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Farm Animals

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Update: Trump signs omnibus funding package with wins for horses and burros, companion animals, animals in research and more

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

President Trump has signed into law the omnibus appropriations package with major victories for animals, including horses and burros, companion animals, marine mammals and animals in zoos and research facilities.

Elephant-270x240-michelle-riley
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

The package, comprised of two bills (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158) funding all federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2020, was passed by the House on Tuesday with bipartisan votes of 297-120 and 280-138, respectively, followed by Senate votes of 71-23 and 81-11 yesterday.

The wins for animals in the package include:

  • Wild horses and burros: The funding package provides an additional $21 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program—funds that can only be accessed after the agency submits a comprehensive plan on how it will implement an aggressive, non-lethal program. The program must be based on scientifically sound, safe and humane fertility control tools that exclude surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation of wild horses and burros to larger, more humane pastures instead of perpetually warehousing these animals in holding pens. Additionally, the bill prohibits the BLM and, for the first time ever, also the U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending healthy horses or burros to slaughter.
  • Wildlife trafficking whistleblowers: The package includes the Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act, which authorizes the State Department to award monetary incentives to persons who disclose original information concerning transnational wildlife crimes that result in a successful enforcement action.
  • USDA inspection and enforcement records: Language in the omnibus directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos and other businesses cited for violations. This is the first time Congress has included bill language (rather than report language) to fix this problem, and the USDA will have no choice but to follow this directive.
  • Companion animals in domestic violence situations: The package provides $2 million for a new grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. The grant program will help provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. House committee report language directs the USDA, and the Departments of Health and Human Services as well as Housing and Urban Development to coordinate implementation during FY20 (House and Senate committee report language not explicitly reversed is deemed agreed to by both chambers in the omnibus).
  • Horse slaughter: Prohibits USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • Animal Welfare Act enforcement: The House committee report calls on the USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices that the agency has promoted during the past few years. The omnibus includes $31,310,000 for Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement.
  • Horse soring: Provides $1 million (a $295,000 increase) for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.
  • Alternatives to animal research/testing: Provides a $40 million increase to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is charged with making direct applications of non-animal alternatives for research and regulatory needs by federal agencies. The additional funds will help speed the transition to non-animal methods.
  • Trafficking of companion animals for research and testing: Renews the prohibition against USDA using funds to license Class B random source dealers who are notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats obtained through theft for research and testing.
  • Use of primates in research: Omnibus report language directs the National Institutes of Health to report to Congress on alternatives to reduce and replace primates in biomedical research.
  • USDA enforcement: House committee report presses the USDA Inspector General to strengthen its animal fighting enforcement and to audit USDA’s enforcement of the AWA, HPA, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter of farm animals: Renews bill and report language directing USDA to ensure that inspectors focus attention on compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive at slaughter plants and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust training.
  • Pet food safety: Provides $500,000 for the Food and Drug Administration to address pentobarbital contamination in pet food, which has caused illness and death in pets.
  • Disaster planning: Continues funding for the USDA to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to support state and local governments’ efforts to plan for protection of people with animals and incorporate lessons learned from previous disasters. Directs the USDA to work with producers that want to voluntarily develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • Vet care: Provides $8,000,000 for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment program that encourages veterinarians to locate in underserved rural or urban areas.
  • Wildlife protection funding: Maintains level funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Provides an increase of almost 30% from FY19 for the internationally focused Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The omnibus also rejects a proposed cut to the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Program, maintaining funding for its grants supporting proactive, non-lethal measures by livestock producers to reduce the risk of livestock loss by wolves, and to compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves.
  • Marine mammals: Provides $3 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for North Atlantic right whale conservation, with $1 million specifically reserved for a pilot project for research and development of safer fishing gear to lessen entanglements with these critically endangered whales. Also maintains funding of the Marine Mammal Commission—a key independent federal agency tasked with addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems—overcoming its proposed elimination in the President’s budget.
  • Trophy imports: Directs the USFWS to reevaluate its current policy allowing imports of hunting trophies on a case-by-case basis and analyze how targeted investments and technical assistance to the exporting countries' conservation programs would impact the survival of elephants and lions, improve local communities, and sustain species’ populations. The omnibus expresses concern that the current trophy import policy is detrimental and may not adequately determine whether a country has proper safeguards in place to protect species vulnerable to poaching.
  • Wildlife trafficking: Dedicates funds under the State Department and the Department of the Interior to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. Prohibits use of State Department funds by any military units or personnel credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.

