April 2013 Blog Home June 2013

22 posts from May 2013

May 31, 2013

The Real IRS Subplot

When we took on the major problems threatening millions or even billions of animals – cracking down on puppy mills, fighting intensive confinement on factory farms, confronting the government of Canada and its ghastly seal slaughter, working to eradicate dogfighting and cockfighting, and curbing the trade in exotic wildlife – I knew we’d face pushback. It is the inevitable consequence of driving major social reforms.

In the past, I’ve written about Rick Berman, long known as a flack who fights on behalf of tobacco interests, drunk drivers and junk food peddlers. He also argues that it’s fine for young people to use tanning beds and just dandy for pregnant moms to eat fish laced with mercury. Well, after The HSUS started racking up so many gains for animals, he picked up the animal cruelty account, too. The Boston Globe is the latest outlet to have exposed his spider web of front groups and his deceptive attacks against The HSUS. 

HSUS Animal Rescue Team
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

I am not surprised by the likes of Berman and his mercenary work. But what is surprising, at least at first blush, is that a handful of politicians are gullible enough to buy Berman’s false framing and his fuzzy math. It essentially shows that if you want to believe something, you will believe just about anything.

For a couple of years now, a few congressmen, led by a little-known three-term lawmaker named Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., have been regurgitating the Berman claptrap and saying that the Internal Revenue Service should investigate The HSUS. The irony is, it’s Rick Berman who is gaming the system, having created a network of interlocking “non-profit” organizations that provide no public services or social welfare activities and act as front groups for the corporations that fund Berman. These front groups, which are just PR operations, have personally enriched Berman. In one year, with just one of his organizations (the Center for Consumer Freedom), Berman and his for-profit public affairs entity, Berman and Company, pocketed 92 percent of all the money. 

Mr. Luetkemeyer, if you are concerned about an abuse of the tax code, here’s your man: Rick Berman. If you decide to take up the matter with the IRS, we’ve got details to share (and, as an aside, he’s the last guy you should rely on as a source).

And here’s my reply, in one of Luetkemeyer’s hometown papers, to his false charges against The HSUS.

May 30, 2013

Inspector General, Smithfield Make News on Pig Production

Yesterday’s news that a massive Chinese meat producer, Shuanghai, has agreed to pay $4.7 billion to acquire American pork giant Smithfield Foods was a jarring reminder of the trend toward an increasingly centralized global trade in farm animals. While demand for meat in the U.S. has been falling for several years, demand in China for pork and other meats has been steadily increasing. So perhaps it’s no surprise that a Chinese meat company is interested in buying the world’s largest pork producer, and that the producer is interested in greater access to the country’s billion-plus consumers.

With the rise of factory farming in western nations in the last half century, harsh and unforgiving treatment of animals in the meat industry in these parts of the world has become the norm. In China, the movement against factory farming is in its developmental stage, and that means there have been even fewer restraints on the growth or the excesses of the industrialized pork sector. Extreme confinement systems developed in the U.S. have been exported throughout the world, including China, and now we see foreign business interests buying up American meat companies directly.

Sow in a gestation crate

A number of Chinese meat producers have recently come under public scrutiny within China for animal welfare, environmental, and food safety abuses, and it will be an important Humane Society International priority to engage these parties in the future.

In any event, we are relieved that Shuanghai’s  potential purchase of Smithfield doesn’t appear likely to affect the policies Smithfield has put in place to phase out the confinement of sows in gestation crates (at its company-owned facilities) over the next four years. That policy should be replicated by Smithfield’s major competitors and be applied to the company’s contractors, too.

But gestation crate confinement of pigs, as terrible as it is, is far from the only animal welfare problem plaguing the pork industry. Just this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General released a disturbing report concluding that the agency’s “enforcement policies do not deter swine slaughter plants from becoming repeat violators of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. As a result, plants have repeatedly violated the same regulations with little or no consequence.”

Hundreds of incidents of contaminated meat – including meat tainted with feces – went unpunished, as did numerous “egregious violations” of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. For example, inside a Pennsylvania slaughter plant, "a hog that had been stunned and bled regained consciousness. The hog was able to right its head, make noise, kick, and splash water in reaction to being placed in a scalding tank." Despite a live and conscious animal being drowned in a tank of scalding water, this plant faced no suspension.

