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In the News

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Recognizing Humane Legislators on Capitol Hill

Last night, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States co-hosted the annual Congressional Humane Awards to honor a bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the way for animals during the last year. Dozens of Senators and Representatives plus staff members from additional offices (and two adorable office dogs) attended the event in the U.S. Capitol to celebrate the federal lawmakers who are working to make the world a better place for animals.

Photo by Bill Petros/For The HSUS
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., (center), seen here with HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle (right) and me, was honored with a 2016 Humane Legislator of the Year award. Photo by Bill Petros/For The HSUS

The top awards this year went to Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and John Shimkus, R-Ill., who were honored as the 2016 Humane Legislators of the Year. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced these reforms through the legislative process. These Members of Congress were chosen because of their significant leadership roles and effectiveness, including the enactment of two major legislative victories they shepherded to passage.

In June 2016, Congress passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which reauthorized the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. Sen. Booker championed provisions in the Senate version of the bill to reduce, and ultimately replace, the use of live animals for chemical testing, and advocated for inclusion of that language in the final law. As the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Shimkus was instrumental in negotiating the final package and successfully retaining these provisions to phase out archaic, costly, and non-predictive animal testing protocols in favor of 21st century technology. This action will accelerate the movement away from animal tests for safety substantiation of chemicals, as well as pesticides, biocides, cosmetics, and other regulated substances—potentially savings millions of animals in the years to come. The new scientific approach will be much faster, less costly, more reliable, and far more humane.

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Rep. John Shimkus receiving the 2016 Humane Legislator Award from HSLF Senior Vice President and Executive Director Sara Amundson. Photo by Bill Petros/For The HSUS

Signed into law in October 2016, the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act provides tools to combat the global poaching crisis that threatens elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other species with extinction. Rep. Royce sponsored and secured House passage of this bill, which supports global anti-poaching efforts and increases U.S. collaboration with NGOs and governments of countries affected by wildlife trafficking. Sen. Feinstein sponsored related legislation and ensured that the final package included provisions that allow serious wildlife crimes to trigger substantial penalties under money-laundering statutes, thereby reducing the profitability of poaching and wildlife trafficking. As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Feinstein also fought for animals on several fronts in the FY16 omnibus spending package, including as part of the leadership team on an amendment that prevents horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil.

Sen. Booker and Rep. Royce also introduced the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act to crack down on brutal shark finning. If enacted, this legislation would make the United States a global leader setting an example for other nations to end the destructive shark fin trade—reducing the number of sharks mutilated for their fins and left to die at sea, just for a bowl of soup. Sen. Booker is part of the duo leading an effort in the Senate to require greater transparency in pork and beef checkoff programs used as a slush fund by agribusiness lobbying groups.  In addition, he’s trying to create a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide service dogs to wounded veterans. He’s fought the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, including on national wildlife refuges, and excluded “trapping” from the definition of “hunting” to assure that using body-gripping traps is not a priority on federal lands.

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Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., receiving the 2016 Humane Legislator of the Year Award from Wayne Pacelle. Photo by Bill Petros/For the HSUS

In addition to their legislative work, these leaders also weighed in with federal agencies on critical rulemaking efforts.  In 2016, Sens. Booker and Feinstein encouraged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize a rule stopping the mistreatment of downer veal calves—those too sick, injured, or weak to stand on their own. Sen. Feinstein also led a letter urging the USDA to strengthen significantly outdated animal care standards for captive marine mammals.

In addition to honoring these extraordinary legislators, The HSUS and HSLF recognized a broader, bipartisan group of outstanding lawmakers based on their leadership on animal protection issues and their ratings on the 2016 Humane Scorecard. In total, 200 legislators—51 in the Senate and 149 in the House (representing 39 states)—were honored for their work in 2016. The animal protection community is grateful to all of these Members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership. Congratulations to the recipients of the 2016 Humane Awards.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why not “drain the swamp” of animal abuse?

President Trump’s preliminary budget proposes major cuts in programs related to foreign aid, poverty relief programs, and the environment, and the budget proposal eliminates entire programs supporting public broadcasting, the arts, and humanities. From our lane at HSLF, the one burning question is why there aren’t any cuts in factory farming subsidies, lethal predator control, and other giveaways of American tax dollars to coddled special interests?

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iStock Photo

If he was in the hunt for programs to cut, in order to save tax dollars and balance the budget, this government pork should have been first on the list. These programs have been long overdue for trimming and elimination, and we hope those specifics are part of the president’s full budget proposal expected in a few months.

