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August 2019

Monday, August 26, 2019

U.S. proposes new rule to save endangered right whales

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Right whales are critically endangered, with no more than 400 individuals surviving along the U.S. and Canadian coast. But we have an opportunity right now to help save this species. The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering a rule that would reduce one of the greatest threats to the survival of right whales, and it is critical that you weigh in.

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Photo courtesy of noaa.gov

Less than half of the world’s remaining North Atlantic right whales are female and, since 2017, only 12 calves have been born. In those same years 28 right whales were found dead either from being hit by large ships or becoming fatally entangled in commercial fishing gear used in lobster and crab fishing. The species is declining. Unless we act fast, right whales could face extinction, but not before they have endured terrible suffering.

Imagine a heavy rope tied tightly around your leg that you have to drag everywhere you go. The rope slowly cuts into your flesh, affecting your ability to walk, eat or sleep, and you could die of infection or starvation over a period of weeks or months. This is what right whales face when they become entangled in fishing gear. The proposed rule would restrict where and how often fishermen can set their gear, potentially sparing suffering—and the lives—of many whales.

In 2018, the Humane Society of the United States, along with partner organizations, filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service. We did so as it became clear that the U.S. government was not acting to impose restrictions on fisheries to reduce the increasing numbers of entanglement-related deaths in the United States. In 2012, in the wake of several fatal collisions with ships near the busiest port areas along the eastern seaboard, our coalition successfully petitioned the U.S. government to designate areas where ships are required to reduce speeds when and where right whales are expected to be present. In 2016, the NMFS dramatically expanded the boundaries of coastal habitats designated as “critical habitat” after we petitioned for—and sued to get—this additional protection.

The HSUS and Humane Society International have also pressed the Canadian government to take action to reduce right whale deaths in its waters. As a result, this year Canada restricted more fisheries and designated specific shipping areas with a seasonal slow speed requirement.

In Congress, HSLF and the HSUS are supporting passage of the SAVE Right Whales Act, H.R. 1568, introduced by Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and John Rutherford, R-Fla. The act would authorize $5 million per year for research on North Atlantic right whale conservation over the next 10 years. The House of Representatives included additional funding for right whale conservation in its Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill (H.R. 3055) and we are urging the Senate to do so as well.

We also hope that the NMFS will go further in its proposed rule by creating seasonal closures to risk-prone fishing gear in key areas of the Northeast during the time when right whales are feeding in the area. This would include additional funding for research into fishing gear that does not pose a risk of deadly entanglement; the mandatory use of marked fishing lines in lobster and crab fisheries to identify and implement targeted risk reduction measures; and increased enforcement to ensure that fisheries comply with federal mandates.

Right whales have suffered terribly for many decades, and they are perhaps the world’s most endangered large whale species. Whalers named them right whales because they are slow-moving and live close to the coast, making them the “right” whale to kill. Their rapidly-declining numbers led to these whales gaining international protection in the 1930s, after which their numbers increased slowly, but they are declining once again as human activities threaten their survival.

You can help to ensure that our government acts to protect these creatures before it is too late. The NMFS recently held public hearings and has promised a court that it will propose new restrictions by early next year. Please leave your comment here and let the agency know you support these and additional protections. The time to help right whales is right now.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Washington Post reveals White House may have meddled to stop USDA inspectors from helping suffering animals

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

There are new and explosive revelations about the lengths the Trump administration may be going to in order to prevent U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors from documenting and reporting violations of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.

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Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS

Washington Post story details a disturbing case at an Iowa facility in 2017 where nearly 300 raccoons, bred and sold as pets and for research, lay suffering and without relief in their stacked cages in 100-degree temperatures. But when a USDA team of veterinarians and specialists confiscated some of the animals and made plans to come back for the others, an industry group appealed to a Trump White House adviser. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and senior USDA officials then intervened to block the inspectors and veterinarians from taking the remaining raccoons, and they were ordered to return the ones they had already seized.

“In the months that followed, the Iowa incident was described by USDA officials at internal meetings as an example of the new philosophy of animal welfare protection under the Trump administration and Perdue,” reporters Karin Brulliard and William Wan write. “Leaders of the agency’s Animal Care division told inspectors to treat those regulated by the agency—breeders, zoos, circuses, horse shows and research labs—more as partners than as potential offenders.”

