June 2012 Blog Home August 2012

20 posts from July 2012

July 17, 2012

Rep. Steve King Attempts to Slash Protections for Animals, Workers, and the Environment

Iowa Congressman Steve King thinks it’s fine to spend taxpayer money doling out billions to corporate farmers in the way of direct payments, crop insurance, predator control programs, and other subsidies. He’s built a reputation on it.

Hens in battery cages at Kreider Farms during an HSUS egg investigation
King's proposal threatens state laws such as bans on
cramped cages and crates for farm animals.

He’s also spent his 10-year Congressional career attempting to thwart the advance of any and all animal welfare laws at the federal level. He’s in favor of killing horses for human consumption, killing American bison in Yellowstone National Park, and trophy killing of polar bears, even though they are an endangered species. And no one has tried to stand in the way of cracking down on dogfighting and cockfighting more than Rep. King. In fact, just last week, he spoke against and voted against the McGovern amendment to make it a crime for an adult to bring a child to a dogfight. He was even one of a handful of lawmakers to oppose legislation that seeks to include pets in disaster planning.

The good news is, Rep. King usually loses his crusades against animal welfare.

But last Wednesday, during the House Agriculture Committee’s consideration of the 2012 farm bill (H.R. 6083), he was able to pass an amendment he offered, though his proposal still has a long way to go before it’s enacted.

King’s amendment is an attempt to prevent any state or local laws that place “a condition or standard on the production or manufacture of any agriculture product sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce.”

His proposal, which tramples states’ rights and the 10th amendment, is designed to nullify all of the voter-approved ballot measures to protect farm animals, including Prop 2 in California, which was approved by 64 percent of voters in November 2008. In submitting it, Rep. King wants to negate more than a dozen or so other state laws that seek to allow animals in extreme confinement to move or to stop the abuse of downer cows, and nix another dozen or so laws against horse slaughter and shark finning. But that’s just the beginning. The King amendment could also wipe away hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other local and state laws related to animal welfare, worker safety, food safety, and protection of the environment.

Other laws that could be repealed by the King language, were it to be enacted, include:

  • Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Washington laws requiring labeling of farm-raised fish;
  • Maryland’s ban on arsenic in poultry feed;
  • state pollution standards, such as bans on spraying sewage on crops directly before they are fed to people;
  • bans on use of dangerous pesticides on crops, such as California’s ban on methyl iodide use for strawberries;
  • Iowa’s requirement for labeling of artificial sweeteners in products; and
  • various laws concerning agricultural employment, including child labor laws, standards for inspections and certification programs, laws governing use of dangerous farm machinery (such as Washington’s mandate for certain guards on farm field equipment including tractors), and health and safety standards for agricultural employees (such as Washington’s code regulating issues including field sanitation, pesticides, respiratory hazards, and hearing loss prevention).

Americans need to rise up and make sure that not one comma in King’s amendment makes it into the final farm bill. It is utterly unworthy of a nation built upon republican principles of government.

King’s gambit notwithstanding, there is actually an important issue relating to state and federal authority that does have a place in the farm bill. That’s the legislation (H.R. 3798 and S. 3239)―agreed to by The HSUS and the United Egg Producers―that would set up a national standard applying to all 280 million laying hens to give them more space and to set up a national labeling program for eggs in the marketplace.

Horse transport to slaughter
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
King's proposal could also nullify state bans on
horse slaughter.

When you have a strong national law, there’s no need for varying state standards.

But when you have no state laws and no federal laws applying to agriculture–which is what Rep. King wants–then you have no safeguards for animals, for the environment, for consumers, or for farmers. You have a free-for-all, a race to the bottom.

We are a nation that pays attention to commerce and economic activity. But not at the expense of our values. American enterprise is grounded on the notion of economic success, but it must be done in a way that honors our values. Protecting animals from cruelty, making sure our environment is not contaminated with deadly pesticides, and ensuring that farm workers aren’t turned into modern-day slaves are things that matter to Americans.

Rep. King wants your federal dollars to give to corporate agriculture. But he doesn’t want state or federal laws to help animals, or other vulnerable segments of society.

