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Wildlife

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with the outfitter for them to sell [the hunt] directly at this time instead of at the auction, and so it has been withdrawn,” the chapter of the world's largest trophy hunting group announced on its website today.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.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Momentous 1st session of the 116th Congress sets the stage for our 2020 agenda

In the wake of one of our most effective years ever, we’re gearing up for the second session of the 116th Congress. During a time in which legislators are grappling with some of our nation’s most divisive issues, the American people have shown that animal protection remains one of our greatest bipartisan values.

Bunny_istock_270x240
Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

But many battles loom, and we’ll be fighting for animal welfare on numerous fronts, pursuing the prevention of systemic animal cruelty, the elimination of animal testing for cosmetics, a prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and ending America’s contributions to the barbaric practices of shark finning and trophy hunting. Here are some key measures we’ll be working on:

PREVENTING ANIMAL CRUELTY

Humane Cosmetics Act:
Cosmetics tests on animals are poor predictors of human reaction, are painful to animals, and are unnecessary—there are other methods we can use to ensure that products are safe for humans. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in almost 40 countries and U.S. states that have banned the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals, including the European Union nations, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, California, Nevada, and Illinois. The Humane Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit the manufacture or sale of cosmetics tested on animals, will create a key incentive for the use of cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, more efficient, and less costly.

Puppy Protection Act and Welfare of our Friends (WOOF) Act:
So many Americans consider pets family members, and yet under the current federal standards, thousands of breeding dogs in puppy mills can spend their entire lives in small, cramped wire cages and the USDA renews licenses to breeders despite their facilities having inhumane conditions. The WOOF Act, prohibits the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended and to their immediate family members who often serve as a cover for the same abhorrent facility. The Puppy Protection Act would bolster the Animal Welfare Act to improve weak and outdated standards of care.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act:
Despite enactment of the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to rein in the cruel practice of horse soring, the deliberate infliction of pain on horses’ legs and hoofs to gain competitive advantage in the show ring continues today. The PAST Act, which the House overwhelmingly approved last year, would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and strengthen penalties to protect horses from this torment.

Horseracing Integrity Act:
Modern horseracing is still conducted under outdated, haphazard state-by-state drug and medication rules despite its national and international scope. In large part due to race-day enhancement and pain-masking drugs, the U.S. is experiencing some of the highest rates of fatal racing injuries the sport has ever seen. The Horseracing Integrity Act, supported by animal welfare and horseracing industry groups alike, will ban race-day medication, substantially increase out-of-competition testing for racehorses, and create a uniform medication policy under the oversight of a new non-profit headed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the official anti-doping agency for the Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sports in the U.S.

ANIMAL AND PUBLIC SAFETY

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act:
Horses—an integral part of American life as loyal companions and comrades in battle—are being exported by the thousands to slaughter for human consumption. They’re shipped abroad for long distances without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks, and the slaughter methods used at foreign plants rarely result in quick, painless deaths. The meat that’s put on the market contains unregulated, toxic chemicals unfit for human consumption. Passage of the SAFE Act would be a clear signal of Congress’s determination to maintain its prohibition on the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and finally end the export of our horses for slaughter.

Big Cat Public Safety Act:
All across the country, tigers, lions, and other big cats languish in substandard conditions caged in people’s backyards and basements and at roadside zoos, suffering inhumane conditions and posing serious public safety risks. Many of these animals are the byproduct of the “cub-petting” industry, which charges people for the chance to feed, play with, and take photos with big cat infants. Once the cats become too large for these activities, they often end up in unqualified hands while new cubs are bred to take their place in cub-petting businesses. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban public contact activities with big cats and prohibit possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license. 

Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act:
Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, preparing for disaster must include plans to safely care for and evacuate animals from affected areas. The PREPARED Act would require that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (such as commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research facilities, and animal carriers) do so. Disaster plans are already required under the accreditation process for research facilities, zoos, and aquariums; the PREPARED Act would ensure that puppy mills, roadside zoos and other outliers also have plans in place.