Of course, the president’s first budget is a starting point, and needs to be negotiated and approved by Congress. As lawmakers work through the process and endeavor to downsize the government, we strongly urge them to look at areas that are ripe for cuts and savings:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program is an outdated and inefficient model of lethal predator control, essentially operating as a government subsidy for private ranchers, and wasting millions of dollars each year killing wolves, mountain lions, bears, and other wildlife with cruel methods such as poisoning, aerial gunning, and steel-jawed leghold traps. In some cases, the government spends more money than the losses attributed to these creatures. Even family pets and threatened and endangered species are killed with the indiscriminate, lethal methods employed by this wasteful federal program. A 14-year-old boy walking his dog in Idaho recently triggered an M-44 “cyanide bomb” set by Wildlife Services to kill coyotes, and the 3-year-old Lab, Casey, was killed by the toxic explosion. It’s not only a waste of tax dollars, but a threat to families everywhere.
  • The USDA can also stop the multi-million dollar subsidies for big pork and other factory farming interests, and let the free market take the place of government hand-outs. The government bail outs of factory farms (through purchasing of their surplus meat—often dumping the worst products on our nation’s school lunch program) are not only costly, but do nothing to encourage such operations to rein in their production or clean up their cruel, unhealthy, and environmentally damaging methods. USDA should rein in the National Pork Board, which is funneling check-off dollars—a tax paid by every pig farmer supposedly for marketing efforts—to a D.C. lobbying group. This $60 million boondoggle is essentially a slush fund for the National Pork Producers Council and its efforts to fight against animal welfare and family farmers. You could not find a stronger example of crony capitalism taking advantage of government benefits.
  • The Bureau of Land Management can save tens of millions of dollars by utilizing technologically advanced, humane alternatives to costly round-up and removal of wild horses on federal lands. Using immunocontraception to manage wild horse and burro populations in the West instead of taking them off the land and putting them in long-term government holding facilities is not only more humane, but would also help the agency get off the fiscal treadmill of rounding up horses and keeping them on the government dole.
  • 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, and are poised to be accelerated by the passage of the TSCA reform bill last year. Funding should focus on research and development of these methods, in order to stop spending on wasteful and inefficient animal tests.

Lawmakers should consider these proposals as part of their larger effort to wrestle with the country’s budget. Millions of animals would be spared needless suffering, the U.S. budget would be moved toward the black, and we would begin to “drain the swamp” of special interests that have been bilking the American taxpayers for all too long.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Federal law has big impact on animal fighting

The original federal law to curb some aspects of animal fighting (adopted in 1976) did not prompt a single prosecution for more than a quarter century, even though dogfighting and cockfighting went on in thousands of dark corners and even some brightly lit arenas every year in the U.S. That’s why HSLF went to work to strengthen the law and make it more viable and effective. We’ve upgraded the law four times in the last 15 years, the latest upgrade in 2014. I’m pleased to report on a clear example of the new, stronger framework—criminalizing the act of bringing a minor to a fight. This improvement to the law is making a difference in the real world:

Last month, a Virginia man was sentenced to two years in prison for taking a minor to cockfight in Kentucky. This is a direct result of the passage of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which was strongly backed by The HSUS and HSLF and included as a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill. 

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Heather Severt/The HSUS
Example of a cockfighting ring in
WV busted by The HSUS

The law made it a federal crime to attend a dogfight or cockfight, and a federal felony to bring a child to one. In prior years, we also convinced Congress to outlaw the sale of fighting birds, upgrade animal fighting to a felony offense, and ban the possession of fighting animals.

These upgraded federal laws are rooting out this despicable behavior. Last year, a cockfighting pit in Citronelle, Alabama, was shut down by federal authorities, after multiple undercover investigations conducted by the FBI and The HSUS. During the execution of the search warrant, authorities uncovered a huge arena with bleacher seating, concession stands, trophies, cockfighting paraphernalia, and rental holding spaces for participants’ birds with space for more than 1,000 animals.

Also last year, a federal investigation into suspected dogfighting operations led to the rescue of 66 dogs and the seizure of dogfighting paraphernalia at properties in New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. The case was led by the U.S. Department of Justice, with assistance from The HSUS, and nine individuals were charged as part of a coordinated effort across numerous federal judicial districts to combat organized dogfighting.

The recent case, however, is especially noteworthy as the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the federal statute for bringing a child to a cockfight. (There have been previous prosecutions for attending dogfights.) And there’s more. The man sentenced for his role in cockfighting at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky, also pleaded guilty to distribution of hydrocodone. Of course we’ve known that animal fighting goes hand in hand with other crimes, and the adults who bring children to these spectacles expose them to drugs, violence, and bloodletting.

The children, of course, pay a high price for witnessing the cruelty of animal fighting first hand. Research shows that regularly being exposed to animal cruelty puts children at serious risk. When children become accustomed to the pain and suffering they witness, they become desensitized. Not only are they at risk of becoming animal fighters themselves, they are at risk of becoming involved in crimes against people.

Also, with the FBI now tracking animal cruelty crimes in the uniform crime reporting database, and organizations like the National Sheriffs Association speaking out forcefully against animal cruelty, we should see more enforcement of all animal fighting laws. The HSUS is also training thousands of law enforcement agents across the country on how to enforce laws against cockfighting and dogfighting. 

It was less than 20 years ago that cockfighting was still legal in five states. The HSUS and HSLF marched state by state to close the gaps in the legal framework on animal fighting. And because many of the dogfights and cockfights are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, we worked with our allies in Congress to fortify the federal statute as a complement to the state laws. We are now seeing the results of all that work paying off for animals and for communities around the country, and we are grateful to all the lawmakers who advocated for tougher laws to crack down on the scourge of animal fighting.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Maryland seeks to close the door on the trade of imperiled wild animal products

Following the worrying results of an investigation into the sale of wildlife products from imperiled species within its  borders, Maryland lawmakers are taking steps to make sure that their state no longer has a hand in this destructive trade.

