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September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Join the "Bloc" Party to Get Political for Animals

Growing up in my neighborhood, everyone loved a good block party—meeting friends and neighbors, gathering together for a common purpose. Now, with just five weeks until one of the most critical elections in our lifetime, we have a new purpose, and a new type of “bloc” party.

Party_humane_bloc_party_signupnow On Sunday, October 19, animal advocates across the country will gather at Party Animals house parties to learn how they can effectively come together to form a “Humane Voting Bloc” to give animals a voice on Election Day. I hope you will join me on October 19 as we party to spread the message about electing humane candidates and passing important animal protection ballot measures.

So much is at stake for animals, and your actions can have a lasting impact on whether these creatures are protected or persecuted for years to come. As a voting bloc, we can help determine who holds the nation’s top post in the White House, whether lawmakers elected to Congress demonstrate compassion and mercy for animals or utter fealty to the industries that harm them, and whether states will phase out abusive factory farming practices and inhumane dog racing.

One of our guiding principles at the Humane Society Legislative Fund is community engagement. We know we can’t accomplish legislative or electoral reforms just by having a professional staff in Washington, D.C.—we need the active participation of thousands of people who care about animals all over the country. That’s why we created our Party Animals program. You can host or attend a party in your community. I'll be joining you on a nationwide conference call that brings all of us together at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. You'll be hearing from some special guests, too.

Political candidates have used simple yet effective house parties to raise awareness and mobilize armies of volunteers and donors for their campaigns, and we aim to apply that same strategy to advance the cause of animal protection. Recruit as many of your friends and neighbors as possible to attend your party and become a part of the HSLF community to help make change for animals at the ballot box in 2008. And as a special incentive, HSLF will recognize the host who is most successful in his or her fundraising efforts by sponsoring him or her to attend the 2009 Taking Action for Animals Conference, which will be held July 24-27 in the nation’s capital.

Party Animals brings people together on one night at the same time for a party with a purpose. In the past, we’ve held successful Party Animals events to advance legislation on farm animal welfare, animal fighting, horse slaughter, protecting pets in disasters, and ending Canada’s seal hunt. Using tools provided by HSLF, party hosts create their own website, establish a fundraising goal, send invitations to friends and family, and collect donations through a secure online server. Campaign, lobbying, and video materials are provided. It’s fun and easy and it brings people together to stand up for animals.

To join the fun, sign up to host your own event or find an event near you at the Party Animals website. I hope you will be there with me and thousands of other animal advocates from coast to coast, as we rally toward Election Day with our “Humane Voting Bloc Party.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Uncage the Truth

Ever since “The Meatrix” came out in 2003, I’ve wanted to work with Free Range Studios. Now, the aptly named moviemakers are shining a spotlight on more factory farm abuses, and their new animated film urges Californians to vote YES! on Proposition 2 this November.

Watch this hilarious new video, “Uncaged,” and then be sure to share it with your friends in California. The election is just 38 days away, and the animals need this hit song to go platinum between now and then.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

On National Hunting and Fishing Day, Hunters Should Walk the Conservation Talk

This Saturday is no cause to celebrate at The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund. However, on this National Hunting and Fishing Day we are happy to lend our voice and remind Americans of outdoor activities that definitely are NOT hunting.

Sport hunters, let’s remember, are quick to claim concern about conservation. Indeed, the whole purpose of having a National Hunting and Fishing Day, according to its organizers, is to celebrate “good conservation.”

On this Saturday, let’s recognize that “good conservation” cannot be claimed—or faked. It must be earned. That’s why I have been heartened to see reasonable hunting groups stand up and condemn the extremists within their ranks—take, for example, the “Real Conservation” website by the American Hunters and Shooters Association, which exposes the NRA as a corporate shill for anti-conservation interests.

We do need good conservation, and here are six simple suggestions for sport hunters to start making good on that goal for 2008. They can help rid our landscape of these abhorrent practices that no conservation-minded American can support:

Gazelle_2 ONE: Confining animals, usually exotic species, in pens and then selling shooting rights to people who want a shortcut to a trophy is not hunting. Sometimes this reprehensible activity is referred to as “canned hunting,” but really it’s captive killing, plain and simple. Our members are grateful that millions of hunters agree with us. We encourage more of you to join with us in abolishing these awful enterprises.

