July 2012 Blog Home September 2012

22 posts from August 2012

August 17, 2012

Moving Forward for Pets and Farm Animals in the Heartland

I’ve just returned from a tour of the heartland–Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska–where I talked to HSUS supporters, leaders, staff members from other animal welfare organizations, farm groups, and farmers. I visited animal shelters and spay/neuter clinics, and I also got a first-hand look at some pig, egg-laying hen, and dairy farms. In addition, I addressed the family farmers at the Organization for Competitive Markets, which had its annual convention in Kansas City.

I was pleased to visit the Humane Society of Indianapolis and see the final touches being added to its new spay-and-neuter clinic and animal welfare center, set to open next week in one of the city’s economically disadvantaged areas. Elsewhere in the city, I met the incredible volunteers with Casa Del Toro Pit Bull Education & Rescue, which The HSUS supports with a $50,000 grant, who work to reach low-income pet lovers and to provide their animals with free vaccinations and free spay-and-neuters. Both of these efforts are predicated on the principles of our Pets for Life program, which seeks to get outside of the shelter and into the community to reach people and pets who need animal care services the most.

My trip included a visit to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, too, which is working on a program that targets the zip codes in Des Moines where the problems for companion animals are most acute.

Wayne Pacelle visiting pig farm
On my recent trip to visit farms and animal shelters.

But I was also focused–along with HSUS rural affairs director Joe Maxwell and the chair of the Nebraska Agriculture Council of The HSUS, Kevin Fulton–on the pursuit of productive dialogue with farmers and the advancement of our efforts to push for improvements in animal agriculture in America. I’m a vegan, Joe comes from a fourth-generation pig farm in rural Missouri, and Kevin has an organic cattle ranch in central Nebraska, so one might think, at first blush, that we don’t share the same sensibilities or even a common agenda.

But the United States is a nation grounded on principles of pluralism, and to my mind, that, too, must a be a core value of our cause of animal protection. We must be united in our fundamental ideals, of compassion and mercy and responsibility, but there’s no single way it plays out in a world as diverse as ours. There’s not a single orthodoxy, but dozens of different applications of these humane ideals and different forms of advocacy and lifestyle. I want our movement to be a welcoming one, and I take pride in the fact that The HSUS is a big-tent organization. My number-one metric, whether for people or institutions, is not, “Are you perfect?” but “Are you moving in the right direction–are you seeking continuous improvement?”

Paul Willis, who runs a pig farm in north-central Iowa and also a network of more than 400 like-minded farmers as part of Niman Ranch, has been moving in the right direction for a long time. Paul’s pigs are never threatened with a confinement crate. They are free to move and to be pigs. I saw their progeny out in large pastures, outside and able to seek shelter whenever they want. Yes, they’ll have one bad day, when slaughter comes, but the rest of their life is a good one, by any reasonable measure.

On our way to Paul’s farm and on our way back, I could not help but notice that the landscape is peppered with hog confinement facilities. If you didn’t know any better, you’d hardly know there were any farm animals or farmers of any kind around at all. It’s almost like there was an evacuation order, and we didn’t get the message. All you see are soybean and corn rows, and then these huge warehouse-style buildings. In many of them, there are pigs crammed in by the thousands, jammed side-by-side and fed a diet laced with antibiotics. Their days never involve stepping on a blade of grass or feeling the sun on their backs. It’s a life of continuous privation, and Paul Willis says he’d never do this kind of thing to these curious, intelligent, feeling creatures.

In Indiana, I went to one of the largest dairy farms in America–Fair Oaks Farms, in the northwest part of the state. It’s a mega-dairy for sure, but the charismatic owner of this farm, Michael McCloskey, has been an innovator within the industry. For years, he’s been a dissenter when it comes to the once-standard practice of tail docking, and every one of the cows on his farm has a tail, as she was meant to have. The cows bed on sand, which is more comfortable for the animals than concrete, and I didn’t see the animals exhibiting any lameness as they walked back and forth between their living area and the milking facility.

The cows are milked by machine on an automated rotary, and the whole enterprise bears little resemblance to the images of a family dairy. But I celebrate his steps toward more humane treatment, as well as innovations in manure management and energy production (he’s developed digesters to transform the manure into energy and to fuel the entire complex and his fleet of 18-wheelers that haul the milk to pasteurizing plants and then to market). His cows all go to slaughter, for ground beef for fast-food companies, so no one should be under the illusion that there’s a retirement home for them. But McCloskey is driving important debate within the industry, and that’s something I like to see.