William Stokes, a veterinarian who oversaw inspectors in 27 states for USDA, told the Post that the weakened enforcement had caused an “untold numbers of animals” to experience unnecessary suffering.

These are shocking revelations, but they are not surprising to us. The Post article further cements concerns that we’ve had—and voiced—on this blog before: that in the past two-and-a-half years, the USDA—the agency with a mandate to protect animals used by businesses, including pet breeders, zoos, research labs and other institutions—has been failing miserably to do its job because it is busy pandering to those who run these businesses. The result has been immense suffering for the animals, even as the USDA itself has been hemorrhaging experienced staff and taxpayer dollars.

The Post article also discusses a shift in the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act with regards to the soring of Tennessee walking horses and other related breeds—a shift that began in 2016, after the appointment by the Obama administration of Bernadette Juarez, the first non-veterinarian to lead the Animal Care division. Among other changes, a new rule required a second USDA veterinarian to independently perform a second inspection on a sored horse, and unless both came up with the same results, the horse could not be disqualified and the owner could not be cited. As a result, the number of horses that inspectors determined had been sored dropped from 30 percent in 2016 to only two percent in 2018.

The weakening of enforcement is not the only bad change made by the Trump administration: in early 2017, it abruptly removed from the USDA website all public inspection reports on regulated facilities. The same year, it introduced an incentive program that allows licensees to avoid penalties for violations by self-reporting them, even if the violations resulted in animal deaths. It has also removed a chapter in the inspectors’ guide that explained how to identify and confiscate suffering animals, and began training for inspectors that instructs them to “educate” licensees rather than documenting violations.

As a result, since the current administration took office, citations by USDA have plummeted 65%, according to the Post’s research, and enforcement cases declined 92% between 2016 and 2018.

Former Animal Care division head Ron DeHaven called the decrease in citations for the most serious violations concerning. “If there are things that are directly impacting the health and well-being of animals, I don’t care who the administration is,” he told the Post. “Those are the kinds of things that need to be documented.”

The Humane Society of the United States own research for our Horrible Hundred report shows a similar drop. They found that many puppy mills that have been cited by state officials for serious issues, such as emaciated dogs and dying puppies, received completely clean inspection reports from their USDA inspectors.

With our government turning its back on the animals, it has been left to animal protection groups like us—and the media—to shine a light on the cruelty when possible. We are intensifying our fight against puppy mills by working with states and localities to stop the sale of puppies in pet stores altogether, and we’ve been successful in more than 312 localities and two states. Earlier this year, 39 Senators and 188 Representatives wrote a letter urging the USDA to stop treating regulated industries as their clients, tighten up enforcement, require documentation of every noncompliance, and restore the public inspections records and enforcement documents to the USDA’s website.

We, along with the HSUS, have also filed a lawsuit against the USDA for withdrawing, in 2017, a rule finalized by the Obama administration that would have closed loopholes in Horse Protection Act regulations. And we’ll be watching to see how USDA inspectors are allowed to perform their duties at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration that starts this week in Shelbyville. This week, five of the lead House sponsors of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which the House approved in July, sent a letter to Secretary Perdue urging the Department to “do everything possible to vigorously enforce” the HPA, and for field employees at the Celebration to “perform their inspection duties with diligence.” A parallel letter was also sent to the secretary by the lead sponsors of the Senate PAST Act.

The administration should take heed that we will not sit by and allow it to continue choosing the interests of businesses over the animals they use. The media spotlight is already turned on them, Congress is watching, and rest assured we will not miss a single opportunity to protect the animals with all means at our disposal.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Where do the Democratic presidential candidates stand on animal protection issues?

By Brad Pyle

With the Democratic election field for 2020 in play, we thought it timely to examine the animal protection records of candidates for president. This two-part series will highlight the pro-animal commitments of the candidates. Following the order of the Democratic Party’s second presidential debate, here’s what we know:   

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

Joe Biden

Joe Biden was a strong supporter of animal protection legislation during his many years in the U.S. Senate, and consistently received high marks on the Humane Scorecard.

As Vice President, Biden worked to include language in the federal budget to prohibit the USDA from inspecting horse slaughterhouses, effectively ending the practice in the United States.

