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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Big Week for Wildlife in U.S. House

Earlier this week, I wrote about several wildlife protection measures that are moving through Congress. I’m pleased to let you know that the House passed two of them in the last two days, sending the message that wild animals deserve to be shielded from the commercial industries that do them harm.

First, on Tuesday night, the House passed the Captive Primate Safety Act by a landslide vote of 302 to 96. Introduced by Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the bill would stop the interstate and foreign commerce in apes, monkeys, and primates for the exotic pet trade. It had strong bipartisan support from the top Democrats and Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee, including Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Don Young (R-Alaska), and Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) and Ranking Member Henry Brown (R-S.C.).

Macaque_2Most animal protection bills, in fact, have solid bases of support from both major parties. But in this case, when the votes were tallied, there was a sharp contrast in voting behavior by party. All Democrats voted yes, and a narrow majority of Republicans actually opposed this common-sense bill. I was unpleasantly surprised that 96 Republicans voted against a measure to help animals and to protect public health and safety—lawmakers including Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), John Culberson (R-Texas), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), Bill Sali (R-Idaho), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)—even though there have been recent primate attacks in some of their home states and districts.

Last September in a Missouri park, for example, a pet macaque monkey bit a 7-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl. The woman who owned the monkey quickly left the park and was sought for questioning by local health officials, since macaques often carry the herpes B virus. The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services strongly discourages residents from having monkeys or other primates as pets, due to the risks of attacks and disease transmission.

And in March, authorities removed six marmosets living in the basement of a Denver home. The owner had brought the animals from Florida to Colorado, demonstrating exactly why a federal law is needed to stop interstate transport of primates and to help the states enforce their bans.

You can check the roll call vote here to see how your representative voted on the Captive Primate Safety Act. Please be sure to thank him or her if the vote was yes, or let him or her know how disappointed you are if the vote was no. Now we need to turn our attention to the Senate, and get this common-sense reform over the finish line.

Whale The second measure to pass this week came on Wednesday night, when the House approved an anti-whaling resolution by a voice vote under suspension of the rules. Introduced by Chairman Rahall—with strong support from Chairwoman Bordallo and Representative Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas)—the resolution calls on the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission to stand up against commercial whaling at the upcoming convention in Santiago, Chile. With Japan, Norway, Iceland, and other countries seeking to kill thousands of whales, the U.S. delegates will have to combat these threats to the world’s greatest mammals, and they have the strong support of Congress in doing so.

We again express our thanks to the leaders of these efforts for fighting so hard to see the measures enacted, and to the House for adopting these important wildlife protection policies. 


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