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Ballot Measures

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Election Day result - a good one for animals and the HSLF

We knew coming into this election season that it would be a fateful one for animals, at both the state and federal levels, and that’s why the HSLF made significant commitments of endorsements, independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates, and grassroots efforts in races throughout the nation. It was worth it, as we sent several anti-animal legislators packing, saw the election and reelection of a number of strong allies, and helped pass ballot measures of immense importance in Florida and California.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

One of the candidates we helped to defeat was U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) who in the course of his career voted against animal protection interests 40 times. As Chair of the House Rules Committee, Sessions worked to prevent commonsense, bipartisan measures from reaching the floor for a vote. That’s why we went all in with Colin Allred, who won the race by a margin of 6.3 percent. HSLF placed television and digital ads to contrast Allred’s commitment to animal protection with Sessions’ lengthy record of opposition at every turn.

This was our kind of race and our kind of outcome. We helped to replace a stubborn opponent of our work with a candidate we’re confident will do his best for animals.

HSLF also canvassed more than 38,000 households in CA-48 and CA-49, districts held by representatives who were way out of step with their constituents when it came to animal protection. While we await final results, it appears likely that Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) will defeat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) who recently voted against enforcing animal fighting prohibitions in the U.S. territories, and that Mike Levin (D-Calif.) will take the seat formerly held by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

We also played a critical role in the approval of two consequential state ballot measures. Florida citizens overwhelmingly voted to end greyhound racing, a miserable “entertainment” in which dogs suffer broken bones and deaths on the tracks. This was a big win because Florida is home to 11 of the remaining 17 greyhound racing tracks in the country. As a constitutional amendment, the measure required a threshold of 60% of the vote—it received nearly 69% in the end. We were proud to work with the HSUS, the Doris Day Animal League, Grey2K, and a number of coalition partners to sound the death knell for greyhound racing in the United States; no industry that inflicts so much pain, suffering, and death on thousands of gentle greyhound dogs deserves to survive.

Across the country, Californians resoundingly said “YES!” to Proposition 12, which ushers in the strongest farm animal protection law in the world. Proposition 12 builds on protections first passed by voters in 2008, to ensure that pork, eggs, and veal products produced or sold in the California marketplace come from facilities that do not confine animals in tiny cages for their entire lives. This is the fifth consecutive ballot initiative win on farm animal confinement issues since 2002, and promises to improve the lives of millions of animals. The measure will create immediate relief for millions of animals and bring more pressure on the pork and egg industries to accelerate their transitions to cage-free and crate-free housing systems. California voters saw through the false claims of the factory farming industry, and sided with compassionate and commonsense standards to protect farm animals and food safety.

With results still coming in, we cannot report in full on every race of interest to our supporters, but what we know so far is pretty good. HSLF-endorsed U.S. House candidates won 219 and lost 16 races, for a 93 percent win rate, with 14 additional races not yet called. In the U.S. Senate, HSLF-backed contenders won 16 races and lost 3, for an 84 percent win rate.

In other House races of interest, we worked to re-elect allies like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 4693) and Welfare of Our Friends Act (H.R. 4691), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla), co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

But the real story in the Congress concerns the many new faces we’ll welcome, including Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Lance Gooden (R-Texas), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) who defeated Cresent Hardy, who previously had a zero record on animal protection. HSLF targeted all of these races in its work, and these are great outcomes for animal protection.

Unfortunately, some key House allies lost their races including Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), sponsor of the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act (H.R. 4202) to ensure that federal animal fighting laws are applied to the U.S. territories. Roskam successfully championed the measure as an amendment to the Farm Bill which passed by a vote of 359-51. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a consistent supporter of animal protection and co-chair of the House Climate Change Caucus, also lost.

In the Senate, we saw several strong allies reelected, including Sen, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee who has fought off the frivolous King amendment in the Farm Bill while protecting the pro-animal measures it included, the Pet and Women Safety Act (H.R. 909/S. 322), the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act (H.R. 1406), and the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act (H.R. 4202/ S. 2971). Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a stalwart in our fight against cruel hunting practices on federal lands in Alaska, won his race too, by 23 percent.

We were active in a number of critical state-level races as well. HSLF was heavily involved in Michigan supporting the election of Gretchen Whitmer (D) for governor and Dana Nessel (D) for attorney general. Whitmer has a strong record of animal protection from her service in the state legislature, including votes to uphold the protections for wolves and other wildlife species, so her victory is great news. Nessel will become just the second attorney general to create a dedicated task force to assist prosecutors in cracking down on animal cruelty.

Several important races have yet to be called, so please check back in with our election site as we will be updating as results are announced.