In his last session in Congress, Sen. Biden cosponsored measures to stop horse slaughterupgrade the penalties for animal fighting, and ban the possession of fighting dogs and attendance at a dogfight.

Biden has also led the fight on important animal protection 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 secured passage of the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Biden’s presidential platform points to ecosystem impacts and accelerating species and biodiversity loss as part of a rationale for a comprehensive climate change policy.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris has a steady record of supporting animal protection, achieving a score of “100” every year since being elected to the U.S. Senate. In the current congress, Harris is cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and to crack down on horse soring abuses.

As California’s Attorney General, Harris successfully defended that state’s law on the sale of inhumane and unsafe battery cage eggs. Harris and her team also defended California’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fins, which is contributing to the widespread decimation in shark species worldwide.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker has championed animal protection legislation in the U.S. Senate since first being elected in 2013.

In the current session, Booker is sponsoring legislation to end the domestic shark fin trade and cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and crack down on horse soring abuses.

In 2016, Booker successfully fought for reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act to give the Environmental Protection Agency an unmistakable mandate from Congress that it must continue to embrace 21st century science and wean itself off outdated animal testing protocols.

In previous sessions, Booker co-filed an amendment to the Farm Bill which would have corrected abuses by commodity checkoff programs such as those for beef, pork, and eggs. An identical amendment was incorporated into the House Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51. He also introduced legislation to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply equally to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories.

Julián Castro

Julián Castro has released a comprehensive animal welfare plan as part of his presidential platform. This plan includes a pathway to increase spaying and neutering, including grant programs to support veterinary care for vaccinations and spaying and neutering services in underserved communities. His platform also includes support of the PACT Act, the Humane Cosmetics Act, and the WOOF Act.

Castro has also proposed creating a $2 billion National Wildlife Recovery Fund to protect, maintain, and strengthen wildlife populations. Castro’s proposal is the most comprehensive animal welfare plan released by any 2020 candidate to date.

Andrew Yang

As he has never held elected office, it is challenging to evaluate Andrew Yang’s position on animal protection. Yang has posted the broadest policy platform of any candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, with mixed results for animal protection advocates. The most troubling policy proposal frames the Endangered Species Act as overly restrictive.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard has been a consistent supporter of animal protection legislation since being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.

In the current session, she is cosponsoring legislation to end the domestic shark fin trade, create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty, and crack down on puppy mills. This year she voted for the PAST Act, which would end horse soring abuses.

Previously, Gabbard has voted to crack down on animal fighting in the U.S. territories, and against stripping ESA protections from gray wolves in the Lower 48 states.

Kristen Gillibrand

Kristen Gillibrand has developed a strong animal protection record in the U.S. Senate.

Currently, Gillibrand is the lead Democratic sponsor of the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would create the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, to implement rules regarding the use of permitted and prohibited substances and develop anti-doping education, research, testing, and adjudication programs. She is also cosponsoring legislation to end horse soring abuses.

In previous sessions, Gillibrand has introduced legislation to strengthen oversight of antibiotic use in animals and led efforts to include an amendment in the Farm Bill to prohibit domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. She also cosponsored legislation which would require furs to be labeled and prohibit the knowing slaughter of a horse for human consumption.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee has an impressive animal protection record from his time as a member of the U.S. House, and now as Governor of Washington.

As Governor, Inslee signed into law the strongest protections for egg-laying hens ever passed in any state legislature and  tethering restrictions which made it illegal for a person to leave a dog tethered for a reckless period of time without providing him or her with adequate access to food, water, and shelter.

While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Inslee introduced legislation to fund conservation programs that protect rare dog and cat species outside North America and Europe, such as jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, and African wild dogs. He also offered an amendment to an appropriations bill to bar federal funding that permits the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

Inslee’s presidential platform includes creating cross-border conservation programs to protect threatened species. Washington currently ranks 4th on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane State ranking.

Michael Bennet

In the current session of Congress, Michael Bennett is cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and crack down on horse soring abuses.

In previous sessions, he has cosponsored legislation to end the shark fin trade, prohibit the interstate trade in primates for the exotic pet trade, and crack down on puppy mills.