I also saw an industrial egg farm in Iowa for laying hens, who are confined in barren battery cages. I met with the owners of this facility, and while The HSUS and I don’t support this type of intensive confinement, I was pleased to sit down with these egg industry officials and to strategize with them on efforts to pass H.R. 3798 and S. 3239, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, to phase out these cages and to provide birds with essentially double the space and with enrichments (and to provide for a labeling program to give consumers information about how hens are raised). They know the industry must change, and they are working for that change on a national level, to apply to all egg farmers. And that attitude stands in sharp contrast to many leaders in the pork, cattle, and dairy industries, who stand and fight the most obvious and common-sense reforms.

The HSUS is an organization that welcomes vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike. The common thread we demand is conscious awareness of animals and their basic needs,and an effort to find better ways to live and do business with the intent of creating a new, humane economy. When it comes to agricultural producers, we as a movement must engage them. They have billions of animals under their care, and the welfare of these creatures should be top-of-mind for them, since animals are the very essence of their enterprises. When they ignore their responsibilities to animals, that’s when they run into trouble, from The HSUS and from the rest of the American public.

August 15, 2012

Horse Slaughter Plan Withdrawn in New Mexico

Wyoming state legislator Sue Wallis has been talking about opening up a horse slaughter plant on U.S. soil for years–and she began her crusade not long after the last plants were shuttered in 2007. Wallis has been aggressively venue-shopping in recent months. She found her opening when a group of federal lawmakers allied with the agribusiness lobby succeeded in blocking HSUS-backed language in the annual agriculture spending bill to bar USDA inspections of horse meat. The omission of that anti-slaughter language, Wallis thought, paved the way for a new plant to kill horses for human consumption.

Help stop horse slaughter by taking action here
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Take action to help horses here.

Wallis has claimed she has plans on the drawing board for slaughter plants in Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington, and says she’s on the cusp of starting one up in a couple of states. But yesterday, Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., said it was suspending its effort to seek approval from USDA for a plant in the state, where there was fierce opposition from Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Gary King. The HSUS, along with Front Range Equine Rescue, discovered mountains of dead animals illegally left on Valley Meat’s property and filed a request for an enforcement action, which resulted in an $86,400 environmental fine issued by the state on Aug. 2. One town in Missouri, Mountain Grove, ran out Wallis and her allies on a rail. And things seem to be stalling in Rockville, Mo., which was her backup location in the Show-Me State. It’s been quiet in a number of other states that once seemed, according to Wallis at least, that they were sure-bets for horse slaughtering operations.

These are good outcomes, because this is a predatory, disreputable, inhumane industry. Nobody raises horses for food in the U.S., and no consumers want the product. We Americans shouldn’t be catering to foreign gourmands by killing perfectly healthy horses, especially in light of the historic place these animals have occupied in our country. America was settled on the back of a horse―these animals have been helping us and serving us ever since, and what a betrayal it is to exploit them in this way.

But just stopping horse slaughter plants from ramping up does not stop the slaughter of American horses. They are now being exported live to Canada and Mexico, and more than 100,000 horses a year are suffering in this trade and meeting an ignominious demise.

Ultimately, the answer is for the European Union to shut down the import of American horse meat, given that it’s adulterated with all sorts of substances not fit for human consumption. The HSUS, along with Front Range Equine Rescue, have also filed petitions with USDA and FDA to have U.S. horse meat declared “Condemned” and unqualified for human consumption for just that reason. And the U.S. Congress should pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act to stop the export of live horses for slaughter.

Sue Wallis and other proponents of horse slaughter must face the fact that Americans don’t reduce all decisions to sheer profit-making alone. Our values about horses and their welfare matter to the people of the United States.

August 14, 2012

Shark Appreciation Week

Shark Week is here again, and as in previous years, it concentrates on the predatory and aggressive behavior of sharks and the blood and gore that goes along with that part of their personalities. They are predators, and that’s what predators do. But there’s a lot more to the story, including the vital role they play in ocean ecosystems. There are more than 400 shark species in the world, and most of them don't threaten humans in any way.

In a strange way, Shark Week obscures a more terrible reality about sharks: the fact that they are in great jeopardy. Humans kill tens of millions of sharks per year, mainly for their fins but sometimes for their meat, cartilage, and other products. More than one-third of pelagic sharks now face extinction.

