October 2013 Blog Home December 2013

18 posts from November 2013

November 27, 2013

An Unheralded Early Leader in our Movement – a 50-Year Memorial Tribute

As we prepare for a few days of family, friends and giving thanks, I’m thankful for those who walked this path before me.

On Dec. 1, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the death of HSUS co-founder Fred Myers, a long-neglected visionary in the history of our movement. Myers’ greatest insight was that the animal protection movement of the 1950s, in examining the challenges to come in the succeeding decades, had a need for a new kind of animal organization – one that would take on the greatest national and global challenges in animal welfare. Myers’ premature death, at the age of 59, was a terrible shock for his colleagues, and a true moment of crisis for The HSUS. Fortunately, a cadre of individuals stepped into the breach and kept The HSUS moving forward and continued developing its capacity to confront the biggest issues of the day. 

Fred Myers, one of the co-founders of The Humane
Society of the United States.

I often think about Myers and other early figures, because it is my responsibility to advance the mission of the organization they founded. I think their vision was inspired, and it syncs up with my view that we must strike at the root causes of cruelty, taking on the largest, most intractable forms of institutionalized cruelty. I often wish that it were possible for him and other HSUS pioneers to see just how far we’ve come in extending their vision. How pleased they would be to see us taking on factory farming, puppy mills, seal killing, animal fighting, and so many problems that they lacked the means to address and run to ground. 

Their own early achievements, however, were not inconsequential, given that they began as a small start-up. By the time of Myers’ death, just nine years after the founding of the organization, The HSUS had helped to secure the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which did away with crude methods of slaughter like the poleaxe. When Myers passed away, The HSUS was already two years into its long-term probe of animal dealers taking dogs to laboratories. This is the very investigation which culminated in passage of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966, after Stan Wayman’s Life Magazine essay brought the story to millions of Americans. Just last week, The HSUS released the results of an undercover investigation of dog-dealing to laboratories – a sign both of our staying power and of the intractability of so many problems we confront.

In 2014, we’ll celebrate the 60th anniversary of The HSUS, an organization that has relied on thousands of dedicated staff members to advance its programs over the many decades since Myers and others gathered in a Denver living room to launch their new organization, with great principle and high hopes. Without him, The HSUS would not exist at all. That’s the fundamental legacy of Fred Myers. He was a man of great vision, judgment and determination, and together with his colleagues, he introduced a bold new approach to humane issues. It’s made a big difference for millions of animals, and now it’s our task to finally solve some of these problems and to extend that enduring vision on the global stage.

November 26, 2013

The Jury is in for Animals at the WTO

There has been a seismic shift on the international legal front for animals this week. Unknown to most Americans, the World Trade Organization in Geneva sets the rules of the road on trade matters and regularly renders far-reaching decisions that affect the ability of nations to pass laws to protect animals, the environment and public heath – long treating value-based standards of that nature as barriers to trade. This little-understood international body has the power to judge which domestic laws protecting animals are consistent with free trade agreements, and which laws cannot stand.

It's a staggering amount of power for one body to wield over the fate of millions of animals, and that's why Humane Society International and The HSUS have developed a premier team of political and legal experts who work tirelessly to push the WTO toward humane decisions.

Seal pup
Frank Loftus/HSI

I am pleased to report that yesterday our team scored a huge victory when the WTO issued perhaps its most animal-friendly decision to date, upholding the right of the European Union to prohibit trade in the products of commercial seal hunts for humane reasons.

The EU ban on the sale of seal products, instituted in 2009, had been challenged at the WTO by Canada and Norway as violating international trade rules. In essence, the pro-sealing countries argued that animal cruelty is not a sufficient reason to ban the trade in seal products. The WTO panel largely rejected their claims of discriminatory treatment, finding fault merely with certain exceptions to the ban.

The HSI/HSUS team made a significant contribution to this victory by providing video evidence during the WTO hearings of the inherent cruelty of commercial sealing and by filing an amicus brief that the EU lawyers attached to their submissions for consideration by the panel.

The WTO specifically found that the EU ban is consistent with WTO rules because it fulfills the legitimate objective of addressing EU's citizens' moral concerns with regard to animal welfare and that no alternative measure would suffice. The key to the panel’s decision was its findings that, “animal welfare is an issue of ethical or moral nature in the European Union” and that, “animal welfare is a matter of ethical responsibility for human beings in general.” While the truth of these statements may seem obvious, it is hard to overstate the importance of their acceptance on a world legal stage. Seen more narrowly, this is a great win for seals and a huge setback for the government of Canada in its efforts to turn back the clock on sales of seal pelts to the EU.