TWO: Killing polar bears, now listed on the endangered species list as “threatened,” is not hunting either. It’s madness. These great animals are the modern canaries-in-the-mineshaft for climate change. Their world of ice is melting underfoot. Who but the most uncaring and selfish would presume to add to their struggles? To extremists groups like Safari Club International we say: which are you for, really? Are you for “conservation” as you claim? Or merely the crass “right” to shoot endangered animals?

THREE: Using lead ammo is not hunting: It’s systematic poisoning of our environment.  The same goes for lead sinkers and fishing. Lead is another instance in which hunters and fishermen face the 21st Century test: Are you conservationists or just willful polluters? America took lead out of paint a long time ago. Lead is gone from gasoline. It’s high time that hunters and fishermen get out of the low business of lead. Already, efforts to reintroduce the great California condor are floundering because these animals feed on gut piles containing lead shot.

FOUR: Aerial gunning is not hunting and it has no—emphasize NO—legitimate place in the management of wildlife. We’re thinking about Alaska here, where the state has embarked on frightful military-esque aerial assault on wolves to try and artificially inflate the populations of caribou and moose. We urge right-thinking Alaskans to turn in their hunting licenses and demand a refund until this bloody campaign ends. Otherwise, they forfeit any claim to be conservationists.

FIVE: Participating in a shark-killing tournament is not fishing. It’s slaughter. Once again extremists who fly the flag of “sportsmanship” show their true anti-conservation colors by killing animals whose global survival is in jeopardy. Contest killing, whether at sea or on land, has no place in a civilized society.

Coyote2 SIX: When you turn wild animals into bait for bloodsport, folks, you are most definitely not hunting. “Hounding,” as it’s sometimes called, fosters a trade in captured wild animals—chiefly foxes and coyotes. The once free-ranging creatures are transported hundreds of miles, and then dumped into pens so that dogs can tear them to pieces. Conservation? Ha.

The U.S. Congress is consideration legislation to address several of these very problems—the Sportsmanship in Hunting Act by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the Polar Bear Protection Act by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), the Protect America’s Wildlife (PAW) Act by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the Wildlife Penning Prohibition Act by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). On this National Hunting and Fishing Day, it’s time for sport hunters to walk the talk of good conservation by endorsing these common-sense reforms.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paw-litical Pets

Last month I reported on congressional candidates who are harnessing pet power on the campaign trail. Now that we’re less than six weeks from Election Day, the race to the White House, too, is getting some attention from our canine and feline friends.

Chihuahuas_2 It seems that blogs and websites dedicated to presidential paw-litics are breeding faster than unneutered alley cats. There’s Pet the Vote! which has photos and video clips such as John McCain’s dog making an appearance during a television interview and a kitten watching Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

The Dog Vote allows users to follow the Doggie Electoral Map, and order bandanas for pooches who want to show their support—blue for Obama and red for McCain, of course. On Bark the Vote, five-pound Schmitty takes a bite out of voter apathy by directing pet owners to online voter registration.

Some of these sites have much more partisan bite in their bark. Gina Spadafori and other dog and cat bloggers have joined together to spread the word for the Democratic ticket on Bark Obama! (this week they highlighted the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s endorsement). Activist canines are showing their support at rallies across the country with doggie t-shirts such as Mutts for Obama or Mutts for McCain.

When Sarah Palin’s friends told Good Morning America that the vice presidential nominee doesn’t like cats, The New York Times’ columnist Paul Krugman gave us Cats Against Palin. These might be the same cats who can be seen showing their candidate preference on Cats for Obama. And the infamous convention joke about hockey moms and a certain maligned dog breed has led to Pit Bulls Against Palin, a t-shirt campaign featuring Vivian, a four-year-old rescued spokesdog.

Prop2_dog The next president will have an enormous impact on the lives of pets, and will oversee federal agencies that combat dogfighting, inspect puppy mills, and confront other abuses. It’s no surprise that pet lovers are speaking out, and over the next 40 days we can expect to hear more from the Demo-cats, Re-pup-licans, and Inde-pet-dents.