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photo courtesy of The HSUS
An example of an elephant ivory piece found for
sale at the Baltimore Antiques Show

The Humane Society of the United States today released the results of an investigation conducted late last year that uncovered products of imperiled species, notably elephant ivory jewelry and collectibles, for sale in stores and markets throughout Maryland. Investigators found that at least 30 sellers at antique stores and malls, auction companies, consignment stores, and jewelers across Maryland had elephant ivory items for sale. Leopard fur was also found for sale at a Frederick antique mall.

With only one exception, none of the sellers offering ivory or leopard fur would provide documentation to investigators to verify the age or origin of the products. That lack of documentation and transparency makes it impossible to know if the products were genuine antiques, for example, or from more recently killed elephants, imported in violation of the federal law on selling African elephant ivory.

The investigation also found that several sellers at a popular art and jewelry show in Baltimore had traveled from other states, including New York—where, thanks to 2014 legislation supported by HSLF, The HSUS, and other wildlife conservation and protection groups, the sale of ivory is now illegal.

When asked, many Maryland antique sellers claimed ignorance of existing laws regulating the sale of ivory, while others seemed to deliberately confuse or mislead potential customers.

In a survey conducted last year, an overwhelming 83 percent of Maryland residents said they support legislation to curtail this trafficking within their state’s borders, to help save the world’s most majestic and endangered wildlife from extinction and cruelty. With broad support, state legislators have introduced a package of bills, H.B. 686/S.B. 560, to prohibit the sale of these products in the state.

The poaching of imperiled species is a growing global crisis, and the U.S. is one of the world’s largest retail markets and  a major contributor to the $20 billion illegal wildlife trade. We must do all we can to stop poaching of wildlife in range countries, but we can also take action here at home to reduce the demand that creates global instability and pushes many iconic animals to the brink of extinction.

The actions by poachers are immensely cruel and even as they decimate the populations of these species, they threaten the economies of many nations dependent on wildlife tourism. Poachers hack off an elephant’s or rhino’s face, sometimes while the animal is still alive, to retrieve their tusks or horn. Every year approximately 35,000 elephants are killed in Africa to supply the demand for their ivory. The savanna elephant population has declined by 144,000, or 30 percent of the population, since 2007, primarily from poaching.

Other iconic animals aren’t faring any better. Cheetahs have lost an estimated 91 percent of their historic habitat and fewer than 7,100 remain in the wild. At least 1,305 rhinos were poached across Africa in 2015 out of only 29,000 remaining in the wild. All seven sea turtles species are threatened with extinction. There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild. African lion populations have declined by 43 percent since 1993 and are still declining.

Evidence and seizure data suggest that poaching and wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational crime, after the trafficking of drugs and people, and counterfeiting. In the case of ivory, armed militia and terrorist groups on the African continent engage in elephant poaching and ivory trafficking to finance their nefarious operations. Many agencies, including INTERPOL and the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, recognize the increasing involvement of organized syndicates in wildlife crime.

The federal government has an important role to play, and we made progress last year with the passage of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act in Congress and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule to close loopholes in the domestic ivory trade. But states must also take action to help dry up demand for poached products within their own borders. There is strong and bipartisan support for these laws, as seen in huge ballot measure victories by HSLF and our coalition partners—winning 70 percent of the statewide votes in Washington in 2015 and Oregon in 2016 to ban the trade in wildlife parts.

The new legislation in Maryland would keep the products of elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, sea turtles, and great apes off the market, ensuring that consumers do not unwittingly contribute to the illegal wildlife trade. Maryland can join California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington which have passed similar laws—building momentum in the fight to shut down local markets that allow so many to continue seeking profit from destructive wildlife trafficking.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Next Ag Secretary has a big role to play on animal welfare

The cabinet post with perhaps the most relevance for animal welfare within the incoming administration was one of the last to be filled—with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue getting the nod from President-elect Donald Trump as the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture.

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Shaun Lowe/iStock

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a major role not only on agricultural policy, but also in the enforcement and implementation of key animal protection laws, including the Animal Welfare Act, which provides oversight for millions of animals at more than 10,000 sites (including puppy mills and other commercial breeding facilities, laboratories, roadside zoos, and circuses); the Horse Protection Act, which deals with cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses (deliberately injuring horses’ legs and hooves to achieve an artificial high-stepping, pain-based gait to win prizes); the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act; and the federal animal fighting law.

What do we have in the way of insights about Sonny Perdue’s record on animal welfare? As governor, he signed a law in 2008 strongly backed by The HSUS and HSLF to make dogfighting a felony and close loopholes on owning fighting dogs and being a dogfighting spectator. "I am pleased today to make it clear that dogfighting is an activity that we will not tolerate here in Georgia," said Perdue in signing the bill.

Perdue is a licensed veterinarian, who graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, and a few years ago volunteered his time to perform a surgery at the Atlanta Humane Society to raise awareness for the spaying and neutering of pets and a special dog and cat license plate that supports Georgia’s statewide spay and neuter program. "I'm here today to help the Humane Society call attention to the serious problem we have in Georgia with the overpopulation of cats and dogs," said the then-governor. "We need to encourage pet owners to be responsible so that we don't have unwanted animals finding their way to shelters and having to be euthanized."

In 2010, Perdue also signed a bill banning the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter pets.