He talks states’ right when it suits his political end game. But when it’s not convenient, he’s prepared to use federal authority to nullify any state laws he doesn’t like.

Let’s make sure he doesn’t achieve his policy objectives. And let’s make sure there are protections put into federal law that relate to the egg industry–a plan that has won the support of the industry, of veterinarians, major animal welfare groups, and consumer groups.

July 16, 2012

Heinz Joins the Call to End Gestation Crates

Today, we’re announcing the decision of yet another major food company to commit to ending the use of gestation crates. Heinz, one of our nation’s most iconic food manufacturers, produces frozen meals and sauces that contain pork, including for its Weight Watchers, TGI Friday’s, and Classico branded products.

Pig in gestation crate from Oklahoma pig investigation
Many companies are moving to phase out cramped
gestation crates for breeding sows.

“[Heinz] is currently working with its pork suppliers to understand and document their plans to reduce or end the use of crates,” wrote Heinz in a letter to The HSUS. “This information will be used to inform the company's choice of suppliers now and in the future, in an effort to increase the company's use of pork from crate-free sources and, over time, eliminate gestation crates from our supply chain.”

Just this year, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s (the top fast food chains in the country); Kraft (the world’s second-largest food manufacturer and maker of Oscar Mayer meats); Kroger and Safeway (the nation’s top two grocers); and Compass Group and Sodexo (the world’s top two food-service companies) have all enacted policies to eliminate gestation crates in their supply chain.

Our efforts―and the efforts of food companies like Heinz―are paying off. Just look at what the pork industry’s own publications are saying.  “The Humane Society of the United States is succeeding in its efforts to convince major U.S. pork producers to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls,” according to trade journal Meatingplace.  The Western Producer told pork companies that “You’d have to have rocks in your head to build a new sow barn with gestating sow stalls.” Pork magazine advised producers opposing this snowballing movement away from gestation crates, “You will lose the battle.”

At The HSUS, we’re working to bridge the gap between how farm animals are treated and how these animals should be treated. And virtually nowhere is this gap starker than in the pork industry, where mother pigs are virtually immobilized for nearly their whole lives in crates barely larger than their own bodies.

It wasn’t always that way. Industrial agriculture didn’t start cramming pigs in crates until about 30 years ago, when some businessmen decided that a caged pig would require less space and labor. This practice of extreme confinement spread like a virus within the industry, and has become the dominant system of pig production. We moved away from the era of pig farming and into the era of pork production, where the animals are treated as inanimate objects.

In addition to the corporate progress we’ve achieved, we’ve help push the enactment of nine state laws to ban gestation crates in the last decade. 

When you add all of this up, it’s clear that there’s no future in gestation crates for sows. It will hopefully just be a matter of time before the pork industry’s leadership realizes that change is inevitable.

July 12, 2012

Animal Fighting Penalties Advance in Congress, and a Dangerous Attempt to Overturn State Animal Welfare Laws

Last night, during consideration of the 2012 farm bill, the House Agriculture Committee approved an amendment that is intended to overturn every voter-approved animal welfare ballot measure relating to agriculture–Prop 2 in California (banning extreme confinement crates for pigs, veal calves, and laying hens), Prop 6 in California (forbidding the sale of horses for slaughter for human consumption), Prop 204 in Arizona (banning veal and gestation crates), and Amendment 10 in Florida (outlawing gestation crates). The amendment, offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, would also nullify six other state bans on gestation crates, horse slaughter bans in a half-dozen other states, and a raft of anti-downer laws and other animal protection laws designed to shield farm animals from abuse and extreme confinement.

Dog rescued from alleged dogfighting ring in North Carolina
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
A dog rescued from a fighting ring.

But while animal welfare laws may be King’s primary intended target, his amendment reaches way beyond that.  It also seeks to nullify every state, county, or local law that creates any standard or condition established relating to an agricultural production activity.  We’d have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection, or public health. It’s hard to overstate how sweeping and far-reaching the King amendment is. It’s the biggest attack on states' rights and the 10th Amendment that I’ve ever seen.  It tries to put the federal government in absolute control of all agriculture, and take states and local governments entirely out of the picture in terms of any balance between agriculture and the values we hold dear in society.

