October 24, 2014

Maine State Agency Pushes Ideology, Not Biology, In Quest to Defend Reckless Bear Killing Practices

We don’t expect everyone to agree with us in our fight to pass Question 1 in Maine to stop the cruel and unsporting practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. But we do expect a fair election and a government that respects the will of the people, rather than one that attempts impose its will on the people. The ballot initiative process was established as a constitutional right in half the states to be used precisely when obdurate state lawmakers and a governor’s state agencies failed to heed the will of the people.  It’s a safety valve, and it has driven essential reforms in our society, including on animal protection – where we’ve seen gains to outlaw cockfighting, extreme confinement of farm animals, and captive hunts.  And, of course, baiting, hounding, and trapping. 

What’s happening in Maine is a vivid case example of an overreaching, unethical involvement by the state in elections. Specifically, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) is engaged in full-throated electioneering against Question 1, and new documents that we’ve obtained reveal an agency that’s used the full range of its assets to influence the election. For months, the agency has been publicly proffering the notion that it’s only providing the indisputable conclusions of sound wildlife management, as if the answers are as clear as a scientist offering details about gravity or the speed of light. In fact, they’ve confused their ideology with biology, and are trying to pull a fast one on the public.

The emails that a Maine court forced the IF&W to release this week reveal that over a year ago the agency made a political decision to oppose Question 1, possibly after meeting with hunting lobbyists and the state’s governor. Since then, the agency has used the public’s money to wage a covert and deceptive political campaign against the ballot initiative. The emails show:

  • IF&W made a “major commitment” to defeating Question 1, spending countless hours of paid staff time on campaigning and even setting aside “a few staff people dedicated to working on” it.

  • The agency spent tens of thousands of dollars of public money on campaign materials and outside consultants.

  • Agency staff made public and private campaign appearances across the state on work time, including hand-in-hand collaboration with the official opposition campaign and key lobbyists representing hunting and trapping interests.
Bears
The IF&W is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban the extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. Photo: Alamy

Indeed, IF&W has apparently also cracked down on dissenting viewpoints within its own staff cohort. In one email, IF&W wildlife division leader Judy Camuso cautions, “All staff need to know what our position is, where we are coming from, and everyone needs to be on the same page.” Dissenting biologists are apparently not allowed to let science stand in the way of IF&W’s zeal to defeat Question 1. In 2003, an IF&W biologist was demoted after he issued a scientific report critical of the cruelty in coyote trapping practices allowed by the agency.

Given this manifest disregard for good government and democratic principles, it should come as no surprise that one employee even stated that he “would like to do away with all referendums.”

The emails also cast doubt on the sincerity of IF&W’s own messages. For months, the opposition has been running an ad featuring uniformed IF&W staff calling Question One “a serious threat to public safety.” Yet even IF&W chief bear biologist Randy Cross – himself a bear baiter and trapper -- notes in one email, “Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

At the federal level, the Hatch Act prohibits government agencies from spending the public’s money telling the public how to vote – as do mini-Hatch acts in many states. The New York Supreme Court has explained why: “It would be establishing a dangerous and untenable precedent to permit the government, or any agency thereof, to use public funds to disseminate propaganda in favor of or against any issue or candidate. This may be done by totalitarian, dictatorial or autocratic governments but cannot be tolerated, directly or indirectly, in these democratic United States of America.”

Maine law is less clear on the point, although that doesn’t change the principle. Imagine if, when Congress had been considering Wall Street reforms, financial regulators had run a covert campaign to undermine the regulations on behalf of big banks. Or imagine, for that matter, if IF&W had decided to campaign for Governor LePage directly, rather than just campaigning on his behalf against Question One.

IF&W’s electioneering against a citizen’s initiative is wrong – just like the three cruel practices it defends. We’ll be campaigning hard through Election Day to end these abusive practices in Maine. The fate of bears and good government hangs in the balance.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, PO Box 15367, Portland, ME 04112.

