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In the News

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

At SCI convention, trophy hunters rub shoulders with Donald Trump Jr. and USFWS director; undercover investigation reveals potentially illegal sales of elephant, stingray and hippo skins

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

At the Safari Club International’s annual convention each year, wealth, privilege and power come together with a revolting goal: mowing down the world’s rarest and most beloved wildlife. This year’s event in Reno was no different. Trophy hunters heard speeches from guest of honor Donald Trump Jr. and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Aurelia Skipwith, shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to kill endangered rhinos, lions and polar bears, and kicked back to the music of the Beach Boys.

Lion-Vanessa-Mignon-270x240
Photo by Vanessa Mignon

But, as our undercover investigators who were on site discovered, there were potentially illegal goings-on at the event as well. Exhibitors peddled boots and belts made with elephant, hippo and stingray skins in what appears to be a violation of Nevada’s law on wildlife trafficking. The state forbids trade in the body parts and products of these endangered and threatened animals.

Customers could also get accessories made to order with the animal skins, some dyed in garish colors. The going rate for giraffe skin boots was nearly $1,400 and kangaroo skin boots were nearly $1,100.

It wasn’t just dead animal parts on sale. The lives of 860 animals were auctioned off at the four-day event. As you can see in our undercover footage, vendors glibly offered canned lion hunts, where trophy hunters can pick out and kill defenseless animals bred in captivity with nowhere to run. Also on offer was a $6,000 hunt for any six animals that a customer can choose to kill in South Africa, including zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, impalas, hartebeest, gemsbok, nyala and waterbuck. A polar bear hunt in Canada was offered for $35,000.

Also on offer: a critically endangered black rhino hunt for $350,000, and an Asiatic black bear hunt for $15,000 in Russia, among others. There even was a “Trump special” for $25,000 to kill buffalo, sable, roan and crocodiles. An outfitter peddling a giraffe hunt told our investigator the hunt costs “only” $1,200 because they have “too many giraffes” and need to “get rid of the animals.” This at a time when the U.S. is considering listing the giraffe under the Endangered Species Act and two giraffe subspecies were recently listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

By the time the convention wrapped up on Saturday, two winners had paid a total of $340,000 for a “dream hunt” on a luxury yacht in Alaska with Trump Jr. to kill back-tailed deer and sea ducks.

The HSUS and HSI send undercover investigators to the convention each year so that we can shine a global spotlight on this grisly world. As you can see from our video footage, this is not an event most people would want to frequent. In addition to the vendors carrying out a callous trade in animal lives, everywhere you look are the stuffed carcasses of lions, Cape buffalo, bears, wolves, mountain lions and leopards. This year’s displays included an ibex mountain goat killed by Trump, Jr. On the walls are portraits of hunters grinning alongside their kills or posing proudly holding open the mouths of the dead animals.

Many of these species on offer for the killing already face multiple threats from poachers or are falling victim to climate change and habitat loss. But for the SCI and its members, the rarer the animals are, the greater the thrill of killing them.

Fortunately, the tide is turning, as Americans lose their patience with the havoc trophy hunters wreak on our planet. Earlier this week we announced that in response to a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, the Trump administration shut down a sham trophy hunters’ panel that was advising the government on wildlife trade policy. Last month, a Canadian chapter of SCI was forced to shut down its auction for an elephant hunt in Botswana—the first since the country reopened trophy hunting elephants last year. Attendance at the SCI convention itself is dropping each year. And increasingly, Americans and people the world over are sharing their disgust of trophy hunters and their exploits on social media.

We look forward to the day when we won’t have to send our investigators to the SCI convention, because there won’t be one. But until that day comes, our fight to stop industry groups like the SCI will continue. American trophy hunters kill more endangered and threatened animals around the globe than hunters anywhere in the world, and we will hold them to account. We are pushing for Congress to pass two bills, the CECIL Act and ProTECT Act, that would rein in trophy imports of such species from overseas. No one needs to decorate their walls with the heads and hides of endangered or other at-risk animals, and it’s time we, as a nation, stop this unnecessary killing for good.