It is almost certainly unconstitutional. As the Supreme Court recently made clear in upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Commerce clause allows Congress to regulate commerce; it doesn't give Congress the authority to mandate its creation, nor to require anyone to participate in commerce they find objectionable. It’s shocking that any serious-minded lawmaker would vote in favor of such a radical federal overreach and endorse a race to the bottom of such epic proportions.

The fact is, Rep. King doesn’t want any laws to protect animals, and perhaps not laws to protect the environment, workers, or public safety. His goal when it comes to animals was made plain during debate on a separate amendment–one offered by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., to make it a crime to attend a dogfight or cockfight or to bring a child to one of these fights. King, who fought against anti-cruelty laws when he was a state legislator, argued for the defeat of the McGovern amendment, just as he has repeatedly tried to block the enactment of prior upgrades of the federal animal fighting law. In yesterday’s battle, he got an assist from two veteran lawmakers–former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., and the current committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla.

Fortunately, the anti-animal fighting amendment passed the committee by a bipartisan vote of 26 to 19, and is now included in the version of the farm Bill poised for consideration on the House floor. The U.S. Senate previously approved a similar amendment, offered by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., by a vote of 88 to 11.  Most lawmakers know that animal fighting is a scourge, and we need tough laws to crack down on it. A three-year study by the Chicago Police Department found that 70 percent of animal offenders had also been arrested for other felonies, including domestic and aggravated battery, illegal drug trafficking, and sex crimes. That pattern of behavior undoubtedly encouraged the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and nearly 200 law enforcement agencies from across the country to support the current effort in Congress to quash illegal dogfighting and cockfighting.

Pigs in gestation crates at Wyoming Premium Farms
Sows in cramped gestation crates, which have been
banned in nine states

Over the past decade, Congress has strengthened the penalties for and closed major loopholes in the federal law addressing dogfighting, cockfighting, and other forms of animal fighting but has left the issue of spectators unaddressed. This legislation will correct this remaining gap in federal law to allow for a more comprehensive crackdown on this barbaric activity.

Spectators are participants and accomplices who enable the crime of animal fighting, make the enterprise profitable through admission fees and wagering, and help conceal and protect the handlers and organizers. I hope that federal investigators who raid large-scale animal fighting operations will soon be able to prosecute the entire cast of characters who sustain dogfighting and cockfighting.

But despite the gains on animal fighting, there’s no possible way The HSUS can support the farm bill if the King provision survives. It’s truly that bad, and it sends our nation in the wrong direction.

The following House Agriculture Committee members voted yes on the McGovern amendment: Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., District 1; Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., District 5; Austin Scott, R-Ga., District 8; Martha Roby, R-Ala., District 2; Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., District 2; Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., District 20; Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., District 17;  Collin Peterson, D-Minn., District 7; Tim Holden, D-Pa., , District 17; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., District 7; Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, District 3; Joe Baca, D-Calif., District 43; Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., District 18; David Scott, D-Ga., District 13; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, District 28; Tim Walz, D-Minn., District 1; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., District 5; Larry Kissell, D-N.C., District 8; Bill Owens, D-N.Y., District 23; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, District 1; Joe Courtney, D-Conn., District 2; Peter Welch, D-Vt., at large; Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, District 11; Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Marianas; Terri Sewell, D-Ala., District 7; and Jim McGovern, D-Mass, District 3.

The following House Agriculture Committee members voted no on the McGovern amendment: Frank Lucas, R-Okla., District 3; Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., District 6; Steve King, R-Iowa, District 5; Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, District 19; Michael Conaway, R-Texas, District 11; Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, District 2; Tom Rooney, R-Fla., District 16; Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., District 3; Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, District 18; Scott Tipton, R-Colo., District 3; Steve Southerland, R-Fla., District 2; Rick Crawford, R-Ark., District 1; Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., District 1; Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., District 4; Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., District 14; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., District 4; Reid Ribble, R-Wis., District 8; Kristi Noem, R-S.D., at large; Jim Costa, D-Calif., District 20.

