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June 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Congress Needs to Act Both at Home and Abroad to Protect Elephants from Poaching

Today the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act, sponsored by Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.


This is a meaningful step forward in the effort to crack down on global wildlife trafficking and the poaching of imperiled species, including elephants and rhinos.

We are grateful to Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for spearheading this legislation, and we hope the House will take it up and pass it this summer.

The bill takes a multi-step approach to combat the international poaching rings. It:

  • requires the Secretary of State to identify the foreign countries determined to be major sources, transit points, or consumers of wildlife trafficking products—those countries that have “failed demonstrably” to adhere to international agreements on endangered or threatened species will receive a special designation, and the Secretary of State will be authorized to withhold certain assistance from them;

  • puts wildlife trafficking on a level playing field with other serious crimes like weapons trafficking and drug trafficking, making it a triggering offense for higher penalties under money laundering and racketeering laws, and requires that any fines be used for federal conservation and anti-poaching efforts;   

  • authorizes the President to provide security assistance to African countries for counter-wildlife-trafficking efforts;

  • takes a multi-country, regionally focused approach by expanding wildlife enforcement networks (WENs) to help partner countries strengthen coordination and share information and intelligence on illegal wildlife trafficking; and

  • supports increased training of partner countries’ wildlife law enforcement rangers on the front lines of the fight against poachers, who are often armed with night-vision goggles, heavy weaponry, and even helicopters.

There is an epidemic of elephant poaching in Africa, claiming as many as 35,000 elephants each year throughout their range, and threatening the viability of the species. Much of the killing is done by terrorist groups, with the sale of the animals’ tusks financing murderous activities of al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the Janjaweed. 

The destruction of elephants is not only a threat to international security and to the very survival of elephants as a species, but it also jeopardizes billions in commerce generated from ecotourism—a bulwark of the economy for so many African nations.

Unfortunately, the House may also take a step backwards on the issue when it begins consideration of the Interior appropriations bill later today. A harmful provision in the bill would block any rulemaking by the Obama administration to crack down on the ivory trade. 

It’s hard to reconcile the idea of the Congress advancing the Royce-Engel bill today, but other lawmakers seeking to stymie domestic efforts to reduce demand. If we are to be successful in the effort to end the poaching crisis and save elephants from extinction, we must take action both at home and abroad.  That’s why we at HSLF will be fighting to strike the rider that would block further federal restrictions on the ivory trade in the U.S.

The biggest ivory-selling markets in the world are in China and the U.S., and these sales are fueling the slaughter of elephants thousands of miles away. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to propose a carefully balanced rule for public comment to crack down on the domestic illegal ivory market, while protecting legal owners of antique ivory.

The Interior bill would prematurely kill that rule before it is even released, short-circuiting a policy that will benefit global security, economic development, and conservation and animal welfare, and also subverting a sound process that has included key stakeholders. The rider preventing Fish and Wildlife Service action on the ivory-trafficking issue must be struck from the bill.

Please contact your U.S. Representative, and ask him or her to support an amendment that would strike the Interior rider that enables elephant poaching.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pretty Doesn’t Have to Hurt: Humane Cosmetics Act Introduced

More than 30 countries—home to 1.7 billion consumers—prohibit the manufacture and sale of animal-tested cosmetics. The United States can help accelerate the pace of reform worldwide and drive the market toward cruelty-free products with new bipartisan legislation introduced today in Congress.


The Humane Cosmetics Act, sponsored by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., will phase out both the use of live animals in cosmetics testing and the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals.

Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed a global transformation on this issue.

Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned across the European Union, Norway, Israel, India and New Zealand, with similar measures introduced and under consideration in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, and Taiwan.

With today’s bill, the United States would join that international effort.

We don’t need to force-feed animals in massive, lethal doses or subject them to having chemicals dripped in their eyes just to produce lipstick and eye shadow. Such practices are expensive, labor-intensive, and outdated.

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, cosmetics companies are prohibited from manufacturing and marketing misbranded or adulterated products, and they are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before those products reach the market. But the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cosmetics, neither requires pre-market approval nor animal testing to prove the safety of cosmetics.

New technologies now exist that allow for replacing animals in safety testing for cosmetics. Examples include human cell-based models for skin and eye irritation, skin allergy, skin absorption, genetic toxicity, and sunlight-induced “phototoxicity.”

These non-animal technologies are already faster and as predictive of human safety—if not more so—than animal methods. They’re also less expensive in the long run. And thousands of ingredients have already been tested for safe use in cosmetics.

The trend toward kindness in cosmetics production has become obvious in the marketplace, too. More than 600 companies in North America have become Leaping Bunny-certified, agreeing to neither conduct nor commission new animal testing on products or ingredients.