Read the full investigative report here.

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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Breaking news: Lawsuit prompts shutdown of trophy hunters’ panel in Trump administration

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

A panel of trophy hunters appointed by the Trump administration to advise the federal government on international wildlife trade policy has bitten the dust.

Elephant-blog-300x250
Photo courtesy of iStock.com

Following a lawsuit filed by a coalition that included Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States, the Department of the Interior last week disbanded the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a committee that in every sense embodied the “fox in the henhouse” idiom.

The IWCC was appointed in 2017 by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a trophy hunter himself. It was made up almost entirely of trophy hunters and gun industry lobbyists from groups like the NRA and Safari Club International who were charged with exploring the “benefits” international trophy hunting produces for foreign wildlife and habitat conservation.

In the two years that the IWCC was in existence, at a cost of $250,000 per year to taxpayers, the United States, not surprisingly, saw some of the worst policy decisions ever taken on endangered and threatened wildlife, most of them coming from the Department of the Interior and one of its agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2018 and 2019, for example, IWCC members pressed for the lifting of prohibitions on imports of elephant and lion trophies from Tanzania, prohibited under the Obama administration, and in 2019, the USFWS did indeed issue an import permit for a lion trophy from Tanzania, the first since the species was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2016. The Trump administration also issued permits to three Americans to import trophies of endangered black rhinos they had killed.

The case our coalition brought challenged the IWCC’s legality because its members had a clear bias and were not acting in the public interest by promoting the trophy hunting of threatened and endangered species like elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos. Moreover, the panel unlawfully met behind closed doors, shutting authentic conservationists and other stakeholders out of important discussions and giving self-interested IWCC panel members all the freedom they needed to grease the wheels for their own ends.

There’s a lesson to be learned from the history of this terrible panel, rightly disbanded in response to our actions and complaints. Trophy hunting is on the decline around the world, by many indications, but the lobbies that support this gruesome pastime are forever on the lookout for opportunities to influence those in power and bring back bad practices. And we must engage them each and every time to stop them in their tracks.

Fortunately, Congress is also moving against trophy hunting. The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, H.R. 2245, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., would substantially restrict the import and export of trophies of any species listed or proposed to be listed under the Endangered Species Act and prohibit the import of elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. The Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act, H.R. 4804, introduced by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Pete King, R-N.Y., would prohibit trophy hunting of ESA-listed species in the United States and the import of any trophy of a species listed under the ESA.

American trophy hunters kill more endangered and threatened animals around the world than hunters from any other country. That’s why the Humane Society Legislative Fund lobbied key congressional members and encouraged our constituents to weigh in against the continuation of the flawed IWCC. Now we’re pushing for the CECIL Act and the ProTECT Act to become law, and you can help by calling your members of Congress. Ask them to support these important bills so the world’s wildlife, already under threat because of climate change, habitat degradation and poaching, gets a reprieve from the completely unnecessary threat of trophy hunting.

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

Friday, January 24, 2020

Canadian Safari Club chapter shuts down Botswana elephant trophy hunt auction following protests

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The Safari Club International chapter in Calgary has just shut down its planned auction of the first elephant hunt in Botswana in seven years, following widespread protests by animal protection organizations in Canada. While this does not represent a break for Botswana’s elephants—the outfitter organizing the hunt will still be free to auction the hunt directly to a bidder anywhere in the world—the outcome shows the rising tide of public opinion against those who pillage and plunder the world’s most endangered and threatened animals for fun.

Elephant-blog-300x250
Photo courtesy of iStock.com

“SCI Calgary has agreed with the outfitter for them to sell [the hunt] directly at this time instead of at the auction, and so it has been withdrawn,” the chapter of the world's largest trophy hunting group announced on its website today. The auction had a starting bid of Canadian $82,000, with the hunt expected to take place between May and November this year.