Bill de Blasio

As Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio has signed multiple pieces of animal protection legislation into law.

Leading up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, de Blasio penned a letter to the Governor of Tokyo, to support efforts to end the ivory trade in Japan. As Mayor, he signed legislation to ban the use of elephants, tigers, lions, bears, zebras, ostriches, and other wild animals in circuses, created sweeping reforms to the pet store industry, and established an Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad within the NYPD.

Closing Remarks

Animal protection advocates are fortunate to have so many sympathetic candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

You'll hear more from the Humane Society Legislative Fund about the presidential race as we get closer to Election Day 2020. Keep checking the blog for updates and more information.

Brad Pyle is political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Where do the Democratic presidential candidates stand on animal protection issues?

By Brad Pyle

With the Democratic election field for 2020 in play, we thought it timely to examine the animal protection records of candidates for president. This two-part series will highlight the pro-animal commitments of the candidates. Following the order of the Democratic Party’s second presidential debate, here’s what we know:   

ISTOCK-479747398_476683Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has been a steady and consistent supporter of animal protection during his time in Congress.

In the current session, Sanders is cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and crack down on horse soring abuses.

In previous sessions, Sanders cosponsored bills to curtail abusive puppy mills and animal fighting, to restrict the private trade in big cats and primates as exotic pets, and to ban barren battery cages for egg-laying hens. He supported strong enforcement of federal animal welfare laws, and opposed the weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

He helped to lead the effort in the 111th and 112th Congresses to end the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and retire them to sanctuaries.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has continually supported animal protection legislation while in the U.S. Senate.

Currently, Warren is cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and crack down on horse soring abuses.

In previous sessions, Warren has introduced legislation to strengthen oversight of antibiotic use in animals. She also co-filed an amendment to the Farm Bill to correct abuses by commodity checkoff programs such as those for beef, pork, and eggs.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg’s accelerated rise to the forefront of American politics has presented him with little opportunity to affect animal protection policy.

During his 2018 State of the City address, Buttigieg highlighted South Bend’s Animal Care & Control successes in doubling the number of pet adoptions and reducing the euthanasia rate for cats and dogs.

Pete has two rescue dogs, Truman and Buddy, who appear frequently on social media.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke supported critical animal protection legislation while in Congress, and was a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

O’Rourke supported the full range of animal protection legislation through his votes and cosponsorships. This includes voting to protect wildlife in Alaska, crack down on animal fighting, and against stripping ESA protections from gray wolves in the Lower 48 states.

Amy Klobuchar

In the current session, Senator Amy Klobuchar is cosponsoring legislation to crack down on horse soring abuses.

In the past, she cosponsored legislation which would require furs to be labeled, enabling consumers to make informed decisions. She also voted against legislation which allowed egregiously cruel and unsporting hunting methods on more than 76 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.  

Tim Ryan

Congressman Tim Ryan has received scores ranging from 25 to 100 on the Humane Scorecard.

In the current session, Ryan is cosponsoring legislation to crack down on malicious animal cruelty, eliminate the shark fin trade, and prevent the export of American horses for slaughter overseas. This year he voted for the PAST Act, which would end horse soring abuses.

Previously, he voted to establish a recovery program for the Southern sea otter and to expand funding for marine turtle conservation.

John Delaney

Former Congressman John Delaney consistently received top marks on the Humane Scorecard, receiving an impressive score of “100” over each of his last 5 years in office.

While in the U.S. House, Delaney voted to crack down on animal fighting in the U.S. territories, and against stripping ESA protections from gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. During his last term in office, he cosponsored legislation to end horse soring abuses, crack down on malicious animal cruelty, and end the domestic shark fin trade.

Delaney was a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is a member of the Humane Society of the United States’ Faith Advisory Council. In this capacity, she plays a leading role in reminding people to be responsible stewards and caretakers of God’s creation. She also serves as an ambassador for the HSUS in her community.

Williamson’s presidential platform contains promising animal protection language, stating, “As custodians of this planet, we are intended to care for the animals that share the land with us.”

Steve Bullock

Few animal protection bills make it to the desk of Steve Bullock, Montana’s governor since 2013.  Montana currently ranks 42nd in the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane State ranking.