We are grateful to the many congressional champions of these provisions with whom we worked over the past year, to House and Senate leadership for keeping the process on track, and to all the legislators who voted for these measures. We also thank President Trump for signing both appropriations bills, helping us create a brighter future for animals in 2020 and beyond.

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

Cockfighting ban in U.S. territories takes effect tomorrow, despite resistance in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Tomorrow, a hard-won federal law goes into effect to close a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We’ve strongly supported this law because it seeks to end a cruel practice that results in severe suffering and death for countless birds each year.

Hslf-cockfighting-300x200
Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Regrettably, however, cockfighters and their associated lobbies in the territories have been putting up resistance and seeking to undermine it. Puerto Rico, for instance, has passed a law that aims to keep cockfighting alive there. But the federal law has already been challenged by cockfighters, and they have lost. In late October a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico found that Congress was well within its power to clarify that the existing federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S. states applies equally to the U.S. territories.

Our hope is that lawmakers in the affected territories will respond in the way that governors of U.S. states and other jurisdictions have done in the past when such cruelties have come within the scope of law enforcement in an increasingly humane society. They ought to be thinking ahead to ways to lay the groundwork for the implementation and respect of such statutes.

All too often, those who are involved in this blood sport, anywhere in the world, claim cockfighting as a tradition and a culture. But tradition and culture are not a defense for animal cruelty. Cockfighting pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment. The birds suffer terribly: they are often drugged to heighten their aggression and razor-sharp weapons are attached to their legs for the fight. Common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes. Dead and dying birds are thrown away like trash. And that’s simply not right.

That’s why the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act was introduced in Congress in 2017—and that’s why we’ve supported it in every way.

Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States fought hard for this legislation because there shouldn’t be one set of rules against animal fighting in 50 states and another set for the U.S. territories. We worked with the bill’s many champions in Congress to get it enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support.

What makes such a law even more necessary is the fact that animal fighting is often associated with other criminal activity, including gangs, gambling, drug trafficking, illegal weapons dealing, public corruption, and violent crimes against people. It also endangers public health; cockfighting has been directly implicated in the spread of bird flu and other diseases that have caused human deaths and cost taxpayers and the poultry industry millions of dollars.

We look forward to PACE taking effect tomorrow. The HSUS, with other animal organizations, is active in the U.S. territories and elsewhere in the world, helping to strengthen the human-animal bond and to build out a culture of petkeeping and kindness to animals. We are very committed to the spread of humane values throughout the United States and its territories, and, indeed, throughout the world. That’s our mission and that’s our standard that we’ll assert and defend in the years to come.

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: Congress has reached a deal to fund the government and it’s good news for animals!

There are various approaches the HSLF team uses to bring about changes for animals, and one of our best tools is to pursue bill and report language in the annual appropriations bills that Congress must enact each year to fund the federal government and its agencies. We’ve been hard at work on this all year long—and it paid off in significant wins. We are thrilled to report that the U.S. House and Senate have struck a deal on a Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package (known as an “omnibus”), which impacts our companion animals, wildlife, wild horses and burros, marine mammals, and animals in zoos and research facilities. Here are some highlights in the package:

Capitol
iStock Photo

  • Wild horses and burros—Provides an additional $21 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, funds that can only be accessed after the agency submits a comprehensive plan on how it will implement an aggressive, non-lethal program. The program must be based on scientifically-sound, safe and humane fertility control tools excluding surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation of wild horses and burros to larger, more humane pastures instead of perpetually warehousing these animals in holding pens. Additionally, the bill prohibits the BLM and, for the first time ever, also the U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending to slaughter healthy horses or burros.
  • Wildlife trafficking whistleblowers—Includes the Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act, which authorizes the State Department to award monetary incentives to persons who disclose original information concerning transnational wildlife crimes that result in a successful enforcement action.
  • USDA data purge—Directs USDA to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA), in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other businesses cited for violations. This is the first time Congress has included bill language (rather than report language) to fix this problem, and USDA will have no choice but to follow this directive.
  • PAWS—Provides $2 million for a new grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to help provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. House committee report language directs the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development to coordinate implementation during FY20 (House and Senate committee report language not explicitly reversed is deemed agreed to by both chambers in the omnibus).
  • Horse slaughter—Prohibits USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • AWA enforcement—House committee report calls on USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices that the agency has promoted during the past few years. The omnibus includes $31,310,000 for Animal Welfare Act enforcement.
  • Horse soring—Provides $1 million (a $295,000 increase) for USDA enforcement of the HPA, to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.
  • Class B random source dealers—Renews the prohibition against USDA using funds to license these dealers who are notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats obtained through theft for research and testing.
  • Use of primates in research—Omnibus report language directs the National Institutes of Health to report to Congress on alternatives to reduce and replace primates in biomedical research.
  • USDA Inspector General—House committee report presses this office to strengthen its animal fighting enforcement and to audit USDA’s enforcement of the AWA, HPA, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter—Renews bill and report language directing USDA to ensure that inspectors focus attention on compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive at slaughter plants and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust training.
  • Pet food safety—Provides $500,000 for the Food and Drug Administration to address pentobarbital contamination in pet food, which has caused illness and death in pets.
  • Disaster planning—Continues funding for USDA to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to support state and local governments’ efforts to plan for protection of people with animals and incorporate lessons learned from previous disasters. Directs USDA to work with producers that want to voluntarily develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • Vet care—Provides $8,000,000 for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment program that encourages veterinarians to locate in underserved rural or urban areas.
  • Wildlife protection funding—Maintains level funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Provides an increase of almost 30% from FY19 for the internationally focused Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The omnibus also rejects a proposed cut to the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Program, maintaining funding for its grants supporting proactive, non-lethal measures by livestock producers to reduce the risk of livestock loss by wolves, and to compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves.
  • Marine mammals—Provides $3 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for North Atlantic right whale conservation, with $1 million specifically reserved for a pilot project for research and development of safer fishing gear to lessen entanglements with these critically endangered whales. Also maintains funding of the Marine Mammal Commission—a key independent federal agency tasked with addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems—overcoming its proposed elimination in the President’s budget.
  • Trophy imports—Directs the USFWS to reevaluate its current policy allowing imports of hunting trophies on a case-by-case basis and analyze how targeted investments and technical assistance to the exporting countries' conservation programs would impact the survival of elephants and lions, improve local communities, and sustain species’ populations. The omnibus expresses concern that the current trophy import policy is detrimental and may not adequately determine whether a country has proper safeguards in place to protect species vulnerable to poaching.
  • Wildlife trafficking—Dedicates funds under the State Department and the Department of the Interior to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. Prohibits use of State Department funds by any military units or personnel credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking. 

These victories are the product of months of effort, as we worked with Appropriations Committee leaders in the House and Senate and mobilized constituent support and strong bipartisan engagement for them. The package demonstrates again how animal protection transcends party lines and reflects core American values. We are hopeful that the House and Senate will swiftly approve this package and President Trump will sign it into law before Friday’s deadline, to bring all these accomplishments over the finish line.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

VICTORY: Court rejects challenge to federal cockfighting ban in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

A federal court has rejected an attempt to stop Congress from closing a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam, despite the fact that cockfighting is a felony in all U.S. states.

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Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Cockfighting organizations had challenged the ban, but a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico ruled this week that Congress was well within its power to make amendments earlier this year to the Animal Welfare Act in order to clarify that an existing ban on cockfighting in all U.S. states applies equally to U.S. territories.

The court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims, including an argument that the law violates principles and rights protected under the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to free speech and association. "A live-bird fighting venture does not fall within any expressive or non-expressive protected conduct," the court said.

The court also declined to stay implementation of the law while the plaintiffs seek an appeal of this ruling, meaning the law will take effect as planned on December 20 this year.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice had filed a brief strongly defending the expansion of the law.

Cockfighting is a despicable business that pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment, and it is a felony in all U.S. states. But unless U.S. territories are included in the ban, we cannot truly wipe out these bloody spectacles entirely. Puerto Rico and Guam are a hub for American cockfighting, with enthusiasts openly raising birds and participating in fights. Cockfighting arenas are even located near airports to attract tourist dollars.

A ban on cockfighting can also protect communities from crimes associated with animal fighting, like illegal drug dealing and human violence, and from disease transmission risks, including bird flu and diseases that can decimate poultry flocks. Moreover, it’s also what a majority of Puerto Ricans want—a 2017 poll of 1,000 registered voters found that two out of three Puerto Ricans favor a ban on cockfighting.