Lax enforcement at meat plants has become routine, and that’s precisely why investigations by The HSUS and other animal welfare groups are so critical in sniffing out and exposing abuse.  After all, it wasn’t the USDA that uncovered horrific cruelties at slaughter plants like Hallmark/Westland and Bushway—it was HSUS investigators.

This is one reason that the defeat of whistleblower suppression bills – also known as ag-gag bills – is so critical. At the meat industry’s behest, lawmakers in 11 states have introduced bills in 2013 to crack down on unauthorized investigations and whistleblowing activities. Earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed his state’s version of an ag-gag bill, and we have stalled or killed similar bills in nine other states. One bill, even more far-reaching than Tennessee’s, is pending in North Carolina, and we are in a tough fight to kill it.

Just yesterday, the editorial board of the Fayetteville Observer – the hometown paper of the state Senator sponsoring the bill – condemned this ag-gag effort, summing it up well: “We hope [Sen. Wesley] Meredith will let this dreadful legislation die humanely in committee.” We hope so too, and we’ll continue to press for the protection of pigs and other farm animals, and for the right of the public to see and understand how these animals are treated on industrialized factory farms – no matter if the companies are owned by Americans, by Chinese business owners, or any other conglomerates in any other part of the world. As Americans and other people throughout the world become ever more disassociated from their food supply, transparency and public understanding are more vital than ever.

May 29, 2013

Going to Bat for People and Their Pets

The HSUS has worked for more than a half century to develop effective strategies for shelters to drive down euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats. One primary strategy has been to promote spaying and neutering, and the other, to promote adoption. A corollary strategy, which is becoming an increasingly important focus for the most effective shelters and rescue groups, has been to provide resources or advice to assure that pets stay in the home once they are there, since relinquishment has become the number one source of animals coming in to shelters.

In New York, we’re implementing innovative approaches strategies through our Pet Help Partners program to keep animals in the home and to work through problems that pet owners are having. Our helpline fields thousands of calls each year from families struggling to resolve conflicts that threaten to separate them from their pets – whether it’s due to a life crisis such as job loss, a family member who has developed an allergy to their pet, a pet behavior problem they don’t know how to resolve, or sometimes a conflict with a landlord.

270x240 bulldog face istock

New York City is the highest rent and apartment-living market in the U.S., and helpline calls from people experiencing housing-related conflicts are common. Often, these family and pet relationships are saved simply by talking through options with one of our helpline counselors who can provide information about their tenant rights under the law. In some of the more extreme cases, PHP seeks assistance from The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation department, whose members work to develop and implement legal strategies for helping animals.

Here is how our work helped two pet-loving citizens, Rubin and Carmen, in their efforts to keep their animals:

When a PHP staff member met Rubin, he was sitting in the lobby of Animal Care & Control of NYC with his elderly dog, Red, lying at his feet. Rubin, a senior citizen who suffers from emotional and psychological disabilities and relies heavily on his dog for emotional support, was there to relinquish his closest companion of 11 years because of a new NYC public housing policy prohibiting certain breeds. Rubin was devastated at the thought of losing his pet, but he had no money for a new apartment, nor could he consider living somewhere other than the home he had lived in for decades. It seemed that there was no recourse – a city officer had ordered him to remove his friendly dog from the apartment. Fortunately for Rubin and his best friend, the PHP staff member happened to be in the shelter lobby that day and offered him assistance.

Similarly, Carmen and her family was in danger of losing their two beloved dogs because her landlord claimed that keeping the dogs in their Brooklyn apartment was a violation of her lease, even though Carmen's family had openly maintained the dogs for a long time. The landlord notified Carmen that she must remove her dogs or be subject to eviction proceedings. Carmen lives with and cares for her father and her mother who both suffer from serious emotional disabilities and take great comfort in the presence of their pets.