 In 2015, Bullock vetoed a bill which would have restricted Montana’s ability to relocate bison within the state.

During a campaign stop in Iowa, Bullock said large animal confinements known as CAFOs are a state issue, not a federal one, not a promising animal welfare position for someone seeking the presidency.

Closing Remarks

Please remember to update your voter registration, and take other steps to ensure that  your voice is heard in our democracy. Tomorrow’s blog will cover the candidates featured in night two of the second presidential debate.

Brad Pyle is political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

HSLF, HSUS file lawsuit to compel USDA to reinstate soring rule

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Just weeks after the historic passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, in the U.S. House of Representatives, we’re opening up another front in our fight against horse “soring.” Today the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seeking to compel the agency to reinstate a final rule that was duly issued, prescribed and promulgated in 2017, but withdrawn with the advent of a new administration. The final rule amended regulations under the Horse Protection Act (HPA) that have allowed soring to fester for the entire 49 years since the Act’s passage.

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Photo by the HSUS

The lawsuit argues that by withdrawing the final rule, the USDA not only violated the legal requirements of rulemaking, but also violated its mandate under the HPA. The lawsuit was filed by pro bono counsel at the law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP and the HSUS’s Animal Protection Litigation team. Several individual plaintiffs also joined the HSUS and HSLF in the lawsuit.

It’s been a federal crime since 1970 to show horses who have been sored—subjected to the intentional infliction of pain on their legs and hooves to force them to step higher to gain a competitive edge in the show ring. But trainers in the Tennessee walking, spotted saddle and racking horse breeds have taken advantage of inadequate regulations that have allowed soring to continue unabated. The existing regulations allow chains to be hung around horses’ legs and tall, heavy platform shoes or “stacks” to be nailed to horses’ hooves. These devices—which exacerbate the pain of caustic chemicals burned into the horses’ skin and conceal hard or sharp objects jammed into their tender soles—are integral to the soring process.

The current regulations also authorize an industry self-policing scheme which has facilitated the perpetuation of soring. In 2010, USDA’s Inspector General released a comprehensive audit of the agency’s Horse Protection Program, concluding that the industry self-policing system—the one authorized by the regulations that would have been replaced by the final rule—was fraught with conflicts of interest, inadequate to prevent soring, and should be abolished. USDA agreed with the Inspector General’s recommendations and said then that it would implement new regulations to remedy the problem. The agency also stated in separate Federal Register notices (in 1979 and 2011) that if soring persisted, it would consider banning the stacks and chains used to facilitate the practice.

With the final rule, the agency at long last took the actions necessary to move toward fulfilling its obligations under the HPA. On Jan. 13, 2017, USDA put out a press release announcing the final rule and sent the rule to the Office of the Federal Register where it was put on public inspection and scheduled for publication. However, the rule was withdrawn a few days later by the new administration without following any of the procedures mandated by law to repeal a duly issued, prescribed and promulgated final rule; agency officials have since placed the final rule on “inactive” status and have resisted efforts to move forward on it.

With today’s legal action we are making clear that we intend to hold the federal government accountable for complying with its statutory obligations under the Horse Protection Act to end the cruelty of soring. Our action also puts horse sorers on notice that we will not stop in our efforts to halt the cruelty they inflict on horses.

Our commitment to end soring is a lasting one. We’ve investigated the practice for decades, bringing forth evidence that has deepened public awareness and outrage over soring and resulted in cruelty convictions for trainers. Most recently, we helped persuade the Nashville Metro Council to unanimously approve a resolution urging Tennessee’s U.S. Senators to cosponsor the PAST Act and work to get it enacted, a strong sign that there’s little tolerance left for soring in Tennessee.

This has been a hard fight over the years because, believe it or not, soring has powerful defenders. But we’ve never given up, and we’ve never been closer to securing its abolition than we are now. The lawsuit and our ongoing advocacy to pass the PAST Act seek to deliver justice to the horses who have so long suffered as a result of soring. We’ll keep working to bring down the curtain on this cruel and sinister practice and finish the job our predecessors in humane work started a half century ago.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Cruel cosmetics banned in Illinois; third U.S. state to do so after California, Nevada

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The United States has moved one step closer to ending unnecessary cosmetics testing on animals, as Illinois becomes the third U.S. state to enact a marketing ban preventing companies from selling cosmetics that have newly been tested on animals. On August 9, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill that prohibits the sale of cosmetics like shampoos, lipsticks and deodorants in Illinois, unless they are cruelty free.