In recent weeks, a number of players within Big Ag have championed his appointment. As governor, Perdue signed a pro-agribusiness bill to preempt local ordinances related to agriculture, and similar effort could be advanced at the federal level to block states and local communities from having a say on agriculture policy. Certainly, we hope that Secretary Perdue will stand up for states’ rights and local decision-making authority.

Georgia is the top state for production of broiler chickens (those raised for meat) and is also home to the United Egg Producers. Perdue is undoubtedly familiar with these issues, and with the trends in these industries, including the fact that, increasingly, American consumers have higher expectations for animal welfare. Most of the major egg producers are transitioning toward cage-free production, and some of the biggest brand names in the world of chicken production—such as Perdue (no relation to the designee)—are moving toward slower-growing birds to prevent their immense suffering and implementing other reforms. The next Secretary of Agriculture can play a role in helping the marketplace transition to higher welfare practices. The ground has shifted on these issues not just among consumers, but even among so many producers. We hope that Governor Perdue sheds the old canards about agriculture and brings the balance that consumers expect and that so many food businesses have already committed to honor.

The incoming administration is reportedly working on plans to cut the size of government. If cost-cutters are looking to downsize the USDA, we have some suggestions: The agency’s Wildlife Services program is an outdated and inefficient model of lethal predator control, essentially operating as a government subsidy for private ranchers, and wasting millions of dollars each year killing wolves, mountain lions, bears, and other wildlife with cruel methods such as poisoning, aerial gunning, and steel-jawed leghold traps.

The USDA can also stop the multi-million dollar subsidies for big pork and other factory farm products, and let the free market take the place of government hand-outs. It can rein in the National Pork Board, which is funneling check-off dollars—a tax paid by every pig farmer supposedly for marketing efforts—to a D.C. lobbying group. The $60 million boondoggle has come under fire from conservative Sen. Jeff Flake, who writes, "In a very unusual deal, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is bringing home the bacon from a government sponsored board for the sale of the slogan ‘The Other White Meat,’ which was put out to pasture years ago." Flake notes that the "deal guarantees payments to a lobbying organization over two decades" for a slogan that is no longer even being used. You could not find a stronger example of crony capitalism taking advantage of government benefits.

In recent years, the USDA has been responsible for progress on a number of animal welfare issues, including banning the slaughter of downer cows and veal calves who can’t stand up or walk on their own, strengthening enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to crack down on illegal soring, setting animal welfare standards for the organics industry, strengthening the care of captive marine mammals, and working to address problems with puppy mills, Class B dealers, and tiger cub petting operations. We urge the incoming Secretary of Agriculture to continue the progress on these issues and make animal welfare a priority for the agency. If he wants to "drain the swamp," he’ll have to resist the polarizers and the provocateurs who want to fight old battles, settled already in so many states and even in the business community.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The 2016 congressional year in review for animals

The 115th Congress convenes today, and it’s set to be a busy next few months as legislators take up appropriations for FY17 and FY18, as well as many other presidential and congressional priorities. It’s going to be hectic, and at times contentious, but we’ll be there every day on the front lines driving change for animals.

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iStock Photo

As we gear up for the new year, let’s take a look back and reflect on some of the key victories for animals during the 2016 session. That list should include key rulemaking actions, where lawmakers advocated for executive agencies to take action and strengthen the regulations associated with major laws for animals.

Animals in Research and Testing: Signed into law in June 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (P.L. 114-182) phases out archaic, costly, and non-predictive animal testing protocols in favor of 21st century technology. It reauthorized the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with new landmark provisions to reduce, and ultimately replace, the use of live animals for testing tens of thousands of chemicals in the marketplace, potentially saving millions of dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs, and other animals over time. This language was supported by the chemical industry, environmental and animal protection organizations. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency moved to phase out some of the especially cruel and obsolete animal testing practices used by pesticide manufacturers for hundreds of new pesticide products brought to market each year.

Leads: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Tom Udall, D-N.M., David Vitter, R-La., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Wildlife Trafficking: Congress passed the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231, signed into law in October 2016) to support global anti-poaching efforts, require greater collaboration with NGOs and governments of countries affected by wildlife trafficking, and allow serious wildlife crimes to trigger substantial penalties under money-laundering statutes. Separately, bipartisan letters signed by 108 Representatives and six Senators helped set the stage for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a final rule to curtail the commercial ivory trade in the United States, estimated to be the world’s second largest market for ivory product sales behind China. House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports for FY17 also reiterated the need for agencies to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking and highlighted the role of this trade in financing armed insurgencies and terrorist organizations.

Leads: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Peter King, R-N.Y., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Farm Animals: After an appalling exposé of abuse and neglect at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and both chambers prevailed on the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to cover all its research practices under the standards of the Animal Welfare Act and institute regular inspections of all its animal research facilities. In addition, a bipartisan group of 92 Representatives and 14 Senators successfully pushed the USDA to close a loophole in the agency’s 2009 regulation, which previously banned the slaughter of downer cattle (those too sick, weak, or injured to stand on their own) but did not cover downer veal calves, leaving them vulnerable to abuse. The USDA also made clear in its final rule that the humane handling regulations apply to all animals as soon as they arrive at slaughter facilities.

Leads: Sens. Merkley, Udall, Feinstein, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Booker, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Chris Smith, R-N.J., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y.