For all of these reasons, and for the sake of the millions of birds who are now trapped in a gruesome industry that profits off their injury and death, we applaud the court’s ruling. These protections for roosters are long-overdue and well-deserved, and we are excited that very soon, they will be in effect in every U.S. jurisdiction, with no exceptions.

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

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Breaking news: Department of Justice defends federal cockfighting ban for Puerto Rico, Guam

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The federal government has filed a brief strongly defending a law that would expand the ban on cockfighting in the United States to Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories.

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Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Cockfighters seeking to overturn the ban have challenged it in federal court, claiming it would cause them to lose “lawful business opportunities, loss of income and profits.” But the U.S. Department of Justice said in its brief this week that federal precedent is clear: Congress not only has the authority to ban animal fighting across all 50 states, but it can also apply it to U.S. territories.

The Farm Bill that passed Congress last year clarified a U.S. ban on animal fighting to include U.S. territories—a ban the Humane Society Legislative Fund fought hard to get into the bill.

Cockfighting is a despicable business that pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment, and we are pleased to see the DOJ standing firm and defending the language that was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Farm Bill. The law goes into effect later this year, on December 20, and it couldn’t come sooner for the millions of birds trapped in this gruesome industry that profits off their injury and death.

Puerto Rico has been a refuge and a hub for American cockfighting, with enthusiasts raising birds and participating in these bloody spectacles, often quite openly, including at a major cockfighting arena located near the airport, with the aim of attracting tourists and the interstate flow of money connected with the fights. But support for cockfighting is almost non-existent within Puerto Rico, with the exception of a few outliers. Most of Puerto Rico’s citizens agree it’s time to end this animal cruelty. A 2017 poll of 1,000 registered voters in Puerto Rico, conducted by Remington Research on behalf of the HSUS, revealed that among residents with a definite view of cockfighting, there was a two-to-one majority favoring a ban on the practice.

Guam also has openly allowed horrific cockfighting to persist for many years. So, this new animal fighting ban will save thousands of animals across all the U.S. territories.

Putting an end to this bloodsport has been a big priority for us and the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS has made massive investments to turn around the fortunes of animals in Puerto Rico, including Spayathon™ for Puerto Rico, equine wellness, and a shelter medicine program, and through their rescue and relief work there following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Cockfighting undermines the very culture of kindness to animals we and others are helping to create there.

Roosters caught up in cockfighting enterprises suffer immense cruelty: they spend their lives tethered outside to small A-frame huts or barrels, vulnerable to harsh weather. The animals are often drugged to heighten their aggression and forced to keep fighting even after they’ve suffered grievous injuries such as broken bones, deep gashes, punctured lungs and pierced eyes. Birds often have metal weapons attached to their legs and typically suffer slow painful deaths. We cannot have such cruelty against some animals continue even as we work to protect others.

Animal fighting is often associated with other crimes such as illegal drug dealing and human violence and with disease transmission risks including bird flu and diseases that can decimate poultry flocks. Residents of the U.S. territories are well aware of the dangers this enterprise poses to their own safety.

Cockfighting and dogfighting have been felonies in all 50 U.S. states and federal law for many years now—laws HSLF and the HSUS were instrumental in bringing about. The protections for roosters and dogs in Puerto Rico, Guam and the other U.S. territories are well-deserved, and we stand ready to defend them with all of our might, even as we look forward to that day in December when cockfighting and dogfighting will no longer be allowed in any U.S. jurisdiction.

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Breaking news: USDA eliminates speed limits for killing pigs at slaughterhouses

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Slaughterhouses in the United States are already allowed to kill pigs at a lightning speed of up to 1,106 animals per hour. Under a new federal rule announced today, some of these facilities can dial up those speeds even further, with no limit whatsoever, creating an animal welfare and worker safety nightmare as never before.

Pigs-hslf-istock-shaun-lowe-blog
Shaun Lowe/iStock

The new inspection system created by the rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is also likely to reduce the number of federal inspectors at slaughterhouses and it requires slaughterhouse employees, instead of federal inspectors, to conduct initial sorting of live pigs. Requiring slaughterhouse employees to conduct initial sorting of live pigs will increase the risk of animal abuse and improper treatment of pigs, especially of animals who are so sick or exhausted that they can’t stand or walk.

Even under existing line speed regulations, slaughter facilities are among the most dangerous and difficult places to work in America. Employees handling animals work under immense stress at breakneck speeds, performing repetitive motions in cold, slippery conditions, using dangerous equipment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking workers experience injury rates nearly 2.5 times higher and illness rates almost 17 times higher than the average for all industries. Forcing workers to process the animals faster will only exacerbate these problems, while increasing the risk of contaminated pork being introduced into the U.S. food supply.

