March 2008 Blog Home May 2008


23 posts from April 2008


April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict: A Voice for Animals

During his historic visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI probably will not address the question of human responsibilities to animals and the environment, but his thinking on these issues is particularly important to The Humane Society of the United States given our new Animals and Religion program. 

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As the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, with 66 million members in the United States, the pope speaks with force on the major moral issues of the day, with Catholic clergy following his dictates and many millions of adherents paying close attention to his declarations.   

It may come as a surprise to many that Benedict has commented on factory farms, and on several occasions, the importance of protecting animals and the natural world. His statements are corroborated by similar statements from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Catechism.

The pontiff addressed his concern for animals and the environment in his annual statement for the Vatican World Day of Peace, delivered on the first day of this year. “Respecting the environment,” he said, “means not selfishly considering [animal and material] nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests.”  And just last month, the Vatican declared pollution a sin, expressing the idea that sin is not simply an individual act but can also be an offense against the larger community.

In 2002, when the current Pope was known to the world as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he offered highly critical remarks about factory farms that deserve repeating here. In a published conversation with a German journalist, Peter Seewald, he  was asked, “Are we allowed to make use of animals, and even to eat them?”

281x144_pigs_gc_usda
© USDA
Pigs in gestation crates.

Ratzinger responded: “That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God’s creatures and even if they do not have the same direct relation to God that man has, they are creatures of his will, creatures we must respect as companions in creation … Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”*

Did you know the pope has a cat?  Chico is his name, and a biography about the pope, entitled, "Joseph and Chico," was written from his perspective. In a passage, Chico describes the animal-friendly pope:

“Do you know how I know he is friends of us cats?  Because in his garden he has a sculpture that represents one of us cats.”

It is the work of our Animals and Religion program to activate people of faith and religious leaders on the important questions of animal protection.  We encourage you to get engaged, especially if you are a member of a religious community, and to help spread the good news of animal protection.    

*Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald."  (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), 78-79.

April 16, 2008

Protecting the Vulnerable

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© North County Times
The infant bear cub.

Warning: dangerous video. Your heart may melt more than just a little watching the footage of a baby bear cub, rescued on a road in southern California and then taken to refuge at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif. 

In the video, you'll see not only a cub who is beyond adorable, but also more than just a little needy.  She was born to bond with her mother, and she is unrelenting in her efforts to get closer to her surrogate human mother. Despite their own instincts to bring him close, the staff at our center are keeping some distance to avoid human habituation. If the bear cub becomes too accustomed to people, that would make her release back into the wild—some months down the line when she can fend for herself—all but impossible.

281x192_seal_pup_hsus_gyger
© The HSUS/Marcus Gyger
A seal pup, photographed just days before the 2008 hunt.

She's every bit as fetching as the baby seals in Canada, who have been featured on our website now for several weeks. These babies miss their mothers, too. It's almost unthinkable that any decent person would harm any creature so vulnerable.

That's the emerging consensus world opinion, and the sealing industry and its enablers are scrambling to defend and justify their conduct. Yesterday, the Premiers of Newfoundland and Nunavut proposed banning the use of clubs, or hakapiks, to kill seals. They are now in full panic mode over the European Environment Commissioner's proposal to ban the import of seal skins from any hunt that is inhumane. They suggest just shooting the pups as an alternative, even though the loss rate is so high because the animals may be struck and lost in the water.

At the end of the day, the government officials are defending something that just does not pass the test of civilized comportment. It's archaic and inhumane, and their vain attempts to put a nice sheen on their killing tools won't sway the public.

Killing a helpless baby seal is an indefensible action, no matter the instrument of torment and death.

April 15, 2008

Safer Fate for Seals

More news from Rebecca Aldworth, our director of Canadian wildlife issues. She's been monitoring the seal hunt and speaking to press throughout the world about the horror of this slaughter.

As we leave Newfoundland—bringing the observation of the 2008 seal hunt to a close—I think forward to a time when this is all over.

When the skin of a baby seal has no value on the international market, and the Canadian government has finally ended the seal hunt.

I imagine coming back here—anonymous again amongst the people of the East Coast of Canada.