Tiger shark swimming

The HSUS and our global affiliate, Humane Society International, work to protect sharks from a multitude of threats. In the United States, we work to end their needless slaughter in big-money shark tournaments and we fight for stricter government controls of both commercial and recreational fishing to protect shark populations that are at risk of extinction.

Our Shark-Free Marina Initiative―a cooperative organized by the Pegasus Foundation, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Mote Marine Laboratory, and The HSUS, among others―aims to reduce shark mortality worldwide by discouraging the landing of sharks and encouraging catch-and-release of any sharks caught in sport fishing. More than 200 marinas and 140 marine businesses have joined the initiative, with more signing up each week.

Worldwide demand for shark fins, an Asian delicacy, fuels the cruel and unsustainable practice of shark finning―cutting the fins off a shark and throwing the animal overboard to die. The United States, Chile, Taiwan, Venezuela, and others have implemented strict finning bans. In Canada, nine municipalities have enacted bans on shark fins and the Canadian parliament has introduced federal legislation to address the country’s shark fin imports. HSI also advocates stronger protection measures for vulnerable shark species at international forums.

To reduce the U.S. market for imported fins, in 2010 we worked with Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee to institute the first ban in the world on the possession and sale of shark fins. Today, the U.S. Pacific states and territories―including American Samoa, California, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington―are closed off to the fin trade. Legislation was also adopted in Illinois and has been, or will be debated in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, and these measures have gained broad support from the Chinese American community.

Since the vast majority of global shark fin consumption takes place in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, HSI also works closely with local groups to promote awareness and support in the region. HSI’s work with The Jane Goodall Institute China educates the public, especially university students, on shark conservation and mobilizes their support. The Peninsula Hotels and The Shangri-La Hotels based in Hong Kong have stopped serving shark fin, and we’ve teamed up with the China Hotel Association and the China Entrepreneurs’ Club in a new “Shark Fin Free Initiative” encouraging more restaurants and hotels to remove shark fins from their menus. But the most encouraging development to date is China’s State Council’s announcement last month that the government of China will stop serving shark fins at official functions.

Sharks have roamed the oceans for more than 400 million years. They belong there, not in a soup bowl.

August 13, 2012

Big Pork Benefits from Subsidies, But Fights Federal Reform for Animal Welfare

Today, the Obama administration announced yet another massive give-away to the pork industry–in the form of a $100 million buy-up of surplus pork. This latest government bail-out is in addition to hundreds of millions already given to the pork industry by this administration. It comes as President Obama takes a three-day tour through Iowa, and you can guess what one of his talking points will be.


Ironically, this same sector of agribusiness is lobbying against the egg industry reform bill backed by HSUS and the United Egg Producers, which has made passage of that bill its top priority. The NPPC is willing to subvert the work of a different sector of animal agriculture, under the guise of opposition to federal standards, but for itself, it’s willing to rake in hundreds of millions of federal dollars.

This sort of hypocrisy is mind-bending. The NPPC says one thing, but does another when it comes to federal involvement.

This is the same pork industry that sued the state of Calilfornia to invalidate a state law to ban the mistreatment of downer pigs because it said the Federal Meat Inspection Act preempts state laws. It seems to like certain federal laws, especially when it suits the industry's profit motives.

This is the same industry that benefits from exports in the billions of dollars due in considerable part to the administration’s unceasing efforts to open markets for the pork industry across the globe. 

And this is the same industry that benefits from crop insurance and other support programs for low-cost corn and soybeans used for feed, which is its biggest production cost.

There is no more pampered, government-subsidized industry than Big Agribusiness, and the pork industry wrote the book. 

Congress should laugh off the pork industry’s manufactured opposition to federal standards to promote more humane treatment of farm animals, and taxpayers should be in revolt over these staggering, unwarranted subsidies to an industry that talks out of both sides of its mouth.

August 10, 2012

Time to End Painful Tail Docking for Dairy Cows

Over the last few years, The HSUS has driven major change within multiple sectors of animal agribusiness–and at a pace faster than I could ever have anticipated. Just this year, we’ve seen a slew of major food retailers decide to phase out their purchases of pork from producers that confine sows in gestation crates. The veal industry has agreed to phase out crates by 2017, and more than 70 percent of that transition has already been completed. The egg industry has agreed to support federal legislation to phase out the use of the barren battery cage as well require a labeling program that gives consumers more information about production practices.