"Canadians were rightfully outraged by this auction,” said Michael Bernard, deputy director of Humane Society International/Canada, which has, along with other groups in the Ivory Free Canada Coalition, petitioned the Canadian government to ban the import, domestic sale and export of all elephant ivory, including hunting trophies. “It is so encouraging to see that most Canadians will not simply stand by while a privileged few kill an elephant for an expensive thrill," he added.

The hunt follows a decision last year by Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi to overturn his nation’s much-lauded ban on trophy hunting elephants, in place since 2014. He did this despite the fact that elephants in his country are already in a fight for their lives, with poachers increasingly targeting them for their ivory and habitat loss limiting their ranges.

In a newspaper interview, David Little, the president of the SCI Calgary chapter, compared the hunt to “a trip for two to Tahiti. It’s the same genre of (adventure travel),” he told the Calgary Herald.

But elephant trophy hunting is not a lighthearted pursuit. A recently released census found that elephant populations in African Savannah nations, including Botswana, declined by 30 percent (equal to 144,000 elephants) between 2007 and 2014, or by about 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching. Research shows that legal trophy hunting drives up the demand for elephant ivory and therefore poaching, and has serious consequences on elephant reproduction. That’s why we have made ending trophy hunting a priority at HSLF, HSUS, and our affiliates.

Here in the United States, elephant conservation took a giant step backward under the Trump administration in 2017, when the government reversed an Obama administration ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and authorized lion trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe for the first time since the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Zimbabwe and Tanzania elephant bans had led to a 60 percent drop in the number of elephant trophies imported into the United States—a number that will no doubt rise once again following the reversal. We’re now fighting these decisions in court.

Together, the Humane Society of the United State, Humane Society International and Humane Society Legislative Fund are also pushing in Congress for the passage of the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act, which would ban the import of any trophy of a species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act into the United States. The HSUS, HSI and our partner organizations have also petitioned the U.S. government to uplist the elephant from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and there has been some progress on that front, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicating that such action may be warranted

Botswana’s government has tried to pass off its decision to reopen trophy hunting as an attempt to resolve human-wildlife conflict, but conservation scientists warn that poorly regulated trophy hunting can actually worsen such conflict by disrupting animal groups and creating social chaos among their ranks. There are many peaceful and non-lethal ways to address human-wildlife conflict, and they don’t and shouldn’t involve trophy hunters.

We’ve already shown the way forward on this in countries committed to constructively addressing human-elephant conflicts where growth of very specific local populations requires management, like South Africa. There, we have been using innovative and non-lethal immunocontraception—a non-hormonal, non-steroidal, reversible population fertility control method—to humanely control the growth of populations, thereby reducing local elephant population densities.

Botswana’s decision to allow elephant trophy hunting has put the nation, once called the last safe haven for elephants, on the wrong side of history. But as the outcry in Canada shows, most people are fed up with trophy hunters and want more, not fewer, protections for these beloved gentle giants. President Masisi should take notice of the writing on the wall and act quickly to reverse course for his nation and its elephants before it's too late.

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

Monday, January 06, 2020

HSLF mourns the loss of Mike Fitzpatrick – a true animal champion

Our hearts ache from news of the passing of our dear friend, former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who represented the Bucks County suburbs of Pennsylvania from 2005-2007 and 2011-2017. He walked the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives with a quiet confidence rooted in living his ideals through the legislation he sponsored and the causes he championed. As the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC) in the 114th Congress, he set the tone for the House to consider the merits of federal animal protection issues regardless of party affiliation. And this ethic has been continued by his brother Brian Fitzpatrick, who successfully ran for his seat in 2017 when Mike opted not to seek reelection, citing his belief in term limits. This ethic is also reflected by the 162 current members of the CAPC.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Mike Fitzpatrick was an inspirational and compassionate congressional leader who has left a profound impact. Through the CAPC, a bipartisan organization dedicated to supporting animal welfare issues, he hosted numerous briefings on key issues and championed countless bills, letters, and amendments. From 2012-2016, he was the lead sponsor of the Captive Primate Safety Act, a bill to prohibit interstate trade in primates for the exotic pet trade; these animals are often taken from their mothers shortly after birth and kept chained in a backyard or confined in a basement cage, and can become aggressive and dangerous and pose public health risks by transmitting diseases.