Horses: Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved bipartisan amendments in their FY17 Agriculture bills to sustain language preventing horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States. The continuing resolution passed in December 2016 will keep these despicable operations shuttered through April 28, 2017, the deadline Congress set to complete action for FY17 appropriations. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees also included language in their FY17 Interior bills to ensure that healthy, unadopted wild horses are not sent to slaughter and directed the Bureau of Land Management to continue researching viable, humane solutions, such as fertility control, to be used on the range to curb the ever growing wild horse numbers. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum also joined efforts to end the cruel practice of injuring horses to induce an artificial, pain-based, high-stepping gait known as the “big lick” in Tennessee Walking Horse shows. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act garnered 323 Senate and House cosponsors, and 42 Senators and 182 Representatives voiced support for the USDA’s still pending rule to fix its outdated regulations to eliminate the corrupt system of industry self-policing and the use of devices integral to soring (mirroring key provisions in PAST).

Leads: Sens. Udall, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Graham, Feinstein, Coons, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Farr, Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Fitzpatrick, Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., David Jolly, R-Fla., and Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Animal Cruelty: In December 2016, the Senate gave unanimous approval to the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which would create a federal anti-cruelty statute, complementing the state cruelty laws by prohibiting malicious animal abuse on federal property or in interstate commerce. While it was too late for the House to act, this priority legislation will start the 115th Congress with strong momentum, thanks to the Senate’s action. A bipartisan letter signed by 14 Representatives helped ensure inclusion of a provision in an executive order amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice to explicitly establish an animal cruelty standard on military bases. Though animal abuse is thankfully rare among military personnel, this provision will help deter tragedies like some high-profile cases of animal cruelty on military bases in the news in recent years.

Leads: Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Blumenauer, and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

Reintroducing Priority Bills: We saw a lot of support for several important bills in 2016, which we’ll seek to get reintroduced as soon as possible. Those included:

  • Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act—The PACT Act would amend and strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 by prohibiting those extreme acts (animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse) when they occur on federal property or in interstate commerce, regardless of whether an obscene video was produced (253 House cosponsors and 39 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Toomey and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, Deutch, Marino, and Blumenauer.

  • Pet and Women Safety Act—The PAWS Act would make it harder for abusers to prey on battered partners and their pets by allowing pets to be protected across state lines when restraining orders are issued in domestic violence and stalking cases and authorizing grant money so that domestic violence shelters can accommodate pets or help arrange for pet shelter. Currently, one-third of those subjected to domestic violence delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, and only three percent of domestic violence shelters allow pets; up to 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet (224 House cosponsors and 36 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

  • Safeguard American Food Exports Act—The SAFE Act would protect both horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. 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. Horses destined for slaughter are often seriously injured or killed in long-distance transit, and the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths as they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horsesthey buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions (200 House cosponsors and 31 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Menendez, Graham, Mikulski, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Schakowsky, Buchanan, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.

  • Humane Cosmetics Act—The Humane Cosmetics Act would phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the United States. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have already undertaken such action, including the European Union and India. There are many alternative methodsfaster to perform and less costly to industry than expensive animal testingto ensure that products are safe for human use, and 195 companies including Paul Mitchell, Coty, Lush, and The Body Shop support this legislation (174 House cosponsors).
    Leads: Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif.

  • Prevent All Soring Tactics Act—The PAST Act would amend the 1970 Horse Protection Act to more effectively rein in the use of caustic chemicals, chains, weights, sharp objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to inflict pain on the hooves and legs of certain breeds to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping, pain-based gait. The bill incorporates reforms recommended by the USDA’s Inspector General in 2010 and by a broad cross-section of horse industry and veterinary groups, to end the failed industry self-policing scheme, ban devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all who participate in the abuse (273 House cosponsors and 50 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Warner, and Reps. Yoho, Schrader, Fitzpatrick, Cohen, Jolly, and Schakowsky.

With a new Congress and a new president, we can expect to face new challenges, but the advances made in 2016 remind us that animal protection reflects shared American values and transcends partisan politics. In the 115th Congress, it’s likely that the Farm Bill a major rewrite of our agricultural lawswill be taken up, and that presents both concerns and opportunities for us.

At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we stand ready to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum to advance a common-sense animal welfare agenda, and at the same time, to fight harmful policies that threaten animals. We welcome the incoming class, and thank you for all your support and advocacy that made these 2016 achievements possible, and for your continued efforts in 2017 and beyond.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

FTC to consumers: Don’t be duped by "fake" fur

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Photo courtesy of Richard-Seeley

This holiday season, shoppers around the country are looking for the perfect gifts and last-minute deals. It’s also a time when more and more consumers are thinking about conscious ethical purchasing choices and what impact the products they buy have on the world. This includes animal issues, whether it’s a puppy purchased from a pet store, cosmetics tested on animals, or food sources from factory farms.

When it comes to the fashion industry, there is still some misrepresentation of garments labeled as “faux fur” when they really contain animal fur. Recently, The Humane Society of the United States asked the Federal Trade Commission to bring enforcement action under federal protection laws against 17 retailers for false advertisement of fur garments. These retailers sold a combined 37 different styles of apparel and accessories that were advertised or labeled as “faux fur,” but actually included animal fur from raccoon dogs, rabbits, and coyotes.

