Judgment Day in Congress on Animal Issues
The 41 Senators and Representatives selected to serve on the conference committee for the Farm Bill met for the first time today, with opening statements from all the members. Two critical measures – one good, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act; and one bad, the King amendment – hang in the balance.
Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Tom Marino, R-Pa., called on fellow conferees to keep intact the anti-animal fighting provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. Those provisions would make it a federal crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight. These bills enjoy overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, and have no organized opposition from legitimate, law-abiding organizations. They are opposed only by law-breaking dogfighters and cockfighters.
A half dozen members spoke out against the sweeping and destructive amendment from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. His amendment could nullify dozens of state laws relating to animal welfare, conservation, worker safety and food safety, and there are nearly 100 major organizations opposing it, including The HSUS, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the County Executives of America, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Consumer Federation of America and so many others. This amendment must be jettisoned in its entirety, as an enterprise-level threat to animal welfare and states’ rights. Congressman King, who also opposes efforts to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting, wants to see no state or federal standards to help any animals. He is a radical, and his amendment is radical, overreaching, and destructive.
Also today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was active on a different matter, but a critical and timely one. It gave unanimous approval on a voice vote to S. 1561, the CHIMP Act Amendments of 2013, sponsored by HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. This bill would give the National Institutes of Health the flexibility within its budget to retire chimpanzees to sanctuaries rather than continue warehousing them in laboratories.
It costs more money to house chimps in barren labs than in sanctuaries (which provide high quality care in a naturalistic setting) and NIH has agreed to transfer almost all of the federally-owned chimps to the sanctuary system. This is a humane and fiscally responsible bill, and it’s our hope that it is sent to the president by the middle of the month so that chimps at sanctuaries can be cared for and the process of transferring chimps from labs to sanctuaries can proceed apace.