Harp seal pup in Atlantic Canada
© Nigel Barker
A harp seal pup seen on March 27.

I’ll charter a helicopter for a few hours on a still and sunny day, and fly out to sea. We’ll land on a pristine ice floe, and I'll walk across to where the seals are, spellbound as always by the brilliant colors reflected around me.

Fat, silvery baby seals will look up at me trustingly, their luminous eyes full of curiosity. I’ll lie down on the ice and slowly move into the group—a temporary guest in their nursery. The pups will touch noses, moving quietly around me. Soon they will begin to fall asleep. For awhile, I’ll lie there with them, knowing that peace has been restored to the ice.

And then I’ll apologize to the baby seals, tears streaming down my face.

For all the seals I saw brutalized and killed and did not intervene because the law prevented it. For all the suffering I bore witness to helplessly. For not being able to end it faster.

But these seal pups won’t know what happened here. They will live their lives as they were meant to, sleeping in their nursery, taking turns splashing in shallow pools on the ice. Becoming more and more confident until they finally slip into the ocean and silently swim away.

I wonder if the images of the slaughter will slowly start to fade, if time will make the suffering of these seals somehow seem more distant. But I know that will not happen. There are some things that can never and should never be forgotten. So instead I’ll hope the pain of the past can serve as a lesson for the future.

Sealer prepares to club a harp seal
© Nigel Barker
A sealer swings a hakapik on March 29.

Coming back to the present, I know that our battle to reach that day—when the hunt is over for good—is at its most critical.

This year, sealskin prices are so low that most sealers are saying it is not worth their while to participate in the hunt. In the Front, less than 100 sealing vessels have hailed out—down from 700 in previous years. Just the thought of an EU ban on seal products has been enough to stop the majority of sealers from hunting this year.

Then days ago, the European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas confirmed he will propose a ban on seal products originating from inhumane hunts. Back in Canada, the ProtectSeals team rejoiced. Because if the EU adopts such a ban, seal products from Canada will never again be traded in the EU.

Our observation out here has been difficult, but we have gathered the evidence we need to prove that Canada's commercial seal hunt remains every bit as cruel as it has always been. That evidence will be provided directly to the European Commission and Parliament.

And we have more good news from the United States, with more major grocery chains and restaurants joining the boycott of Canadian seafood products. Because of this economic pressure, Canadian fishermen are fast realizing they are losing more from hunting seals than they can ever hope to gain.

Thank you for standing with us and bearing witness to the 2008 commercial seal hunt. We are so close to stopping this cruelty—with your support, we’ll make it the last slaughter of baby seals in Canada.

April 14, 2008

Cause and Effect

Animal cruelty is a vice, and our society should fight it with every ounce of energy we can muster. Abusing animals is a moral issue, and it commands the attention of people of conscience, lawmakers, and corporations. Given the public's love and appreciation for animals, we have a built-in advantage in taking on human-caused abuse and exploitation.

But our cause is buttressed by the connectivity of animal cruelty to other social ills. The fact is, when we cause harm to animals, there's usually some other closely correlated negative effect. Animal fighters do not just perpetrate acts of cruelty; they are often knee-deep in other criminal behavior, such as narcotics, human-on-human violence, money laundering, or some other form of mayhem. In our investigation of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Co., we documented cruelty to cows. But we also saw that abusing animals resulted in demonstrable food safety threats—to say nothing of the devastating effect on the beef industry itself.

Those of us immersed in animal protection know of these connections. And these ideas were elegantly knitted together in Barbara Cook Spencer's essay in last Friday’s edition of The Christian Science Monitor. Spencer writes:

Much as bullies demoralize themselves when they dominate or ride roughshod over those who are meek, vulnerable, or defenseless, it should be obvious that human beings are the ones demoralized by the commission of inhumane acts.

I've touched on this argument before. But it bears repeating. Cruelty is indivisible, and when we do harm to animals, that's just one manifestation of how this behavior erodes the fabric of a civil society.