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Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

Illinois joins California and Nevada, which have passed similar laws. Starting January 1, 2020, all cosmetics products on store shelves in these three states will be free of new animal testing. We applaud the work of Sen. Linda Holmes, Rep. Jonathan Carroll, and the Animal Welfare Institute in helping to secure the passage of the Illinois bill.

As we continue to expand our global #BeCrueltyFree campaign, we are thrilled to see the momentum building in the United States. This is one of the world’s largest cosmetics markets and reforms here have the potential to spare the lives of tens of thousands of animals used in these tests worldwide each year, including mice, rabbits, rats and guinea pigs. In traditional tests, substances are forced down the animals’ throats, dripped into their eyes, or smeared onto their skin, and they are left to suffer for days or weeks without pain relief. There is no need for this.

Consumer demand for cruelty-free products has led to more than 1,000 cosmetic brands in North America committing to develop and offer products based on the thousands of safe ingredients already available, or by using non-animal test methods that are often more reliable predictors of human safety at a great savings in time and cost when compared to animal tests.

For these and other reasons, we need Congress to step up now and pass legislation to end cosmetics testing on animals in our country altogether. There is strong support for such a law: in the last Congress, the Humane Cosmetics Act received the support of more than 180 cosponsors. This legislation was also endorsed by nearly 300 companies in the cosmetics industry. We expect the bill to be reintroduced when Congress reconvenes in September.

Worldwide, nearly 40 countries, including the member countries of the European Union, Australia, Guatemala, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey, have already banned or limited the use of animals for cosmetics testing through the efforts of Humane Society International and others. HSI and its partners are on the front lines in countries including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the ASEAN region of south-east Asia, working hard to help pass additional legislation on these lines.

HSI’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign also has the support of global beauty giants like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Avon and the Estée Lauder Companies, in addition to our longstanding partners at Lush and H&M.

There is a beauty revolution underway, and it is one that rejects outmoded cruelty and embraces compassion and modern scientific alternatives to animal testing. There is no excuse for our country to remain on the sidelines even as the rest of the world commits to this new, forward-thinking protocol. With the momentum for ending cosmetics testing building up day by day, now is the perfect time to recommit to ending these tests here in the United States. Please call your members of Congress (you can find their contact information here) and let them know you support reintroduction of the Humane Cosmetics Act. With a few more victories, we can push cosmetics testing with animals off the map for good.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Federal government finalizes changes to weaken Endangered Species Act

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

In the past two years, our federal government has waged war against the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock law that protects endangered and threatened animal species and their habitats. Today, despite our hopes that it would take the steps necessary to enforce our nation’s many animal protection laws, the Trump Administration dealt a critical blow to wildlife protection, finalizing rules to significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act and make it harder to achieve federal protections for endangered and threatened species.

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Photo by Vanessa Mignon

The finalization of these rules empowers the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to block vital and necessary conservation measures to protect species threatened with extinction. The rules are intended to remove prohibitions on the consideration of possible economic impacts when listing a species as endangered or threatened, privileging economic and political considerations above conservation imperatives in deliberations concerning listing a species under the Act. They also promise to establish additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species, while making it much easier to remove species from the ESA, even without evidence that species recovery might not yet be complete.

The ESA has been historically successful in its facilitation of collaboration among federal, state, tribal and local officials to protect vulnerable species. However, the finalized rules package shifts focus away from federal management of imperiled species. Instead, it gives states and local governments substantial power over managing species that would otherwise be protected by the Endangered Species Act. This is a great danger.

Unfortunately, the record of the states in endangered species protection is not as good as one could hope. Many states lack the financial resources to take on endangered species protection, and a large number lack laws to protect all of the federally-listed endangered or threatened species within their boundaries. Still worse is the fact that a number of key states do not prioritize wildlife protection with sincerity or fairness. We saw this lack of good stewardship when gray wolves and grizzly bears lost federal ESA protections in Wyoming and the state promptly declared trophy hunting seasons on these animals.