 

October 23, 2014

Ebola and Animals – at Home and West Africa

Bentley
Bentley waits patiently for the ball from one of his caretakers while in quarantine. Photo by Dr. Catherine McManus, Dallas Animal Services

It was heartening to learn that Bentley, the dog of Dallas nurse Nina Pham, has tested negative for the Ebola virus, and to know that Ms. Pham’s condition has also improved. Bentley is still in quarantine and awaiting further tests. To their credit, Dallas authorities, including Dallas Animal Services with help from the Veterinary Emergency Team at Texas A&M University, have handled Bentley’s situation with transparency, care and poise. They avoided the unfortunate scenario that played out in the case of a Spanish nurse diagnosed with Ebola, María Teresa Romero Ramos. Her dog, Excalibur, was euthanized in Spain amidst great protest and with no effort to evaluate his condition.

In recent days, as the Ebola epidemic has intensified in West Africa, a number of nations have mobilized to send medical personnel and supplies to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where the need for such assistance is acute. Thousands of people are dead already, often after protracted suffering. And the next few weeks will prove decisive in the struggle to contain Ebola’s spread and shore up the medical care systems in these three countries, amongst the poorest in the world.

Through Humane Society International, we’ve supported and worked with animal protection organizations in the region over the years, and we’re well aware of their vital contributions to animals in need. These groups have been seriously affected by Ebola’s terrible toll on both the human and animal populations in the zone of impact. The crisis has disrupted their normal operations and supply chains, as well as placed many animal care workers at personal risk. Notwithstanding, they are doing their best to carry out needed relief and direct care work.

Chimp_closeup_sanctuary
Too great a need to just stand by and watch. Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Earlier this week, Humane Society International made grants to two groups working to help animals in Sierra Leone. One of them, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, has been a vital bulwark against the many threats to wild chimpanzees in that nation, including deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, and the illicit pet trade, all of which continue to threaten their survival. TCS has also provided necessary refuge and care to nearly 100 orphaned, abandoned and mistreated chimpanzees in need. Sierra Leone, once a major exporter of chimpanzees, mostly for research, is now home to an outstanding sanctuary that is actively working in their defense. Sierra Leone and Guinea share an important border zone that provides crucial habitat for chimpanzees, and a few years ago, HSI worked with the Jane Goodall Institute on a successful project aimed at securing greater protection for them. TCS’s Bala Amarasekaran and his colleagues are heroes to all of us at The HSUS and HSI.

We’ve also sent emergency funds to the Campaign Against Cruelty to Animals to help bring relief to pets, street dogs and farm animals in need in the stricken West African nation. Together with the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society, led by long-time HSI collaborator Dr. Gudush Jalloh, a veterinarian, the CCA-SL is helping to provide food for animals in quarantined homes and villages in the southern part of the country. The two groups have already done so much to support animals and people who care for them, and we’re determined to support their efforts in the midst of the current emergency.

There is much more to be done in support of the people and the animals in West Africa, as the Ebola virus sweeps through the region, debilitating and killing both humans and animals. As the public health community seeks to halt Ebola’s spread, we are continuing to look for ways to support the work of animal protection in the affected areas.

October 22, 2014

Another Rescue in Tennessee: 50 Dogs Freed From Suspected Dogfighting Operation

As the sun came up over Kodak, Tennessee, yesterday morning, our HSUS Animal Rescue Team drove with U.S. Marshals and the Sevier County's Special Operations Response Team down a long, rural road. As they approached the house at the end of the road, our team members saw just three dogs. But after law enforcement officials entered the house, our team discovered many more dogs cowering in the back of the steep, wooded tract of land.

operationoffthechain
A chained dog on the property prior to being freed by Animal Rescue Team responders. View more photos of the rescue here.

Our team ultimately found 50 dogs on the property – most chained to posts driven into the ground, with nothing more than a modified plastic barrel for shelter. Some of the dogs, who ranged in age from four weeks old to mid-teens, had scars consistent with dogfighting. Others showed signs of neglect, with ribs and spine visible, and they needed emergency care. We transported the rest of the dogs to a temporary shelter, where they’ll receive veterinary care and evaluation for potential adoption placement with HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition placement partners.

Dubbed “Operation Off the Chain,” yesterday morning’s rescue was the culmination of months of hard work by the Sevier County Sheriff’s office and our Animal Rescue Team. Our animal fighting investigators had been tracking the owner of this property for years, suspecting that his kennel website sold dogs for fighting, but lacking the evidence to prove it. Then, a few months ago, Janette Reever, our deputy manager of animal fighting response, got a phone call from Sevier County animal control officer Phil King. Deputies from the sheriff’s office had noticed suspicious numbers of pit bulls chained up behind the man’s house while investigating a marijuana growing operation

In the following months, Reever and her team unearthed more evidence linking this individual to dogfighting. Once there was enough evidence, the sheriff’s office moved swiftly to set up yesterday’s rescue together with The HSUS and the Blount County SPCA, with PetSmart Charities donating much needed supplies.