Faster line speeds also heighten the risk of inhumane incidents, such as pigs being inadequately stunned and therefore remaining conscious during slaughter—a violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

These are not changes the American public wants or supports. Consumers today increasingly want animals used for food to be treated more humanely, and when the USDA first proposed this plan, tens of thousands of you spoke out overwhelmingly against it. According to one analysis, of “84,000 public remarks made on the rule, 87 percent were either opposed or expressed negative opinions about the proposal.” Another recent poll found that 64% of the public opposes elimination of speed limits on pig slaughter lines.

Even members of Congress have pushed back against this rule, with 16 of them sending a letter to the USDA’s Office of Inspector General raising concerns about the worker safety data USDA used in developing its rule, leading to the Inspector General launching a probe. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., sent a letter requesting that the Inspector General expand the investigation’s scope to include animal welfare violations and food safety concerns.

But the reason the USDA rushed to finalize the rule despite the overwhelming opposition and the ongoing Inspector General investigation is because it is kowtowing to industry interests. These are changes the meatpacking industry has sought for years so they can increase their profits, and in the current administration they have a willing ally. In a similar show of support for the meat industry, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service last year created a waiver system that allows chicken slaughterhouses to kill birds at reckless speeds of nearly three birds per second.

The USDA has a professed duty under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act to ensure that animals are treated humanely and that the food people eat is safe; and the American public has a right to know the risks that animals and people will face under this rule. By finalizing it, the USDA has failed to do its job and it has failed the American people, and we will not back down. Key members of Congress are already fighting this rule, Rep. DeLauro, along with Rep David Price, D-N.C., led an amendment to the annual Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020 to delay the implementation of the rule, and it was retained in the final bill because of the strong fight put up by groups like HSLF and the HSUS, food safety watchdogs, and labor organizations. We now need your help to encourage the Senate to adopt a similar measure, which could block the implementation of this rule.

Please urge your Senators to support all efforts to stop the USDA from implementing the rule at least until the agency addresses the recommendations in the Inspector General's report. Ask them to include language in the final FY20 appropriations bill to block the rule until the Office of the Inspector General issues its report, and to encourage the Inspector General to assess all impacts on animal welfare in addition to its review of the effects on worker safety. This rule has nothing to offer except fatter bottom lines for an industry that puts profits above people and animals, and our nation will be better off without it.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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

By Brad Pyle

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

ISTOCK-479747398_476683Bernie Sanders

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Warren

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

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

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

Pete Buttigieg

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

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

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

Beto O’Rourke

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

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

Amy Klobuchar

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

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

Tim Ryan

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

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

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

John Delaney

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

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

Delaney was a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

Marianne Williamson

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

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

Steve Bullock

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

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

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

Closing Remarks

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

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

EPA gives factory farms a free pass on toxic air emissions

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

In an unlawful move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to exempt massive factory farms from reporting their toxic air emissions—released from animal waste created by these facilities—to state and local authorities. The rule, finalized last week, will leave American residents who live in rural areas surrounding factory farms in the dark about potentially dangerous air pollutants that these facilities could be discharging into their environment, posing a serious health hazard to them and their families.

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Photo by iStock.com

Factory farms—also called CAFOs, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations—confine many hundreds or thousands of animals such as dairy cows or pigs, or millions of smaller animals such as chickens, on each of their properties, causing not only an incredible amount of suffering, but also a staggering amount of urine and feces. This waste emits a number of dangerous air pollutants, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, both toxic gases that can cause serious health problems like headaches, eye and nose irritation, and severe respiratory problems. People living near factory farms have been documented as experiencing increased rates of these types of ailments and can even suffer premature death.

Federal law requires industrial polluters, including factory farms, to notify local communities and first responders when they threaten air and water quality. The EPA says that exempting massive factory farms from reporting toxic air emissions from animal waste will eliminate reporting requirements for industry, but it is clear that the agency is doing this mainly to pander to powerful lobbies (in this case meat, egg, and milk corporations) with deep pockets—a pattern we have noted across other federal agencies in recent years, including the Department of the Interior and the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Factory farms already treat the animals in their care as mere commodities and they now have our government’s sanction to disregard human health as well.