And more than 140 cosmetic companies and stakeholders have endorsed the Humane Cosmetics Act, including Coty, LUSH, Moroccanoil,, Paul Mitchell, Seventh Generation, The Body Shop, Aubrey Organics, Chantecaille, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

While many Americans may be conflicted about using animals for medical research, there is an emerging consensus that it’s unnecessary and morally wrong for the validation of the safety of cosmetics. 

Pope Francis addressed the issue last week in his new encyclical on the environment, noting “the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives… human power has limits and that it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”

Corporate leaders know that they need to be responsive to consumer demands for cruelty-free products. A recent Nielsen survey reported that the most important cosmetic packaging claim is that the product is “not tested on animals.” And 43 percent of those surveyed said they’d pay more for cosmetics that weren’t tested on animals. Americans and citizens around the world want and deserve access to safe and humane cosmetics.

If the United States wants to remain a leader in the global cosmetics market, it’s time to provide that kind of assurance to its citizens and to those of other nations. Technology and innovation have been a force for good, making animal testing unnecessary and avoidable.

The passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act would not only spell relief for countless animals. It would send a message to the rest of the world that we don’t need to use cruel and outdated methods to ensure the safety of beauty and personal care products.

We are grateful to Reps. McSally, Beyer, Heck, and Cárdenas for leading this important effort. Please contact your U.S. Representative today, and urge him or her to cosponsor the Humane Cosmetics Act.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Who's Afraid of Big, Bad Policy? War on Wolves Wages On

Some anti-wolf politicians in Congress are once again pushing to force the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act and to block wildlife biologists, the courts, and so many members of the public from having anything to say about it.  It’s the worst kind of back-room deal-making, and we need your help now to stop it.


Both the House and Senate versions of the Interior appropriations bill include noxious provisions to completely strip wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

They would hand over wolf management to hostile states in which more than 1,700 wolves have been killed in the last few years with the aid of leghold traps, snares, packs of hounds, bait site, clubs, and firearms.

These politicians talk a good game about scientific wildlife management, except when they don’t like a certain species and want politics to trump science.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has the tools to delist or downlist wolves, and the public and the courts have an opportunity to examine and weigh in on those proposals.

If members of Congress can dictate wolf management by legislative fiat, it punches a hole in the Endangered Species Act and opens the door for any politician or special interest group to do the same for a species they don’t like.

Fortunately, many lawmakers are speaking out and injecting some common-sense into the wolf debate.

“This rider is a tremendous overreach that would interfere in the federal listing of endangered species,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “Our committee’s role is to appropriate the necessary funds to allow the expert staff of scientists and professionals to do their jobs working to protect endangered species. This bill should not be mandating which species do or do not require protection.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the ranking member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, also panned the “new language that overrides court rulings requiring that specific populations of gray wolves must maintain protections under the Endangered Species Act.  This provision circumvents the scientific and legal process established to protect imperiled species.”

Eighty members of Congress have written to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging them to adopt a compromise position: a petition filed by The HSUS and dozens of other conservation and wolf protection groups to list the wolves as threatened in the lower 48 states.

That policy would likely prevent any sport hunting or commercial trapping of wolves, while allowing state agencies to selectively remove wolves in the rare circumstance that they pose a threat to farm animals or human safety. This is the current policy in Minnesota, and it gives farmers and government officials more tools than they have now in Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and other wolf range states.

Lawmakers should look for practical solutions to problems and find a reasonable pathway forward to settle contentious policy issues when possible.

This proposal does just that, and it balances federal oversight and protections for wolves with more flexibility to manage wolf conflicts, including the depredation of livestock. A threatened listing would allow more management without ceding control entirely to state agencies that have consistently demonstrated an overreaching and cruel hand in dealing with wolves.

In a broader sense, it’s clear that wolves provide an enormous economic and ecological benefit. People will trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because they are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. 

Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Through their killing of the weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, they have a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems.

Please contact your members of Congress, and tell them to keep their paws of the Endangered Species Act. Ask them to oppose wolf delisting and other dangerous anti-wildlife riders.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wildlife Disservices

Longtime wildlife advocate Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., led a briefing today to expose the annual, irresponsible killing of millions of wild animals on behalf of a few special interests.

John Harrison

The USDA’s century-old “Wildlife Services” program is a little known, taxpayer-funded effort to deal with wildlife conflicts, but the agency principally focuses on the outdated and inefficient model of lethal control.

And that killing routinely utilizes shockingly inhumane and indiscriminate methods, such as toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, and aerial gunning.

In Fiscal Year 2014 alone, Wildlife Services spent more than $127 million—more than half of it from federal, state, and local taxes—to kill more than 2.7 million animals, including some endangered species and family pets.