It was our legal team’s long-standing relationship with Paul Ferrillo at Weil, Gotshal, and Manges that made it possible for Carmen and Rubin to keep their animal companions. When The HSUS presented Weil with these cases, Paul and his team went to work, arguing in various courthouses in New York City, among other things, that various provisions of state and federal law required property owners to make reasonable accommodations for tenants to allow them to keep their pets as support animals. 

There’s no formula for keeping pets in the home – every circumstance and case is different. But we are learning a hundred different ways to help, and then passing the lessons on to other shelters. In the end, we are helping to maintain the human-animal bond, to avoid the heartache that comes from separation and relinquishment, and, in the broadest sense, to save lives and prevent euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats in our communities.

May 28, 2013

They Should Get the Key to the City

Those of us who have shared our homes with a rescued pet know their loyalty runs deep. But deep enough to save someone’s life? Absolutely. This year's Pets of Valor Award highlights just that – the lifesaving heroics of five former castaways who risked life and limb to rescue their human companions.

Of our top five Pets of Valor finalists, a few of them were found wandering the streets. Another came out of a drug house. One had been shot, and still had lead shot in his hip when he was dumped at the shelter.

Each of them got a second chance. And then when there was a moment of crisis for their rescuer, they responded with bravery and heroism – becoming the rescuers themselves.

Omar Von Muller
Uggie, star of the Academy Award-winning film "The Artist,"
is the official spokesdog for Pets of Valor.

You may remember the scene from the Academy Award-winning film “The Artist,” where Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, saves the life of his owner from a fire. Taz, one of the Pets of Valor Award finalists, also completed this life-saving feat, but there was no director, no stage, and certainly no chance for a second “take.”

It’s this sort of heroism that makes the finalists for the Pets of Valor Award so remarkable. Whether it’s a fire, a life-threatening medical emergency, or an attack by a sexual offender, these rescued and adopted pets acted valiantly to protect the humans they’d come to love. The human-animal bond doesn’t get any stronger than this.

For those of us who’ve known animals, it’s impossible to doubt that they have feelings and emotions. Now, with the Pets of Valor program, we know that they exhibit intentional, altruistic behavior – the sort of behavior that, if one of us did it, would result in our getting the key to the city and our name in the paper.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the heroic stories, then vote and tell us who your favorite dog or cat is. You can vote once a day until this Friday, May 31, at 5 pm EDT. Not only will you help one of these animals win, but you’ll help the shelter or rescue group who cared for the animal win free dog food for a year (500 pounds), courtesy of the award’s sponsor, BOGO Bowl.

P.S. Thinking of adding a pet to your family? Check out the wonderful companion animals available for adoption at a shelter or rescue near you and adopt your own Pet of Valor.

May 24, 2013

Is Violence in Our World on the Rise or Decline?

In his magisterial work “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker argued that our time is the most peaceful era in human history. Average life expectancy, at least for people in western nations, has broken the 80-year mark. With better nutrition and sanitation and medical treatment, we are spared from many lethal diseases, and no longer powerless to fend or fight them off. We are much less likely to die from a violent act. In the last few decades, the world has been free of war between democracies. When wars or revolutions do occur, the body count is smaller than in earlier times.

It’s a provocative thesis, even if it seems counterintuitive. On the news, we see round-the-clock coverage of violence, such as murders, rapes and school shootings. In the post-9/11 era, there is an almost universal fear of terrorism and an intense focus on national security.

There can be no doubt that we still live in a violent time. But it compares favorably to the cataclysms of the great world wars of the 20th century, the U.S. Civil War, or the routine violence and death that occurred in the Middle Ages or, looking back further to pre-agricultural times, in tribal societies. Things have gotten better – and, Pinker argues, we’ve been through a “civilizing process,” a “humanitarian revolution,” and, most recently, a “rights revolution.”

Better Angels of our Nature

In recent centuries, we’ve seen the emergence of democracy and human rights, and successful campaigns to end slavery, dueling, corporal punishment, wife-beating, and many other forms of coercion or violence that were once commonplace. In recent decades, we’ve seen an enormous expansion in political rights, a rise in literacy, an enhancement in per capita income and trade and commerce, and a substantial rise and growth in charity and empathy. All of these things help to make the world a better and safer place to live in.