April 11, 2008

Horse Sense

Stopping horse slaughter for human consumption has been a long-standing priority for the organization. In the past year, we’ve seen the closure of the last three domestic horse slaughter plants, and we are pushing Congress to pass legislation to ban the export of live horses for slaughter in Canada and Mexico. However, the path to slaughter starts years before the animal is loaded on a trailer bound for a slaughter plant in Canada or Mexico, and the long-term solution to this problem is to foster a sense of greater responsibility to horses.

Horses end up at slaughter plants because of basic human failures. It happens when people overbreed horses with no thought of placing them in a safe setting. It happens when a horse owner fails to establish any meaningful bond with a horse, treating the animal like a commodity rather than a companion. It happens when people do not know how to handle or train a horse, and frustration causes them to cast off the animal.

The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Horse CareTo avoid these scenarios and to assure better outcomes for the animals, we are working with horse owners, equine experts and industry groups to provide options for training and care so that horses don’t end up, six years and six owners later, walking into the auction house ring.

These basic ideas are captured comprehensively and clearly in "The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Horse Care." I’m pleased to announce this amazing and valuable new book is available for order.

This guide has been a labor of love, not only for coauthor Erin Harty, a writer, horsewoman, and longtime moderator and administrator of The Chronicle of the Horse’s ten online discussion forums, but also for the HSUS staff members who supported Erin.

"The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Horse Care" provides horse owners and prospective caretakers with an ethical framework for dealing with the knotty problems of buying, caring for, and possibly re-homing the horse in their life. It urges every one of them to make the same commitment to their horse that they would to a dog or cat—as a companion for life deserving of care and concern at every stage.

Here at The HSUS, we’ve redoubled our commitment to equine welfare. We hope this book will further our mission to celebrate animals and, by providing a resource for understanding the emotional and physical needs of the horse, help owners develop a special bond and enhance the wonderful experience of sharing their life with an equine friend. You can help in this mission by making this book a bestseller and getting it into the hands of every horse enthusiast in the country. We need to elevate the place of horses in our culture, and to foster a commitment to lifelong care and responsibility for these extraordinary animals.

April 10, 2008

The Hunt Goes On

The HSUS's ProtectSeals team has returned to Canada, where the slaughter of baby seals is set to resume tomorrow. As our team makes preparations to document the hunt, I've asked Rebecca Aldworth to provide an update.

Harp seal pup in Atlantic Canada
© Nigel Barker
A seal pup seen on March 27.

While Canada's commercial seal hunt continues into its third week, we can take some comfort in the fact that many of the baby seals have so far been spared the hunters' clubs and guns. The Canadian government has reported that 2,900 seals have been killed to date—far less than would have been by this time in a normal year.

But tomorrow everything will change.

Newfoundland sealing boats are already making their way through the ice into the Gulf of St. Lawrence (map). Tomorrow, half an hour before dawn, the killing will begin in earnest. The Canadian government estimates 100 large sealing boats from Newfoundland, along with 200 smaller boats, will take part in the slaughter in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On Saturday the hunt in the Front, off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, will open, with hundreds more vessels moving into position to kill the seals.

We will be there, continuing to bear witness to this unfolding tragedy. It is our hope that the evidence we gather this year will be enough to shut down this slaughter forever.

But even as we prepare for tomorrow's traumatic events, there is good news. Our efforts to close markets around the world are clearly having an impact. The prices paid to sealers has fallen again this year—down to $33 for a flawless skin, compared to a reported $105 in 2006. Sealers are saying it may not be worth their while to take their boats out into the treacherous ice floes for such a low return. We can only hope that the trend so far this year will continue, and that some of the baby seals will be spared a horrible fate.

For those unlucky seals who are met by hunters ready to club, shoot and skin them, we'll be there. Our cameras will document what the Canadian government and the sealing industry does not want the world to see: the horrendous cruelty that has always existed in this brutal slaughter, no matter how the spin doctors in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans try to cover it up.

Thank you for standing with us through this difficult time. With your support, we will continue our fight to save the seals, for as long as it takes to end this brutal slaughter for good.

April 09, 2008

Biting Back Against Puppy Mills

"Change can't happen fast enough" declared Christopher Barrett, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau. "What's happening in these puppy mills is atrocious." That's Barrett's reaction to last week's "Oprah" exposé of the puppy mill industry, and his remarks make plain that the people in and around Lancaster County, Pa.—where some of the images broadcast on "Oprah" came from—are not circling the wagons. Barrett knows that the region he cares about and promotes is going to be saddled with a negative image unless something is done.