Of course, it's not just the presidential race that is bringing pets out on the stump, but state elections as well. California pooches are rallying around the state at "Pet out the Vote" events for Proposition 2, sending the message that all animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food. They've got their own t-shirts, too, for both the Demo-cats and the Re-pup-licans supporting Prop 2. Check out these photos from the canines for Prop 2 in Bakersfield, Sacramento, Santa Monica, and elswewhere.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Humane Society Legislative Fund Endorses Obama-Biden

One of the guiding principles of the Humane Society Legislative Fund is that we evaluate candidates based on a single criterion: where they stand on animal protection policies. We don’t make decisions based on party affiliation, or any other social issue, or even how many pets they have. We care about their views and actions on the major policy debates relating to animal welfare.

It stirs controversy to get involved in candidate elections. But we believe that candidates for office and current lawmakers must be held accountable, or they will see the animal protection movement as a largely irrelevant political constituency. In order to have good laws, we need good lawmakers, and involvement in elections is an essential strategy for any serious social movement, including our cause.

While we’ve endorsed hundreds of congressional candidates for election, both Democrats and Republicans, we’ve never before endorsed a presidential candidate. We have members on the left, in the center, and on the right, and we knew it could be controversial to choose either party’s candidate for the top office in the nation. But in an era of sweeping presidential power, we must weigh in on this most important political race in the country. Standing on the sidelines is no longer an option for us.

Obama I’m proud to announce today that the HSLF board of directors—which is comprised of both Democrats and Republicans—has voted unanimously to endorse Barack Obama for President. The Obama-Biden ticket is the better choice on animal protection, and we urge all voters who care about the humane treatment of animals, no matter what their party affiliation, to vote for them.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been a solid supporter of animal protection at both the state and federal levels. As an Illinois state senator, he backed at least a dozen animal protection laws, including those to strengthen the penalties for animal cruelty, to help animal shelters, to promote spaying and neutering, and to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  In the U.S. Senate, he has consistently co-sponsored multiple bills to combat animal fighting and horse slaughter, and has supported efforts to increase funding for adequate enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal laws to combat animal fighting and puppy mills.

In his response to the HSLF questionnaire, he pledged support for nearly every animal protection bill currently pending in Congress, and said he will work with executive agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to make their policies more humane. He wrote of the important role animals play in our lives, as companions in our homes, as wildlife in their own environments, and as service animals working with law enforcement and assisting persons with disabilities. He also commented on the broader links between animal cruelty and violence in society.

Obama has even on occasion highlighted animal protection issues on the campaign trail, and has spoken publicly about his support for animal protection. In reaction to the investigation showing the abuse of sick and crippled cows which earlier this year led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, he issued a statement saying “that the mistreatment of downed cows is unacceptable and poses a serious threat to public health.” He is featured in Jana Kohl’s book about puppy mills, A Rare Breed of Love, with a photo of Obama holding Baby (shown above), the three-legged poodle rescued from an abusive puppy mill operation, and his political mentor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is the author of the latest federal bill to crack down on puppy mills

Obamabiden2 Importantly, Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) has been a stalwart friend of animal welfare advocates in the Senate, and has received high marks year after year on the Humane Scorecard. Biden has not only supported animal protection legislation during his career, but has also led the fight on important issues. He was the co-author with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the 108th Congress on legislation to ban the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen. He was the lead author of a bill in the 107th Congress to prohibit trophy hunting of captive exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he successfully passed the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On the Republican ticket, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has also supported some animal protection bills in Congress, but has been inattentive or opposed to others. He has voted for and co-sponsored legislation to stop horse slaughter, and voted to eliminate a $2 million subsidy for the luxury fur coat industry. But he has largely been absent on other issues, and has failed to co-sponsor a large number of priority bills or sign onto animal protection letters that have had broad support in the Senate.

The McCain campaign did not fill out the HSLF presidential questionnaire, and has also not issued any public statements on animal welfare issues. He was silent during the downed animal scandal and beef recall, which played out during a high-point in the primary fight. Yet he did speak at the NRA convention earlier this year, and is the keynote speaker this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance rally—an extremist organization that defends the trophy hunting of threatened polar bears and captive shooting of tame animals inside fenced pens.

While McCain’s positions on animal protection have been lukewarm, his choice of running mate cemented our decision to oppose his ticket. Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-Alaska) retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures. Her record is so extreme that she has perhaps done more harm to animals than any other current governor in the United States.