While FTC is still reviewing this enforcement action, the agency has taken steps to help educate consumers this holiday season by releasing a blog that highlights the difference of faux fur and real fur, which I have posted below. We hope you use this information when shopping this holiday season, and we are grateful to the FTC for raising awareness of this important consumer protection and animal protection issue in the marketplace.


When fake fur is real

December 21, 2016
by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Do you have faux fur on your holiday wish list—maybe a jacket, hat or throw? It turns out that some faux fur is actually real fur, but manufacturers and retailers say it’s fake. And misleading people is against the law.

Both the federal Fur Act and the FTC’s Fur Rule (yes, there’s a Fur Act and a Fur Rule) say that companies have to give shoppers accurate information about what they’re buying—whether in a store, online, or in advertising. And, if it’s a real fur product, the law says it has to be labeled with the type of animal and the country where the fur comes from.

  • As you’re shopping, here are some ways make sure you’re getting the kind of fur—real or faux—that you’re after:
  • Don’t go by feel and color alone. Some fake fur is actually softer than some real fur. Also, fake fur can be dyed.
  • Separate the fur and look at the base. Fake fur usually has a mesh or threaded backing, while real fur usually is on a backing of skin or leather.
  • Look at the tips of the hairs. Unless they’ve been sheared or cut, the tips of animal fur taper to a fine point—like a sewing needle or sharpened pencil. The tips of faux fur don’t taper.

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Do you think you’ve spotted a company selling real fur as fake? Report it to the FTC. Your complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies put an end to unfair and misleading business practices.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trump’s holiday bonus for big ag

A number of anti-animal politicians have been under consideration for cabinet posts in the Trump administration, but the president-elect has selected one of the very worst to lead the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. An elected official who abused the power of his office to attack charities on behalf of agribusiness interests will now lead the federal agency responsible for a number of important animal issues, including animal testing for pesticides and chemicals, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution from factory farms.

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Shaun Lowe/iStock

Pruitt has been so aligned with factory farming special interests that last year he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, which celebrated his work to sue the EPA over the Clean Water Act and to attack animal protection groups. Just a few days before the election, he was a keynote speaker at the convention of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which vigorously fought our successful ballot initiative to outlaw cockfighting in the state and unsuccessfully tried to block the use of the ballot initiative process on any animal welfare issues.

In 2016, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and Pruitt led a third unsuccessful fight to push a “right to farm.” State Question 777 would have amended Oklahoma’s constitution to give special rights to corporate and foreign-owned factory farms, and block future restrictions on agriculture. It was so broadly written that it could have prevented restrictions on puppy mills, horse slaughter, and even cockfighting. Pruitt penned an op-ed in the Tulsa World advocating for passage of the ballot measure, and later tried to defend it by saying it wouldn’t have any adverse impact on water quality in the state, after so many local government leaders panned SQ 777 and said how dangerous it was.

Voters saw through this deceptive and overreaching ballot measure, and soundly rejected it with 60.3 percent on the “no” side. Donald Trump won all 77 counties in Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in the country, but 37 of those counties sided with animal advocates and family farmers against Pruitt and Big Ag.

Pruitt also filed a lawsuit with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and other states’ Attorneys General to try to strike down California’s law that sets basic animal welfare and food safety standards for the sale of eggs in the state—requiring that the hens have enough space to turn around and stretch their wings. Pruitt and the other AG’s claimed to sue on behalf of their states and sought to allow egg factory farms to sell eggs in California, no matter how extreme the confinement of the hens or how bad the food safety standards. A federal judge dismissed the case, finding that Pruitt and the other AG’s were suing on behalf of special interests, not the citizens of their states. The federal appeals court upheld that dismissal last month.

Pruitt had previously used his position as Attorney General and used government channels, press releases, and social media to criticize The Humane Society of the United States, mounting a political attack on a charitable organization because of that group’s mission and beliefs. His playbook came straight off the script handed to him by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which has long stitched a phony and false narrative about the diverse work of The HSUS. This was an affront, and an example of the heavy hand of government trying to squelch the speech of an organization that holds views at odds with his political funders. It’s not the role of government to decide whose voice should be heard, and Pruitt’s abuse of power should outrage religious leaders, pro-life groups, and others with a values-based view of the world. Pruitt’s campaign against The HSUS was a sop to the Farm Bureau and his political allies who don’t like organizations working to crack down on cockfighting, puppy mills, and intensive confinement of animals on factory farms.

The Agitator, a blog that covers nonprofit marketing, called it “an ugly, dangerous and utterly frightening campaign of distortion and intimidation,” under the guise of “consumer protection," and warned of “how some politicians and their special interest supporters are attempting to intimidate, discredit and destroy nonprofits that oppose them through the misuse of fundraising regulations.” The HSUS sued Pruitt over this abuse of power and campaign of harassment and public vilification, and then later withdrew the suit after the AG’s office announced it was no longer investigating the organization.

Trump has also appointed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be U.S. ambassador to China. Many family farmers claim that China is buying up American farms and treating our land and animals as China’s new outpost for factory farming, getting all the economic benefits of production and leaving the United States with all of the externalities. The fear is that Branstad, who’s viewed as an architect of this strategy, will now accelerate this move. Branstad was one of the first governors to sign an “ag-gag” measure in recent years, and he, too, has a poor record on a wide range of animal issues. 