But how do we take on the larger problem of dogs being churned out by mills as a cash crop? Through the years, many people have condemned puppy mills, but that has not translated into systemic change. In fact, through The HSUS's own investigations, we've revealed that there are probably more puppy mills than ever. At some level, that stands to reason, given that the number of dogs in homes has steadily increased year after year—in short, the mills are attempting to supply a growing market. To thrive economically, the mills merely have to capture a small portion of the market for dogs. With mill dogs going for $300 to $3,000, it's a lucrative industry, and with little or no regulation, their operations are unfettered.

Dogs in cages at puppy mill
© The HSUS

As I've said before, this problem would be solved if people simply did not purchase dogs from pet stores or through the Internet. The best place, bar none, to get a companion animal is at the local shelter, or through a rescue group. Every time someone adopts from a shelter, he or she is directly helping to diminish the tragedy of animal overpopulation. We all need to do more to promote adoption in the first instance.

But the traffickers of puppy mill dogs are adept at misdirection, and succeed in selling people a bill of goods about the superiority of other sources for animals. They purport to sell dogs only from responsible breeders, even though nothing could be further from the truth. To succeed, the mills only have to dupe a portion of the public.

That's why we'll probably not solve this problem until we have strong laws. There are about 20 states with legislation pending that would have an impact on some mills, and many of these bills are worthy of support. But most of the bills do not address the fundamental problems associated with puppy mills. We need bolder policy solutions, and that will only happen when lawmakers hear a clamor from the public.

The government should limit the number of puppies that any operation can sell, and that alone would put a crimp on mills. Lawmakers should require that all animals be socialized. And they should place limits on the frequency of breeding for females, who are often bred every heat cycle. And elected officials should not allow imports of puppies from foreign operations, which could easily flood the American market with dogs from China, Eastern Europe, and other nations that treat the dogs as a commodity.

And the federal government should be licensing, inspecting and regulating puppy millers selling direct to the public or through the Internet. This entire class of individuals is unregulated and no minimal provision of the Animal Welfare Act applies to these facilities. Congress needs to change the law to reflect the vast lack of oversight of these puppy mills.

We need a zero tolerance policy for puppy mills, in both our laws and our consumer behavior.

It is important for every HSUS supporter to write to your elected officials at the federal and state level and demand action on puppy mills. So please take that opportunity today.

April 08, 2008

Talk Back: Puppy Truths on TV

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" has a worldwide audience of 40 million people. So once word began to circulate that Oprah Winfrey would be dedicating an episode of her show to the abusive conditions at puppy mills and the related issues of pet overpopulation, euthanasia, and spay and neuter, there was anticipation and excitement in the comments that came into the blog:

I know a lot of people who are really looking forward to this show. I used to foster for a rescue organization, and it's all we've been talking about for the past two days. I was glad to learn today that Wayne was on the show. I'll be taping it and watching it tomorrow night. —Tracy Habenicht

As our nation prepares to watch "Oprah" tomorrow (hopefully everyone here loves Oprah like I do!), I'll be praying the impact of the show will reach far and wide. I look forward to seeing you live for the first time; I’m so proud of you. When I gathered signatures for the farmed animal initiative all I could think about for weeks was where is Oprah. If only she could get wind of the animal suffering around the world, I know she could help bring about REAL change. So I'm holding out for the best outcome for all you do in the name of animals. —JG

The response amplified as the show aired across the country, and I’ve included a sampler of your comments below.