Palin2 Palin engineered a campaign of shooting predators from airplanes and helicopters, in order to artificially boost the populations of moose and caribou for trophy hunters. She offered a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf as an economic incentive for pilots and aerial gunners to kill more of the animals, even though Alaska voters had twice approved a ban on the practice. This year, the issue was up again for a vote of the people, and Palin led the fight against it—in fact, she helped to spend $400,000 of public funds to defeat the initiative.

What’s more, when the Bush Administration announced its decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Palin filed a lawsuit to reverse that decision. She said it’s the “wrong move” to protect polar bears, even though their habitat is shrinking and ice floes are vanishing due to global warming.

The choice for animals is especially clear now that Palin is in the mix. If Palin is put in a position to succeed McCain, it could mean rolling back decades of progress on animal issues.

Voters who care about protecting wildlife from inhumane and unsporting abuses, enforcing the laws that combat large-scale cruelties like dogfighting and puppy mills, providing humane treatment of animals in agriculture, and addressing other challenges that face animals in our nation, must become active over the next six weeks to elect a president and vice president who share our values. Please spread the word, and tell friends and family members that an honest assessment of the records of the two presidential tickets leads to the inescapable conclusion that Obama-Biden is the choice for humane-minded voters.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

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.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sheltering Animals from the Storm

The last couple weeks have had the nation bracing for the triple-fisted punch of Gustav, then Hanna, then the latest threat, Ike, which has left millions of homes in Houston and Galveston without power, gas, or running water. The damage has been severe, and we don't yet know the complete picture on what's happened to the animals in the affected communities. But we do know that pets have fared much better than they did three years ago when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, thanks to members of Congress who took decisive action in the period in-between.

281x144_rescued_dog Led by Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Representatives Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.), the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act set a national policy on how to deal with animals in disasters in a post-Katrina environment. In order to qualify for federal recovery funding, cities or states must submit plans detailing their disaster preparedness programs and how they will accommodate households with pets and service animals.

The legislation, backed by the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States, passed the House by a landslide vote of 349 to 24, passed the Senate unanimously, and was signed into law by President Bush on October 6, 2006. (The president, when asked to name the first thing he would grab if faced with a Katrina-like disaster, reportedly replied, “Barney”—his Scottish terrier.)

The difference in the field before and after the PETS Act has been like night and day. During Katrina, many people refused to leave the disaster zone because they were not allowed to take their pets with them into evacuation vehicles or emergency shelters. The absence of a government policy on how to accommodate pets put the lives of many people in danger.

220x250_milani_shirt_cat But when Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana two weeks ago, people with pets and service dogs proved more willing to evacuate than in previous disasters. And while some chose to remain home and ride out Hurricane Ike, early signs of a steady exodus to safer locations—with pets in tow—were encouraging. Importantly, for the people now in need of rescue, our troops on the ground are telling us that when the boats and helicopters arrive, the dogs and cats are allowed to get in, too.

As Senator Lautenberg said, “People see pets as part of their family and they do not want to leave any family members behind. As we learned during Hurricane Katrina, when people need to choose between safety and their pets, some of them will choose their pets.  Now, they don’t need to make that choice.”

It’s a rare day when a new public policy has such an immediate impact on the ground to improve the lives of people and animals. When you have to evacuate your home and you’re disconnected from other social institutions like your job or your place of worship, just having your pet with you and knowing your best friend is safe can be an enormous emotional comfort to get people through the crisis. 

We are grateful to federal lawmakers who recognized the bond that exists between people and animals, and the importance of pets in our lives. Thanks to their work to improve the nation’s capacity to respond to emergencies of a catastrophic nature, we are a giant step closer to ensuring that no pet is left behind.

That’s not the end of the story in a vast emergency like the one now besetting coastal Texas and Louisiana, of course. People and animals alike now face shortages of food and clean water, uncertain shelter, dangerous conditions, and uncertain weeks ahead. The HSUS disaster teams have been deployed to southeastern Texas and are assisting, along with other organizations and agencies. The PETS Act kept many families together. Now we must all reach out to make sure they stay that way.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It’s Wrong to Count People Who Don’t Vote

In the 24 states that allow voters to create laws and place them directly on the ballot, legislators have tried some dirty tricks to foil citizen lawmaking. In 2006, Florida amended its state constitution to require 60 percent of the vote—rather than a simple majority—to pass any ballot initiative. Utah implemented a similar “supermajority” requirement a decade ago, but only for measures dealing with wildlife protection.