This is just the latest in a string of recent operations by our animal rescue team in Tennessee. Since 2006, our team has worked with law enforcement to rescue over 3,000 animals from cruelty and invested over a million dollars caring for those animals. In June, we joined with the Bradley County SPCA to rescue 101 dogs from a puppy mill operation, and to provide temporary shelter, veterinary care, and adoption placement for the dogs. In April, we assisted the Nashville Police Department with another large dogfighting rescue. And we’re still caring for Tennessee walking horses that we rescued from the operation of disgraced trainer Jackie McConnell, whose cruelty we exposed in a 2012 undercover investigation.

But we know that we can’t rescue our way out of systemic animal cruelty. So we’re working to change the legal landscape in Tennessee, passing legislation to regulate puppy mills, toughen penalties for convicted animal abusers, provide longer holding time for stray animals in shelters, and to prevent accidental poisoning of pets and wildlife. Together with our supporters, we’ve also defeated multiple bills that would have legalized the sale of horse meat for human consumption in Tennessee, allowed breed discrimination, and criminalized whistleblowers of animal abuse through “ag-gag” legislation. And we’ve now trained over 450 Tennessee law enforcement, animal control officers, and district attorneys on illegal animal cruelty and fighting investigations.

I hope you’ll join me today in congratulating the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, our Animal Rescue Team and the Blount County SPCA staff on yesterday’s rescue. And I hope you’ll commit to stand with us in Tennessee as we continue our fight to wipe out the scourge of cruelty to animals.

October 21, 2014

An Epidemic of Unprovoked Human Attacks on Wolves

If you want to understand why The HSUS and HSLF are working so hard to prevent the trophy hunting, commercial trapping, and hounding of wolves in Michigan, look no farther than the other states in the Great Lakes region and in the Northern Rockies that recently instituted seasons on wolves. Trophy hunters and trappers and hound hunters are taking a big toll, killing a third of the wolves in a single year in some of these states. If this is what “recovery” means, then I am sure the wolves don’t want any of it. Here are the numbers for the 2012 and 2013 alone:
 

  • Idaho: Of the 606 wolves killed in Idaho, 37 percent were trapped, 63 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 659
  • Minnesota: Of the 650 wolves killed in Minnesota, 54 percent were trapped, 46 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 2400
  • Montana: Of the 453 wolves killed in Montana, 40 percent were trapped, 60 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 627
  • Wisconsin: Of the 374 wolves killed in Wisconsin, 64 percent were trapped, 26 percent hunted and 9 percent hounded– leaving an estimated current  population of 658
  • Wyoming: Of the 133 wolves killed in Wyoming, 19 percent were trapped, 81 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 306

This is an extraordinary and ugly body count. The total number of wolves killed by sport hunters and trappers for these states is 2217 – for a species just taken off the endangered list!  
Right now, Wisconsin trophy hunters are in the woods for the third year in a row to harass and kill wolves with traps, bait, hounds, and electronic calls. Less than one week into the hunt, four of the six zones are already closed, with half of those zones over their quota (in one zone, hunters killed nearly twice the number of wolves allowed). Gray Wolf Snow Alamy
 
Hunters and trappers would be pounding away at wolves in Wyoming right now, but for a lawsuit that The HSUS and a number of environmental organizations brought to stop the killing. That suit, decided just weeks ago, resulted in a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to put wolves back on the endangered list, forbidding sport hunting and trapping of the wolves.

With these states consistently overreaching, and demonizing wolves, should we expect Michigan decision-makers to act any differently? Remember, leaders in the state legislature have passed three measures to kill wolves, and in the process, they are trying to trample the rights of voters to conduct the referendum process. Farmers, hunters, and the state Department of Natural Resources trumped up charges against wolves, with one farmer baiting wolves onto his land with cattle carcasses and then complaining that the wolves were there.