He also helped lead efforts to require humane treatment of farm animals used in federal research and to end vicious “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. He was never afraid to speak out. For example, we recall his eloquent defense of regulations to bar cruel hunting methods—such as killing hibernating mothers and cubs in their dens and using steel-jawed leghold trap—on National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska. He worked to increase penalties for participants of dog fighting and cockfighting and to prohibit knowing attendance and bringing a child to these gruesome spectacles. He prioritized the safety of victims of domestic violence and their pets through his early support of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, signed into law in 2018, and fought to criminalize acts of extreme abuse in interstate commerce and on federal property through the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, enacted this past November. He was a consistent opponent of horse slaughter and was always vigilant in pushing for animal protection provisions in federal spending bills.

We are so grateful to Mike Fitzpatrick for all that he did to advance the cause of making this a more humane world and we share our deepest condolences with his family. In the course of our efforts to help those who have no voice, it is good to know that we have had such a hero in our ranks. We’ll miss him deeply.

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.

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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.

U.S. should deny Trump Jr. permit to import endangered sheep trophy from Mongolia

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Last week, the news that Donald Trump Jr. had trophy hunted an argali sheep protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act during a trip to Mongolia outraged Americans. Just as outrageous was the revelation that this hunt, which took place last summer, was partially funded by U.S. taxpayers.

Argali-sheep-2-blog-300x200
Photo by Conrad Savy/Creative Commons License

No American—regardless of his or her wealth and political connections—should be above the law. That’s why, in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, are calling on the agency to refuse to allow Trump Jr. to import the body parts of the animal he killed.

The letter states that argali sheep are an imperiled species who should not be hunted for their horns or hides to serve as wall hangings. "The reporting on Mr. Trump Jr.’s argali hunt—that was conducted at night with a laser guided rifle, and without a hunting permit issued before the hunt—raises serious questions regarding the legality of the killing and subsequent import of the animal."

As ProPublica reported, Trump’s hunt was partially funded by U.S. and Mongolian taxpayers because each country sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip. After the hunt, Trump Jr. is reported to have met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, before returning to the United States.

It was also reported that Trump Jr. did not have a Mongolian permit to kill the argali—a beautiful animal with long, curving horns—when the hunt took place. A permit was issued to him by the Mongolian government only after he had already departed the country, in what was clearly a hasty attempt to cover up a violation of Mongolian law. Such a violation should by itself disqualify Trump Jr. from bringing his trophy home.

Argali from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan are listed as threatened in the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and import of a hunting trophy of an ESA-listed species can be authorized only if it furthers conservation. There is no evidence that this was the case here. In fact, Mongolia has a history of using these beautiful and endangered animals as lures for those with money, connections, and politics, and has not updated its argali hunting management plan in a decade.

A 2017 FWS finding shows that only a small percentage of hunting license fees in Mongolia actually go to argali conservation and community livelihoods.

Most Americans are opposed to trophy hunting, and do not believe in the canard spread by trophy hunting interests that killing one animal can help save an entire species. In fact, an increasing number of conservation scientists have challenged the notion that trophy hunting benefits conservation.

There is no doubt that Trump Jr. behaved unethically when he pointed a laser guided rifle at a beautiful animal whose species is in a struggle for survival. But this is not just about his poor ethics. As the son of the sitting president, his actions have also put our nation’s reputation as a global leader in the fight to conserve endangered wildlife at great risk. That’s why we urge the USFWS to follow the law and not show any special favors to this trophy hunter who has disgraced our nation and disappointed so many of us with his actions. Our laws should apply equally to every American, regardless of wealth, influence, political connections, or name.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Trump Jr.’s Mongolia gambit fuels public outcry, Congressional action against trophy hunting

The news that Donald Trump Jr. had killed an imperiled species of sheep for a trophy in Mongolia in August 2019, without a permit, was shocking but not a surprise. American trophy hunters are accustomed to traveling the world to slay animals with impunity. 