July 11, 2012

Saving More than 70 Dogs from Misery in Mississippi

The HSUS spends many of our resources on preventing cruelty―because we have an obligation to save animals before they are in distress. But it’s also critical that we come to the aid of animals who are suffering. Yesterday, HSUS's Animal Rescue Team was in Mississippi to help the Stone County Sheriff’s Office save 74 dogs living in miserable conditions at a puppy mill―most without proper food, water, or veterinary care (see video). The animals were kept outside in ramshackle shelters or inside the house in small crates, covered in feces and roaches.


Local law enforcement became concerned about this facility after our state director saw the owner selling lethargic, filthy puppies at a flea market. When we arrived at the property yesterday, we found many dogs suffering from broken bones, severe skin and eye infections, and other medical problems.

The animals are now with two of our Emergency Placement Partners, the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi in Gulfport and Southern Pines Animal Shelter in Hattiesburg, where they're receiving necessary treatment from a team of veterinarians. Fortunately, the owner surrendered these animals so they can start on their way to better lives.

Ultimately, we need strong policies at the state and federal level to crack down on puppy mills. But until that time comes, we need to be there to rescue animals from circumstances of misery and privation.

Dogs in outdoor pens at the Mississippi puppy mill            A rescued puppy being examined by a veterinarian

One of the rescued dogs with a severe skin condition  Adam Parascandola of The HSUS holds one of the rescued dogs

Photos by Chuck Cook

July 10, 2012

Doublespeak from the AKC

In my book, The Bond, I wrote about some organizations that set up roadblocks to progress on animal welfare. Near the top of the list, surprisingly, is the American Kennel Club, the oldest and best-known of the breed registry groups for purebred dogs.

Without question, there are many deeply committed dog people within the ranks of the AKC. Its CAR Canine Support and Relief fund assists with search and rescue and helps pets displaced in disasters, and its Canine Health Foundation helps fund research into diseases affecting purebred dogs. Unfortunately though, the organization has veered sharply away from animal protection sensibilities and worked actively to undermine legislative proposals to establish minimum standards for commercial dog breeders. The AKC says it’s “the dog’s champion,” but its work in state capitols and other legislative settings tells an entirely different story.

North Carolina puppy mill
This breeding operation was closed by North Carolina
authorities in May 2012. The operator had registered 91 litters
with the AKC since 2008 and the kennel had been inspected
by the AKC in 2011. The owners have been charged with
animal cruelty.

Yesterday, The HSUS released a new report revealing that over the past five years the AKC has opposed more than 80 different bills and ordinances designed to provide stronger protections for dogs in puppy mills, including Prop B in Missouri in 2010. The AKC even stood in the way of anti-puppy mill legislation in North Carolina, where its center of operations is located—and where HSUS has raided multiple puppy mills and showed a link between AKC and these squalid, overcrowded, unhealthy mills. Our new report reveals that some of the worst mills had actually been “inspected” by AKC, and one of them had registered more than 170 litters of puppies with AKC.

Then there’s obstructionism that truly makes no sense. The AKC, over the past few months, has opposed measures as benign as an ordinance in Shelby, Tenn., that would prevent dogs from being left alone in hot vehicles, and a Rhode Island bill that would prevent owners from caging a dog for more than 14 hours a day. AKC said the measures were “unwarranted” and “burdensome.”

One of the things that’s less obvious is AKC’s inaction, and its negative contributions, to the chronic health problems of purebred dogs. So many breeds have genetic and hereditary problems because of reckless breeding practices, driven by AKC’s conformation standards and not by concerns related to the underlying health and well-being of the animals. English bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, and so many other breeds have shortened lifespans, a proclivity to certain diseases and conditions, and other disorders because of these breeding practices. The AKC could help turn this problem around, but it’s not doing enough and not acting with the urgency that this situation requires.

Our report shows that the AKC’s business model is part of the problem. It collects registration fees from high-volume breeders, and it’s loath to criticize them. In short, the organization is making money from the very set of individuals it should be holding accountable. It’s providing political defense for the worst of the worst.