This is why it’s so critical to defeat Proposals 1 and 2 in Michigan two weeks from today. Voters there will have the first-ever opportunity to make their views known in a statewide election on the wolf hunting and trapping issue. If we can win, it will send a signal to politicians in all of these states that the people don’t like this needless and premature killing of wolves. Nobody eats wolves, and there are already allowances to control problem wolves. This is trophy hunting and commercial trapping in its purest form.
 
Please spread the word to friends in Michigan and underscore that it’s critical to get out and vote and to vote “no” on Proposal 1 and “no” on Proposal 2. And support all of our critical work to aid and protect wolves throughout the United States.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, 5859 W. Saginaw Hwy. #273, Lansing, MI 48917

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 20, 2014

Bill Maher, Danny DeVito Tell Chris Christie That Pigs Matter

Comedian Bill Maher made a special appeal to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – asking him, on the opinion pages of Saturday’s New York Times, to sign a bill banning gestation crates. Noting that polling shows that a rather astonishing 93 percent of New Jersey voters want him to sign the anti-confinement measure, Maher said Christie should make the Garden State the 10th in our country to establish rules that treat pigs better.

GestationcrateOn October 16th, the day S. 998 cleared the legislature, actor Danny DeVito, also urged Christie to do the right thing.  “Chris, please sign the ban on gestation crates –cages used to confine breeding pigs!,” wrote the fellow New Jersey native. “Man, that sounds like something we should do right away….You sign this ban and I think you go straight to heaven. Not for a long while of course, but, no question this kind of thing opens the gate!"

Christie has a total of 45 days to act on the bill -- championed by state Senator Raymond Lesniak with bipartisan supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly. The HSUS is leading a grassroots campaign in the state right now to urge residents there to let their governor know just how much they hope he’ll sign this anti-cruelty legislation.

Christie vetoed a similar bill last year, saying the state Department of Agriculture should play a lead role in shaping rules for the treatment of farm animals. This year’s bill takes that criticism into account, handing off to the department the task of promulgating the rules that stipulate that pigs have enough space to turn around and extend their limbs.

Many observers suggested that the governor’s veto last year had more to do with presidential politics given that Iowa—the nation’s biggest pork production state—hosts the Republican caucuses come 2016. However, a new Mason-Dixon poll of Iowa GOP caucus-goers shows that they’d think more highly, not less, of Christie if he signs this bill. A full 37 percent say they’d view Christie more favorably if he protects pigs, while only 2 percent said they’d view him less favorably.

In another context, Governor Christie stated, “I don't compromise my principles for politics.” Well, this is a case where he doesn’t have to test that principle. The politics and good policy are aligned in New Jersey (9 leading papers support the ban on gestation crates) and Iowa (where the state’s leading paper urged Iowa politicians to get on board with the campaign to ban barren battery cages).

If you live in New Jersey, please take a moment to contact the governor yourself and politely ask him to do the right thing. If you live in another state, join our growing efforts to end gestation crates across the country, and sign the change.org petition to support the efforts in New Jersey.

October 17, 2014

Tremendous News From Southeast Asia: Steep Drop in Rhino Horn Use in Vietnam

A new poll reveals that demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has declined, just within the last year, by a startling 38.1 percent, mainly as a result of a multi-faceted marketing campaign by Humane Society International and the government of the southeast Asian nation. The United Nations identified Vietnam as a top market for sales of rhino horns – a process that has driven the killing of more than 1,800 rhinos in South Africa over the last two years – and it was that information that caused us to swing into action. But the rapid shift in public attitude has been surprising even to us. 

Rhino Horn
The market for rhino horns in Vietnam has contributed to the killing of more than 1,800 rhinos in South Africa over the last two years. Photo: Uttam Saikia/Paul Hilton Photography

Nielsen polls – one conducted before the start of the HSI campaign and one conducted a year after it had started – reported a drop of 25.4 percent over a year in the number of Vietnamese who believe that rhino horn has medicinal properties. In the city of Hanoi, where most of the public information campaigns have been concentrated, there was a 77 percent decrease in the percentage of people who buy or use rhino horn.