With these selections, President-elect Trump has turned to two of the most anti-animal welfare politicians in America. It remains to be seen what’s to come for selections to the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and other key agencies that shape the policies that affect millions of animals.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The looming fight on states’ rights and animal welfare

We knew before the election that Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee included a long list of extraordinarily strident voices against animal welfare. Now, according to a leaked memo of talking points prepared for that group, we have a window into the possible agriculture policies of the incoming Trump administration. And we know that our movement must rally once again to defeat one of the most sweeping attacks on animal protection and food safety laws we’ve ever faced.

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Photo courtesy of Greg Latza/For The HSUS

As the memo indicates, “The Trump administration will work with Congress to ensure that the Interstate Commerce Clause is enforced to keep individual states from dictating policy for food growers in the United States.”

That’s a thinly veiled reference to a discredited proposal from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that seeks to negate most state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It’s a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional rights of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses.

The King amendment takes aim at state laws such as California’s Proposition 2—approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008—to ban extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in small crates and cages, as well as a law passed subsequently by a landslide margin in the state legislature, with the support of the egg industry, to require any shell eggs sold in California to comply with the requirements of Prop 2. Its effect would extend to the recently approved Question 3 in Massachusetts, banning the confinement of farm animals and the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from crates and cages, which passed two weeks ago with an astonishing 78 percent of the vote.

In short, the King amendment could nullify dozens of state laws dealing with intensive confinement of farm animals, bans on horse slaughter and the sale of horsemeat, bans on the sale of foie gras produced by force-feeding ducks and geese, bans on tail docking of dairy cows and processing downer livestock, bans on possession and commerce of shark fins and rhino horn, and potentially even bans on the sale of dog and cat meat. It could also preempt a wide range of state laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish.

Since then, the world has changed, and the idea of extreme confinement is on its way out, with more than 200 food retail companies pledging to cleanse their supply chains of products that come from these sorts of inhumane confinement systems. On the same day that Donald Trump was elected president, the landslide vote on Question 3—which passed in 362 of 365 cities and towns in the Commonwealth—put a closing argument and exclamation point on the changes we’ve seen in society.

But opposition to the King amendment is nothing new. As a Washington Post editorial noted when it slammed King’s loser of a proposal, “Mr. King’s reactionary amendment would precipitate a disaster. Not only would laws regarding animal cruelty be upended, but so would laws protecting the environment, workers’ rights and public health.” Newspapers ranging from the Des Moines Register to USA Today also criticized the effort.

During consideration of the Farm Bill in 2013, the King amendment was added by voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee and passed the full House. When the House and Senate negotiated the final package, we succeeded in nixing the language from the Farm Bill. A broad and diverse coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, public officials, law professors, and organizations—such as the County Executives of America, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Fraternal Order of Police, and National Sheriffs’ Association—weighed in and helped to stave off this destructive provision.

It’s ironic that politicians like King often say they are for states’ rights when they agree with what the states are doing, but when they don’t like the result, they are perfectly fine with federal mandates telling states what they can and cannot do.

We heard so much talk during this recent election season about reducing the role of big government and keeping Washington off the backs of local communities—yet the King amendment would impose the will of Washington on our states as a legislative fiat and eviscerate local decision making on animal issues and other issues as well.

It’s unclear, of course, whether the King-type proposal that’s referenced in the campaign memo would get a real push from the Trump administration, or whether it’s just a fringe suggestion by some radical element of the transition team that will be rejected by the president-elect and his advisors. But if this threat does emerge when the new Congress convenes in January, or in the run-up to the consideration of next Farm Bill in 2018, it’ll be necessary for our movement to again marshal our forces and fight such a devastatingly harmful policy. We did it before, and we must gear up to defeat a similar measure again.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election 2016 wrap-up: What does this mean for animals?

Upending the predictions of pollsters and pundits and scoring a major upset, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. This news of course dominates the election headlines now, and it’s left his followers euphoric and his critics crestfallen. It was not, however, the only race that will have an impact on animal protection. Many animal protection supporters were elected or reelected to Congress and state legislatures, and animal advocates had big wins with lopsided margins on key ballot measures in red states and blue states. Here’s what we know so far on how the 2016 election results will affect animals.

Capitol
iStock Photo

Presidential Race

HSLF endorsed Hillary Clinton based on her record of supporting animal protection policies, and expressed concern about Donald Trump’s campaign surrounding itself with supporters of trophy hunting and factory farming who may have significant influence in a Trump administration. The rulemaking and enforcement actions by the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies will have an enormous impact on a wide range of animal issues, and we’ll be watching closely during the transition to see how these issues develop. We’ll also be redoubling our efforts across the board, and asking for your help in protecting existing rules and blocking hostile actions that could adversely affect animals.

We also know that  the nation is deeply divided and very skeptical, perhaps even more so than in previous presidential elections, with the bitterness of the campaign and the candidates evenly splitting the popular vote. What’s clear from recent elections is that the pendulum swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans running for national office. The party that wins today is likely to come out on the losing side in upcoming elections, if past patterns hold. Animal issues have made progress, and have had setbacks, during both Democratic and Republican administrations, and we will look for opportunities to work with the new administration on issues of concern.