ENDING SLAUGHTER OF WILDLIFE

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act:
We’re working closely with the Senate to put this vital legislation over the finish line, following passage of the bill in the House and the Senate Commerce Committee last year. To meet the global demand for shark fin soup, fins cruelly obtained from as many as 73 million sharks are traded on the global market annually. Some shark populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in recent decades. This bill prohibits the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins, removing the U.S. from this destructive global trade, strengthening the existing U.S. ban on shark finning, and helping preserve our oceans’ fragile ecosystems.

Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act:
The ProTECT Act would prevent American trophy hunters from importing trophies of species listed under the Endangered Species Act or from killing threatened or endangered species in the U.S. Species listed under the ESA have a demonstrated scientific need for additional protections against population pressures such as poaching, trophy hunting, and other human-caused mortalities. As the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, the U.S. must do more to end the corruption of conservation programs worldwide and push strong development alternatives to trophy hunting.

We’re proud of the difference that we can make because of your support. When you make calls to and email your members of Congress to support animal protection issues and when you take steps to engage others, you make a real difference for animals. In the New Year, we’re counting on your continued engagement, and we look forward to working with you!

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.

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, 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.

Friday, December 13, 2019

HSLF and HSUS deliver big wins for animals in 2019: Our banner year in the nation's capital

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Given the highly polarized atmosphere in Washington, DC, these days, our crucial bipartisan wins for animals in 2019 give great cause for celebration. Thanks to the support and engagement of countless Americans, we hit our marks this year. We succeeded in getting one of our highest priorities, a landmark federal anti-cruelty bill, signed into law. And that’s not all. Read on to learn about some of the other achievements you helped to make possible.

Hslf-dog-flag-300x200
Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

Animal Cruelty

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, P.L. 116-72, enacted on November 25 following unanimous approval in the Senate and House, strengthens the 2010 federal animal "crush video" law by banning extreme animal cruelty in or affecting interstate commerce regardless of whether a video was produced.

Horse Soring

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, won a sweeping bipartisan vote of 333-96 in the House in July, and S. 1007, the identical companion bill, counts half the Senate as cosponsors. The PAST Act cracks down on the cruel practice of "soring" Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.

Wildlife Protection

With our urging, Congress moved forward on measures to address some of the most urgent threats to the world’s iconic and at-risk wild species, including:

  • Wildlife trafficking—The Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, H.R. 97/S. 1590, passed both the House and Senate. It authorizes the U.S. Department of State to target wildlife traffickers globally and combat international crime networks, including terrorist organizations. We hope to see the President sign this bill into law soon.
  • Sharks—The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 737/S. 877, passed the House by a resounding 310-107 vote in November, having cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in April. It prohibits the commercial trade in this country of shark fins and products containing shark fins, thereby reducing global demand for shark fins, helping reduce cruel finning and protecting ocean ecosystems.
  • WhalesThe Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) North Atlantic Right Whales Act, H.R. 1568/S. 2453, won approval by the House Natural Resources Committee in October and the Senate Commerce Committee in November. With no more than 400 North Atlantic right whales surviving, this bill provides vital federal funding for research to develop, test and use innovative technologies and other strategies to reduce the two main threats to the species: entanglements in fishing gear and vessel collisions.
  • Big cats—The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 1380/S. 2561, received House Natural Resources Committee approval in September. It reduces the number of captive tigers, lions, cougars, and other big cats living in substandard conditions and protects public safety by banning public contact activities—such as “cub petting” and photo ops—and by prohibiting possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license.
  • Trophy imports—The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, H.R. 2245, passed the House Natural Resources Committee in September. This bill substantially restricts the import and hunting of any species listed or proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Appropriations

We brought home some big victories for animals in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 omnibus bill signed into law in February, and within the House and/or Senate FY20 Appropriations bills, including:

  • PAWS—The Senate bill provides $3 million for a grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to support emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. The House bill provides $2 million for these grants and includes language directing relevant federal agencies to coordinate implementation during FY20.
  • Horse slaughter—The House and Senate bills both prohibit USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • USDA data purge—The House bill 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.
  • AWA enforcement—The House committee report calls on USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices adopted by the agency in recent years.
  • Wild horses and burros—The House bill provides $6 million for a non-lethal pilot program using scientifically-based safe and humane fertility control tools excluding surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation to larger, more humane pasture facilities instead of perpetual warehousing in holding pens. The Senate bill provides $35 million to expand these humane and non-lethal management strategies to all wild horses and burros in the Bureau of Land Management’s care, and both the House and Senate bills prohibit the BLM and U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending to slaughter healthy wild horses or burros.
  • Animal testing alternatives—The House bill provides $39.4 million more than the President proposed for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology Program and Endocrine Disruptor Program, which develop replacements for animal tests.

We also delivered big results on the regulatory front, including:

Animal Testing

In September, the EPA announced that it plans to phase out and end all animal testing on mammals for chemicals and pesticides. Instead, the agency will focus on non-animal alternative technologies that are faster, more reliable and do not cause suffering. The agency plans to substantially reduce animal tests, including those it commissions in-house, as well as those that it requires businesses to conduct, by 2025, and to end them altogether by 2035.

Wild Horses

In March, the BLM agreed to return to a 2014 policy that allows individuals and organizations to buy only four wild horses over a six-month period, a necessary safeguard to ensure wild horses and burros aren’t bought by kill buyers who will send them to slaughter. Last year, the administration had put in place a new sales policy that allowed 25 horses to be purchased at a time, with no time limit between the purchases.

Licensing Requirements for the Animal Welfare Act

In March, USDA proposed a rule regarding much-needed changes to AWA licensing procedures. The rule includes a number of positive regulatory changes, such as requiring that licensees demonstrate compliance with the AWA regulations before being issued a license or a renewal, and requiring that dog breeding facilities provide continuous access to water, annual veterinary checks, and immunizations for diseases.

Relocation of Wolves to Isle Royale National Park

In March of 2018, the National Park Service announced its decision to augment the dwindling Isle Royale, Michigan wolf population with 20-30 animals within three years, as it was crucial for genetic diversity and ecological stability of this National Park. Currently, there are 17 wolves in the park, up from 2 when the relocation effort began.

When you sign on as a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, it’s because you want to see the passage and implementation of positive protection measures for animals, prohibitions against cruelty across the range of issues, and legislative and regulatory action that makes both our nation and our planet much, much better for animals. We’re gearing up big-time for 2020, and we’re going to bring fight, poise, and will to the ambitious agenda we’ve set for ourselves. We work hard for animals, but we’re also working hard for you, our donors and supporters, and we never forget the simple fact that none of this would be possible without your support. We’re counting on you to stay with us in the fight for ALL animals in 2020.

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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Breaking news: U.S. House rejects amendment threatening protections for whales, dolphins

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The U.S. House has just voted 259 to 160 to reject a bad amendment that would have placed some of America’s most critically endangered marine mammals at even greater risk for their lives while making it easier for oil and gas interests to conduct offshore development activities.

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Photo courtesy of noaa.gov

The amendment offered by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., would have eviscerated core provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to fast-track approval of seismic gun surveys done for offshore oil and gas development. Currently, under the Act, which has provided protections to marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions, since 1972, anyone who seeks to proceed with an activity that can cause the harassment, hunting, capture or killing of marine mammals in U.S. waters needs to apply for an “incidental take permit.”