The HSI’s three-year campaign, in partnership with Vietnam CITES Management Authority, used a variety of approaches to build awareness from the grassroots – and to drive home the message that it is illegal to buy, sell and transport rhino horn in Vietnam. These approaches include:

  • Working with the Hanoi Women’s Association to deliver campaign messages to its 800,000 members.
  • Getting out the message to business organizations and university students. Workshops were held at six universities in Hanoi, and were attended by 800 students and faculty. A national contest was held for students to design a rhino horn demand reduction campaign, and the winner received funding to conduct their campaign in September 2014.
  • Educating school-aged children. HSI designed a 16-page book, I Am a Little Rhino, with colorful drawings and Vietnamese text. The book was distributed to approximately 40,000 children in Hanoi.
  • Advertising on billboards in Hanoi and at the airport, and on the sides of city buses.
Vietnamese schoolchildren
The HSI marketing campaign included the distribution of 'I Am a Little Rhino' books to approximately 40,000 schoolchildren in Hanoi. Photo: HSI

All five of the world’s rhino species are now threatened with extinction, and poaching is the single greatest threat to their existence. While some animals are killed for their horns, a small number remain alive after the horns are hacked off their faces. Scientific studies show that this immense suffering to the animals comes for no reason: rhino horn has no curative properties and it is composed of keratin, the substance found in hair and fingernails.

The Nielsen poll found that a small number of Vietnamese—2.6 percent—continue to buy and use rhino horn. We’ll be working to continue to build awareness and to cause the whole of society to shame the people who persist in driving the consumption of this product, which is propelling a poaching crisis in Africa thousands of miles away. We must continue this campaign to stop the killing of these magnificent, prehistoric-looking creatures, since their very survival on this planet is at stake.

October 16, 2014

Pennsylvania Senate Takes Aim at Live Pigeon Shoots

Last night, the Pennsylvania Senate took a legislative action we’ve been pining to see for two decades: it passed a provision to ban live pigeon shoots as part of a larger anti-cruelty bill, which also includes a ban on the sale and consumption of dogs and cats for meat. The vote on HB 1750 was 36 to 12, with 21 Democrats and 15 Republicans coming together to stand against these forms of animal cruelty. The House has already passed a version of the animal cruelty bill that contained the ban on selling dog and cat meat, and the revised bill just needs to gain concurrence next week in the House before it goes to Governor Tom Corbett for his signature. 

After a pigeon shoot
Live pigeon shoots bear no resemblance to hunting, and the birds that are killed are not consumed. They suffer and die for no reason. Photo: The HSUS

Live pigeon shoots are a disgrace, and they bear no resemblance to hunting. There’s no consumption of the animal, no pretense of “wildlife management,” no hunting license, no bag limits, no fair chase. There’s only pain and suffering and death of innocent creatures, for no good reason. Instead, target shooters can take aim at inanimate targets, whether trap or skeet or clay pigeons. Millions of Americans participate in that legitimate sport every day.

For The HSUS and The Fund for Animals, this is a particularly exciting advance – one that we need to close out in the coming days or weeks. We’ve been working hard to end this cruelty since the mid-1980s. Long before I joined The HSUS, I joined protests against what was then the largest pigeon shoot, in Hegins, Penn., as did other colleagues. Trapped birds were brought in from all over the place in boxes, then released just yards away from the shooters who killed and maimed them.

Thankfully, we worked through the courts to shut the Hegins shoot down in 1999. But other shoots occur, more or less clandestinely, throughout the state at private gun clubs, and the law is ambiguous on their legality. HB 1750 is designed to end the ambiguity, and to help prevent the killing of dogs and cats for human consumption. There are millions of companion animals killed for food in Southeast Asia, and HSI is working in China and other countries in the region to stop this practice, even as we are working here in the United States to stop it in its tracks as newly arrived immigrants bring that practice to our country. 

CRATED_PIGEONS_2_41695
Trapped birds are brought to the pigeon shoots and released just yards from shooters who kill and maim them. Photo: The HSUS

The HSUS’s Heidi Prescott attended her first shoot in the 1990s as a volunteer and a wildlife rehabilitator. She came across a wounded bird who had been suffering for hours and was gasping for breath. The bird’s injuries were so severe that she helped to humanely euthanize the animal. The experience resulted in her making a personal commitment to never relent in her quest to ban live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania, and she’s never turned away from that challenge, despite years of frustration and delays and adverse actions from lawmakers and from the National Rifle Association.