In its latest act of hostility to animal welfare, the AKC is trying to drum up opposition to the proposed USDA rule that would regulate Internet puppy sellers under the federal Animal Welfare Act. AKC’s chair described the regulations as "onerous," even though the proposal includes exemptions for small home breeders.

Take action now to help dogs in puppy mills >>

It’s deeply saddening to see this turn of events, and I don’t like calling them out. But facts are stubborn things and the conclusions, in this case, are painfully obvious, as our report makes plain. Read our full report here and watch the video here.

July 09, 2012

Urgent: Act Today to Protect Whales and Dolphins

Almost everybody agrees that we need a robust and strong Navy to protect national security. And almost all of us agree that whales, dolphins, and porpoises deserve to live and to have a healthy ocean environment. But a recent proposal from the federal government tries to make Americans pick between these options, and it’s a false choice.

Two dolphins by Pete Markham, via Flickr
Credit Pete Markham via Flickr

The U.S. Navy is proposing to conduct training exercises all along the U.S. East Coast and in the rich marine environment off the coast of California and Hawaii. These exercises would involve the use of live explosives and high-intensity sonar. According to its own Environmental Impact Statements, the Navy estimates that the planned exercises would kill up to 2,000 marine mammals, including a large number of animals from endangered species, such as right whales. Thousands of others would suffer permanent lung damage. An additional 16,000 would be permanently deafened and 5 million would be temporarily deafened by the exercises.

We understand the need for protecting our country, but we can find a way to ensure national security without sacrificing such an extraordinary number of whales, dolphins, and many other marine creatures. 

Ask the Navy today to protect marine mammals from explosives and sonar along the East Coast» and California/Hawaii»

We know that in the past, whales have stranded and died in the wake of major military sonar exercises, with bleeding from the ears and other tissue damage attributed to sonar. These have included incidents of beaked whales dying in the Canary Islands following sonar exercises, the panicked flight of orcas and porpoises off Washington State in 2003, and dozens of whales (including pregnant females) from several species who died in North Carolina in 2005. These tragedies can be avoided to a very significant degree.

The HSUS is joining other environmental and animal welfare groups to ask the Navy to consider steps to reduce the harmful impacts to marine mammals. These steps include avoiding the most harmful activities in areas used as calving grounds or migratory corridors; avoiding seasonal high-use feeding areas; creating a larger “safety zone” around the exercises; and using aerial or acoustic monitoring to determine whether marine mammals are nearby and may be harmed. Taking these steps would allow important military training exercises to go forward, while minimizing the likelihood that whales, dolphins, and porpoises might be harmed or killed.

We are calling on the U.S. Navy to re-think its plans and to incorporate additional protective measures. Please comment on the East Coast and California/Hawaii plans before midnight tomorrow, July 10 (Central time).

July 06, 2012

Bullfighting and Other Cruelties Don't Belong in the Modern World

Last night, I debated a bullfighting enthusiast on CNN International, and the news hook was the impending start of the week-long festival in Pamplona that includes the so-called Running of the Bulls. There, bulls are released from a corral, and they then are led on a short dash on the slick streets of the town and into the bullfighting arena, with human runners ahead and around the bulls, supposedly courting danger. Later in the evening, the bulls will be killed by the picadors and the matadors in a choreographed exercise with the outcome preordained. The Running of the Bulls is act one of this several-part spectacle of violence against animals.

Bullfight in Spain - Help end bullfighting
Learn about 11 ways you can help end bullfighting.

In the United States and in many other countries throughout the world, bullfighting is banned, not just because it’s cruel, but because the violence is so gratuitous. Most civilized people believe that killing animals just for the entertainment of spectators is wrong. That’s the sort of killing that happened in the Roman Colosseum centuries ago, and we look back on it with some blend of fascination and disgust.

Today, there’s hardly any moral distinction between bullfighting and dogfighting and cockfighting. You may get a few more high-brow types at the bullfighting arena than you do at an animal fight, but the knit of the shirt doesn’t diminish the repugnance of the moral spectacle that’s the focus of attention. They’re all staged and contrived events where animals are killed for human entertainment. 