Voting_booths Now, Arizona politicians have gotten into the act and want to make a mockery of the very essence of democracy. The state legislature has placed Proposition 105 on the November ballot, deceptively called the “Majority Rules” initiative. If it passes, any future ballot initiative would need more than just a majority of votes cast, but a majority of all registered voters—regardless of whether people show up to the polls or not.

It’s another cynical and underhanded power grab by state legislators, special interest groups, and industry lobbyists who want to prevent Arizona voters from exercising their right to direct democracy and the lawmaking process. They want to further dismantle the ballot initiative process, as a way of consolidating their own power and shielding corporations from the perceived whims of the electorate (the same electorate that puts these lawmakers in office).

In 2006, Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 204 to provide more humane treatment of farm animals, by a landslide vote of 62 percent to 38 percent. The initiative won majorities in 12 of 15 counties across the state. Industrial factory farms in the state will phase out the cruel confinement of calves and pigs in small cages where they don’t even have enough room to turn around and stretch their limbs. The measure prevents animal cruelty and protects Arizona’s environment from factory farm waste.

But the initiative could not have passed if the changes mandated by Prop 105 had been in place. Although it had the overwhelming support of the majority of people who voted, it would not have met the nearly impossible threshold of a majority of all registered voters in the state. Indeed, virtually no ballot initiative could meet that standard, and Prop 105 is a de facto ban on the ballot initiative process.

For a typical (non-presidential) general election with 60 percent voter turnout, a measure would have to receive more than an 83 percent "Yes" vote to be enacted. Since 1974, only one initiative has met that threshold and that was during a high turnout (77 percent) presidential election.

People who have died or moved and are still on the voter rolls, or people who simply choose not to vote or don’t make it to the polls, should not be considered automatic “No” votes. No candidate is held to that standard, and no ballot initiative should be either. It’s undemocratic and unworkable.

A broad and diverse coalition called The Voters of Arizona has formed to fight Prop 105, and it includes the Arizona School Boards Association, the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, the Arizona Education Association, The Humane Society of the United States, and many other groups concerned about fair elections and direct democracy. Don’t let the corporate lobbyists and special interests continue to erode the ballot initiative process. If you live in Arizona, be sure to protect your voting rights by voting “No” on Prop 105.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quit Horsing Around on Slaughter and Transport

Eleven lucky horses who had been abandoned last week on a rural road near Molalla, Ore., got a new lease on life yesterday. Authorities still don’t know who discarded the malnourished horses, and the owner might not come forward since he or she could face criminal charges of animal neglect.

Horses_3_2 But five of the horses were rescued yesterday morning by The Humane Society of the United States and taken to its Duchess Sanctuary in Douglas County, Ore., where they will remain until they regain their health. Once these five horses are rehabilitated, they will be put up for adoption; the six other horses were already adopted by new families yesterday. We are grateful to the Oregon Department of Agriculture for making sure that all these horses went to good homes, not to “killer buyers” for the slaughter industry.

It’s not only a happy ending for these horses, but also a double-fisted rebuke to the horse slaughter crowd. First, it is self-incriminating. The proponents of horse slaughter invoke abandonment cases like this one to support their position, almost associating themselves with people who would dump horses in the middle of the road to starve to death. They fail to hold people on their side of the fence to an ethic of personal responsibility, and that is a gross failure on their part. Second, these horses did find a safe place, largely because good people stood tall. Individuals and rescue groups provided a safety net, in spite of the arguments by slaughter proponents that there are no outlets for "unwanted horses."

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, in fact, the House Judiciary Committee considered H.R. 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, which would make it a crime to sell or transport horses across state or national borders for the purpose of slaughter. I wrote about this legislation when it was introduced in July, and included testimonials of horse rescuers who try to adopt horses or purchase them at auctions, only to be outbid by the killer buyers who can make a buck by selling horse flesh to French and Belgian gourmands. Tell your member of Congress to pass the legislation swiftly before adjourning this year, and make sure not another day goes by when American horses are trucked hundreds of miles to Mexican abattoirs to meet a grim and painful end.

Horses_1_2 Also this week, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined animal advocates at Shadowbrook Farm in Mettawa, Ill., calling for a national ban on the use of deadly double-decker trailers for the transportation of horses. These stacked trucks are designed for livestock species such as cattle and pigs—not horses who have longer necks and are forced to stoop in the cramped quarters, often causing severe injuries. Kirk has introduced H.R. 6278, the Horse Transportation Safety Act, to prohibit the interstate transportation of horses in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another.

