue this November.

As we take on these critical fights to end the slaughter of elephants, rhinos, wolves, bears, and other wildlife, let’s remember Martha, the last passenger pigeon, and a symbol of our past errors. Our nation can do better for these creatures and help ensure their humane treatment and their survival for future generations.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rescued Primates Need Immigration Reform Too

It’s generally unlawful to import primates into the United States—and for good reason. The animals suffer in the exotic pet trade, can be dangerous to people and other animals, and can even spread serious diseases to humans.

That’s why 26 states have banned the private ownership of primates as pets, and we are working to bar the interstate commerce in chimpanzees and other primates sold over the Internet or at exotic animal auctions.

Chimp-edited-for-blog
A chimpanzee at Chimp Haven sanctuary
Brandon Wade/AP Images for The HSUS

The current U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations governing the import of primates allow for certain types of foreign imports by U.S. zoos, circuses, universities, and other facilities for bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes.

But there is one important category of exemption missing: The CDC currently excludes legitimate nonprofit animal sanctuaries and blocks them from importing primates who need rescue and proper care.

U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have introduced H.R. 3556, the Humane Care for Primates Act, to correct this omission.

This bill will require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a rule allowing the importation of primates for the purpose of placement in certified sanctuaries.

It won’t cost the government anything, but it will help give the nonprofit sanctuary sector the opportunity to rescue primates in need and provide them the humane care they would not otherwise receive. And to qualify, sanctuaries would have to meet strict standards of care.

As Rep. Ellmers noted:

While the number of primates that enter the U.S. under this new rule will likely be small, it will truly make a difference for each individual animal. For instance, in 2011, a rescue center in Amman, Jordan requested that a U.S. sanctuary import and provide permanent refuge for three vervet monkeys and nine baboons confiscated from severely inhumane circumstances in zoos and private possession.

That same year, another rescue center in Kenya requested that a U.S. sanctuary take in a yellow baboon who was kept as a pet for two years and was facing impending euthanasia. Despite being fully equipped to accept and care for these primates for the rest of their lives, as well as the ability to assist a foreign sanctuary in need, the current regulation forced the U.S. facilities to deny these requests.

Shouldn’t a U.S. sanctuary that has the proper capacity and professional expertise be allowed to rescue and care for a baboon or monkey languishing in Africa or Asia, when there is no other option? If you can import a primate to perform in a circus or to be used in a lab experiment, shouldn’t you also be able to do so for the well-being of the animal?

This important bill is supported by HSLF, The Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, and other U.S. and international animal protection groups. Please contact your own U.S. representative today, and urge him or her to cosponsor the Humane Care for Primates Act.

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