Today, Heidi, who has been making the rounds of Harrisburg for 20 years to push for ending pigeon shoots, was again in the state capitol, drumming up support for its final passage. “This is truly a momentous victory, and a day I have personally looked forward to for many years, from the day I held that injured pigeon in my hands and watched her die—all for no reason other than someone wanted to use her for target practice,” she said.

State Representative John Maher and State Senators Stewart GreenleafDominic PileggiPat Browne and Richard Alloway have been leading the charge to end pigeon shoots. Sen. Alloway, who helped get the anti-pigeon-shooting provision added to HB 1750 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a very avid hunter himself. Although a member of the NRA – which had threatened lawmakers with retribution if they supported the bill—Sen. Alloway and Majority Whip Pat Browne stood up to the lobby group, calling pigeon shoots indefensible.  A huge thank you also to Sens. Daylin Leach, Jay Costa and Andy Dinniman for speaking out in favor of this bill, and to every humane organization in Pennsylvania and many national groups that worked tirelessly to get this bill passed.

Finally, a salute today to all of the people who have so valiantly worked to end this form of cruelty and contacted their lawmakers to advance this policy goal. The march to end animal cruelty is often a long and strained and frustrating one, and that’s been the case in spades with this campaign. But now we are just steps away from an important advance for our movement, and we must finish this task. 

Ask your legislator to end live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania»

October 14, 2014

Victory: India Becomes a Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Nation

India will ban the import of cosmetics that have been tested on animals anywhere in the world after November 13th. Coming just months after India heeded our call to ban domestic animal testing for cosmetics, this latest move assures that cosmetics sold in the country will no longer be associated with animal suffering. With the European Union enacting a similar ban, two giant economic markets have adopted sweeping policies to usher in a new era in cosmetics testing.

Rat
India is now the first cruelty-free cosmetics zone in South Asia. Photo: iStockphoto

Humane Society International's Be Cruelty-Free campaigners played a decisive role in securing this victory. They worked closely with government agencies and, in June, met with India’s minister of health and family welfare to present a petition of more than 70,000 signatures from citizens supporting an import ban. Our campaigners also helped secure the support of more than 30 legislators for the ban with the help of Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, a longtime animal advocate, government minister, and founder of India's largest animal protection organization, People for Animals.

This victory is just the latest in a series of significant reforms in India. The Animal Welfare Board of India recently declared battery cages for hens inconsistent with the nation’s animal cruelty laws, and we’ve helped persuade the majority of state governments to follow suit. We’ve also worked with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to crack down on the trade in shark fins and other illegal wildlife products. India is fast joining the EU as a global leader in animal welfare.

HSI's Be Cruelty-Free campaign also helped convince Chinese authorities to drop animal testing requirements for some products sold there. Now our campaign is working with partner groups in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and Taiwan to secure bans on the sale of all cosmetics tested on animals. You can join our campaign and sign the global pledge to be cruelty free here.

It’s long past time for the United States to get with the program. Cruel tests for cosmetics are sadly still happening in America, even though cruelty-free alternatives exist. The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are leading the fight for the passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act in Congress, which would bring an end to animal testing for all cosmetics made or sold in America. Let your legislator know that you support it.

In the meantime, you are in a position to make a cruelty-free decision every time you shop for cosmetics. You can use the Leaping Bunny guide to find brands that don’t test on animals. Or you can shop at cruelty-free stores like LUSH and The Body Shop. You can also join the conversation on Twitter using #BeCrueltyFree.

It is a major moment when the world’s second most populous country gets on board with positive animal welfare reforms.  Now it’s time to redouble our efforts in other parts of the world to achieve a global ban on cosmetic testing on animals.

October 13, 2014

Cruelty and Ideology Masquerading as Science

Last week, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected a recommendation from its agency’s biologists to authorize a spring bear hunting season in the southern part of the state. Cubs orphaned during spring hunts have no hope of survival, so allowing the killing of mother bears effectively dooms the family. The vote was 4 to 2, with the commissioners rejecting the rationale from employees of the Department of Fish and Wildlife that the spring hunting season was needed to reduce bear impacts on trees on land selected for logging.

Black bear and cub
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban the extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. Photo: Alamy

I see this sort of reductionist thinking on a regular basis from state fish and game personnel. They are single-minded about reaching a specific kill total, and they subordinate other social, practical and scientific concerns to their one-dimensional goal.

