Commenting Guidelines

    • The HSLF invites comments—pro and con. Keep them clean. Keep them lively. Adhere to our guiding philosophy of non-violence. And please understand, this is not an open post. We publish samplers of comments to keep the conversation going. We correct misspellings and typos when we find them.

Elections

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, November 02, 2018

Stop the King of cruelty

You may have heard U.S. Representative Steve King’s (IA-4) controversial remarks regarding the way he views people. But you may not know he also has a long record of ambivalence and hostility toward animals and their protection. Whether it involves animal fighting, horse slaughter, or the infamous amendment in the House version of the Farm Bill that carries his name, he has consistently fought to prevent any advancement in commonsense animal protections supported by the vast majority of Americans. Today, HSLF launched a digital ad campaign highlighting his longstanding contempt for humane values, and specifically for his obstructionist stand against cracking down on animal fighting and the criminal element that accompanies it.

King’s record on animal fighting puts him right at the bottom of the barrel, as he has repeatedly opposed legislation that would restrict it, making him a part of an infamous minority in the U.S. Congress. Last May, King voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill that would clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply in all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. This measure would protect animals from senseless cruelty, communities from other criminal activity often linked to animal fighting, reduce public health threats from bird flu and other diseases, and enhance enforcement of the federal animal fighting law across the U.S. It passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51.

King’s upside down record on animal fighting goes back a long way. In 2007, he voted against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Prohibition Act, which strengthened penalties for illegal animal fighting and made it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. In 2013, King worked to block legislation that made it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

These measures had bipartisan support and passed by wide margins, but each time, King was at the front of the parade of those staking out the wrong side of the issue.

King is also responsible for one of the worst threats to animal protection at the federal level in recent history. In its various forms over the last few years his bill, also known as the King Amendment is simply fanatical. It’s a radical federal overreach that could undermine thousands of state and local laws, including ones addressing intensive confinement of farm animals, horse slaughter, puppy mills, and shark finning. But the measure doesn’t stop at animal welfare. It could nullify any measure affecting the production of agricultural products, including those regarding alcohol, child labor, fire-safe cigarettes, and dangerous pesticides.

During consideration of the current Farm Bill, King again made plain his willingness to threaten countless state laws that protect animals from abuse and consumers from unsafe foods through his amendment. We’ve been working as hard as we can to stave off his reckless and dangerous attacks.

As if his mischief around the Farm bill weren’t enough, Steve King also has a history of voting against wildlife and equines. He has repeatedly voted to support the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in foreign countries even though the 80% of the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. He voted for a bill that undermines the Endangered Species Act, removing critical protections for some of America’s most iconic and imperiled species, including grizzly bears and wolves. He also voted twice to restore scientifically unjustified methods of trophy hunting on federal land in Alaska.

All of this makes it pretty obvious why HSLF has proudly endorsed J.D. Scholten, a fifth generation Iowan and supporter of commonsense animal protection issues. If we want to end dogfighting and other extreme cruelties that cause animals so much suffering and misery, we must elect humane legislators. And there is no place where this need is more urgent in IA-4.  If you live in IA-4, please cast your ballot to say no to animal fighting, horse slaughter, and harming wildlife and say “YES” to a J.D. Scholten.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pete Sessions—not for animals, not for Texas

Over the years, thanks to our terrific base of supporters, we’ve been able to cultivate a strong bloc of legislators at the federal level who support our vital animal protection mission.  Even so, there are a handful who don’t care much about animals or our policy goals, and within that group there are a few who stand out for their indifference and obstructionism. That’s the case with U.S. Representative Pete Sessions (TX-32), and that’s why the Humane Society Legislative Fund began airing a television ad in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that exposes his abysmal voting record against commonsense animal protection legislation during two decades in Congress. By our count, Pete Sessions has voted against animals and their protection 40 times over that period. He’s in a swing district, and he’s facing a challenger whose commitment to our values and policies is crystal clear. That’s why we think it’s time for a big change of direction there. 

Sessions has a dismal score of 17 out of 100 on the HSLF’s 2017 Humane Scorecard—and his lifetime average score is a bottom of the barrel 11 out of 100. Recently, he voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill designed to end the horrors of animal fighting by applying the same legal prohibitions to the U.S. territories that we apply in the 50 states. Sessions was surely out of touch on this one, as the amendment passed the House floor by a vote of 359-51.

The congressman’s record of supporting the slaughter of horses for human consumption in foreign countries also marks him as an outlier. Some 80% of Americans, including many of his fellow Texans, are opposed to the practice.

Sessions has exhibited a horrible record on wildlife protection, too. He helped to block efforts to protect iconic elephants from the ivory trade and supported efforts to allow a small group of wealthy trophy hunters to import threatened polar bears’ heads and hides for display. He voted to eliminate vital protections on federally owned, taxpayer-supported lands in Alaska, allowing hunters to kill hibernating mother bears and their cubs in their dens.