At the HSLF, we put the animal into politics. This year, we endorsed a record number of candidates, and in crucial instances, we put our money and our energy behind them. And so many of you did, too. If  you voted or volunteered for one of these men and women, thank you. If you sent funds in support of our work to elect them, or made contributions yourself, we appreciate it. We wanted to swing for the fences this time around, and because of you, we were able to do it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Election Day is here – see what’s at stake for animals

Election Day is special for those who care about animals, because it’s the one day on which we can directly shape the future for animal protection by electing those who share our humane values. It’s just that important. If you haven’t already voted, today is your last chance. You can identify your polling place at www.vote.org.

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

But we’d also like to invite you to check out our election site and Humane Scorecard to read about the candidates we believe will do good things for animals.

A few races in particular have tremendous implications for the animal protection landscape at the federal and state levels. For example:

  • In Texas, the dynamic Colin Allred is challenging Phil Sessions, an incumbent in the 32nd district who has repeatedly blocked animal protection measures from receiving a vote on the House floor. HSLF has made substantial expenditures in support of Allred, and against Sessions.
  • In Michigan, a number of women who support animal protection are running statewide, including Debbie Stabenow for U.S. Senate, Gretchen Witmer for governor, and Dana Nessel for Attorney General. They are all proven advocates.
  • In Iowa, J.D. Scholten is challenging “the King of Cruelty,” Rep. Steve King, in the 4th Congressional District. If Scholten wins, King’s reckless anti-animal welfare amendments to the Farm Bill will go away with him. We’ve done our best to mobilize HSLF supporters in this race.
  • In Tennessee, former governor Phil Bredesen is running for the U.S. Senate against Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn, who has supported soring—the cruel use of caustic chemicals and other painful substances to injure the hooves and legs of show horses. We’re all in behind Governor Bredesen in this one.

Here are some of the other candidates we’re supporting:

  • In Colorado, former state official Joe Neguse is running in the 2nd Congressional District with a promise to build on his pro-animal record.
  • In Illinois, Peter Roskam, who has led the charge against animal fighting, is running for re-election in the 6th district, while prosecutor Brendan Kelly is fighting to unseat a callous incumbent in the 12th Congressional District.
  • In Nevada, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford are running for open congressional seats in Nevada’s 3rd and 4th districts, respectively. Horsford’s opponent is a former congressman who refused to crack down on heinous animal cruelty.
  • In New Jersey, Josh Gottheimer, who earned a perfect score on the Humane Scorecard, is running for re-election in the 5th district.
  • In Oregon, Earl Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, is seeking re-election in the 3rd district.
  • In Pennsylvania, Brian Fitzpatrick (8th district) and Conor Lamb (18th district) are running for re-election to continue their good work for animals, while attorney Susan Wild and state legislator Guy Reschenthaler are running for open seats in the 7th and 14th districts, respectively.
  • In Texas, State legislator Lance Gooden and county official Veronica Escobar are running for open seats in the 5th and 16th districts, respectively.
  • In Washington, Kim Schrier is running for the 8th Congressional District against a former state legislator who supported bills allowing the use of body-gripping animal traps, and the hunting of cougars with hounds.

Voters in California and Florida have a particular opportunity to drive positive change for animals in this election cycle with their support for two remarkable ballot measures.

  • In California, Proposition 12 will ensure baby calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens aren’t confined in tiny cages. For Congress, Jeff Denham is running for re-election in the 10th district, Harley Rouda is contesting an anti-animal incumbent in the 48th district, and Mike Levin is running for an open seat in the 49th district.
  • In Florida, Amendment 13 will phase out cruel commercial greyhound racing by 2020, and animal protection champions Carlos Curbelo and Vern Buchanan are running for re-election to the U.S. House.

Should you be a resident of either of these two states, or have family members and friends to whom you can reach out, we really want to encourage your advocacy today.

If you’re a supporter of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, you know that your investment means that we’re working hard in the nation’s capital every day, making the case for animals in the Congress and with the agencies of our federal government. And you play a crucial part in any success we achieve by writing and calling legislators and government administrators on your own.

That said, Election Day represents a distinctive opportunity to reshape the world consistent with our animal protection values. Please do get to the polls, and cast your vote in a way that makes a difference for animals. We also invite you to share our election site with friends and family, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates as each race is called.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Election Day is almost here—we hope you vote humane!

Election Day is right around the corner and for those of you in states with early voting, it may actually be already here! That’s why I want to remind you to check out our election site before you cast your ballot to see who we’ve endorsed in your state.