For years, we’ve battled the biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game over wolf hunting. They have repeatedly authorized a host of cruel and vicious practices against wolves to reduce their numbers dramatically – by offering up a blend of aerial gunning, steel traps and neck snares, as well as by promotion of hunting on lands managed by the National Park Service. They are not serving wolves, but the people who have an irrational fear of wolves and who don’t want wolves killing moose or caribou that they themselves want to shoot for trophies. It’s not about biology – but about ideology and pandering to the whims of people who want to shoot a moose or caribou, regardless of the social or ecological costs.

This sort of reductionist thinking is also in evidence in Maine right now. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping.

The DIFW is not serving the people of Maine – it is serving Master Maine Guides who use a combination of bait, hounds and traps to essentially guarantee a kill for their fee-paying clients. The guides and outfitters buy up leases from private timber companies in northern Maine, and exclude all hunters who don’t pay them a fee. Then they strew garbage over the leased land and condition the bears to visit.

In the process, these guides are giving the shaft to the Maine hunter who cannot pay their fees, and therefore cannot access these hunting grounds. What’s more, the guides are drawing in so many bears to the bait sites, that they are depleting the neighboring lands of bears. So the out-of-state, fee-paying hunters get a guaranteed kill and the lunch-bucket hunter in Maine goes home empty-handed. 

This has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with a corrupting commerce that favors one class of hunters over another.

The HSUS has a great roster of scientists, who would be the first to tell you that true science demands a full and searching debate, and that is how we develop our programs and positions. Our scientists know, however, that there is more to debates about how to treat animals than one narrow scientific metric, and that science does not take place in a social or moral vacuum. The best scientists give us options, not answers, and the whole of society weights that information and layers over a broad set of value judgments to make a final policy determination. 

The history of American science is laced with cases of ideology masquerading as science.  Here are just a few examples. 

DDT

The courageous advocate Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, called public attention to the risks of indiscriminate pesticide use.  In the early 1960s, the pesticide industry attacked her and insisted that DDT and other pesticides were safe. 

Smoking

We now know that smoking kills, but for decades tobacco industry researchers suppressed the facts and said the opposite. Misleading studies and disinformation campaigns received millions of dollars in tobacco money as the industry sought to fight restrictions on smoking. Big Tobacco targeted the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and other institutions studying the problem as bad science. But as time has revealed, it was tobacco science that was corrupt.

Ozone Depletion

The revelation that mundane household products like hair spray and deodorant could destroy the Earth’s ozone and increase cancer rates was one of the primary environmental stories of the 1970s. The $1 billion aerosol industry responded with its own research denying the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) effects of aerosols, and created a handful of scientific organizations to defend its products in the marketplace.  Fortunately, as a result of the negative publicity, the American people were already changing their habits, so that by the time the Food and Drug Administration announced strict regulations on CFC propellants in 1976, their use had already dropped by 75 percent. Even so, ozone deniers kept up their campaign for another 20 years.

Scientific Racism and Biological Determinism

The belief that social and economic differences between races, classes and sexes arise from inherited, inborn distinctions misshaped the study of human intelligence for decades. As noted by scientist Stephen Jay Gould and others, the “science” behind concepts of an intelligence quotient and the general intelligence factor was riddled with bias and falsification.

So when state biologists tell you they know better, and when they wade into ideology and not biology, give them a few of the examples above. 

It should be telling that Maine is the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. That alone suggests that the Maine DIFW and the biologists it employs do not represent the mainstream of thought in bear biology. Rather they are the champions of an outlier opinion dressed up as science.

October 10, 2014

Enduring Challenges, Quantum Progress Through First Three Quarters

The HSUS and its affiliates drive transformational change for animals. We don’t measure our success based on how many press releases we issue, bills we sponsor, or policy papers we write. We measure our success based on animals rescued from distress, corporations that change their policies for the better, laws enforced and bills enacted, and awareness generated by our communications efforts. We know you expect us to achieve concrete results for animals, and that’s what we aim to deliver every day. Today, I provide a few highlights of some of the biggest changes that The HSUS has achieved so far this year with your support.