Argali-sheep-blog-300x200
Photo courtesy Publicdomainphotos-Dreamstime.com

But they can no longer do so without public scrutiny. The broad outcry over Trump Jr.’s secret trophy hunt reinforces the point that most Americans disapprove of killing threatened and endangered species, something they’ve signaled again and again since the killing of Cecil the lion in 2015. Over the last few years, we’ve been blessed to see the emergence of a strong and unified cultural intolerance for such indiscriminate slaughter by American hunters of wealth and privilege.

Congress is paying attention and has recently introduced legislation designed to halt American trophy hunters’ reckless rampage across the globe and their senseless killing of animal species already under threat. The Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act of 2019 would prohibit both the import of trophies and the hunting in the U.S. of threatened and endangered species.

Sadly, our country is the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, including federally protected species that our nation spends millions of taxpayer dollars to protect. Certainly, we must do all that we can to address the external pressures of poaching, habitat loss, and other human-caused mortality now driving many animal species toward extinction. But restricting trophy hunting of ESA-listed species would be an especially vital contribution to genuinely protect such animals throughout the world.

The ProTECT Act has received a strong boost in the form of scientific findings and public support from the academic community. Not long ago, a group of scientists challenged a letter published in Science, which emphasized the benefits of trophy hunting to conservation, on the grounds that the information presented was false and that some of the letter’s authors were closely tied to the trophy hunting industry. 

For many of us, and plenty of hunters, there is an important distinction between the action of a trophy hunter who kills imperiled species for fun and to get a “trophy” to take home to put on display, and that of hunters who kill to put food on the table. Opinion polls conducted in the U.S suggest that American hunters see trophy hunting as the least acceptable reason to kill an animal, with 72 percent of the hunting community denouncing it.

For years, anxious to defend the lax legal and enforcement policies of the animals’ home range nations, trophy hunters have paradoxically claimed that America has no business trying to dictate or intervene in other countries’ affairs. Yet, they have also argued that local communities are highly dependent on trophy hunting’s single-source revenues and boasted about the degree to which their killing of animals drives conservation incentives.

Now, however, there’s a new bulwark against such misrepresentation in the form of emerging alternatives that better support America’s foreign aid goals of stability, anti-corruption, and sustainable economic growth in local economies where trophy hunting takes place. The evidence of benefits and value tied to non-lethal wildlife related tourism is growing.

Public support is the bedrock of our successes in Washington, D.C., and you are our most powerful ally in instituting meaningful change. With growing bipartisan support, the ProTECT Act of 2019 represents an opportunity to bring about the demise of trophy hunting and to promote and strengthen ecologically and economically superior options like wildlife tourism. When Congress returns after the holiday break, we’re going to hit the ground running in our campaign to advance this exciting measure.  And we’re going to need your continued, sustained engagement to stop trophy hunting dead in its tracks.

Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the ProTECT Act

Monday, November 25, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: President Trump signs PACT Act; law will crack down on some of the worst animal cruelty crimes

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Starting today, those who commit the most extreme acts of cruelty against animals will face severe federal penalties.

Pact-act
At the White House for the bill signing, from left,
Anna Marie Malloy, Kitty Block, Sara Amundson,
and Tracie Letterman.

President Trump has just signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act that authorizes the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute malicious animal cruelty, including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling live animals, and other abuses such as sexually exploiting them. Under PACT, prosecutors will be able to bring federal felony charges when these acts occur within federal jurisdiction (including on federal property), or when animals are moved across state lines, or the internet is used as part of a criminal enterprise.

This is a day we—and you—have long worked for, and we were honored today to attend the bill signing ceremony at the White House with our colleagues Tracie Letterman and Anna Marie Malloy.

Animal cruelty is a felony in all 50 states because of laws we fought hard to put in place. In 2010, Congress passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which banned the creation, sale and distribution of obscene videos depicting extreme acts of animal cruelty. But as our Animal Protection Litigation team discovered, the law had a glaring loophole—federal law enforcement could not take legal action if the animal cruelty occurred within federal jurisdiction, unless a video was produced.

