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October 15, 2007

California Condors: They'll Be Back

We scored a major win in California this weekend, but also got a dose of bad news, too.

First the good news. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed AB 821, introduced by the stellar Assembyman Pedro Nava, to ban hunters from using lead bullets in condor habitat—a vast area encompassing a large share of central California. Condors are carrion eaters, sometimes consuming animals shot and unretrieved by hunters, and the scientific evidence is incontrovertible that lead poisoning is a primary cause of death for the giant and highly endangered birds. It was a victory for The HSUS and environmental groups, and a rebuke of the selfish politics of the NRA, which fought for the right to keep spewing untold tons of lead into the wildlife food chain.

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© U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A California Condor in flight.

The HSUS earlier this month recognized Nava's efforts with a humane award. He is a friend of animals and, thanks to him, the long-struggling California Condor may be spared the fate of California’s state mammal, the grizzly bear, which can be found on the state flag but nowhere else.

We should not forget the distressing events that preceded the signing of this important legislation. Schwarzenegger asked a very fine Fish and Game Commissioner, R. Judd Hanna—a veteran, a hunter and a Republican—to resign his post, apparently because of Hanna's outspoken support for a lead bullet ban in condor habitat. Why Schwarzenegger took this action to oust a fine commissioner is still as inexplicable as it is disappointing. Schwarzenegger dissed the NRA by signing the condor bill and a major gun and crime control bill this weekend, so he obviously does not reflexively bend to the group's whims like too many other politicians do.

Our delight with the signing of the lead bullet ban was also somewhat tempered by the governor’s approval of a bill to allow sale of kangaroo leather products in California for the first time since 1970. This law is a regrettable step backward at a time when far-sighted people have already found acceptable alternatives to kangaroo leather in athletic shoes—such as soccer star David Beckham who wears only synthetic shoes. Adidas and other athletic shoe companies led the fight for the bill—and it is a glaring example of special interest politics. The people of California were certainly not clamoring for the sale of kangaroo products, but a handful of corporations were. Somehow, they got their way.

Governor Schwarzenegger also signed a bill, AB 1614, sponsored by The HSUS and Action for Animals that calls for the presence of a veterinarian at rodeos—a small but important step forward—and a separate bill also sponsored by The HSUS, SB 353, to Include animals in domestic violence orders.

With this year's legislative session completed, our focus now turns to the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act—a proposed statewide ballot measure to ban veal and gestation crates and battery cages. We have just 140 more days left to gather 650,000 signatures of registered voters. We need every HSUS California voter to help us with this campaign. Please go to humanecalifornia.org to sign up as a volunteer. We need your help to put the issue of intensive confinement of animals on factory farms before the state's voters in November 2008.

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