  • puppy mill dog
    This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule to prohibit the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries. Photo: Jason Miczek/AP Images for The HSUS
    We secured commitments from three of the nation’s largest pork producers – Cargill, Clemens and Tyson Foods – to phase out cruel gestation crates. We persuaded Smithfield Foods to extend its commitment for a crate-free future to all of its contract farms. We worked with Unilever on its historic commitment to stop the killing of male chicks by the egg industry, and with Heinz to switch a fifth of its North American egg purchases away from cage operations. We worked with Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, to announce a new policy to cleanse its supply chain of pork, veal, and eggs from operations that confine animals in cages or crates. We helped persuade the Canadian government to phase out gestation crates, and convinced the courts in India to hear a case against battery cages. 
     
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule to prohibit the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries. (Last year, the USDA closed the loophole that allowed breeders who sell online or directly to the public, sight-unseen, to operate without federal licenses or inspections.) We also helped to pass anti-puppy mill measures in Connecticut and Minnesota, a very big mill state.
     
  • With many partners, The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund have had the second best year, in numerical terms, for enacting state animal welfare laws – a total of 117 and counting. This includes South Dakota becoming the 50th state to enact felony-level penalties for animal cruelty and fighting, West Virginia becoming one of the last to restrict the ownership of wild animals as pets, and California banning many classes of rodenticides. We also helped defeat 47 bills that would have been bad for animals, including several “ag-gag” bills. We led the effort to pass federal bills to make it a crime to be a spectator at an animal fight and to facilitate the transfer of the vast majority of government-owned chimps from labs to sanctuaries.

  • Our litigators and our program departments helped secure a landmark court ruling dismissing a challenge to California's farm animal welfare laws against extreme confinement of farm animals. They helped uphold a regulation that bans the imports of seal skins to the European Union against a challenge at the World Trade Organization; engineered a ruling from the International Court of Justice against Japan’s commercial killing of whales in the Southern Ocean; won a federal appeals court ruling upholding the federal law against the sale of videos depicting malicious cruelty; and banned wolf hunting in Wyoming.  (We also blocked the trophy hunting of wolves in Michigan by qualifying two referendums to stay measures enacted by lawmakers in Michigan.)

  • We persuaded India to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients—the first country in South Asia to do so. We also helped China repeal its requirement that domestically-produced cosmetics be tested on animals, and scored another victory in January when Merck pledged to stop testing on chimpanzees.

  • Horse
    In January, we helped reinstate a ban on domestic horse slaughter. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS
    We helped reinstate a ban on domestic horse slaughter in January when Congress approved the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, which included language that prohibits the USDA from spending taxpayer dollars to inspect prospective horse slaughter plants. This prevented three horse slaughter plants, in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico, from opening – and we got an assist in blocking the openings of kill plants from our legal staff. Two Congressional committees voted to retain this defund language in the FY 2015 spending bill, so chances are good that the no-slaughter policy will be extended at least through next September 30th.

  • We helped enact a ban on the sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, while our litigators helped secure a U.S. District Court ruling upholding California's ban on the possession or sale of shark fins, which we helped pass in 2011. Both New Jersey and New York enacted HSUS-led bans on ivory and rhino horn, the first such comprehensive state-based restrictions in the United States. We partnered with the Vietnamese government to reduce demand for rhino horns through a public education campaign. Because of our successful efforts to close global markets for seal products, most sealers chose not to participate in the seal hunt again this year, with the sealers falling 340,000 seals short of their kill quota.   

  • We conducted deployments of our Animal Rescue team in states across the nation, saving animals from puppy mills, animal fighting rings and hoarding operations. We operate our Pets for Life program, or conducting mentoring for it, in more than 20 cities. Our Rural Area Veterinary Services program provides free veterinary services in rural communities. Our wildlife team rehomed more than 4,100 wild animals this year – from gopher tortoises to tigers to prairie dogs.
     
  • We opened our new Big Cat Habitat at the Fund for Animals’ Black Beauty Ranch in Texas and also opened a new Wildlife Clinic at The Fund for Animals center in California, and continued to expand and improve our affiliated animal care facilities across the nation. Together with our affiliates, we provided direct care to more than 100,000 animals. 

In the coming months, I’ll blog with more details about each of these victories, and the many others that you’ve helped us to achieve this year. Today, though, I just want to thank you for all you do to make this incredible progress for animals possible. I hope you take pride in it, reflecting on all the good that you help us to do for animals – and the progress we can achieve together in the year ahead.