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

It’s so important that we use the power of the ballot box to advance the cause of animal welfare. It’s sad, but true, that all too often some elected officials continually ignore the pleas of constituents who make the case for animals. Instead, they side with special interests like puppy millers, horse sorers, trophy hunters, factory farmers, and animal fighters. They launch attacks on existing animal protection laws, and they stand in the way of new reforms. It’s an unfortunate reality of our work.

That’s why it’s essential to remember that you have the power to replace officials who are indifferent to our humane agenda with candidates committed to common sense animal protection measures, and, in the case of those who stand with animals, to reelect them and make it possible for them continue their good efforts.

It is a priority for HSLF to work with you to elect leaders committed to our shared values. We need officials ready to move our agenda to defend pets from cruelty and abuse, replace the use of animals in cosmetics and other chemical testing, improve welfare standards for farm animals, expand protections for wildlife, end the slaughter of American horses, and more.

That’s why I’m reminding you about our election site, to help you determine which candidates are committed to fighting for animals. The site features our endorsements in hundreds of congressional races as well as several at the state level. As a nonpartisan organization, we’ve selected these candidates solely and strictly on the basis of their positions on animal protection.

The election site landing page features candidates in some of this year’s most consequential races for our work. Colin Allred (D-Tx) is working to oust Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tx) who has served in Congress for more than 20 years and voted against animal protection more than 40 times. We’re also supporting Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fl) who co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and leads the way on a raft of animal protection legislation.

In addition to the candidates we’re highlighting in key races, users of the website can easily view our full endorsement lists by state or office.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that we’re backing two statewide ballot measures: Prop 12 in California, which will upgrade farm animal protections, and Amendment 13 in Florida, which will end cruel greyhound racing in that state. If you live in either state or can support those efforts in other ways, we’d love to see you get involved.

If you have been paying attention to our issues in recent months, you know that this is a particularly critical time to get political for animals. So, please take a look at our site, work out which humane candidates will be on your ballot, and then share the information with your friends and family members. If you haven’t registered to vote, and the deadline has not passed in your state, you can easily do so here. We at HSLF are counting on you to get political for animals by voting on November 6th!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

You asked, we answered: our HSLF-endorsed candidates for 2018

“Politics,” Charles de Gaulle reportedly observed, “is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”  There’s a fundamental truth there, and it doesn’t diminish our elected officials when we underscore the genuine importance of citizen engagement in the political process. At the HSLF, it’s the foundation of our work.

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iStock Photo

Every year, our supporters contact their elected officials about animal protection issues by calling, emailing, writing letters, and visiting their offices. In many cases these communications result in new legislative advances and protections for animals, and that’s what it’s all about for us. 

But it’s also true, all too often, that some elected officials continually ignore the pleas of constituents who make the case for animals. Instead, they side with special interests like puppy millers, horse sorers, trophy hunters, factory farmers, and cockfighters. They launch attacks on existing animal protection laws, and they stand in the way of new reforms. It’s an unfortunate reality of our work.

We’re in no way helpless in the face of such challenges, however. We have the power to replace officials who are indifferent to our humane agenda with candidates committed to common sense animal protection measures, and, in the case of those who stand with animals, to reelect them and make it possible for them continue their good efforts.

It is a priority for the HSLF to work with you to elect leaders committed to our shared values. We need officials ready to move our agenda to defend pets from cruelty and abuse, replace the use of animals in cosmetics and other chemical testing, improve welfare standards for farm animals, expand protections for wildlife, end the slaughter of American horses, and more.

To achieve these goals, we’ve launched our HSLF 2018 election site, featuring our initial endorsements in hundreds of congressional races as well as several at the state level. As a nonpartisan organization, we’ve selected these candidates solely and strictly on the basis of their positions on animal protection.

The election site landing page features candidates in some of this year’s most consequential races for our work. Former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who has supported animal welfare in both the state legislature and Congress, is running in an open seat contest against a former congressman who received a zero on the Humane Scorecard and refused to support tougher penalties for extreme animal abuse. We’re with Horsford.

We’re also supporting Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who is running for reelection in a newly-drawn congressional district in his state.  Rep. Fitzpatrick has led efforts to crack down on puppy mills, and earned a score of 100 on the Humane Scorecard. Not long ago, he said, "A culture that respects the dignity of all living things is one that I want to live in and represent in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Mr. Fitzpatrick, we’re with you on that, sir.

In addition to the candidates we’re highlighting in key races, users of the website can easily view our full endorsement lists by state or office.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that we’re backing two statewide ballot measures: Prop 12 in California, which will upgrade farm animal protections, and Amendment 13 in Florida, which will end cruel greyhound racing in that state. If you live in either state or can support those efforts in other ways, we’d love to see you get involved.