This ruling will reassure any country considering an animal welfare measure that it has much less to fear from a WTO challenge than it did before. It also improves the outlook for hundreds of state and federal animal protection laws that had an uncertain future because of the consequences of unfettered trade.

Yesterday's win for animals comes on the heels of much more troubling WTO ruling last year, holding that the U.S. “dolphin-safe” labeling law provides “less favorable treatment” to Mexican tuna products in violation of international trade rules. In the wake of that ruling, the Obama administration had a choice to make - it could relax the law’s requirements with respect to setting tuna nets on dolphins, which would be sure to please the Mexican tuna fisheries stubbornly clinging to this antiquated practice. Or it could expand the scope of the dolphin-safe law in order to comply with the WTO report, while leaving intact a strong prohibition on setting nets on dolphins. Fortunately, the administration chose the latter, and we rejoiced on behalf of the dolphins.

Unfortunately, Mexico recently requested another hearing at the WTO, claiming that the dolphin-safe law still runs afoul of WTO principles. Much like Canada, Mexico continues to try to profit from cruel practices that are out-of-touch with modern sensibility and push the products of this cruelty into markets that don’t want them.

In the meantime, our lawyers and policy experts will be hard at work at the WTO Ministerial Conference next month and into the future, making sure free trade principles do not run roughshod over the patchwork of domestic humane regulations, which are the only thing standing between millions of animals and a whole panoply of unspeakable cruelty and abuse in the more than 150 member countries that make up the WTO.

November 25, 2013

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide

Since the far-reaching, multi-state dogfighting raid in late August – involving 13 locations and the seizure of 367 dogs – your HSUS Animal Rescue Team and animal fighting experts have been doing all sorts of follow up on this and other cases. They have been on the ground for three additional raids, seizing another 42 dogs that had been destined for fighting pits. One of our animal fighting experts was instrumental in bringing the 14th suspect to justice and worked closely with the FBI in the days leading up to the seizures in Dothan and Abbeville, Ala.

Our experts are regularly called upon by state, local and federal law enforcement to provide intelligence on dogfighting activities at home and abroad. We also have a reward program that allows people to get money for providing information to us on illegal animal fighting activities. And our investigators do their best to penetrate these criminal networks. The HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition not only serves as our placement program for the many dogs we rescue each year, but also oversees behavior and enrichment programs for these animals.

Dogfighting raid
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

The dogs from our raids in the Southeast are being held as evidence at an HSUS-run temporary shelter where they have been receiving veterinary care, enrichment and affection from our many animal rescue volunteers and Animal Rescue Team staff. The personnel sit and read to the shy dogs during enrichment time and the more exuberant dogs are given extra exercise and active enrichment in four play yards. Puppies are given exercise time and are learning how to be well-mannered in hopes of preparing them for their future homes. We also have many dogs with special medical needs who are settling into “quiet rooms” that we constructed at the temporary shelter. As the dogs have realized that they are safe – that food, water and treats are coming, and that people can mean good things – they are beginning to grow and flourish. And they are realizing that they don’t need to attack other animals to gain favor from people.

At the same time, we are working hard in Congress to secure enactment of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, to build on the existing federal law against animal fighting by making it a crime to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight. With strong partisan support in both chambers, that provision should be enacted as part of the Farm Bill, if the Congress takes final action on that larger measure.

When it comes to animal fighters, our motto at The HSUS is “nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

Watch video footage from the latest raid HERE:

November 22, 2013

Game-Changing “Petential” for Pets for Life

With tens of millions of people living at or below the poverty level in the United States, it’s no surprise that the pets in these households go without as well. Through The HSUS’ Pets for Life program, which we directly conduct in four major American cities, we focus on disadvantaged communities and work to provide pet-related services – food, sterilization, vaccination and more – to the pets of people who care as much about the well-being of their animals as anyone. The issue in these communities is access and resources – not the will to care for animals.

Sonya Williams
The Pets for Life team speaks with pet owners at a recent
community outreach event in Chicago.

But scale is an issue, and we want to bring this program from four to 40 and eventually to 400 communities. We got a great start last year toward our second-tier goal when we partnered with PetSmart Charities to mentor 10 local organizations across the country – supplying funding for spay/neuter, vaccinations, wellness events and other much-needed services, while our staff provided in-depth training on how to conduct effective community outreach and increase spay/neuter surgeries within under-served populations.

I’m excited to share our new video featuring first-year mentorship grant recipients sharing what Pets for Life has meant for their organizations and communities.

The first-year grants were a huge success – with more than 9,500 pets served and 4,200 spay/neuter surgeries provided in the 10 mentorship communities alone. The data we’ve collected shows the benefits of this innovative approach:

  • 89 percent of the people had never contacted their local animal shelter or animal control.
  • 70 percent of the pets had never seen a veterinarian before.
  • 86 percent of the pets had not yet been spayed or neutered.