The EPA’s action is also a disservice to small, independent farmers who work hard to raise their animals in ways that minimize environmental impact and animal suffering. Smaller operations like these are unlikely to emit hazardous substances at levels that trigger reporting requirements. On the other hand, these farmers, their families, and the animals they tend to, can also be among the victims of factory farming pollution, because they live in the same rural communities that will now be negatively affected by the changed reporting requirements.

This is not the first time the EPA has made such an overt move pandering to factory farms. In 2017, the HSUS, in coalition with numerous public interest groups, successfully defeated a Bush-era rule that created similar reporting exemptions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit determined that rule was illegal, but shortly after the EPA sought to flout the court’s decision, issuing so-called “guidance” on its website that created a new exemption for factory farms from reporting emissions. The HSUS, along with other organizations represented by Earthjustice, are currently challenging this “guidance” in federal court.

More akin to big industrial operations than actual farms, CAFOs are responsible for a tremendous amount of animal suffering. It is estimated that each year more than nine billion animals are raised and killed at these facilities in the United States alone for meat, milk, and eggs. The animals are often confined their whole lives to cages so small they can barely move. These massive facilities have also been responsible for disease outbreaks, like the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in commercial poultry in 2014-15, which led to the killing of more than 48 million birds across 15 states in 223 facilities.

The last thing these enterprises, which operate with little regard for humans, animals, and the environment, need is another free pass to continue polluting our air with no consequences. You can rest assured we will battle the new “guidance” and this rule in court. Our government should know better than to shield factory farms and the havoc they wreak.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and President of Humane Society International, the international affiliate of the HSUS.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Agriculture spending bill directs USDA to resume posting inspection reports; prevents horse slaughter; funds domestic violence/pet shelter program

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has just voted to approve its Fiscal Year 2020 bill, and there’s great news for animals, including wildlife, companion animals, and horses.

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Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS

The bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in no uncertain terms, to resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act, without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other businesses cited for abusing animals in their care. It requires the agency to restore these records on its website, in a searchable format and in their entirety, within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.

We have been fighting for this outcome since the agency abruptly purged this information from its website in February 2017, leaving Americans in the dark. Renewed access to these taxpayer-financed records is crucial for deterring violations, guiding consumer decision-making, and holding the USDA accountable for its enforcement efforts.

Among other key provisions, the bill would:

  • Prohibit government spending on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter in the United States for human consumption. This “defund” language has been enacted nearly every year since 2005, but it wasn’t included in last year’s House bill (the Senate had to insist on its inclusion in the final package). This is the first time it’s been part of the House chairman’s base bill. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., led a letter signed by 111 Representatives seeking this provision.
  • Provide shelter options for people with pets who are fleeing domestic violence: The bill includes $2 million to fund a new grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which will provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. Abusers often threaten or inflict harm on pets to exert control over their partners and prevent them from leaving. Only 3% of domestic violence shelters currently allow pets, so these funds will help ensure that more facilities are able to accommodate them or arrange for pet shelter. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., introduced the PAWS Act and led efforts to secure this funding.
  • Crack down on horse soring: The bill provides a $294,000 increase (raising the program’s funding to $1 million) for stronger USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. Weak oversight of this law has allowed the cruel practice of “soring” to persist—with unscrupulous trainers continuing to deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds using caustic chemicals, chains, weighted shoes, hard objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait known as the "Big Lick" and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. 
  • Enforce humane slaughter requirements: The bill maintains staffing for inspections and enforcement related to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Oversight of humane handling rules at slaughter facilities is vital not only to protect animals from abuses like those documented in HSUS undercover investigations, but also to reduce the chance of associated food safety risks and costly product recalls.
  • Renew the prohibition on licensing Class B dealers: The bill prevents USDA from using funds to license “Class B random source” dealers, who are notorious for obtaining cats and dogs through fraudulent means, including pet theft, holding them in awful conditions and then selling them into research. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., championed this language.

Our biggest thanks go to subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., for his extraordinary leadership in including these items in the chairman’s bill that he put forward. Thanks also to subcommittee Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., for his support of the bill, to all the legislators who championed these pro-animal measures, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Christopher Smith, R-N.J., for their outstanding bipartisan mobilization of 188 Representatives who requested many of these provisions.