These animals  were poisoned, gassed, shot from the ground and from aircraft, and killed in painful traps and snares to benefit clients like industrial timber operators, commercial fish farmers, and private ranchers grazing their livestock on public lands.

Today’s briefing was co-hosted by The HSUS and a coalition of wildlife and conservation groups and included a screening of "Exposed", an award-winning documentary by Predator Defense. Attendees heard from a number of panelists, including Denise Kavanagh, whose dog, Maggie, was killed by a Wildlife Services trap just steps from her backyard.

The HSUS also today released new research that identifies how Wildlife Services is misusing public funds. The HSUS report recommends seven critical reforms to the program that would help foster more humane and effective coexistence between people and wildlife. These include removing the financial incentive to kill, ending the use of inhumane management techniques, and ensuring nonlethal control is the preferred practice. 

But in order to become more humane and more effective, it’s critical that Wildlife Services as an agency also become more transparent. To date, the program has refused to provide significant information about spending even when directly requested by members of Congress.

People in communities where Wildlife Services is working now are often uninformed about the program’s activities, even when they and their beloved pets are at risk. Revelations about employee misconduct and negative media reports include a series of exposés that uncovered brutal and indiscriminate activities, fiscal irresponsibility, and environmental harm.

It’s time to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its actions and use of federal dollars. We are grateful to Rep. DeFazio and other members of Congress who have called for more transparent, humane, and balanced management, requested an audit of the culture within Wildlife Services and protested the use of poisons as a lethal control method.

There is a legitimate case to be made for a federal agency that helps to solve wildlife conflicts and provides training and research on best practices with an emphasis on innovation and non-lethal solutions.

But Wildlife Services in its current form is a relic of the past. It exterminates wildlife as a government subsidy for private ranchers and other special interests, using inhumane and ineffective methods, while the U.S. taxpayers foot a large share of the bill.  We have a right to expect better from our government, especially when humane alternatives are on the rise.

Now it’s your turn to speak up. Please contact USDA Secretary Vilsack, and ask for meaningful reform now. Taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to bankroll a wildlife management program that makes reckless killing its default option. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Where Science and Compassion Overlap: Making Progress on Animal Research Issues

If you want evidence that animal research in the country has gone off track, you don’t need to look very far.

After using chimpanzees in medical experiments for three decades, the New York Blood Center simply abandoned 66 chimps in Liberia and cut off funding for their care. Volunteers were handing cups of water to the animals every couple days, to prevent their deaths, until The HSUS stepped in and provided support to keep them alive.

Agnes Souchal for The HSUS
Liberian chimps receive relief.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center was exposed for conducting ghoulish experiments on farm animals, with animals dying in steam chambers, of deformities, or left to starve or freeze to death.

In what all have come to see as a shocking example of government hypocrisy, medical research at a private laboratory must adhere to standards of the Animal Welfare Act, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture exempts itself from these same rules when it’s acting as the R&D arm of the factory farming industry.

Thankfully, there has been much progress on the issue of animal use in research, testing, and education as well.

Worldwide, the number of animals used has been coming down over the last several decades, and we’ve seen incredible progress in the development of non-animal methods in toxicity testing and related areas.

The National Institutes of Health has largely stopped using chimps in research and is working with animal welfare groups to retire them to sanctuaries. NIH no longer funds research involving dogs and cats rounded up from random sources such as shelters, flea markets, and free-to-a-good-home ads, and only two such “Class B” dealers are still licensed by the USDA—down from 200 some time ago.

Part of the reason for this success is a growing understanding that advancing science and medicine doesn’t mean we have to throw other values, such as humane treatment of animals, out the window.

Dr. David Wiebers, the chair of the board of directors of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and emeritus professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic, has been arguing for decades that these ideas are not mutually exclusive, and he’s been working to build bridges between the medical profession and the animal welfare movement.

In a recently published Q&A with HSLF, Dr. Wiebers said:

When I first became involved with The HSUS 27 years ago, the medical and animal protection communities were at terrible odds with one another, largely over the issue of animal research. The rather strident discord between these communities seemed particularly ironic since the primary goal of the medical profession is to decrease the amount of unnecessary death and suffering in human beings—and the animal protection community simply wishes to extend this same goal to beings other than humans.

Over the years, however, I can tell you that I’ve spent a lot of time in both fields and that some of the most beautiful, caring and compassionate individuals you’ll ever meet come out of both of them. There is a great deal of similarity in the spirit of giving and caring, and the enormous fulfillment from helping others.

For these reasons, I have always viewed my work in animal protection as an extension of the work I do in medicine. The key to bridging the two fields is to focus on the common elements and the uniting force of compassion that runs through both of them. Happily, the discord between these two fields has lessened considerably over the years.

You can read the full interview with Dr. Wiebers in "Humane Activist," the HSLF membership magazine.

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