If you have been paying attention to our issues in recent months, you know that this is a particularly critical time to get political for animals. So, please take a look at our site, work out which humane candidates will be on your ballot, and then share the information with your friends and family members. If you haven’t registered to vote, you can easily do so here. We at HSLF are counting on you to get political for animals by voting on November 6th!

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Primary election results for animals, and important fights on the November ballot

A number of states, including Michigan and Missouri, held primary elections yesterday, and there are a number of important outcomes for animal protection.

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Photo by iStock.com

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is pleased that Gretchen Whitmer won the nomination last night in the Democratic primary for Michigan’s gubernatorial race, with just over 50 percent of the vote. HSLF ran an ad campaign against one of her Democratic opponents, Shri Thanedar, highlighting the alleged neglect of animals at a testing facility he once owned. Thanedar reportedly continued this neglect by fighting efforts to place the dogs and monkeys into sanctuaries. HSLF had spread the word about his record on animal cruelty and urged citizens to sign a petition at www.TellShri.com.

Whitmer will now face Republican nominee Bill Schuette in the November general election.

In a matter of great importance to animal advocates, voters in Springfield, Missouri, shot down Question 1, which would have banned the ownership of pit bull-type dogs within city limits, with about 68 percent siding with the “No” vote. Last fall, the city council, in a misguided attempt to improve public safety, passed the measure by a vote of 5 to 4, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. But the dedicated advocates of Springfield refused to give up and collected more than 8,000 signatures to require the ordinance to go to a vote of the people.

Ordinances targeting dogs based on how they look are ineffective, have no basis in science, and are not supported by animal welfare experts or veterinarians. Congratulations to the Citizens Against BSL coalition for soundly defeating this misguided anti-dog measure.

As we get closer to the November general election, there are two important statewide ballot measures to watch. A “Yes” on Prop 12 in California will upgrade the state law to prevent baby veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens from being crammed inside tiny cages for their entire lives on factory farms. The measure is backed by HSLF and a coalition of animal welfare groups, veterinarians, and food safety experts.

A “Yes” on Amendment 13 in Florida will end the cruelty of greyhound racing in Florida, the hub of the industry where 11 of the nation’s 17 remaining dog racing tracks are located. Last week, a circuit court judge ruled that Floridians should not be allowed to vote on the measure. This ruling was immediately appealed by the state of Florida and “stayed,” which means Amendment 13 remains on the ballot while the Florida Supreme Court takes it up for review. We are working with Grey2K, the Doris Day Animal League, and other coalition partners to make sure the voters have an opportunity to have their say on greyhound racing.  

Please support these critical animal welfare ballot measure campaigns, and stay tuned for more updates from HSLF on important candidate races.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

House Ag Committee votes to keep dogs and cats off the menu but obliterates states’ ability to protect animals

Today's blog post is guest written by Humane Society Legislative Fund's new president, Sara Amundson.

Today, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed the 2018 Farm Bill on a straight party-line vote, and now the bill advances for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

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Despite one bright spot, the bill is fraught with peril for animals. The committee adopted a disastrous proposal that is nothing short of an assault on animal welfare and states’ rights. Members approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, based on his H.R. 4879, that could upend countless state and local laws across a wide range of concerns including animal protection, food safety, labor, and environmental protection.

King’s legislation is highly controversial—a diverse array of more than 180 groups opposes it—and it must be kept out of the final Farm Bill. It takes a “race to the bottom” approach by mandating that if any one state tolerates the way a particular agricultural product is manufactured or produced—no matter how hazardous the product or unacceptable the production process involved—every other state could be forced to accept it or to acquiesce. King’s amendment has the potential to wipe out state laws protecting animals used for food from intensive confinement, such as California’s Proposition 2, and could also negate state-level efforts to combat puppy mills and sales of foie gras, shark fins, and even meat from horses, dogs, and cats. It also could negate state laws on everything from pesticide exposure to child labor, fire-safe cigarettes, alcohol, and seed standards.

Representative Jeff Denham, R-Calif., offered a substitute to King’s amendment, co-led by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif, requesting a study of the impacts on interstate commerce of numerous state laws. Denham also spoke eloquently about the broad adverse impacts of King’s legislation. Unfortunately, his substitute amendment failed, despite bipartisan support.