This bill demonstrates, once again, that legislators across the political spectrum agree on the need for stronger animal protections. We are still a long way from final enactment of this legislation, but it’s off to a very strong start and we are determined to see these important provisions over the finish line.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A budget deal has been reached, and it's good news for animals

After months of negotiations, and the longest shutdown in United States history, a deal has emerged for funding to cover all the remaining federal agencies whose Fiscal Year 2019 budgets have been in limbo. While the package has been agreed to by key House and Senate negotiators, it still has to clear some hurdles. We are hopeful that this turning point shows that Congress stands united, and that President Trump will sign the bill into law. Although earlier appropriations bills in the House and Senate contained worrisome provisions and excluded important protections for animals, we are happy to report that the final version has resolved many of those problems.

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Jennifer Kunz/Duchess Sanctuary

The Humane Society Legislative Fund worked with animal protection champions in both chambers and with other stakeholders to secure these key outcomes:

Maintaining the ban on horse slaughter: The bill prohibits government spending on horse slaughter inspections, which effectively bans horse slaughter in the United States for human consumption. This language has been in place in almost every year’s budget since 2005, and was initially secured in the FY19 Senate version of the bill.

Protecting wild horses and burros: The bill prevents the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors from sending wild horses and burros to slaughter, and from killing excess healthy horses and burros. In addition, the bill leaves out harmful language contained in the House version of the bill to launch a program of mass surgical sterilization—a procedure which research has yet to prove can be conducted humanely. The conferees have requested that the BLM provide them with an updated humane management plan within 180 days, and that the agency include in its fiscal year 2020 budget request an outline of its proposed strategy and the funding necessary for implementation.

Preserving ESA protections for gray wolves: The bill omits an assault on gray wolves contained in the original House version of the bill. If enacted, it would have directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from wolves in the entire contiguous 48 states, and barred judicial review of those actions and of the 2012 removal from the ESA of gray wolves in Wyoming.

Allowing grizzly bear recovery: The bill excludes a provision contained in the House version which strove to block funding for the reintroduction of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem in Washington State. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service released an environmental impact statement in 2015 to launch the reintroduction process, which former U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke endorsed in March 2018. Instead, the conferees have directed FWS and NPS to re-open the public comment period regarding the draft environmental impact statement with proposed alternatives for the restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem—and to work with ranchers, conservation groups, local governments, and other local partners to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and livestock, drawing upon lessons learned with the Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Program to improve conservation outcomes while limiting effects to agricultural producers.

Oversight of farm animals used in research: In 2015, the New York Times brought to light terrible abuses of farm animals at a USDA Agricultural Research Service facility in Nebraska, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. Congress responded forcefully with directives to USDA to begin inspecting these facilities for animal welfare compliance and providing quarterly reports to the Appropriations Committees.This bill includes harsh criticism of USDA’s progress reports, noting that “ARS did not report a single specific negative finding by APHIS inspectors, despite the fact that numerous violations have been found involving the death of numerous animals and serious health issues of many more. The failure to report these problems to the Committees is unacceptable. The conferees direct ARS to submit a single report covering all violations found by APHIS to date and the specific actions taken to prevent them from recurring within 60 days of enactment.”

Animal testing alternatives: The omnibus sustains level funding of $21.41 million (rejecting a $4.2 million cut proposed by the President) for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology program to develop replacements for traditional animal tests, as required in the 2016 reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Class B random source dealers: The bill contains the same language as in the past few years prohibiting the USDA from licensing Class B random source dealers, who are notorious for keeping dogs and cats in awful conditions and obtaining them through fraudulent means such as pet theft to sell them to research facilities. Our colleagues at the Animal Welfare Institute have led this fight.

USDA data purge: Following bipartisan expressions of outrage, the House Committee Report (in a provision deemed adopted in the final package) directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore inspection reports and enforcement records for horse shows, puppy mills, roadside zoos, laboratories, and other facilities which were purged from the agency’s website in February 2017.

Providing needed funding: The bill provides a $500,000 increase for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and a $500,000 boost in a veterinary services grant program. It sustains funding for other key accounts including enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal animal fighting law, as well as for programs to address the needs of animals in disasters, encourage veterinarians to locate in underserved areas, support the Marine Mammal Commission’s crucial work, and crack down on international wildlife trafficking.

The omnibus package is not perfect. For example, it renews a harmful provision that blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating toxic lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle, which poisons and kills wildlife. But overall, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is very happy that Congress has taken a stand on so many important animal protection issues. We look forward to working with the 116th Congress to ensure these protections are maintained and to build on them with additional vital measures.

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