Pinker does not exclude animals from his wide-angle lens. He recognizes the legal revolution against malicious animal cruelty and animal fighting of the last 150 years as part of our humanitarian progress. In the last three decades, we’ve seen a dramatic decline in rates of euthanasia in healthy and treatable animals, and newly energized campaigns to combat the biggest forms of institutionalized cruelty, such as factory farming, animal testing and the wildlife trade.

But even with this unmistakable progress, it’s hard to argue that things are better for animals across the board. While we’ve seen the first series of laws to restrict extreme confinement of farm animals in the European Union and the United States, factory farming occurs on a vast and expanding scale worldwide. We are mining the oceans of fish, and killing sea turtles, sea birds and marine mammals in the process. We are tough on the terrestrial wildlife, too, killing off predators and exploiting others for bushmeat, trinkets, trophies and pelts.

We are living at an odd moment in human history. There are more expressions of love and compassion for animals than ever before – with a larger-than-ever network of charities and a growing body of animal protection law. But there is still an extremely high level of exploitation and harm. So much of this is explained by the power we wield over animals and the vast number of human beings on the planet, settling so many habitable portions of Earth. 

But just as we’ve seen extraordinary changes in human-to-human relations, we are bound to see more changes for the better in human-to-animal relations. The humane movement, rooted in so many communities, is too powerful a force to be denied, the core values of our movement are too embedded in society, and there is also the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind that can transform so many traditional or seemingly essential forms of animal use into obsolete and archaic ones.

This kind of change – grand in its ambition and challenging because it calls for sacrifice – is not self-executing. It can only happen because good people, and the institutions they serve, demand good outcomes. It happens when they struggle, when they organize, and when they pursue the vision for, and then work to build, a truly humane society.

May 23, 2013

Talk Back: Fork in the Road for Michigan Wolves

Hundreds of you wrote me after I asked your opinion about the road ahead in Michigan, where the state legislature is hell bent on allowing trophy hunters and pelt trappers to kill wolves. All but two of you urged The HSUS to pursue a second referendum campaign to block hunting of wolves.


Let me remind you of the details. In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes and handed off management responsibility to the states. State wildlife agencies in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin quickly took steps to open up hunting and trapping seasons, with Michigan lawmakers passing a bill in December 2012 to give the Natural Resources Commission the go-ahead for a fall 2013 season.

The HSUS and pro-wolf organizations, part of a broad coalition that also included Indian tribes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, launched a referendum drive, and within 67 days those petitioners collected more than a quarter million signatures of registered voters who believe it is cruel and premature to open a season. Yesterday, the Michigan secretary of state certified the petition and approved the referendum for the November 2014 ballot, staying the December 2012 law and allowing voters to nullify it by voting against a wolf season 18 months from now.

But in between the signature submission date of March 27th and yesterday’s certification, state lawmakers rammed through a second law in an attempt to subvert the referendum and make it moot. Their second measure, SB 288, gives authority to the NRC to open hunting and trapping seasons on any protected species, except mourning doves.

We believe the vote of the people on the original referendum in November 2014 should be binding, and that the NRC and the Michigan legislature should heed the will of the state’s citizenry. But, as a legal matter, they may not be bound to follow the vote. Thus, we are faced with the idea of launching a second referendum, to send an unmistakable signal about the legislature’s abuse of power and the people’s wish to keep Michigan wolves protected. We are still getting feedback from our supporters and donors, but here is a sampling of your opinion:

It is absolutely important to mount another effort to protect wolves and to have the rights of American citizens respected. Legislators need to be reminded that they work for ALL of us, rather than exclusively for a handful of special interest groups who have no concern for their fellow citizens or wildlife.
- Annoula
Absolutely pursue this again! This is beyond the wolf hunting issue now, our democratic rights are being endangered... and we are furious. We were volunteers and collected 3,175 signatures from 67 counties in Michigan and 10 counties in the Upper Peninsula. People wished to vote on this issue and now that’s been taken away from us.
- Judy and Curt Brock, Northville, MI
First, a most heartfelt and sincere thanks for the effort mounted by you and The HSUS. I live in Michigan. My home is downstate in a rural area, but I kayak and camp in the Upper Peninsula, which is the home of our beleaguered wolves. I respect living near wild animals, and I like and respect my fellow citizens in the U.P. I know a number of responsible hunters who are appalled at the idea of a wolf hunt. I have followed the issue of the wolf as a game animal and the important need to allow the citizens' right to petition via ballot referendum, which was cynically circumvented. We need, and must, fight back on all these issues. WE ARE FIRED UP & READY TO GO! I pledge my support and my actions to circulate a second round of petitions.
- Deborah de Lorenzo, Superior Twp MI
This fight has become more than just a fight for wolves, but a fight for all wildlife and for democracy. We cannot let the Michigan legislature think that every time they want to silence the will of the voters that they can just pass new bills to circumvent them.
- Don Hughes
I am very angry at what the Michigan governor and state legislature have done signing SB 288 into law. They show a lack of compassion for wolves in addition to their lack of regard for the more than a quarter of a million of us who signed the petition, and for those who worked with great dedication to collect the signatures. They cheated so they could have a wolf execution season outside the oversight of voters.
- Jenny Sykora
In regards to mounting the second wave of protests against killing these majestic animals, I do believe we have to continue doing everything in our power, since they cannot speak for themselves. It does get incredibly frustrating working with some of these organizations & politicians who do not listen to what the people are screaming for. Some of these horrors & injustices stay in my mind for what seems like an eternity, until I hear we have made a difference, and there are those of us who will continue the fight.
- Jody Armstrong, Pollock Pines, CA
I am in awe of your ability to not tire in the wake of defeat such as this! You have my support; monetarily, emotionally, and energetically. I pray for our majestic wolves consistently, as well as all other sentient beings that share this planet we live on. While it may appear daunting and impossible, I am a staunch believer in the power of people banding together for a cause (even if that means multiple times). I feel that we (HSUS and supporters) cannot afford to back down and sit this one out.
- Stacey Bolar
I wholeheartedly support and encourage you and The HSUS to mount another initiative and do everything possible to protect wolves. I do not live in Michigan, I live in Montana, where wolves have been hunted and trapped for 3 years now. It is horrible what our FWP is allowing to happen to this keystone species. I do, however, have many friends in the great state of Michigan who not only hit the pavement to help gather signatures, but most certainly will do the same again. I even sent financial contributions to help with their efforts, and will do so again.
- April Lane, Whitefish, MT

May 22, 2013

Puppy Mill Horror Uncovered in Mississippi

Puppy mills, by definition, come up short on animal welfare, taking moral and practical shortcuts in order to churn out dogs for the pet trade – by confining animals indefinitely, breeding them every heat cycle, and denying them proper veterinary care. But the conditions our rescue team witnessed at a raid in Mississippi on Monday were nothing short of appalling. It was, in a word, a nightmare for the animals.

Mississippi puppy mill raid
Chuck Cook/The HSUS

When our staff arrived on the scene with the Walthall County Sheriff’s Office, they found live dogs sharing cages with the bodies of dead ones. Surviving dogs suffered from terrible injuries, including one dog with a severed leg. Blankets of feces covered the bottoms of the cages, and scattered throughout the property were the skeletal remains of many dogs for whom help arrived too late.

We were able to pull 104 dogs out of that hellhole. They have been safely transported to the Humane Society of South Mississippi where they are being treated by a team of veterinarians and other animal care professionals. Those nursed back to health will be screened for adoption so they can enjoy new, better lives.

Over the past five years, we’ve partnered with law enforcement to help close down dozens of mills. Nearly all of them were selling puppies online. This sales strategy requires no federal license, and in Mississippi and other states with no rules governing mills, commercial breeders who sell puppies online are subject to no oversight whatsoever.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture only inspects dog breeders that sell to pet stores, but it is currently in the process of making final a rule change that would require large-scale breeding facilities that sell puppies online to be federally licensed and inspected as well. If the USDA could inspect all large-scale commercial breeders, regardless of their means of commerce, it would be in a position to prevent a house of horrors like the one we witnessed in Mississippi.