"This proposal goes far beyond attacking California egg production and beyond its guise of protecting interstate commerce. Rather, it indiscriminately targets any and all state laws that can be deemed a burden to out of state entities. Even laws democratically passed by popular vote, which, in California, Prop 2 was passed by a popular vote of the people."  - Rep. Denham

Although we are outraged by the addition of the King amendment to the Farm Bill, and we’re preparing to fight it with all we’ve got, we did score an important victory for dogs and cats in committee, thanks to an amendment offered by Rep. Denham to protect these animals from the inhumane dog and cat meat trade. This provision, if enacted, will prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. It would prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S., serve as a symbol of unity with countries that have already enacted bans, and give us greater standing to encourage other nations to follow suit.

The American public has vocally called for passage of the dog and cat meat ban—originally introduced as H.R. 1406 by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich, and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.—which has bipartisan support of 239 cosponsors. Congress should ensure that this language is included in the final version of the Farm Bill.

We must and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the final Farm Bill includes strong protections for animals. Please call your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators (you can find his or her contact information here) and urge them to reject Rep. Steve King’s egregious Farm Bill amendment and support the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act. Furthermore, although the House Agriculture Committee did not include additional safeguards to prevent horse soring, animal fighting, and domestic violence against pets, please let your legislators know that the final bill should include these vital protections as well.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trump’s holiday bonus for big ag

A number of anti-animal politicians have been under consideration for cabinet posts in the Trump administration, but the president-elect has selected one of the very worst to lead the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. An elected official who abused the power of his office to attack charities on behalf of agribusiness interests will now lead the federal agency responsible for a number of important animal issues, including animal testing for pesticides and chemicals, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution from factory farms.

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Shaun Lowe/iStock

Pruitt has been so aligned with factory farming special interests that last year he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, which celebrated his work to sue the EPA over the Clean Water Act and to attack animal protection groups. Just a few days before the election, he was a keynote speaker at the convention of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which vigorously fought our successful ballot initiative to outlaw cockfighting in the state and unsuccessfully tried to block the use of the ballot initiative process on any animal welfare issues.

In 2016, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and Pruitt led a third unsuccessful fight to push a “right to farm.” State Question 777 would have amended Oklahoma’s constitution to give special rights to corporate and foreign-owned factory farms, and block future restrictions on agriculture. It was so broadly written that it could have prevented restrictions on puppy mills, horse slaughter, and even cockfighting. Pruitt penned an op-ed in the Tulsa World advocating for passage of the ballot measure, and later tried to defend it by saying it wouldn’t have any adverse impact on water quality in the state, after so many local government leaders panned SQ 777 and said how dangerous it was.

Voters saw through this deceptive and overreaching ballot measure, and soundly rejected it with 60.3 percent on the “no” side. Donald Trump won all 77 counties in Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in the country, but 37 of those counties sided with animal advocates and family farmers against Pruitt and Big Ag.

Pruitt also filed a lawsuit with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and other states’ Attorneys General to try to strike down California’s law that sets basic animal welfare and food safety standards for the sale of eggs in the state—requiring that the hens have enough space to turn around and stretch their wings. Pruitt and the other AG’s claimed to sue on behalf of their states and sought to allow egg factory farms to sell eggs in California, no matter how extreme the confinement of the hens or how bad the food safety standards. A federal judge dismissed the case, finding that Pruitt and the other AG’s were suing on behalf of special interests, not the citizens of their states. The federal appeals court upheld that dismissal last month.

Pruitt had previously used his position as Attorney General and used government channels, press releases, and social media to criticize The Humane Society of the United States, mounting a political attack on a charitable organization because of that group’s mission and beliefs. His playbook came straight off the script handed to him by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which has long stitched a phony and false narrative about the diverse work of The HSUS. This was an affront, and an example of the heavy hand of government trying to squelch the speech of an organization that holds views at odds with his political funders. It’s not the role of government to decide whose voice should be heard, and Pruitt’s abuse of power should outrage religious leaders, pro-life groups, and others with a values-based view of the world. Pruitt’s campaign against The HSUS was a sop to the Farm Bureau and his political allies who don’t like organizations working to crack down on cockfighting, puppy mills, and intensive confinement of animals on factory farms.

The Agitator, a blog that covers nonprofit marketing, called it “an ugly, dangerous and utterly frightening campaign of distortion and intimidation,” under the guise of “consumer protection," and warned of “how some politicians and their special interest supporters are attempting to intimidate, discredit and destroy nonprofits that oppose them through the misuse of fundraising regulations.” The HSUS sued Pruitt over this abuse of power and campaign of harassment and public vilification, and then later withdrew the suit after the AG’s office announced it was no longer investigating the organization.

