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November 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lawmakers Call for Action in Wake of Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are weighing in on the recent damning investigative report by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General, about the Bureau of Land Management’s mismanagement of our nation’s iconic wild horses.

Gary Alvis/iStock

The report concluded that the agency, under then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, failed to prevent a notorious livestock hauler named Tom Davis, with connections to kill buyers, from acquiring 1,794 wild horses and burros between 2008 and 2012. Davis subsequently funneled these horses to Mexico where they were slaughtered for human consumption, all under the nose of the BLM, which failed to follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring that the horses sold went to good homes and were not slaughtered.

The agency not only ignored its own rules, but also flouted congressional mandates that horses not be sent to slaughter. The Interior spending bill passed by Congress in 2009 included a provision stating that none of the BLM’s funding could be used “for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of [BLM] or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.” This prohibition was renewed in appropriations bills for subsequent fiscal years, covering the period that BLM was selling horses to Davis, and is still in place in the current budget.

It’s now come to light that the BLM did not heed this appropriations language. Indeed, the investigative report found that while Tom Davis purchased each horse for $10, for a total of $17,490, the BLM spent approximately $140,000 in taxpayer funds transporting those horses to Davis. Talk about government waste—for every dollar the BLM took in, it gave back nearly 19, with the net loss associated with conduct that was inhumane and criminal.

Several members of Congress are rightly calling for answers from the BLM. Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., sent a strong letter to the Secretary of the Interior demanding an explanation for why the agency ignored congressional directives. He noted, “It is unacceptable that BLM’s disregard of the law resulted in the use of taxpayer funds to facilitate the inhumane slaughter of iconic American wildlife.” We couldn’t agree more.

Congressman Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., also weighed in, requesting information on how the agency plans to recover the approximately $140,000 it spent in taxpayer funding transporting horses to Tom Davis. They also demanded a detailed explanation on what steps the BLM is taking to ensure that America’s iconic wild horses are not sent to slaughter again. They rightly observed that “BLM actions, which led to the slaughter of horses, are completely unacceptable and while BLM cannot reverse these serious errors made in the past, it is essential that the Bureau act expeditiously to prevent them from happening again.”

We are grateful to Representatives Buchanan, Farr, and Lujan Grisham for speaking out for wild horses and burros and holding the BLM to task for its actions, as well as for their leadership on H.R. 1942, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, a bill to prohibit the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. We are hopeful that their advocacy on this issue, and the spotlight on BLM’s actions in previous years, will help ensure these iconic and majestic animals are protected from similar mismanagement and government failures in the future.

If you have a moment, please contact your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators and ask them to support H.R. 1942/S. 1214 to protect horses and consumers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Governments Must Commit to Whale Protection Policies

The 1982 global moratorium on commercial whaling has been a considerable success, with tens of thousands of whales spared over the last three decades. Still, the pro-whaling nations continue to wage a well-funded, relentless campaign to attack and undermine the moratorium, often with support from the highest government levels.


That’s one reason that we celebrate the historic victory that our colleagues at Humane Society International-Australia have achieved today in a court case against Japanese whaling in the Australian federal court. The court found the Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku guilty of contempt for killing minke whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, in breach of a 2008 injunction and Australian law. The court has fined Kyodo a total of $1million AUS—or $250,000 AUS (some $177,439 U.S.) for every year it has been whaling in the Sanctuary, a non-contiguous zone which includes Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the 200 nautical mile area surrounding the continent of Australia and its external dependencies.

It’s one of the largest penalties ever imposed under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and it comes just a month or so before Japan’s whaling fleet is expected to return to the Southern Ocean, in the Antarctic, where last year, for the first time in a century, no whales were taken.

Japanese whalers stayed away from there after last year’s ruling by the UN's judicial body—the International Court of Justice (ICJ)—that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling program in Antarctic waters was not legal. Essentially, Japan had dressed-up a commercial enterprise as a scientific one, and despite the longstanding notoriety of this endeavor, it required a major legal effort, led by the Australian government (and supported by New Zealand), which brought the case to make Japan stop.

And stop it did for one season. At first, Japan agreed to abide by the court ruling but soon it became clear that Japan intended only to pause and reshape its “research program” to return to Antarctic whale killing in the name of science. Japan now claims that its new lethal research program addresses the shortcomings of the previous program identified in the ICJ ruling. There is little support from the scientific community for this premise, and of course there is no scientific need to kill whales for research.

Recently, Japan also made a formal declaration to the United Nations that it will not allow the ICJ further jurisdiction over its marine activities, thereby trying to slam the door shut on any future legal proceedings in that body. This was one more example of Japan’s determination to flout international opinion and—now—national and international law concerning commercial whaling, and it deserves a stern response from the nations of the world, including the United States. The conservation and protection of the environment and of animals, including marine mammals, demands a more serious commitment within the foreign policy of every good nation, and we’re not seeing enough of that in the world at present.

The United States is just one of the many countries that should be stepping up to confront Japan squarely for its brazen defiance of the emerging consensus that the persecution of whales in our world’s oceans must come to an end. With Humane Society International-Australia, we are calling for urgent diplomatic action at the highest political level to ask Japan to desist. Japan, and the other whaling countries, Norway and Iceland, need to know that other nations will no longer turn a blind eye to the cruelty and suffering imposed by their whaling fleets.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Senators Call on President Obama to Veto Extinction

The Endangered Species Act is under attack in Congress. A small cadre of Republican Senators and Representatives have introduced more than 80 legislative proposals in this session alone to undermine protections for certain species—such as the greater sage grouse, northern long-eared bat, and gray wolf—or to otherwise weaken this important federal statute. And it’s not just posturing and showmanship; there are a record number of harmful riders in the FY 2016 Interior appropriations bills.

ESA pic
Photo credit:

Thankfully, a group of 25 U.S. Senators—led by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.—is standing up for sound science and conservation. They sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reject all spending bill riders that would undermine Endangered Species Act protections.

The defenders of the ESA wrote, “In 1973, as an increasing number of plant and animal species were disappearing, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. More than 40 years later, our world’s wildlife is again at a critical point. The extinction of earth’s species is now at its highest rate since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, with human activity—including significant ecological impacts from climate change—initiating an extinction crisis on our planet. Now more than ever we need a strong, fully funded, and enforced Endangered Species Act. This law has prevented 99 percent of the species under its care from going extinct."

“We strongly urge that you oppose all appropriations riders that would undermine Endangered Species Act protections, including the rider that is included in both the Senate and House versions of the FY 2016 Interior appropriations bill that would remove federal protections for gray wolves,” the Senators concluded.

The Senate letter, in combination with a House letter sent in September by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and 91 other Representatives urging the White House to veto any appropriations or defense bills with policy riders undermining the ESA, makes it clear that the President should stay strong and reject a final spending package with ideological ESA riders.

Some politicians talk a good game about scientific wildlife management, except when they don’t like a certain species and want to ensure that politics is positioned to trump science. They want to dictate wildlife management by legislative fiat, subverting the expertise of scientists, an established public process, and emphatic rulings by federal courts. We can’t have officials plucking animals from the endangered species list because a nattering band of their constituents are demanding it. That’s precisely why these decisions are based on the evidence presented by scientists, and that’s why there is judicial review built into the process. Their riders on wolves, for example, would hand over 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 sites, clubs, and firearms. We are grateful to the lawmakers who are speaking out and injecting some common-sense into the debate.

Please add your voice to theirs, and help keep the ESA intact. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and urge President Obama to veto extinction and reject any final spending packages that contain riders that undermine the ESA.

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