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Film & Television

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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wildlife Disservices

Longtime wildlife advocate Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., led a briefing today to expose the annual, irresponsible killing of millions of wild animals on behalf of a few special interests.

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John Harrison

The USDA’s century-old “Wildlife Services” program is a little known, taxpayer-funded effort to deal with wildlife conflicts, but the agency principally focuses on the outdated and inefficient model of lethal control.

And that killing routinely utilizes shockingly inhumane and indiscriminate methods, such as toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, and aerial gunning.

In Fiscal Year 2014 alone, Wildlife Services spent more than $127 million—more than half of it from federal, state, and local taxes—to kill more than 2.7 million animals, including some endangered species and family pets.

These animals  were poisoned, gassed, shot from the ground and from aircraft, and killed in painful traps and snares to benefit clients like industrial timber operators, commercial fish farmers, and private ranchers grazing their livestock on public lands.

Today’s briefing was co-hosted by The HSUS and a coalition of wildlife and conservation groups and included a screening of "Exposed", an award-winning documentary by Predator Defense. Attendees heard from a number of panelists, including Denise Kavanagh, whose dog, Maggie, was killed by a Wildlife Services trap just steps from her backyard.

The HSUS also today released new research that identifies how Wildlife Services is misusing public funds. The HSUS report recommends seven critical reforms to the program that would help foster more humane and effective coexistence between people and wildlife. These include removing the financial incentive to kill, ending the use of inhumane management techniques, and ensuring nonlethal control is the preferred practice. 

But in order to become more humane and more effective, it’s critical that Wildlife Services as an agency also become more transparent. To date, the program has refused to provide significant information about spending even when directly requested by members of Congress.

People in communities where Wildlife Services is working now are often uninformed about the program’s activities, even when they and their beloved pets are at risk. Revelations about employee misconduct and negative media reports include a series of exposés that uncovered brutal and indiscriminate activities, fiscal irresponsibility, and environmental harm.

It’s time to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its actions and use of federal dollars. We are grateful to Rep. DeFazio and other members of Congress who have called for more transparent, humane, and balanced management, requested an audit of the culture within Wildlife Services and protested the use of poisons as a lethal control method.

There is a legitimate case to be made for a federal agency that helps to solve wildlife conflicts and provides training and research on best practices with an emphasis on innovation and non-lethal solutions.

But Wildlife Services in its current form is a relic of the past. It exterminates wildlife as a government subsidy for private ranchers and other special interests, using inhumane and ineffective methods, while the U.S. taxpayers foot a large share of the bill.  We have a right to expect better from our government, especially when humane alternatives are on the rise.

Now it’s your turn to speak up. Please contact USDA Secretary Vilsack, and ask for meaningful reform now. Taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to bankroll a wildlife management program that makes reckless killing its default option. 

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