Trump has also appointed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be U.S. ambassador to China. Many family farmers claim that China is buying up American farms and treating our land and animals as China’s new outpost for factory farming, getting all the economic benefits of production and leaving the United States with all of the externalities. The fear is that Branstad, who’s viewed as an architect of this strategy, will now accelerate this move. Branstad was one of the first governors to sign an “ag-gag” measure in recent years, and he, too, has a poor record on a wide range of animal issues. 

With these selections, President-elect Trump has turned to two of the most anti-animal welfare politicians in America. It remains to be seen what’s to come for selections to the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and other key agencies that shape the policies that affect millions of animals.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election 2016 wrap-up: What does this mean for animals?

Upending the predictions of pollsters and pundits and scoring a major upset, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. This news of course dominates the election headlines now, and it’s left his followers euphoric and his critics crestfallen. It was not, however, the only race that will have an impact on animal protection. Many animal protection supporters were elected or reelected to Congress and state legislatures, and animal advocates had big wins with lopsided margins on key ballot measures in red states and blue states. Here’s what we know so far on how the 2016 election results will affect animals.

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Presidential Race

HSLF endorsed Hillary Clinton based on her record of supporting animal protection policies, and expressed concern about Donald Trump’s campaign surrounding itself with supporters of trophy hunting and factory farming who may have significant influence in a Trump administration. The rulemaking and enforcement actions by the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies will have an enormous impact on a wide range of animal issues, and we’ll be watching closely during the transition to see how these issues develop. We’ll also be redoubling our efforts across the board, and asking for your help in protecting existing rules and blocking hostile actions that could adversely affect animals.

We also know that  the nation is deeply divided and very skeptical, perhaps even more so than in previous presidential elections, with the bitterness of the campaign and the candidates evenly splitting the popular vote. What’s clear from recent elections is that the pendulum swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans running for national office. The party that wins today is likely to come out on the losing side in upcoming elections, if past patterns hold. Animal issues have made progress, and have had setbacks, during both Democratic and Republican administrations, and we will look for opportunities to work with the new administration on issues of concern.

Congress

With Republicans maintaining narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, we are fortunate to have many Republican lawmakers championing our cause in Congress, and will continue to maintain our bipartisan approach to animal protection. Overall, HSLF-endorsed candidates won twelve races and lost five in the U.S. Senate, for a 71 percent win rate so far, with two additional races still not determined. In the House, HSLF-backed contenders won 210 races and lost thirteen, for a 94 percent win rate, with a few remaining races still too close to call.

In the more competitive races, HSLF helped to reelect Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act to establish a federal anti-cruelty law, and he won by a 1.7 percent margin in a swing state. We welcome some new animal protection supporters to the U.S. Senate, including Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and look forward to working with them. We are awaiting the outcome of the New Hampshire race, where Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), the lead sponsor of both the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act to protect pets in domestic violence and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to crack down on the abuse of show horses, is currently trailing by 716 votes, or 0.1 percent out of more than 700,000 cast. We are sorry to know that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) will not be in the 115th Congress, and we thank them for their strong support of animal protection over their years of public service.

On the House side, a number of strong animal protection supporters facing competitive races were reelected. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), the lead sponsor of the Humane Cosmetics Act to phase out animal testing for cosmetics, won with 56.7 percent of the vote; Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who helped defeat the overreaching King amendment and pass legislation to allow pets on trains, won with 52.4 percent; Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a strong supporter of animal protection, won with 53.0 percent. We welcome a number of new animal protection supporters to the House, including Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who earned 54.5 percent of the vote and succeeds his brother Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, the outgoing co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus; Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), an opponent of modest animal welfare policies such as cracking down on animal fighting and protecting pets in disasters, by 3.3 percent; and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Cresent Hardy, a near-zero on animal issues, by 4 percent. HSLF was actively involved in all these races, and these are great outcomes for animal protection.

State Races

A number of elections for state houses and legislative seats across the country were important for animal advocates. The one that HSLF was most invested in was Missouri’s gubernatorial race, where we strongly urged voters to oppose Democratic candidate Chris Koster, one of the nation’s most anti-animal politicians. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. HSLF ran radio ads on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag, and Koster lost the race to Republican candidate and ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens who earned 51.3 percent of the vote.

Ballot Measures

The biggest successes for animal advocates last night came in a clean sweep of ballot measure campaigns in which HSLF, The HSUS, and our coalition partners had invested most heavily this election cycle. Massachusetts voters passed Question 3 in a landslide vote of 78 to 22 percent, banning the extreme confinement of farm animals in small cages where the animals are virtually immobilized for their entire lives and banning the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free. This is the fourth consecutive win on farm animal confinement issues since 2002, by larger margins each time, with voters approving anti-confinement measures in Florida (55 percent), Arizona (62 percent), California (63.5 percent), and now Massachusetts (78 percent). This sets the trajectory for more pressure upon the pork and egg industries to continue accelerating the transition to cage-free and crate-free housing systems, and complements the policies adopted by so many major food retailers. Massachusetts voters saw through the false claims and rhetoric of the factory farming industry about food costs, and sided with commonsense standards to protect farm animals and food safety.