Wayne, I watched Oprah's show yesterday, as painful as it was at times. I'm a volunteer with a rescue group here in Austin, but I've never seen a puppy mill firsthand. Let's hope the show enlightened a few thousand more people. I'm grateful for The HSUS and all the great work you do. Thank you. —Sue Rostvold, Austin, Texas

Thank you for being on Oprah's show on Friday, April 4, regarding the horrors of puppy mills. It was excellent, but so much more needs to be done. Please encourage Oprah to do follow up shows about these horrible puppy mills. The next show needs to focus on the need for federal legislation and tell viewers what they can do to convince their U. S. Representative and Senator to force these commercial breeders to improve conditions for these dogs! Thank you! —Gayle K. Randol

I just finished watching Oprah's show about puppy mills. It was a wonderful show and I am very happy that she now considers herself a changed woman who will, in the future, adopt from shelters. I hope that this does not prove to be her last show on this subject. What I do not understand, however, is why the people who presented the material did not take the opportunity to ask viewers to contact their elected representatives about the lack of USDA inspections of these mills and the need for better laws to govern these breeding facilities. You can preach forever and encourage people to do the right thing, but only legislation and enforcement will make the HUGE changes that are necessary. —Janet White

Great news! After seeing the heartbreaking “Oprah” show today, I called my Congressman, Frank LoBiondo, who is a tireless animal advocate, and before the show even aired he had sponsored legislation that will shut down all puppy mills in this country! Kudos to the Congressman, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS and Oprah! —Maria D. Dicino

Thank you so much Wayne Pacelle from HSUS, Bill Smith from Main Line Animal Rescue, investigative reporter Lisa Ling, and Oprah for airing the recent exposé on puppy mills on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” And all the others out there that have committed to this tremendous feat of ending puppy mills forever! I can't imagine how one can sleep at night after visiting these mills and looking into the eyes of these poor little souls. I haven't even been able to get any of the images out of my head since I watched the show. However, as difficult as it was to watch, I knew it was my responsibility to do so. I can be a part of the solution to stop these mills. In fact, I'm so thankful that I do know now so I can spread the word each and every day. I, like many people, had heard of them but had NO idea that the conditions are so horrific. This is a horrible tragedy and it takes place in our country. I'm ashamed that the United States, our government, is aware of what's happening to these animals in these mills and they’re not doing anything to stop them immediately. How is this legal? I thought we had laws to protect animals from abuse and cruelty. Now I learn that we actually allow it. It's sickening. Our government should be ashamed for allowing this to take place and for not banning all puppy mills and bad breeders immediately. Thank God for The HSUS, the rescues and all the animal lovers. We all have to work together to do whatever we can to save these fur kids today… I'm in 100 percent to do whatever I can to help. I've started sending my donations for the fight to stop puppy mills, I've emailed everyone I know and asked for their help. I've emailed my local legislators and asked all my friends and family to do the same. I'm going to post flyers everywhere I know I can. What else can I do? I need to help these animals. We all do… —Sherry

Continue reading "Talk Back: Puppy Truths on TV" »

April 07, 2008

Collaborating Against Cruelty

Last Friday's "Oprah Winfrey Show" on the mistreatment of dogs at puppy mills and the related issues of pet overpopulation, euthanasia, and spay and neuter has people of conscience throughout the nation hankering for reform. The intensive confinement and other forms of mistreatment of dogs, particularly the breeding males and females conscripted to mass-produce puppies for the pet trade, is an embarrassment and a moral failure. The HSUS has done three major investigations into the mills in the last year—with footage from these investigations broadcast on "Oprah"—and we are committed to using the full resources of the organization to achieve reform. Thanks to the efforts on Friday of Oprah and her team, our campaign has been turbocharged.

Meanwhile, the machinery of The HSUS continues to advance our cause on other fronts. Today, good news out of Colorado.

Calf in veal crate
© Farm Sanctuary
Veal crates will be phased out as part
of Colorado's historic measure.

Just six months ago, I started discussions with leaders in the agriculture community in Colorado about farm animal confinement practices, specifically veal and gestation crates and battery cages. I told them we intended to file a ballot initiative for the November 2008 election, but would prefer to reach an accommodation in the legislature to avoid an initiative fight that would be costly to both sides.

Much to their credit, the leaders in the world of agriculture in Colorado embarked with me and my colleagues in a series of discussions without quite knowing where we'd end up. We had a series of honest and productive meetings, and did our best to put aside stereotypes and bias. We ran across our share of bumps in the road, but we were able to keep on track, thanks due in large part to Gov. Bill Ritter and his aides and also Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp. The Governor and Commissioner Stulp were committed to a positive outcome for all parties. Dr. Bernard Rollin of Colorado State University—an academic with credibility in both the animal protection and agriculture communities—was also indispensable in these discussions.

