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January 04, 2013

Working Together Brings Positive Change for Animals

Editor's note: This entry originally appeared on January 3, 2013, and has been re-posted due to technical difficulties.

In my blog yesterday, I lamented the general inaction by our Congress on beneficial animal welfare policies during the lame-duck session. But the 112th Congress’ tendency to leave work unfinished had an upside, as some animal-unfriendly policies were nixed, such as a Farm bill amendment by Iowa Rep. Steve King that would have invalidated the state’s animal welfare laws and a host of other statutes regarding agriculture. And, as I mentioned yesterday, Congress also allowed a bill to die that would have prevented regulation of lead shot and authorized the import of polar bear trophies into the United States, even though the species is threatened with extinction.

270x240 pig face istock

We’ll work hard in the new 113th Congress to drive good policies for animals and to stand in the way of bad ones, and so will the Humane Society Legislative Fund. 

Of course, we also concentrate our resources on state legislatures, on enforcement of laws, on hands-on care for animals, on public education and awareness, and on corporate reforms.

Today, Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork producer, announced that it is continuing to make progress on conversion of its company-owned facilities to group housing of sows, and to phase out its use of gestation crates. In a tremendously significant announcement, the company said it is committed to phasing out its gestation crate operations in Mexico by 2022, and that all of its operations in Europe now are gestation-crate free. As we work with the company, we recognize its progress, and hope its competitors like Tyson Foods follow suit.

Smithfield Foods is just one indicator of the corporate reforms we’re helping to drive. Also in the agriculture sector, we are pleased to work with the United Egg Producers on federal legislation to phase out the extreme confinement of hens in barren battery cages. Passing that measure will be a top priority as Farm bill discussions resume in earnest in the months ahead.

A couple of weeks back, I announced that the HSLF had reached an agreement with manufacturers of antifreeze and engine coolant to add a bittering agent to their products. With one of our affiliates, the Doris Day Animal League, we’d been working for years on state legislation on the subject, and worked with lawmakers in 16 states to adopt policies. It was a huge advance to have the companies step it up a notch and to make national the policy, through voluntary action.

A few weeks ago, we also announced that we have formed a new coalition of animal welfare organizations, retailers and pet industry associations to confront the problem of puppy mills. The goal is to create lasting change in the commercial dog breeding industry in order to ensure proper and humane care and safety of dogs and puppies. We want to improve conditions for commercial breeding dogs and the puppies they produce, as well as ensure that consumers who choose to purchase a puppy have a reliable and more humane source for obtaining a pet. Of course, our first request of all consumers is that they adopt from a shelter or a rescue, but if they insist on buying a dog, we want to make sure that they are purchasing from a responsible breeder, not from a puppy mill. This accord, too, is landmark, and I’ll have more to say about it in the coming weeks.

The HSUS is willing to confront our adversaries, in the courts, in legislative bodies, in the realm of public opinion. But we are also willing to sit down with them and find solutions that make the world better for animals. We prefer cooperation. That’s my commitment to every HSUS supporter, and to so many industries we’ve criticized. Only by talking and problem-solving will we figure out a better way ahead for animals and for all of society.

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