In Oklahoma, animal advocates and family farmers are celebrating the defeat of State Question 777, with more than 60 percent of voters opposing the measure. Despite a multi-million dollar campaign by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and other corporate factory farming interests, Oklahoma voters across rural, urban, and suburban areas of the state saw through the measure and rejected this power grab. State Question 777 was referred to the ballot by politicians seeking to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would have protected corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, and prevented local communities from passing laws to protect clean water and public health. The measure was so broadly worded that it could have prevented future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. The crushing defeat sends a strong signal to corporate agriculture that no industry is above the law or should have special rights.

By another overwhelming majority of 70 to 30, Oregon voters issued a powerful statement for the protection of the world’s endangered animals by passing Measure 100, to stop endangered wildlife trafficking in Oregon. The measure shuts down the local market for products like elephant ivory, rhino horn, and sea turtle shells, and follows similar action taken by voters in Washington and California lawmakers to ensure that the states don’t provide safe harbor to traffickers and profiteers. The new law will ban the trafficking of 12 types of animals most targeted by wildlife traffickers: whales, sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, sharks, rays, and pangolins, and impose felony-level fines on anyone caught buying or selling the parts or products from those creatures.

While HSLF and The HSUS were most actively involved in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Oregon, there were other measures we supported or were watching closely. California voters approved Proposition 67, by a vote of 52 to 48 percent, to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds. We supported the measure, as did SeaWorld and others, because sea birds and marine animals often mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastics, and die of starvation. Unfortunately, Coloradans approved Amendment 71, which will make it more difficult to pass future constitutional amendments, including those on animal issues, and Montanans rejected I-177, a grassroots effort to restrict trapping on public lands.

Our strong success on ballot measure campaigns illustrates that no matter what the challenges are with representative government, when we bring animal issues directly to the people, most of the time they side with animal protection and voters strongly support common-sense animal welfare reforms. We must take the long-term view as a movement. Our nation is in the business of democracy, and it's endured for 240 years. Our resiliency is part of what makes our nation great. Thank you for doing your part to contribute to democratic decision-making and getting out the vote for animals. Now it’s time for governing, driving reforms, and working to make our world a truly humane society.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Election Day preview: Get out the vote for animals

It’s been a wild and unprecedented election season, and all votes will be cast by late tomorrow. So much is at stake for the future direction of our country, and that includes the fate of animals.

The nation’s eyes are mostly focused on the presidential race, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund is backing Hillary Clinton as the best candidate for animal protection. She built a strong and consistent record on animal welfare as a U.S. Senator and as Secretary of State, and she has pledged to take on wildlife trafficking, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other animal issues as President. Her positions on animal protection have animal advocates spreading the word that #ImWithPurr.

Donald Trump, in contrast, represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policymaking at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration. The choice is clear, and that’s why HSLF has been running TV ads in swing states informing voters that Donald Trump is a threat to mainstream humane values.

 

In Congress, 34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election, and dozens of those races are competitive. In Wisconsin’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson has opposed animal protection reforms and worked to weaken the Endangered Species Act; he is the sponsor of a bill to delist wolves in the Great Lakes region, seeking to reverse a federal court ruling and to subvert further judicial review of that case. HSLF is supporting Russ Feingold, who has a strong record of advocating for wildlife conservation and the protection of pets, and is airing TV ads to support his candidacy.

 

There are a number of important state races around the country. In Missouri, HSLF is urging voters to oppose Attorney General Chris Koster in his bid for Governor against ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. Listen to HSLF’s radio ad on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag.  We are also working in favor of Russ Carnahan and against Mike Parson in the Lt. Governor’s race. Carnahan is as good on animal issues as Parson is bad; Parson led the effort to repeal Prop B and to pass the “right to farm” measure, and he’s in the pocket of Indiana millionaire Forrest Lucas, who has donated lavishly to keep Parson’s political career afloat.

HSLF is involved in dozens of races at the federal and state level, and we urge you to consult our roster of endorsements and our Humane Scorecard to guide your voting. 