A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Sessions even voted to continue funding wasteful subsidies for lethal predator control, which relies on some of the most callous and ecologically destructive killing methods known to man.

All of this would be bad enough on its own, but it’s worth noting too that as chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions was a one-man barricade against animal welfare, preventing bills from reaching the floor even when they enjoyed widespread support within the House itself.  No one sent him to Washington to defend and protect horse slaughter, trophy hunting, predator killing, and animal fighting, and to prevent other elected representatives from voting on these practices, but that’s the kind of record he’s amassed.

With our engaged supporters and contributors, we at the HSLF work tirelessly for the passage of laws to stop the inhumane treatment of animals and ensure their greater protection. We cannot afford to overlook the out-of-step philosophy and voting record of lawmakers like Pete Sessions, especially when we know that tens of thousands of voters in districts like his want their representatives to support fundamental animal protection policy. That’s why HSLF has endorsed Colin Allred for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District—he’s a humane champion who has committed to support our work, and we’re confident that he will.

Let’s talk straight. Pete Sessions has wasted 40 opportunities to help end suffering and improve the lives of animals everywhere. That’s the kind of waste we are determined to cut. If you have friends and family in the 32nd Congressional District, please share our TV ad to let them know about the abysmal record that Pete Sessions has racked up, and encourage them to vote for Colin Allred on November 6th. You’ll be glad you did.

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, November 01, 2017

Are your lawmakers making the grade on our interim report card?

Today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund releases its preview version of the 2017 Humane Scorecard for the first session of the 115th Congress. The Humane Scorecard is a snapshot of each federal legislator’s votes on key matters that affect the lives and well-being of animals, along with their efforts to help animals through cosponsorship of priority bills and support for adequate funding of animal welfare enforcement, as well as extra credit for pro-animal leadership. While the scorecard does not include every measure that relates to animals, it scores a cross section of key bills and votes on which HSLF has advocated and that significantly impact the state of animal welfare in America.

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This year has seen redoubled attacks on animals, as reflected in votes to gut animal protection regulations and revoke rules that protect wildlife on federal lands from inhumane killing methods. The Humane Society Legislative Fund has been fighting hard to preserve existing animal welfare policies. At the same time, we have been working with members of Congress from both political parties to push new legislation.

For animal protection measures to advance, robust cosponsorship is vital. The more members of Congress publicly supporting a bill through cosponsorship—particularly when it’s solidly bipartisan —the more apparent it is to congressional leaders in both parties that the bill warrants consideration. Animal protection issues have long been bipartisan and that trend continues in 2017, with every bill scored having strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

Already, for example the PAWS domestic violence bill has 241 House and 30 Senate cosponsors, the animal cruelty bill has 251 House and 28 Senate cosponsors, the horse slaughter bill has 192 House and 28 Senate cosponsors, the shark fin trade bill has 198 House and 20 Senate cosponsors, the horse soring bill has 268 House cosponsors, the dog and cat meat bill has 195 House cosponsors, and the cosmetics testing bill has 141 House cosponsors.

But this is only the first year of a two-year Congress. That means there’s still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills if they are not already on board, and to press them to do all they can to help get these reforms over the finish line in the coming months. Please contact your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators to thank them for supporting any of the bills listed below that they have already cosponsored and urge them to join on any that remain. You can use our Find Your Federal Legislators tool, or call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask your friends and family to do the same; the more constituents your legislators hear from, the more likely they are to take action in support of animal protection.

The following section summarizes the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2017 Humane Scorecard. Some bills may have counterparts in both the House and the Senate, while others may only be introduced in one chamber.

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The HSUS

Pets and Domestic Violence—S. 322 and H.R. 909, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Mimi Walters, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. This bill will help protect battered partners and their pets by extending current federal domestic violence protections to include pets, and authorizing grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. Many victims delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, a legitimate fear considering that up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. While 32 states have adopted similar legislation, PAWS would ensure such protections under federal law for all victims of domestic violence.

Animal Cruelty—S. 654 and H.R. 1494, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. This bill will strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 (which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse) by prohibiting those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether or not a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, and this legislation would complement these laws, providing an additional tool to be employed when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce.

Horse Slaughter—S. 1706 and H.R. 113, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. This bill will protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs over the course of their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Horse slaughter is particularly cruel, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for long distances and are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At the slaughter plant, the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horses. Young and healthy horses are purchased, often by buyers misrepresenting their intentions, and killed to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. 

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Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Shark Fin Trade—S. 793 and H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Trade/Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif. and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands. This bill will help fight the precipitous decline in shark populations, better protect sharks from cruelty, and preserve fragile ocean ecosystems by prohibiting our nation’s trade, both domestic and international, in shark fins. The bill will strengthen existing U.S. bans on the practice of shark finning—cutting the fins off a live shark, then discarding the mutilated animal to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other fish—just for a bowl of soup. It will complement state bans on the shark fin trade and reinforce U.S. leadership in global shark conservation.