The latest major announcement came in late July from the National Milk Producers Federation, one of the industry’s major trade associations, which has voted to officially oppose the inhumane practice of dairy cow tail-docking. We achieved the first state ban on tail docking in California–the number-one dairy producing state–in 2009, and then subsequently won bans in Ohio and Rhode Island. Now the industry’s biggest trade group has come out against the practice on a nationwide basis.

But unfortunately, the time frame is too long. The trade group has called for an unduly long phase-out of the amputation practice, which is typically done without anesthetic and removes up to two-thirds of a cow’s tail. According to its resolution, the NMPF is urging a 10-year phase-out.

There’s no compelling reason for such a needlessly long time frame, given that there are no costs associated with the termination of this practice. Many dairy producers have already stopped it, and it’s time for the outliers to abandon it, too.

Other animal agribusiness industries making animal housing improvements desire phase-out periods and adequate time to depreciate equipment and build new facilities. But in the case of tail-docking, no new buildings must be constructed and no equipment must be depreciated.

Though the pace is often slower than we’d want, there’s no doubt that change is afoot within animal agriculture, thanks mainly to reform efforts driven by The HSUS. Some sectors embrace change, others do it grudgingly, and others continue to fight the inevitable trend toward higher standards of animal welfare.

In this case, we’ll push the milk industry to expedite this change. There’s no reason to subject cows to this procedure, and The HSUS will continue to drive reform until tail-docking is a thing of the past.

August 09, 2012

Prairie Dogs Pack Their Bags for New Homes

While The HSUS’s greatest purpose is to prevent cruelty, we and our affiliates do more hands-on, direct animal care work than any other organization. And it’s every kind of creature you can imagine―from rescuing dogs from fights or puppy mills, to contracepting elephants in South Africa or wild horses on public lands in the West, to saving sea birds with fish hooks in their stomachs.

Last week, The HSUS and our Prairie Dog Coalition assisted tribal wildlife biologist Shaun Grassel and his four technicians with relocating more than 100 prairie dogs from a rancher’s pasture to a wildlife management area on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where they will be protected. We used humane traps and moved family groups together to help these social creatures settle in to their new homes. It’s part of an ongoing partnership between the tribe and the Prairie Dog Coalition to develop and implement non-lethal management solutions for these ecologically important animals.

For years, the prairie dogs living on the grasslands that make up much of these tribal lands were poisoned or shot—but that's changing. Our Prairie Dog Coalition director Lindsey Sterling Krank has made numerous field trips to South Dakota to help protect prairie dogs and reduce land-use conflicts, working closely on this project with the tribe.

Since some individuals leasing tribal land receive fees from people who come to shoot prairie dogs, we're working toward funding special conservation fees instead and forging new agreements to close some areas to shooting. We also donated temporary electric fencing to place along the border between prairie-dog management areas and private land, which will prevent cattle from grazing there so that a tall-grass buffer will deter prairie dogs from crossing this border.

Many types of animals rely on prairie dogs as a key part of the ecosystem, and we’re already seeing more endangered black-footed ferrets, badgers, and burrowing owls starting to come back to these areas. These benefits for the animals and the landscape are why we’re working with communities across the West to help prairie dogs be saved from cruelty and help restore the ecosystems in which they live.

               HSUS staff helping with prairie dog relocation in South Dakota          A prairie dog being relocated in South Dakota

August 08, 2012

Fighting Poaching with Rewards, Dogs, and Robots

They dubbed themselves the Kill ‘Em All Boyz, and this self-description was spot-on. This group in Washington State poached everything from elk to cougars to bears, and even domestic cats and a dog fell victim to their terrible crimes against animals—perhaps killing more than 100 animals before they were apprehended.

Poaching often brings up images of elephants, tigers, or rhinos slaughtered abroad for their body parts or skin, but by some estimates, the number of wild animals killed illegally in the United States exceeds those killed legally by licensed hunters. This means that the number of poaching victims could be in the tens of millions each year.

Washington elk decoy donation
Staff from the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife and The HSUS with the elk decoy.

The cruelty and scope of these crimes spurred The HSUS to launch our anti-poaching campaign in 2008, and we just announced our latest project: a robotic elk decoy we donated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A major challenge for law enforcement is the secretive nature of poaching crimes—they take place in remote areas with few witnesses; evidence can easily be destroyed; and of course, the victims can’t speak. This decoy will boost law enforcement’s effectiveness by allowing officers, the targeted animal, and the criminal to all be at the same place at once. It will be used for years to come to catch people trying to kill wildlife illegally. In Washington, there’s just one fish and wildlife police officer to cover every 490 square miles.