There are good reasons for such safeguards. Seismic gun surveys send deafening pulses of sound to the ocean floor which bounce back up to be analyzed for signs of oil and gas deposits on the ocean floor. These are intense blasts of sound, which occur every four to six seconds for hours at a time and for days, weeks, or months on end, and they disturb feeding, breeding, and other behaviors among whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. They’ve even caused deaths of animals.

Rep. Johnson’s amendment would have provided an automatic approval process for such permits if the National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t issue a permit “fast enough.” It would also have allowed those with incidental take permits to harm more whales and dolphins, in a much larger area of the ocean. Additionally, it would have limited the NMFS’s ability to take into account any potential cumulative impacts that might threaten marine mammals, such as from multiple surveys in the same area.

Had the amendment gone through, it would have been particularly dangerous for North Atlantic right whales, already critically endangered, with less than 400 surviving along the U.S. and Canadian coast. Allowing more seismic gun surveys in their habitat could be devastating to this species.

We applaud House members for rightly rejecting this insidious amendment. This is a clear signal to Rep. Johnson and the oil and gas interests that Americans believe in the protection of precious marine wildlife and won’t sacrifice their interests so lightly.

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: House votes to end shark fin sales in the U.S.

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The U.S. House just said a decisive and resounding “no” to the terrible shark fin trade, in which fishermen cut the fins off sharks and dump them back into the waters to drown, be eaten alive by other fish, or bleed to death.

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Photo by Vanessa Mignon

House members voted 310 to 107 to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 737, a bill that would end all commercial trade in the United States, including all imports, exports, trade, distribution and possession for commercial purposes of shark fins and products containing shark fins. Americans overwhelmingly oppose this brutal trade, in which fins from as many as 73 million sharks are traded globally each year. Worse, this trade—driven by a market for shark fin soup—is forcing many shark species toward extinction.

The action next moves to the Senate, where a third of the members have signed on to a parallel bill, S. 877.

While federal law already bans finning in U.S. waters, and 13 states and three U.S. territories have passed laws banning or limiting shark fin sales, our nation continues to be an end market for shark fins, with shark fin soup still appearing on the menus of some restaurants. The United States also serves as a destination for shark fins obtained on the high seas where finning is unregulated, or from countries lacking good policies or enforcement on finning.

That’s why the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund have been working so hard to secure a law that decisively ends this trade in the United States once and for all. By passing such a bill, our nation can reassert its standing as a global leader on the important issue of shark conservation. When the U.S. leads on such efforts, other countries follow, as occurred with the ivory trade.

Sharks are now being killed 30 percent faster than they can reproduce. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2011, 16,815 metric tons of shark fins were traded worldwide. This commerce is unsustainable, and some shark populations have declined by as much as 90% in recent decades, resulting in a crisis not only for sharks themselves but for the balance of ocean ecosystems.

Along with our affiliates stateside and globally through Humane Society International, we have been working to end finning. We helped enact federal laws in 2000 and 2010 that prohibited finning in U.S. waters, and we have worked in a number of states to secure the passage of laws banning or limiting the sale of shark fins, including California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington. We are continuing to work on similar bills in other states. Three U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands—also have such bans.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Parliament passed a shark fin sales ban for which HSI had vigorously advocated, and we continue to work on ending shark finning and reducing the trade and consumption of shark fins globally.

Today’s victory for sharks in the U.S. House is a proud moment for those of us who have long sought to strengthen protections for these animals, and we are especially grateful to the bill’s lead sponsors, Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas. We now look to the Senate, where a counterpart bill has been introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. In April, the Senate Commerce Committee passed S. 877 with a voice vote, and we are hopeful the bill will soon be brought to the full floor for a vote.

Time is running out for sharks. These iconic predators are important in marine ecosystems and serve as key indicators of ocean health. Declining shark numbers can cause irreversible damage to fragile ocean environments and, ultimately, to our earth. By taking decisive action now, Congress—and our nation—can reverse the tide for this keystone species, and for the ecosystems that depend on them.

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.

Elephant-270x240-michelle-riley
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.

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