After that law passed, HSUS attorneys and HSLF legislative staff worked with members of Congress to lay the groundwork for the introduction and passage of the PACT Act. Now, as a result of this law, federal law enforcement and prosecutors will have recourse when the crimes occur on federal property, such as national parks or federal prisons, or in interstate commerce, regardless of whether a video was produced.

We applaud President Trump for signing this bill, and we are deeply grateful to the lead sponsors—Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and former Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas—as well as all the U.S. Senators and Representatives who cosponsored and voted for the PACT Act. We would also like to thank the president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump and animal advocate and entrepreneur Blair Brandt for championing this bill and helping to shepherd it into law. The Senate passed this common-sense bill unanimously twice, in the 114th and 115th Congresses, but the former House Judiciary Chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., repeatedly blocked it from coming to the floor. This time, with the support of current Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the bill’s original cosponsors, the bill went to the House floor and was unanimously approved.

We are also extremely grateful to you, our supporters, who are the strongest voice on our side. You tirelessly called and wrote to your members of Congress to help pass PACT, and you made all the difference. This law will ensure that those who hurt animals shamelessly, callously, and without remorse do not go scot-free. The passage of a national anti-cruelty law is a historic moment, and it sets the stage for continuing progress in our work to build out federal protections for all animals.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scientists carry water for trophy hunting industry

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

For years now, trophy hunters have spun a web of lies to tie their ruthless killing of some of the world’s most at-risk animals to fake conservation benefits. A recent exchange in the prestigious Science magazine has laid bare links some scientists have with the trophy hunting lobby, and it has led to the magazine revising its own policy on how it identifies letter writers with ties to lobbying interests.

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Michelle Riley/The HSUS

In August this year, the magazine published an open letter, “Trophy hunting bans imperil biodiversity,” led by five scientists from Oxford University’s wildlife conservation research unit and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and signed by 128 more. The letter claimed trophy hunting has a positive impact on conservation, and Amy Dickman, one of the letter’s lead authors, appeared on the BBC, where she claimed that imposing a complete trophy hunting ban is likely to cause "more animals to die.”

The letter from Dickman and the others also argued against anti-trophy-hunting legislation, like the CECIL Act (Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act) now in Congress, and claimed that banning imports of hunting trophies would undermine efforts to protect lions, elephants, and other endangered animals.

What the letter’s authors did not disclose—but was soon exposed by another letter, this time from a British non-governmental organization—is that four of the five authors of that letter, including Dickman, Rosie Cooney, Dilys Roe, and Maxi Pia Louis, had worked for organizations and projects that received funding from trophy hunting industry groups, including Dallas Safari Club, Safari Club International, Safari Club International Foundation, Russian Mountain Hunters’ Club, Wild Sheep Foundation, and NACSCO, a Namibian organization that supports trophy hunting initiatives.

Further, at least two of the signatories work for or advise Conservation Force, another trophy hunting group that has been working to weaken trophy import regulations and the Endangered Species Act in the United States.

Think about this for a moment: these are scientists affiliated with prestigious entities, like Oxford University and IUCN, who are publishing their scientific opinion in a prestigious journal without disclosing that they have ties to the industry that stands to benefit from the policy recommendations the scientists are advocating.

The editors of Science, in addition to making the authors of the original article declare their conflicts in writing in an addendum, immediately announced their policy on letters is now under revision to ensure that authors make readers aware of financial and advisory competing interests.

The magazine also published several more letters from other scientists and advocates who wrote in to refute the sham conservation claims made by the scientists supporting trophy hunting. We appreciate the magazine’s response and commitment to avoiding such a situation in the future by revising its policies.

There may also be good news forthcoming on the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), which we have been telling you about on this blog. This deceptively-named council created by the Trump administration is packed with trophy hunters and gun lobbyists who have successfully pushed our government to reverse several policies protecting endangered and threatened animals over the last three years. Last week, The Hill reported that the IWCC may soon be terminated, with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt telling members at a recent meeting that he “hasn’t yet decided” on the pathway forward for the committee. The pressure comes from a court challenge to the council, with its deep conflicts of interests, filed by the Humane Society of the United States and our partner groups.