Today’s Fresno Bee has a story about how HSUS personnel gathered intelligence on a U.S.-based cockfighter and knife-seller in Tulare County and how we worked with law enforcement officials last month to raid the illegal operation. The knives are affixed to the birds’ legs to enhance the bloodletting and to expedite the outcome of the fight. When you really get close to the details of these staged events, it’s even worse than it seems at first glance.

Also in California, we’ve also been debating what constitutes “sport” when it comes to bear and bobcat hunting. The HSUS is backing a bill, S.B. 1221, to outlaw the hound hunting of bears and bobcats. In this version of sport, dogs are set loose to chase, harass, and fight with these wild animals. Eventually, the bears or bobcats take refuge in a tree to escape the attacking dogs, and the houndsman, using telemetry equipment affixed to the dogs’ collars, follows the signal and shoots the animal out of a tree. S.B. 1221 passed the state Senate and an Assembly committee, and it has one more committee to clear before a vote in the full Assembly.

In each case–bullfighting, cockfighting, hounding–the participants defend their enterprise on the basis of tradition, as if longevity or durability were a moral rationale. They also argue that the activities generates money–which is, in one respect, a fact, but which I think is also irrelevant from a moral perspective. Plenty of terrible things happen with a profit motive–everything from child trafficking to wildlife poaching. They also often claim that we animal advocates haven’t engaged in this conduct, so we really don’t know what it’s like, as if we all have to witness or commit crimes to make a moral judgment about the offenses. 

The problem for all of these apologists of cruelty is that they conduct their actions in a society that has an increasing understanding of animal cognition and feelings and that has a growing body of law against animal cruelty. As communities and nations, we make judgments about what sort of uses of animals are outside the bounds of civil behavior. It’s one thing to kill animals for survival or self-defense. A lot of people also will argue it’s okay to kill animals for food, or the defense of property, or for the supposed benefit of science. But to kill animals just for entertainment–and to do it by stabbing bulls to weaken them over a 30-minute time frame, to watch birds fitted with knives slash each other for gambling purposes, or to chase a frightened bear for 3 or 4 hours through the woods, and then ultimately to shoot the animal off of a tree limb–well, it’s just hard to stomach in our time.

Our values are evolving, and for the better. With power comes responsibility. These people treat power as license, and there's no compelling defense for their conduct.

July 05, 2012

Helping Animals Affected by Wildfires and Severe Weather

Fires, floods, and other natural disasters aren’t selective. They make victims of people and animals. That’s especially true for people and pets, since their lives are bound together.

Dog helped during Montana wildfires
Our team provided food and water for pets in
evacuated areas in Montana.

Over the past several days, we've been reaching out to local agencies to offer assistance in the West, where there are hundreds of wildfires–the worst of which have evacuation orders associated with them. We coordinated the delivery of more than 30,000 pounds of hay from Cavietta Ranch to help feed 200 horses at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, where the Ash Creek fire has caused a shortage of grazing land for livestock. We've also provided food and water to pets left behind in evacuated areas, and we're providing hay for a horse owner in Fairview, Utah, who has lost 11 of his 120 horses as a result of the Wood Hollow fires.

The HSUS continues to work with local leaders to ensure the needs of animals are met. Our Montana director, Wendy Hergenraeder, sent this dispatch from her first visit to the Northern Cheyenne reservation:

We first stopped in Lame Deer at the Red Cross shelter...The director of the shelter suggested we take the pet food and supplies to Ashland, which was still under evacuation orders. Tribal police gave us permission to go past the roadblock into the burned areas. We dropped off some supplies at the human shelter in Ashland and talked to locals, then proceeded out to the residences with pets. We fed and watered several dogs who were very happy to see us, and checked on some horses in the area...

On our way home, we noticed a huge fire by the road on the Crow Reservation...The fire had burned right up to a pen with horses in it next to the road, but the horses, including a newborn foal with its mom, were safe.

