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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Herd on the Hill

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, I introduced Nigel Barker of “America’s Next Top Model” to a packed room of congressional staff and guests, where he showed his new documentary film—“A Sealed Fate?”—chronicling his work with The Humane Society of the United States to stop the commercial seal slaughter on Canada’s Atlantic coast. The Washington Post’s venerable “Reliable Source” column reported on the D.C. sighting of one of television’s most recognizable photographers and celebrity judges.

Barker Nigel spoke passionately about the seal hunt, his visits to the ice floes to document seals and their pups both before and during the bloody massacre, and the economic reasons for Canada to shift from seal killing to seal watching and eco-tourism. He praised the House of Representatives for passing H. Res. 427, led by Congressman Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), and he urged the Senate to pass its counterpart, S. Res. 118, by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), calling on the Canadian government to stop the commercial seal hunt.

Although the focus of the event was on seals, Nigel also took the opportunity to speak about his broader concerns regarding the humane treatment of all animals. He urged support for federal legislation being considered by the House Judiciary Committee to stop the export of American horses for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. And he appealed to Californians to support Proposition 2 on the November ballot to phase out the cruel confinement of animals in tiny crates and cages on industrial factory farms.

Proposition 2 got another boost on the Hill yesterday when a bipartisan group of lawmakers—Congressmen Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), and John Campbell (R-Calif.)—sent a letter to their California colleagues in the House urging them to support this common-sense, anti-cruelty measure. “Voting YES on Proposition 2 prevents animal cruelty, promotes food safety, supports family farmers, and protects the environment,” the legislators wrote.

This is not just a matter for the West Coast but should be a top concern for animal advocates across the nation. Passage of this modest, but crucial, ballot measure in California will surely change the calculus for farm animals elsewhere by demonstrating that Americans have no tolerance for gratuitous cruelty.

Coming right on the heels of the San Diego Union-Tribune’s endorsement—which methodically dismantled the arguments of the opponents piece by piece—the work of Nigel Barker and Congressmen Filner, Gallegly, and Campbell is adding to the tidal wave of support for Prop 2. Thanks to these leaders for speaking out, and for giving a voice to the animals.

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