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August 26, 2008

Undemocratic Deals

Last week, I wrote about the efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Egg Board to spend money illegally in an attempt to influence the vote on Proposition 2—this fall's California ballot measure that seeks to ban the intensive confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens on factory farms. USDA officials authorized a $3 million expenditure by the Egg Board in the run-up to the election that is stitched together with the official "No on 2" campaign being run by agribusiness concerns. After The HSUS and the Yes on 2 Committee filed a lawsuit to block this illegal expenditure in federal court, the ads have been suspended pending the outcome of a preliminary injunction hearing on Sept. 22.

Gray wolf in field
© USFWS

But if you want to see an even more glaring example of politicians and executive agencies seeking to undermine the work of the people, look no further than Alaska and the series of ballot initiatives to stop aerial wolf gunning. Today, Alaska voters go to the polls to decide Measure 2, a citizen ballot initiative supported by Defenders of Wildlife, the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and The HSUS to halt aerial gunning of wolves by private hunters. Voters approved similar measures in 1996 and in 2000, but state lawmakers overturned both measures, showing their fealty to trophy hunting interests and other wolf haters.

So today's vote is the third effort by the people of Alaska to ban this practice. But, again, the shenanigans of the state authorities have already been in evidence. Anticipating the citizen effort to ban aerial wolf gunning, the Legislature authorized $400,000 in spending to educate the public about the benefits of aerial wolf gunning. Not surprisingly, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game spent a good portion of that money in the run-up to the election by sending mailers to registered voters extolling the virtues of aerial shooting of wolves.

The efforts by the trophy hunting lobby and factory farming interests to leverage their influence with state and federal governments to illegally influence elections smacks of a certain lack of confidence in their ability to sway public opinion. They enlist their allies in government to cheat in a desperate effort to maintain the status quo, and to protect animal abuse.

The HSUS is in these fights because it's our mission and our passion to protect animals from needless cruelty and abuse. But, as we participate, we are mindful that the proper functioning of a democratic society depends on clean elections and ethical conduct by government officials. The actions by the USDA and the state of Alaska to influence Proposition 2 in California and Measure 2 in Alaska have a corrosive effect on a civil society, and we hope the people see through these illegitimate efforts.

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