For this reason, we’ve joined with our affiliate the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust to offer more than $400,000 in rewards to help law enforcement agencies catch poachers. We also work in state capitols to pass felony penalties and other laws to deter poaching crimes. We’ve sponsored dogs who help wardens sniff out poachers in California, purchased forensic equipment for conservation officers in Florida, and worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a crackdown on Internet wildlife trafficking.

We’re so proud to support the good work of wildlife law enforcement officials, and we encourage our members to join us in helping to combat poaching. One way to help is to save your state’s report-a-poacher tip line in your cell phone, so you’ll always be ready to report suspicious activity.

August 07, 2012

Unchained: Nearly 50 Dogs Rescued from Suspected Fighting Rings

Yesterday, I mentioned that The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team helped Michigan officials raid two suspected dogfighting operations in Kalamazoo and rescue nearly 50 dogs. At one property set back in the woods, dozens of dogs were living outdoors on heavy chains or in chain-link pens, without regular access to drinking water or shelter. One black dog was tethered to a chain weighing almost as much as she does.

Michigan dogfighting rescue
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of 46 dogs saved from suspected dogfighting rings
in Michigan.

Inside, the team discovered a basement with blood splattered on the walls and floor, along with equipment typically used for dogfighting. In spite of being valued only for their capacity to engage in violence, the animals were so friendly and happy to see us, as you can see in our video and photos from the rescue. At another location in a residential neighborhood, we helped rescue more dogs and document another area stained with blood.

All these dogs are starting new lives thanks to the work of Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement, which began an investigation after receiving tips from the community. We were glad to assist with the investigation, provide the services of our mobile crime lab, and set up an emergency shelter. Local law enforcement and SWAT teams were also on the scene, as well as Kalamazoo Humane Society and Hello Bully providing assistance.

The animals from both suspected fighting rings are now at the emergency shelter, some receiving veterinary care for broken bones or illness. Some are elderly; many have scars consistent with fighting. All of them are getting plenty of care and attention, and we’re already seeing shyer dogs start to open up to people. We’ll have each dog professionally evaluated for possible adoption through our Dogfighting Rescue Coalition.

The owners of both properties were arrested and charged with multiple felonies—one had been convicted on dogfighting charges in the past. It’s this sort of work that we do that makes our communities safer for animals and people. No one can participate in this sport and be an upstanding member of society. People who disregard the law and enjoy watching this kind of violence won’t confine that behavior to the pit bull ring. It will spill over into the rest of their lives, and into the lives of innocent people and their communities.


P.S. It’s people who turn these animals into combatants, and there’s not something inherent in pit-bull type dogs. That’s why The HSUS is working in the Maryland legislature to fix a recent court ruling that declares all pit bull-type dogs as “inherently dangerous,” and is supporting an effort in Miami-Dade County in Florida on next week’s ballot to repeal a ban on keeping pit-bull type dogs. Such rules are unenforceable, since so many animals have mixed ancestry. And it penalizes people who raise them properly. The Miami Herald got it just right in an editorial endorsing the Miami-Dade measure today. We need strong anti-dogfighting laws and dangerous dog rules, so we can concentrate on the callous, cold-hearted people who take pleasure in fighting animals.

P.P.S. We are also pushing legislation in Michigan to crack down on dogfighting as an organized criminal enterprise. It’s critical that lawmakers there pass that legislation soon.

August 06, 2012

Helping Pets in Need, And Also Fighting Large-Scale Cruelty

As this year’s general election approaches, candidates are already airing millions in attack ads. It’s that season.

For us at The HSUS, it’s always that season. Puppy millers, sealers, factory farmers, and others attack and criticize us about everything we do–not because we don’t use money efficiently, but precisely the opposite. They even try to tell us how to spend our resources–do more of this, and less of that. “That,” in a practical sense, means not spending any money to get after their inexcusable and abusive treatment of animals.

Michigan dogfighting raid
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
The HSUS rescues pets from dogfighting rings,
puppy mills, and other cruelty.

The biggest offender of them all is the multi-millionaire public relations flack Rick Berman. Last Friday, Berman's so-called Center for Consumer Freedom took out another full-page ad in USA Today attacking The HSUS, with the false charge that we don’t do enough to help animal shelters. I estimate CCF has spent perhaps $10 million in its attacks against us since he took up the case in earnest. During the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in London, CCF aired one of its phony television ads in the Washington, D.C., market, burning hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to smear the nation’s most influential animal protection organization.