In a number of states, voters will decide not only on candidates to represent them but also on critical animal protection ballot measures:

  • In Massachusetts, a “Yes” vote on Question 3 would phase out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens in small crates and cages where they are virtually immobilized for their entire lives, and will ban the sale of products that come from these confinement systems.
  • In Oregon, a “Yes” on Measure 100 will help save endangered sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, and other wild animals threatened with cruel poaching and extinction, by shutting down the destructive wildlife trade.
  • In Oklahoma, animal advocates are urging a “No” on State Question 777, a measure to protect corporate factory farms and big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, which could prevent future restrictions on extreme factory farming practices, and even puppy mills, horse slaughter, and cockfighting.
  • In California, a “Yes” on Proposition 67 will protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into rivers, lakes, streams, and the Pacific ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds.
  • In Montana, a “Yes” vote on I-177 would restrict the use of cruel traps and snares on public lands.
  • In Colorado, Amendment 71 would make it more difficult for citizens to have a say on future constitutional ballot measures, including those dealing with animal protection. A measure to ban cruel steel-jawed leghold traps passed in Colorado in 1996, but would have failed under the onerous new standards imposed by Amendment 71. We are urging Coloradans to vote “No.”

No matter where you live, please visit our election site to find candidates HSLF has chosen to endorse for federal and state races based on their records or positions on animal welfare issues. Animals only win when humane candidates and issues do. Tomorrow is the day to get out the vote for animals.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Animal welfare on the ballot in November

When voters go to the polls this November, they won’t only be making critical decisions about who represents them in the White House, Congress and state and local offices. In a number of states, the people will vote on the humane treatment of animals—deciding whether to adopt policies on factory farming, wildlife trafficking, and other animal protection issues.

Calf-Greg-Latza-HSUS-240x270
Photo courtesy of Greg Latza/For The HSUS

Since the early 1990s, The Humane Society of the United States and allied organizations have been involved in about 50 statewide ballot contests, and voters have sided with animals about 70 percent of the time. They’ve banned cockfighting in three of the last states where it remained legal (Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma), set humane treatment standards for dogs in the largest puppy mill state (Missouri), stopped extreme confinement of animals on factory farms (Arizona, California, and Florida), and adopted new policies to restrict greyhound racing; horse slaughter; body-gripping traps and poisons; trophy hunting of bears, cougars, and wolves, and more. When politicians in the state legislatures have been held captive by special interests—such as big agribusiness, the trophy hunting lobby, or even organized cockfighting groups—animal advocates have petitioned to put these questions directly to the people.

This year in Massachusetts, voters will decide on Question 3, which would phase out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens in small crates and cages where they are virtually immobilized for their entire lives, and will remove inhumane and unsafe products from the Massachusetts marketplace. Backed by the MSPCA, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Zoo New England, and hundreds of Massachusetts veterinarians and family farmers, more than 170,000 Massachusetts voters signed petitions to place Question 3 on the ballot. Question 3 adds momentum to what’s already occurring in the marketplace, with McDonald’s, Walmart and 200 other major food retail brands pledging to change their procurement practices and source only cage-free eggs and meats.

In Oregon, voters will weigh in on Measure 100, which will help save endangered sea turtles, elephants, rhinos and other wild animals threatened with cruel poaching and extinction. Every day close to 100 elephants are brutally killed in Africa, their tusks hacked off to supply the black market for ivory trinkets. Poachers poison watering holes with cyanide, killing hundreds of elephants at once. Organized criminal gangs and armed rebels use military weapons to kill wildlife for the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. Measure 100 will ensure that Oregon does not provide a market for endangered species products resulting from wildlife poaching and trafficking. If passed, Oregon will join California, Washington, Hawaii, and other states in shutting down local markets for those who seek to profit from this destructive wildlife trade. 

In Oklahoma, family farmers and animal advocates are opposing State Question 777, a measure referred to the ballot by politicians to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would protect corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals. The measure is so broadly worded that it could prevent future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. Even the president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau said the language is flawed, and “I wish that language weren’t in there.”

Those aren’t the only states where voters will see ballot issues related to animals. Californians will vote on Proposition 67, to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds. Some ocean animals mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastics, and die of starvation. Montanans will vote on I-777, which would restrict the use of cruel traps and snares on public lands. In Colorado, Amendment 71 would make it more difficult for citizens to have a say on future constitutional ballot measures, including those dealing with animal protection. The HSUS and HSLF favor the California and Montana measures, but strongly opposes the Colorado measure as an attack on citizen voting.

When you enter the voting booth or send in your mail ballot this November, make sure you don’t stop after the candidate races. Continue down the ballot and review the issues at stake, and you could have a role in promoting the humane treatment of animals and protecting these creatures from cruelty and suffering, and preserving your rights to participate in democratic decision-making in future elections.

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