Lawmakers in Congress are also stepping up the pressure against trophy hunting, and recently a bipartisan group of representatives, with the support of Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International, introduced a bill, the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies Act of 2019 (ProTECT) Act, to prevent the hunting of any species listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The trophy hunting industry is increasingly being exposed for what it is, and contrary to what they would have us believe, it is not an industry that benefits African economies, nor an industry that helps conserve endangered wildlife. All it really is, is a group of wealthy people who want to treat the world as their playground and mow down beautiful animals for fun so they can put their heads and hides on display in their living room. It’s time this industry is stopped in its tracks, and the deception is ended for good, and we are excited to see the progress being made on this on so many fronts.

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Breaking news: California leads the nation by banning fur sales, bobcat trophy hunting

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Moments ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom made history by signing into law two landmark bills: one banning the sale and production of all new fur products in California, and another prohibiting the trophy hunting of bobcats in his state.

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Photo by Megan Lorenz/iStock.com

California, a trendsetter in animal welfare and in fashion, is the first state in the nation to pass a ban on the sales of fur, and we applaud Gov. Newsom and the state’s lawmakers for recognizing that California citizens do not want their state’s markets to contribute to the demand for fur products. The fur industry causes the suffering and death of more than 100 million animals worldwide each year, and animals on fur factory farms are forced to live in cramped, wire-bottom cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors, before being cruelly killed by gassing or electrocution.

The law, which will go into effect in January 2023, is a monumental victory in the Humane Society of the United States' decades-long campaign to end this cruel and unnecessary trade. Hawaii and New York have introduced similar measures, and we’ll continue working hard with other cities and states to convince them to follow California’s lead.

The other bill Gov. Newsom signed today makes it unlawful to trophy hunt bobcats in the state, although the measure allows the lethal removal of any individual animal posing a danger to humans, endangered and threatened species, or livestock. Other states have passed temporary bans on trophy hunting bobcats after their numbers dropped too low because of hunting, trapping and habitat loss, but the California law goes above and beyond by taking a proactive step to end needless and cruel trophy hunting before the animals are pushed to the verge of extinction.

The law puts bobcats on a small list of protected species in the Golden State, alongside California’s other wildcat, the mountain lion. Bobcats at present face numerous other threats to their survival, like the recent deadly wildfires and urban sprawl. And each year, hundreds of these animals are killed by trophy hunters in California. In fact, over the past decade, trophy hunters have killed more than 10,000 bobcats in the state.

We are thankful to Gov. Newsom for signing these bills and to all the lawmakers who voted for them. Our special thanks to Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who authored the legislation on bobcats, as well as the bill’s co-authors, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Laura Friedman and Tasha Boerner Horvath, and Senators Ben Allen, Cathleen Galgiani and Anthony Portantino. We are also grateful to Assemblymember Laura Friedman, who introduced the bill on fur sales last December. It had many notable supporters among politicians and the fashion industry, including the California Democratic Party, Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee, the City of West Hollywood, InStyle magazine, Stella McCartney, DVF-Diane von Furstenberg, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Hugo Boss, Patagonia, H&M, GAP, J.Crew, Madewell, Des Kohan, Hiraeth and Inditex/Zara. Animal protection groups and citizens across the state mobilized in favor of the legislation.

Year after year, California has been the hands-down pace-setter among American states on a number of key animal-related matters, including passing the world’s strongest farm animal protection law, prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, banning foie gras, and ending the sales of animal tested cosmetics. For nine consecutive years, it has topped our Humane State report card, which ranks states based on a wide set of animal welfare policies. Today, by speaking out against fur and for bobcats, the Golden State has once again proven why it continues to be our nation’s undisputed leader on animal protection issues.

P.S.: As we celebrate these victories, our thoughts are with the people—and animals—of California who are affected by the wildfires. The HSUS's Animal Rescue Team is keeping an eye on the situation and will be standing by to assist as needed.

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

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