Additionally, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and David Vitter, R-La., along with Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., reintroduced the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, S. 395/ H.R. 847, which would require direct sellers of 50 or more puppies to be federally licensed and inspected for basic humane standards of care. The PUPS Act would also require that licensed facilities let dogs out of their cages for at least an hour a day.

This Mississippi case reminds us of what’s at stake, and why it’s so critical that we adopt this policy.

Watch the video:

May 21, 2013

Reading is Fundamental – For Animals

Our mission statement is both clear and compelling: Celebrating animals, confronting cruelty. While the confrontation side of our work gets most of the headlines – through investigations or corporate or public policy campaigns – we never forget that animals do so much to enrich our lives, our community, and our world. 

This month, for the second year, our friends at Penguin USA are kicking off the summer reading season with Read Humane, which features six of Penguin’s best-selling romance and mystery titles produced as special Read Humane editions. Each of the authors – including Read Humane spokesperson, Jill Shalvis, along with Linda O. Johnston, Miranda James, Leann Sweeney, Judi McCoy, and Ali Brandon – feature animals in their story lines. These are entertaining books, but Read Humane also has a serious purpose: Penguin USA is donating $25,000 to The HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team, and using the promotion to raise awareness of our work to rescue animals. You can read a review of Linda O. Johnston’s book, “Hounds Abound,” in the current issue of All Animals, and there’s an excerpt from it on the iPad version of our magazine. You can find out more about all of the books, as well as where to buy them, on the Read Humane webpage.

Read Humane

The Read Humane authors don’t just write about animals. From having their own pets, to promoting adoption and rescue or educating people about puppy mills, they celebrate the bond in their personal lives as well. And they are not alone.

Photographer Robin Layton, along with authors Kimi Culp and Lisa Erspamer, created a wonderful book, “A Letter to My Dog: Notes to our Best Friends.” Filled with Robin’s beautiful photos and touching notes to their dogs from celebrities and ordinary dog lovers, the book is sure to move you. The authors have also pledged a percentage of their royalties to support The HSUS, and Robin donated her services as a judge in our recent Pet Pageant photo contest.

Another Pet Pageant judge, photographer Seth Casteel, hit the New York Times Best Seller list with his photo book, “Underwater Dogs.” We’ve all seen a water-loving dog dive exuberantly into a pool after a ball. But Seth has captured what goes on beneath the water’s surface in amazing and hilarious photographs.

As successful as the book has been, in our opinion, it may not be Seth’s most important work. For several years, Seth has volunteered with animal shelters and rescue groups to take transformational photos of adoptable pets. Instead of “mug shots,” his photos reveal each animal’s personality in photos beautiful enough to put on any wall. Take a look at some of his before and after photos and you’ll see what I mean. Seth is now expanding this important project by conducting photography workshops (with the assistance of Greater Good, The Animal Rescue Site, The PetFinder Foundation, John Paul Pet, Halo and Free Kibble) to conduct workshops for shelters and rescues so every pet can be showcased in photos that literally show them in their best light.

I hope you’ll join us, and these remarkable authors and publishers, in celebrating animals.

May 20, 2013

Hope for Hens in India

India is known throughout the world as a nation of vegetarians, and vegetarianism is indeed very common there. In recent years, however, this growing economic power, even with its strong, animal-friendly religious and cultural traditions, has seen meat eating on the rise, and the worst elements of factory farming are taking hold. There are an estimated 140 to 200 million egg-laying hens living in conventional battery cages in the world’s largest democracy.

When I went to India last November to launch our new offices on the subcontinent, I visited nearly a half dozen battery cage facilities. I saw hens living in space allotments smaller than a sheet of printer paper. I saw filth and flies and overcrowding. And I saw animals who would never make it out of their cages alive.

India Chickens
Erin Van Voorhies

Such confinement violates the provisions of Section 11(1)(e) of the 1960 national Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which requires that animals confined to cages be provided with reasonable opportunity for movement. Guided by the plain language of this foresighted statute, the Animal Welfare Board of India issued an advisory a year ago to all state governments stating that battery cages should not be used, and that existing battery cages should be phased out by 2017.