And here’s the irony. Last Friday, on the very day of CCF's USA Today ad, our Animal Rescue Team came to the aid of more than 140 dogs at a North Carolina puppy mill. Our affiliate, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, sent veterinarians to an American Indian reservation in South Dakota, treating animals in need and helping the people who care about them. Our Pets for Life team was on the ground in communities working with hundreds of people in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, giving out spay-and-neuter vouchers and other critical pet care services to help people and their animals. Our team was also on the ground to raid a suspected dogfighting operation in Kalamazoo, followed by a second raid today. And that just scratches the surface of what we do every day.

Some of that work may not qualify as making grants to animal shelters (which we do often), but was it life-saving work? Did it help dogs and cats? Were we the last, best hope for these animals? The answer in every case: absolutely yes.

With his spider-web of front groups, Berman is best known for defending smoking, junk food, obesity, trans-fats, tanning beds, drunk driving, and a host of other social blights.

He’s also an apologist for animal exploitation. CCF has fought Prop 2 in California and Prop 204 in Arizona (to ban extreme confinement on factory farms), Prop B in Missouri (to regulate puppy mills), the egg industry reform bill in Congress, our corporate campaigns against gestation crates, our campaign to end the seal hunt, and so much more.

CCF's advertising and social media campaigns notwithstanding, we keep racking up victories and progress. But that’s not to say Berman doesn’t have an effect: He’s lined his pockets very well by trading on the fear that some of the people responsible for today’s widespread abuses of animals have of The HSUS. According to federal tax filings, in 2008, 92 percent of the money raised for the Center for Consumer Freedom went to Berman or to his for-profit Berman and Company public relations outfit. 

CCF and Berman never deter us from taking on the biggest forms of large-scale, industrialized cruelty. When I see CCF's ads, it makes me, as CEO, want to invest more in these fights. Because more than anything, CCF's presence is a sign we are winning and that change is around the corner. That’s what we do here at The HSUS: drive the biggest forms of social change for animals and take on the perpetrators of animal cruelty and their front-men who stand in the way.

August 03, 2012

Dog Days of Summer for Congressman Steve King

Editor's note, Aug. 8, 2012: Stephen Colbert spoofed Rep. King's outrageous comments about animal fighting in this must-see segment of The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Steve King's Dogfighting Defense
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive


Iowa Congressman Steve King is feeling the heat in the wake of his surreal attempts to justify his recent vote against an amendment to the farm bill to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting; that amendment, which was approved by the House Agriculture Committee, sought to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fighting spectacle. About 20,000 people have viewed Rep. King’s reply to a question from a constituent who rightly wondered why he voted against a measure to crack down on this barbaric practice. Today, King posted a follow-up reply, which you can watch here, and that is also already racking up thousands of views. It’s called “Rep. Steve King (R-IA) Clarifies Statements on Dog Fighting.”

270x240 nc dogfighting rescue 2011 - michelle riley
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

The only thing is, he doesn’t. Rep. King’s latest reply is even more incoherent and strange than the original YouTube comment. He stresses that he values human life more than animal life. Okay, that’s fine. But because you value human life more than animal life, does that mean you should have no regard for animals and that there should be no legal standards in place to protect them? We can place a special value on humans but still believe that animal cruelty is wrong. Most people would do anything in the world for a family member, and there’s no one they value more than their parents or siblings or kids. But that doesn’t mean that a person would tolerate an atrocity toward a stranger. 

I’ve hit the topic of the congressman’s statements again partly because Steve King keeps mentioning me in his YouTube videos. I seem to be in his head. The fact is, Rep. King stands alone among federally elected officials in his extremist views about animal welfare. Every other member of Iowa’s Congressional delegation supports the measure to crack down on animal fighting, including Republicans Chuck Grassley and Tom Latham. During his tenure as a lawmaker, King has opposed just about all proposals to establish protections for animals―including a landmark agreement between United Egg Producers and The HSUS for the welfare of laying hens.

Animal fighting is a barbaric, despicable, and criminal practice, and the measure Rep. King voted against would shield young people from exposure to it. In the end, there’s no plausible defense for someone opposing legislation to crack down on animal fighting. Just like no one should defend rape or child abuse, no one should defend animal fighting, or say it’s not a crime worthy of our full attention as a society. To do so and be proud of it, in 2012, is a stunning act of folly.