Today, we saw the culmination of these efforts. The Colorado House of Representatives, following the lead of the Senate, passed legislation to phase out veal crates in four years and sow gestation crates over 10 years. Gov. Ritter has agreed to sign the legislation, and we've agreed to withdraw our ballot initiative.

The public has an expectation of agricultural producers, and intensive confinement of animals for their entire lives is at odds with their commonsense understanding of how animals should be treated. If The HSUS and agriculture interests can work cooperatively to rid agriculture of these particularly inhumane systems, then we are all that much better off. We are grateful to all of the legislators, executive officials, and industry officials who exhibited such good faith. I send them my thanks and appreciation, and hope that what we've jointly accomplished in Colorado can be a model for the nation.

April 04, 2008

Force for Reform

The remarkable work of The HSUS’s Investigations unit was profiled today in the nation’s second-most popular newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. If you are a WSJ subscriber, you can read the article online. If not, keep an eye out for a newsstand copy.

The piece, “Humane Society Probes Put Pressure on Firms” by the paper’s Jane Zhang, recounts the impact of our investigation into the now infamous Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. as just the latest example of our work to spur industry reforms:

In recent years, a range of businesses have felt the squeeze from the organization, which is separate from local humane societies that deal mostly with animal rescues and pet adoptions. In the fashion industry, Tommy Hilfiger Group and others pulled garments from the marketplace last year after the Humane Society found that the trimming on some apparel was dog fur labeled as faux fur or as other animal fur. A spokesman for Tommy Hilfiger says the company's garments are now free of animal furs, starting with the spring collection.

When several other companies, including Neiman Marcus Group and Macy's Inc., didn't act as quickly, the Humane Society filed a complaint last year with the Federal Trade Commission. An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment.

And on her broadcast today, Oprah Winfrey addresses the puppy mill crisis in America. I was a guest on the show, and I suspect that part of the reason The HSUS was invited to participate was that our investigators have conducted three recent operations to expose different elements of the puppy mill industry.

Our work toward corporate policy reforms is also mentioned in Jane Zhang's WSJ story:

Faced with a Humane Society campaign, some businesses have negotiated big changes. In 2006, the organization alerted Ben & Jerry's, a unit of Unilever, to a video detailing the harsh treatment of hens by an egg supplier. The group demanded the ice-cream maker switch to eggs from cage-free hens, and within weeks, Ben & Jerry's was inundated with calls and emails from Humane Society supporters.

Our investigations focus on exposing abuse (such as the puppy mill investigations), often as a catalyst for public policy reforms. The investigations are also undertaken to pressure corporate actors to do better.

Responding to the wishes of mainstream America and to the ethical imperatives that The HSUS highlights, many of the nation’s leading corporations have set an example and become leaders in reforming to improve animal welfare. Yet others still cling to outmoded or inhumane practices. It is precisely for the latter circumstance that our Investigations unit stands at the ready—along with the other machinery we bring to the battles that must be waged.

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Today, I also want to say a word about Martin Luther King, Jr., on the anniversary of his assassination 40 years ago today.

The founders of The HSUS set up their new organization in late 1954, just a few weeks after Dr. King was installed as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. Within a year, the young preacher found himself leading a bus boycott that gained international attention and was the catalyst for the civil rights movement.

The HSUS has always been a place for people of different backgrounds who share the common bond of protecting animals and, we believe, our animal work is grounded in the approach King advocated. We are a non-violent campaigning organization that uses the wide variety of tools of reform acceptable and available in a civil society. On this day, I recall King's account of the early days in Montgomery: “I insisted that every church member become a registered voter and a member of the NAACP and organized within the church a social and political action committee—designed to keep the congregation intelligently informed on the social, political, and economic situations. The duties of the Social and Political Action Committee were, among others, to keep before the congregation the importance of the NAACP and the necessity of being registered voters, and—during state and national elections—to sponsor forums and mass meetings to discuss the major issues.”

We agree with Dr. King that an engaged and informed citizenry is vital to the success of our own good work. And on this anniversary of his tragic death, we remember him.