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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Bond: On Sale Today

Today marks the release of Wayne Pacelle’s book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, published by William Morrow/Harper Collins. It draws on Wayne’s quarter-century of leadership in the animal welfare movement, and seeks to disentangle the contradiction between the love and celebration of animals in our society and the tolerance for businesses, enterprises and individual practices that harm pets, wildlife, and farm animals on a massive scale.

The-bond It’s also a marker of progress for animal welfare, as The Bond is one of the first major political books for animals, looking back on major political activity in the movement and calling folks to action on political advocacy for animals in the future. A quarter-century ago, the legislative activity and political organizing on behalf of animal protection had been scarce. Few groups focused on public policy issues, either at the state or federal level. Congress had passed laws such as the Humane Slaughter Act in 1958 and the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, but then had stalled on giving serious consideration to the emerging animal welfare issues of the day with few exceptions. The 1990s and 2000s, however, saw a raft of federal policies enacted dealing with animal fighting, retirement of laboratory chimps, pets in disasters, the trade in big cats, animal crush videos and more.

The ballot initiative process, too, had not been used frequently or successfully by animal advocates before the 1990s, even while the process itself had been available in many states and gaining popularity through the twentieth century. Only a handful of animal issues qualified for the ballot—dealing with vivisection, steel-jawed leghold traps, moose hunting, veal crates, and other issues—and all of them failed, except for a dove hunting ban passed by South Dakota voters in 1972 and repealed just eight years later. Beginning in 1990, however, under Wayne’s leadership, initiative and referenda have been used to usher in a series of public policy reforms for animals at the state level, dealing with cockfighting, puppy mills, factory farming, wildlife abuses, and more. The HSUS, HSLF, and The Fund for Animals have been involved in 42 statewide ballot campaigns and have won 30, for a win rate of 72 percent—the highest of any social movement that uses the initiative process—and the election outcomes have triggered other policy advances and corporate reforms around the country.

With the formation of groups such as HSLF and new political organizations at the state level, our movement finally has the tools available not only to influence legislation on animal issues but also to influence the election of candidates and work to elect humane-minded people to public office. In order to compete with well-heeled industries that put profits before animal welfare, it’s not enough just to have good ideas. We need to have a powerful political force for animals.

The HSUS and HSLF have always attacked the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms. While vital to our mission, rescuing individual animals is not enough. Our most important goal is to prevent cruelty to animals and stop animals from getting into situations of distress in the first place. That’s why it is critical that we work to pass local, state, and federal laws, make sure existing animal protection laws are properly enforced, and conduct public awareness campaigns and undercover investigations calling on corporations and individuals to be better citizens to animals, so that we can prevent large-scale cruelties. 

An early news story about The Bond by Ben Goad of the Riverside Press-Enterprise recounts The HSUS’s undercover investigation into the torment of spent dairy cows at a Chino slaughter plant that was the number two supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program, which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history and a series of federal reforms on humane handling and slaughter enforcement. It also jolted the American conscience on factory farming issues in the run-up to California’s vote on Proposition 2, which phases out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. Goad writes:

Pacelle also credited the investigation with helping to pass Prop. 2.

Though the initiative had nothing to do with slaughter practices, it helped put a spotlight on animal treatment in agricultural plants, he said. He recalled watching the 2008 election results from the same Los Angeles hotel where, coincidentally, he writes, the California Democratic Party was celebrating the victory of President Barack Obama.

"The first county returns I looked for were those of the Inland Empire,” he writes. “In the end, Prop. 2 got 62.5 percent of the vote in Riverside and 62 percent in San Bernardino. They proved to be the bellwethers we thought they’d be.”

It was nearly unthinkable a quarter-century ago that states and food retailers would phase out the confinement of farm animals, that the United States would have a national ban on dogfighting and cockfighting, that we would see stronger regulation of puppy mills and the exotic pet trade, and The Bond chronicles this progress in the political arena. You can order The Bond online or pick it up at your local bookstore starting today, see Wayne on his nationwide book tour in the coming weeks and months, and be part of the movement to achieve even more political gains for animals in the next few decades.

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