Together, the new rules comprise the largest regulatory revision to the Endangered Species Act in decades. It amounts to a “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” approach, and aims to extinguish one of the country’s most effective statutes, on which the survival of so many wildlife species depends. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, and if it is weakened it will be much more difficult to ensure that threatened and endangered animals, including species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and African lions and elephants, do not go extinct.

This move really cuts against the grain, because it is clear that the American public strongly supports the ESA. A 2015 poll by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of self-described conservatives, support upholding the ESA. Other studies, such as the study by Hart Research Associates in 2016, found that 70 percent of Americans oppose removing ESA protections from iconic, threatened species such as the gray wolf. And if that wasn’t enough to show how deep support for the ESA runs in the American consciousness—over 800,000 comments were submitted in opposition to these rules. It’s no consolation that the administration has no plan to apply the regulations retroactively to previous decisions concerning species currently protected under the ESA. It spells doom for imperiled species from here on, and that’s why we are outraged.

Instead of listening to the collective voice of these 800,000 Americans—the FWS and NMFS have decided today to side with special interest groups determined to eliminate protections for our nation’s beloved wildlife, all to make economic and development ventures more profitable. It’s a shameful move, one that will have far reaching ramifications for years to come, and one that we must continue to oppose.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Nashville calls for an end to cruel horse soring

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Just weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives’ historic passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 693), there’s more good news for Tennessee walking horses. The Nashville, TN Metro Council has approved a resolution supporting passage of PAST and urging Tennessee’s U.S. senators to cosponsor and press senate leaders to pass this legislation.

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Photo by the HSUS

Soring is the intentional infliction of pain on a horse's legs or hooves, to make the horse perform an artificial, high-stepping show ring gait known as the “Big Lick.” Caustic chemicals—blistering agents like mustard oil or diesel fuel—are applied to the horse's limbs, causing extreme suffering. The horse is then forced to wear chains or “action devices” when ridden, which strike the painful area, causing her to fling her legs high in an attempt to escape the agony. In another form of soring known as pressure shoeing, a horse's front hooves are cut almost to the quick, and then hard objects are jammed into the tender flesh and tall, heavy platform shoes are tightly nailed on, to cause excruciating pain whenever the horse bears weight on the hoof.

Introduced by Nashville Metro Councilwoman Nancy VanReece and amended by Councilwoman Kathleen Murphy, Resolution RS2019-1868 sends a strong message to those who torment these stoic, docile and beautiful horses in the name of a perverse entertainment, and to Tennessee‘s U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn. The governing body of the largest city in the state does not view the archaic torment of the state’s namesake breed as a “Tennessee tradition“ but as a Tennessee tragedy that has no place in the Volunteer State or anywhere else.

It’s not too late for senators who’ve been soft on soring to get onto the right side of history. S. 1007, introduced in April by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho and Mark Warner, D-Va., mirrors H.R. 693, approved by the U.S. House by a bipartisan 333-96 vote in July. The PAST Act proposes to amend the federal Horse Protection Act and close the loopholes that have allowed violators to continue abusive practices undeterred, to the detriment of the horses, the competitors playing by the rules, and Tennessee and its reputation. PAST would ban the devices integral to soring nationwide, and replace the failed, conflict-ridden system of industry self-policing with a team of third party, independent inspectors trained, licensed and assigned by the USDA, as well as strengthen penalties for the crime of soring. It currently has 43 Senate cosponsors.

PAST is endorsed by hundreds of leading groups and individuals in the horse industry and veterinary, law enforcement and animal protection communities, including the American Horse Council, U.S. Equestrian Federation, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, the state veterinary organizations of all 50 states, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Sheriffs’ Association, and celebrities such as actress and noted anti-soring advocate Priscilla Presley.

Kudos to the Music City for taking this important stand against soring. It’s a bold and hopeful action, one that challenges the U.S. Senate to do right by these horses nationwide and to restore the image of the beautiful Tennessee walking horse to its former glory as a breed that can be celebrated for its natural gait and wonderful disposition, not exploited and hurt for the sake of ribbons and prize money. Contact your Senators today and urge that they cosponsor and work to secure passage of the PAST Act—to finally make soring a thing of the past.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

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