The HSUS is leading the way by demonstrating how to connect with this often-missed audience of pet owners. When trust is built and compassion is extended beyond the pet, spay/neuter comes more easily.

PetSmart Charities is generously offering a second year of funding to the first-year grant recipients and our PFL staff is continuing to guide these organizations in their community outreach work. We are also adding eight new PFL mentorship markets, five of which will receive grants from PetSmart Charities. In total, 19 communities will benefit from this ground-breaking program in 2014:

The Animal Foundation – Las Vegas, Nev.
Animal Friends – Pittsburgh. Pa.
Dallas Companion Animal Project – Dallas, Texas
San Antonio Animal Services – San Antonio, Texas
Memphis Animal Services – Memphis, Tenn.
Angels of Assisi – Roanoke, Va.
First Coast No More Homeless Pets – Jacksonville, Fla.
Charleston Animal Society – Charleston, S.C.
Humane Society of Tacoma & Pierce County – Tacoma, Wash.

Stray Rescue – St. Louis, Mo.
All About Animals Rescue – Detroit, Mich.
Friends of Animal Care and Control – Phoenix, Ariz.
Providence Animal Rescue League, R.I.
Jefferson SPCA – Jefferson, La.
Humane Society of Charlotte – Charlotte, N.C.
Animal Welfare Association – Camden, N.J.
Wisconsin Humane Society – Milwaukee, Wisc.
Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Inc. – Des Moines, Iowa
Casa Del Toro – Indianapolis, Ind.

The goal of Pets for Life is to build more humane communities and create lasting and sustainable change in neighborhoods across the United States. In the first 10 months of 2013 alone, our four direct-care programs in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago served more than 9,800 pets and provided spay/neuter services for more than 7,100 dogs and cats. Combined with our mentorship programs in 19 other cities, we have begun to see a significant shift – creating transformational change by making pet care affordable and accessible for everyone and reaching pets before they reach our shelters.

In the coming months, we will be releasing a second edition of our Community Outreach Toolkit and A New Community Understanding data report, which will share the findings from data collected through Pets for Life over the last few years.

Watch the Pets for Life video here:

November 21, 2013

HSI Teams Provide Relief in the Philippines

As I write, the second of two Humane Society International teams is in the field in the Philippines, leading response to the needs of animals and people in the areas ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Humane Society International has been on the ground conducting street dog management and veterinary training in the Philippines for four years, and our existing contacts and presence there allowed us to respond immediately. Our core responders include veterinarians and others who have trained and worked with us in these and other programs.

The conditions our responders have found range from lack of food, water, and shelter for companion animals, to the complete destruction of facilities, which is the case for farm animals. Many companion animals have suffered the stress and impact of separation from their owners, resulting in compromised health and problems like mange and other painful skin diseases. Some animals were left behind in cages or chained when their families evacuated, and this is an urgent challenge for responders working on the ground.

Rey with Bubba
Jake Verzosa
Bubba's owner was in tears and quite surprised that
HSI actually showed up and answered his plea.

Team members have already started to move animals in need of critical care to our emergency shelter in Cebu City while continuing to provide care to other animals in the field. The HSI team also launched a hotline for people to report animals in need of rescue from Tacloban and surrounding areas; in the first 24 hours no less than 30 calls came in from desperate owners seeking assistance.

In some communities the team members visited, everything was destroyed and there was tremendous loss of life. But our responders have received a warm welcome, and people have been eager to present their animals for veterinary care, food and water.

I wanted to share a poignant anecdote from Dr. Rey Del Napoles, our team leader on the ground:

“A photographer friend sent an image of a placard placed on top of a dog kennel in the middle of the street which read ‘INT HUMANE SOCIETY PLEASE HELP ME! BUBBA.’ We assumed this must be a plea from an owner who wanted help for his dog and we made it a mission to try to find the location and help this animal. Incredibly, we were able to find the location, and we came upon the cutest six-month-old puppy who showered our team with kisses and hugs before we could even offer him food or water. The owner came over, very emotional and overwhelmed by our response. He only knew of our team because he had read about our work in the Philippines during previous disasters. He had no idea if we really existed and had just put up a placard because he was desperate, with no food or water left for his beloved Bubba, and we were the only agency he had heard of that helped animals. It was an emotional moment for the team and everyone (except Bubba) cried. This moment captured the bond between one man and his dog, and his hope against all odds that someone he had only imagined to exist would answer his call.”

I know that Rey and his team are committed to delivering more happy endings before our response in the Philippines comes to end.