Congress

With Republicans maintaining narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, we are fortunate to have many Republican lawmakers championing our cause in Congress, and will continue to maintain our bipartisan approach to animal protection. Overall, HSLF-endorsed candidates won twelve races and lost five in the U.S. Senate, for a 71 percent win rate so far, with two additional races still not determined. In the House, HSLF-backed contenders won 210 races and lost thirteen, for a 94 percent win rate, with a few remaining races still too close to call.

In the more competitive races, HSLF helped to reelect Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act to establish a federal anti-cruelty law, and he won by a 1.7 percent margin in a swing state. We welcome some new animal protection supporters to the U.S. Senate, including Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and look forward to working with them. We are awaiting the outcome of the New Hampshire race, where Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), the lead sponsor of both the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act to protect pets in domestic violence and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to crack down on the abuse of show horses, is currently trailing by 716 votes, or 0.1 percent out of more than 700,000 cast. We are sorry to know that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) will not be in the 115th Congress, and we thank them for their strong support of animal protection over their years of public service.

On the House side, a number of strong animal protection supporters facing competitive races were reelected. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), the lead sponsor of the Humane Cosmetics Act to phase out animal testing for cosmetics, won with 56.7 percent of the vote; Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who helped defeat the overreaching King amendment and pass legislation to allow pets on trains, won with 52.4 percent; Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a strong supporter of animal protection, won with 53.0 percent. We welcome a number of new animal protection supporters to the House, including Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who earned 54.5 percent of the vote and succeeds his brother Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, the outgoing co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus; Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), an opponent of modest animal welfare policies such as cracking down on animal fighting and protecting pets in disasters, by 3.3 percent; and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Cresent Hardy, a near-zero on animal issues, by 4 percent. HSLF was actively involved in all these races, and these are great outcomes for animal protection.

State Races

A number of elections for state houses and legislative seats across the country were important for animal advocates. The one that HSLF was most invested in was Missouri’s gubernatorial race, where we strongly urged voters to oppose Democratic candidate Chris Koster, one of the nation’s most anti-animal politicians. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. HSLF ran radio ads on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag, and Koster lost the race to Republican candidate and ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens who earned 51.3 percent of the vote.

Ballot Measures

The biggest successes for animal advocates last night came in a clean sweep of ballot measure campaigns in which HSLF, The HSUS, and our coalition partners had invested most heavily this election cycle. Massachusetts voters passed Question 3 in a landslide vote of 78 to 22 percent, banning the extreme confinement of farm animals in small cages where the animals are virtually immobilized for their entire lives and banning the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free. This is the fourth consecutive win on farm animal confinement issues since 2002, by larger margins each time, with voters approving anti-confinement measures in Florida (55 percent), Arizona (62 percent), California (63.5 percent), and now Massachusetts (78 percent). This sets the trajectory for more pressure upon the pork and egg industries to continue accelerating the transition to cage-free and crate-free housing systems, and complements the policies adopted by so many major food retailers. Massachusetts voters saw through the false claims and rhetoric of the factory farming industry about food costs, and sided with commonsense standards to protect farm animals and food safety.

In Oklahoma, animal advocates and family farmers are celebrating the defeat of State Question 777, with more than 60 percent of voters opposing the measure. Despite a multi-million dollar campaign by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and other corporate factory farming interests, Oklahoma voters across rural, urban, and suburban areas of the state saw through the measure and rejected this power grab. State Question 777 was referred to the ballot by politicians seeking to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would have protected corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, and prevented local communities from passing laws to protect clean water and public health. The measure was so broadly worded that it could have prevented future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. The crushing defeat sends a strong signal to corporate agriculture that no industry is above the law or should have special rights.

By another overwhelming majority of 70 to 30, Oregon voters issued a powerful statement for the protection of the world’s endangered animals by passing Measure 100, to stop endangered wildlife trafficking in Oregon. The measure shuts down the local market for products like elephant ivory, rhino horn, and sea turtle shells, and follows similar action taken by voters in Washington and California lawmakers to ensure that the states don’t provide safe harbor to traffickers and profiteers. The new law will ban the trafficking of 12 types of animals most targeted by wildlife traffickers: whales, sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, sharks, rays, and pangolins, and impose felony-level fines on anyone caught buying or selling the parts or products from those creatures.

While HSLF and The HSUS were most actively involved in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Oregon, there were other measures we supported or were watching closely. California voters approved Proposition 67, by a vote of 52 to 48 percent, to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds. We supported the measure, as did SeaWorld and others, because sea birds and marine animals often mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastics, and die of starvation. Unfortunately, Coloradans approved Amendment 71, which will make it more difficult to pass future constitutional amendments, including those on animal issues, and Montanans rejected I-177, a grassroots effort to restrict trapping on public lands.

Our strong success on ballot measure campaigns illustrates that no matter what the challenges are with representative government, when we bring animal issues directly to the people, most of the time they side with animal protection and voters strongly support common-sense animal welfare reforms. We must take the long-term view as a movement. Our nation is in the business of democracy, and it's endured for 240 years. Our resiliency is part of what makes our nation great. Thank you for doing your part to contribute to democratic decision-making and getting out the vote for animals. Now it’s time for governing, driving reforms, and working to make our world a truly humane society.

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