The legislation came on the heels of a grisly accident last fall in Wadsworth, Ill., in which a double-decker cattle truck carrying 59 Belgian draft horses overturned when the driver ran a red light and hit another vehicle. Residents could hear the animals kicking and screaming, panicked by their inability to escape. Nineteen of the horses either died on the scene or had to be euthanized later.

We have a video interview with a volunteer who was on the scene of the deadly crash and who spoke out against cruel transport. Watch the video here, and let it be a reminder that we must fight even harder to protect horses from harm—stopping inhumane and dangerous transport, and ending the cruel slaughter of American horses for food exports.


Monday, September 08, 2008

California Schemin'

I’ve written before about the factory farm fakers opposing California’s Proposition 2, and their sordid record of duping the public, harming animals, polluting the environment, and exploiting workers. Last Friday, within a single 24-hour period, these agribusiness big shots dumped another massive infusion of more than $4.5 million in cash into the political committee they formed to oppose Prop 2, nearly tripling the funds in their war chest.

350x200_battery_cage_cok The latest contributions came from 124 different corporations based in 33 states—demonstrating that factory farm executives will dig deep into their pockets just to make sure they don’t have to give animals enough space to turn around, lie down, and stretch their limbs. They want business as usual, and they don’t want to be held accountable by a public that demands and deserves better.

There was a new donation of $215,000 from Moark, bringing that company’s total investment in the anti-Prop 2 campaign to more than $500,000. This is the same company that paid to settle criminal cruelty charges for using a conveyor belt to throw live birds into a Dumpster.

But the largest contributor is now Cal-Maine Foods, which gave nearly $600,000 last Friday. The Mississippi-based company is the nation’s largest egg producer, and also one of the dirtiest. It has been cited numerous times for spilling chicken manure and chicken parts into rivers and streams, including an Ohio incident that killed 49,000 fish in the Stillwater River.

The new donations also included $100,000 from Minnesota-based Michael Foods, whose cruel conditions were exposed in 2006 by an undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States. The shocking video footage taken at the company's Nebraska egg factory showed live hens confined in cages with dead birds; hens caught in cage wires, unable to escape; sick and injured hens; and birds dying from dehydration and starvation, just inches away from food and water—it led to major retailers such as Ben & Jerry’s dumping the company as an egg supplier.

Not to be outdone in the race to the bottom, Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride donated $25,000. Workers at this company’s West Virginia plant in 2004 were secretly videotaped stomping, kicking, and tossing birds against the wall.

And the opponents got $15,000 from Minnesota-based Golden Oval Eggs. The company might have had more money at its disposal, if it had not been ordered in July by the state of Iowa to pay $200,000 in fines for environmental pollution coming from its egg factory—a single facility with 5.7 million birds dumping waste into Pike Run Creek, a tributary of the Winnebago River.

540x360_layers_cage_rb04052628_cokThe list goes on and on. It’s never been more clear that the campaign against Prop 2 is bankrolled by the worst of the worst—the biggest national players in an industry that thinks it doesn't have to play by the rules. In fact, these latest donations pumped into their war chest might not have even been reported publicly had it not been for a complaint filed with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission just two days earlier. It appears that opponents were holding back millions of dollars in unreported contributions, and intended to launder those donations through the United Egg Producers in violation of campaign finance laws. After we filed our petition they hurriedly reported the donations, thus confirming that they failed miserably to report these major gifts within 24 hours, which could net them millions of dollars in fines.

Agribusiness giants from the Midwest, the South, and across the country have declared California to be ground zero, and they are throwing every resource they have at this state election. We don’t have the wealth of massive corporations reaping record profits, but we do have the power of people who want to see a better day for animals, for the environment, for food safety, and for farm workers. They’ve got big money from Big Agribusiness, but we’ve got thousands of people just like you who have already thrown their support behind the YES! on Prop 2 campaign.

Help us fight back against the industry giants whose equipment and practices are inherently inhumane, and show the agribusiness big shots they can’t buy an election. Please make a donation today, and help us get our positive message out across the state, urging millions of Californians to vote YES! on Prop 2.

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