Humane Society International India has been following up with all of the state animal husbandry departments in the country, convincing them to issue a directive that it is a violation of the PCA Act to confine hens in battery cages. Accordingly, a majority of them have issued directives to their officers, and poultry farmers have been instructed to phase out and avoid battery cages, and not to make any investments in these extreme confinement facilities.

In India, there is a big gap between what the law says and what happens on the ground, and that’s especially true when it comes to animals. But in this case, the law is unambiguous, and we know that there are other ways to raise birds. This correction may take a while, but the trajectory is clear. Our staff members in India are determined to see this through. No nation that values animals, as India does, can indefinitely confine more than 100 million birds in these kinds of conditions. 

Speak Up For Hens! Tell India’s Government to Enforce the Ruling >>

May 17, 2013

The HSUS: A Leader in Endangered Species Protection

The HSUS is known as an anti-cruelty organization, and many assume that our primary concern is domesticated species. But we also work hard to protect wild animals from a variety of threats, and our work on that front is wide-ranging. 

Polar Bear

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act – one of a raft of visionary animal protection and conservation laws passed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that collectively signified a new approach and commitment to nature and to wild animals. Today we celebrate Endangered Species Day, a reminder that we humans have all the power in our relationship with wildlife and that we must take intentional actions to protect species from a variety of human-caused threats. The ecologist Aldo Leopold explained that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.

Here are some of the ways that we fight for rare species:

  • The HSUS’ Wildlife Land Trust protects thousands of acres of habitat for endangered and imperiled wildlife. We now protect lands in 38 states for both abundant and endangered wildlife. Ultimately, preservation of habitat is the foundation of all efforts aimed at saving wildlife.
  • In the last decade, lawsuits filed by The HSUS have successfully prevented efforts to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves on seven different occasions. But recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes from the list of federally protected species, allowing states to assume control over management. State fish and wildlife agencies, pushed by the hunting and ranching lobbies, almost immediately decided to open up hunting and trapping seasons, with Montana now seeking to have a wolf season that lasts for more than half the year. We are back in court again fighting to restore federal protections for wolves. In the broadest sense, we are fighting for the protection of predators, since these apex species play such critical roles in balancing ecosystems.
  • We petitioned the Department of Interior to list the African lion under the Endangered Species Act, saving lions from American trophy hunters who kill the cats and bring them home for bragging rights.
  • Earlier this year, we successfully defended the Endangered Species Act listing of polar bears in court, and are working to prevent Congress from weakening the Endangered Species Act by allowing trophy hunters to import parts of threatened polar bears. More broadly, we are working with the United States and Russia to promote policies to end the international trade of polar bear hides and parts.
  • Not long ago, there were only a few dozen surviving California condors. Today there are a few hundred, and still dangerously scarce. One of the major threats to the condor is lead poisoning from ammunition left behind by hunters. We are sponsoring California AB 711 to require non-lead ammunition for hunting, and that bill passed the California Assembly just yesterday. We are also working to ban other deadly toxins, including the use of Compound 1080, used by the USDA in its predator control programs.
  • We are lobbying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to block imports of five species of large constricting snakes. These species have been identified as an invasive species risk. Already, in the Everglades, Burmese pythons have wiped out large numbers of mammals and they threaten the prey base for the highly endangered Florida panther. The pythons are a direct threat to other endangered species as well.
  • We work across the country to give full ESA protections to captive animals where their wild counterparts are listed. Just this year we helped pass a ban on the keeping of chimpanzees and other primates as pets in Arkansas, and work to end the private possession of tigers, chimpanzees, wolves, and other dangerous wild animals. We also work to end the killing of endangered antelope who are shot for trophies at captive hunting facilities right here in the U.S.
  • Only a few hundred right whales swim off of our coasts, and The HSUS leads the fight to stop ship strikes, fatal entanglement and protect habitat for these sea monarchs.
  • Our unparalleled anti-poaching campaign provides several hundred thousand dollars in rewards for tips on poaching cases, including for ESA-listed Mexican gray wolves, whooping cranes, Canada lynx and Steller sea lions, and allows us to partner with federal law enforcement on wildlife trafficking investigations.