With high temperature records being broken and drought conditions parching so much of the county, or violent storms that created havoc in the East and Midwest, it’s a reminder that the debate about climate change is neither an abstraction nor just a future prospect. We seem to be experiencing the effects now. That means all sorts of problems–for polar bears and seals reeling from the effects of the loss of sea ice. But also native wildlife and our pets who must contend with the effects of fires, floods, and other disasters created by our especially volatile climate. More than ever, we have to be prepared for natural disasters and all that they mean for pets, farm animals, and wildlife, too.

July 03, 2012

Speaking Up for Whales at International Whaling Commission Meeting

IWC 64, the 2012 meeting of the International Whaling Commission, is in full swing in Panama City, Panama, and there is a dedicated HSUS and Humane Society International team working there all week long.

International Whaling Commission 2012 aerial photo
Photo: Jeff Pantukhoff/Spectral Q/Whaleman Foundation
Hundreds of advocates form the shape of a whale to support
the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal.

At Monday’s session, a bloc of Latin American nations proposed a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, but it failed to gain the needed three-quarter majority for passage, even as it won with a solid majority of 38 in favor and 21 opposed. As it has done on all nine votes taken on the proposal since 2001, Japan pulled together its “bloc of no” nations to prevent the supermajority.

The proposed sanctuary would encompass the waters of the South Atlantic bounded in the north by the equator, in the west by the Atlantic coast of South America, in the south by the northern limit of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and in the east by the coast of Africa and the western boundary of the Indian Ocean Sanctuary. Contiguous with the Southern ocean Whale Sanctuary and the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary, it would be the fourth sanctuary declared by the IWC and the third actively in force.

No whaling goes on in these waters at this time, and in this respect the passage of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal would be primarily a precautionary measure. However, as part of a seamless web of protected areas, the sanctuary would help to ensure a meaningful sphere of protection for large whales throughout their full life-cycle including their full range of breeding, calving, feeding, and migratory habitats. Sanctuary designations also promote increased investment in research and encourage regulatory measures for human activities such as shipping and fishing, as well as capacity-building for sustainable endeavors such as ecotourism. 

See our infographic on whaling

IWC 64 follows closely upon the release of GEO-5, the Global Environmental Report of the United Nations Environment Program, which explicitly recognizes the IWC as one of a handful of international organizations that have, over time, developed a higher purpose in accordance with changing attitudes. GEO-5 notes, "The [IWC] governance regime for whales has contributed to more sustainable practices and a change in mindsets, allowing a transition from predominantly consumptive exploitation of a natural resource (whaling) to non-consumptive use such as whale watching and related tourism.”

The IWC is just one of the international forums in which we are active on behalf of animals, and it’s an especially challenging arena, one involving longstanding practices, cultural differences, and an archaic framework that we and others have long struggled to change. It also involves the killing of some of the most highly developed mammalian species in existence. That’s why we go, and that’s why we fight.

Please help support our efforts to close the market for whale meat.

July 02, 2012

Meeting Makana, a Rescued Albatross

Modern-day zoos and aquariums must do a great deal to warrant public support. They must educate the public about animal welfare and conservation, they must rescue animals in distress, and, ideally, they must put resources into wildlife protection programs in the field. Gone are the days when it’s enough just to exhibit animals. These institutions should be outspoken advocates for animals and help in the fight to protect them.

Makana, a rescued albatross at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Photo by Fritz Liess
Makana, a rescued albatross at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

This spring, I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which essentially exhibits sea animals native to the Monterey Bay area. I was able to see its life-saving sea otter rescue efforts and its foresighted, full-court press to urge people to avoid certain seafood, because of the devastating impacts some methods of fishing have on species and ecosystems.

I also had the opportunity to meet Makana, a 6-year-old Laysan albatross from Hawaii. Since Makana can’t be released back to the wild because of a wing injury, her job at the aquarium is to raise awareness about the deadly diet of sea trash that threatens seabirds across the Pacific.

If you don’t think animals are intelligent and feel a connection with people, take a look at this video.


P.S. Just yesterday at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed an HSUS-backed law to ban the trade in shark fins.