Horse Soring—H.R. 1847, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by  Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. This bill will crack down  on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait in order to gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. Congress tried to rein in this abuse by enacting the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago, but rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA inspector general and HSUS undercover investigations of top trainers and owners in 2012 and 2015. H.R. 1847 will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring (including large stacked shoes and ankle chains), strengthen penalties and make illegal the actual soring of a horse—all without any additional taxpayer burden.

Dog and Cat Meat—H.R. 1406, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa. This bill will amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption, and provide penalties for individuals involved in the dog or cat meat trade. H.R. 1406 would prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S., serve as an important expression of unity with countries and regions such as Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Taiwan, all of which have enacted dog and cat meat bans, and give the U.S. greater standing to press other nations to follow suit.

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Alamy

Animal Testing for Cosmetics—H.R. 2790, the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Ed Royce, R-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. This bill will phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. Companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. If companies choose to use new ingredients, animal tests are not predictive of the human experience so their results are unreliable for consumer safety. These tests on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are cruel, and simply unnecessary since many alternative methods—which are more humane, faster to perform, and less costly to industry—are available to ensure that such products are safe for human use. More than 1.8 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and more than 230 personal care product companies support this legislation.

Please take a few minutes today to help us save animals by voicing your support for these critical bills. Whether your legislators have scores of zero, 100+, or somewhere in between, they need to know that you care about their positions on animal protection policy and are paying attention to their performance on animal issues. Your efforts to engage them meaningfully on these subjects will produce ever greater returns for animal protection in the future.

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.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The looming fight on states’ rights and animal welfare

We knew before the election that Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee included a long list of extraordinarily strident voices against animal welfare. Now, according to a leaked memo of talking points prepared for that group, we have a window into the possible agriculture policies of the incoming Trump administration. And we know that our movement must rally once again to defeat one of the most sweeping attacks on animal protection and food safety laws we’ve ever faced.

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Photo courtesy of Greg Latza/For The HSUS

As the memo indicates, “The Trump administration will work with Congress to ensure that the Interstate Commerce Clause is enforced to keep individual states from dictating policy for food growers in the United States.”

That’s a thinly veiled reference to a discredited proposal from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that seeks to negate most state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It’s a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional rights of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses.

The King amendment takes aim at state laws such as California’s Proposition 2—approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008—to ban extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in small crates and cages, as well as a law passed subsequently by a landslide margin in the state legislature, with the support of the egg industry, to require any shell eggs sold in California to comply with the requirements of Prop 2. Its effect would extend to the recently approved Question 3 in Massachusetts, banning the confinement of farm animals and the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from crates and cages, which passed two weeks ago with an astonishing 78 percent of the vote.

In short, the King amendment could nullify dozens of state laws dealing with intensive confinement of farm animals, bans on horse slaughter and the sale of horsemeat, bans on the sale of foie gras produced by force-feeding ducks and geese, bans on tail docking of dairy cows and processing downer livestock, bans on possession and commerce of shark fins and rhino horn, and potentially even bans on the sale of dog and cat meat. It could also preempt a wide range of state laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish.

Since then, the world has changed, and the idea of extreme confinement is on its way out, with more than 200 food retail companies pledging to cleanse their supply chains of products that come from these sorts of inhumane confinement systems. On the same day that Donald Trump was elected president, the landslide vote on Question 3—which passed in 362 of 365 cities and towns in the Commonwealth—put a closing argument and exclamation point on the changes we’ve seen in society.

But opposition to the King amendment is nothing new. As a Washington Post editorial noted when it slammed King’s loser of a proposal, “Mr. King’s reactionary amendment would precipitate a disaster. Not only would laws regarding animal cruelty be upended, but so would laws protecting the environment, workers’ rights and public health.” Newspapers ranging from the Des Moines Register to USA Today also criticized the effort.

During consideration of the Farm Bill in 2013, the King amendment was added by voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee and passed the full House. When the House and Senate negotiated the final package, we succeeded in nixing the language from the Farm Bill. A broad and diverse coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, public officials, law professors, and organizations—such as the County Executives of America, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Fraternal Order of Police, and National Sheriffs’ Association—weighed in and helped to stave off this destructive provision.

It’s ironic that politicians like King often say they are for states’ rights when they agree with what the states are doing, but when they don’t like the result, they are perfectly fine with federal mandates telling states what they can and cannot do.

We heard so much talk during this recent election season about reducing the role of big government and keeping Washington off the backs of local communities—yet the King amendment would impose the will of Washington on our states as a legislative fiat and eviscerate local decision making on animal issues and other issues as well.

It’s unclear, of course, whether the King-type proposal that’s referenced in the campaign memo would get a real push from the Trump administration, or whether it’s just a fringe suggestion by some radical element of the transition team that will be rejected by the president-elect and his advisors. But if this threat does emerge when the new Congress convenes in January, or in the run-up to the consideration of next Farm Bill in 2018, it’ll be necessary for our movement to again marshal our forces and fight such a devastatingly harmful policy. We did it before, and we must gear up to defeat a similar measure again.

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