To support the work of our disaster response team in this and future disasters, and to read more about our response to Typhoon Haiyan, click here.

Watch the HSI Animal Rescue Team on the ground in the Philippines:

November 20, 2013

HSUS Undercover: Georgia Dog Lab Supplied by Random Source Dealer

At a press conference this morning, my colleagues and I released the results of the latest HSUS undercover investigation – in this case, laboratory experiments on dogs and other animals at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga. The focus of our investigation was on the use of dogs for unnecessary and terminal dental experiments. The dogs had been gathered and sold to the university by an unscrupulous random source Class B dog dealer.

The hound mixes our investigator saw in the laboratory looked strikingly similar to my dog Lily, and for that reason alone this investigation had special poignancy for me. The dogs there seemed so vulnerable and afraid, and it is a horrifying thought to imagine Lily in the hands of someone with the worst of intentions for her.

Our HSUS investigator spent three months at GRU taking care of dogs who underwent painful dental surgery. The dogs were acquired from Kenneth Schroeder – a random source Class B dealer who has been formally charged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including obtaining multiple dogs from illegal sources.

Shy Guy at GRU
Shy Guy, who formed a special bond with the investigator,
was one of six dogs subjected to painful dental experiments
during the investigation. He was later euthanized for a
small sample of his jaw bone.

The investigator developed a very special bond with one of the dogs who was malnourished and scared of men. The investigator named him “Shy Guy.” Shy Guy and five other dogs had their teeth pulled out and had dental implants put in place. Shy Guy, who stopped breathing on the surgical table during the removal of his teeth, survived only to be killed eight weeks later, along with the five other dogs. We are appalled to see that the dogs died just for a small piece of their jaw bone. You can see Shy Guy and the other victims in this video, narrated by actor and Georgia native Kim Basinger.

We know that these six dogs were not the first victims of unnecessary dental implant research. Georgia Regents University has been conducting similar experiments on Class B random source dogs for years. Between 2005 and 2012, 186 dogs were purchased by GRU, with many of them likely suffering the same fate as Shy Guy. All 186 dogs were acquired from Kenneth Schroeder.

Documents regarding one of these studies refer to the upcoming expiration of GRU’s patent on a previously-developed dental implant product and states that “competing technologies are being developed,” suggesting that the research was conducted to try to give the company a leg up in the tooth implant world. A critic of these experiments, Dr. James P. Jensvold, DDS, noted that the products at issue in this lab already had Food and Drug Administration approval. When he was a dental student and maxillofacial surgery resident, Dr. Jensvold told us that he had “witnessed laboratory animals being treated little different than a test tube, which is inconsistent with the values of compassionate health care.”

Urge the USDA to crack down on Class B dealers »

We have filed complaints with the USDA and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, calling on the agencies to investigate these issues and others observed during the investigation. We are calling on Georgia Regents to stop getting dogs from any random-source Class B dealers and to end dental experiments using animals.

There are still six random source Class B dealers operating in the United States. They are allowed to gather dogs and cats from various sources, including auctions, “free to good home” ads, online sources, flea markets and even from some animal control or other shelter facilities - then they resell them to research facilities. There have been cases of stolen pets ending up in research laboratories due to these Class B dealers and their lack of morality and ethics. Shy Guy and the 185 other dogs that GRU acquired could have been pets, just like Lily.

Watch the undercover footage here:

November 19, 2013

A Royal Pain

The relentless efforts of Rep. Steve King, R-IA, to incorporate a grossly overreaching amendment to the Farm Bill arrived at a significant juncture yesterday when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack added his voice to the growing chorus of opponents. Calling it “troublesome,” Vilsack said that the King amendment “would create legal challenges and confusion in the market place.” With the Farm Bill having hundreds of agriculture policy components, Vilsack said, “It’s one that we have a lot of concerns about.”

In a story today, Mary Clare Jalonick of the Associated Press said that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has “great concern” about the amendment, which The HSUS believes could affect as many as 200 state laws relating to animal welfare, food safety, environmental protection, worker safety and other issues.

Yesterday, the Iowa Farmers Union – one of the major agriculture groups in King’s home state of Iowa – also announced its opposition to the amendment. The IFU joins a growing throng of those who’ve publicly stated their opposition, including not only The HSUS, but also the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Association of County Executives, the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Attorneys general in a number of major agricultural states have also weighed in. "Due to the provision's vagueness and overly broad language, it is unclear exactly what impact the King amendment could have on our state's ability to enforce its own laws and to protect Arkansas businesses and consumers," wrote Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. 

270x240 white black hen istock

In October, food safety groups, including the American Public Health Association, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Consumers League, STOP Foodborne Illness and Trust for America’s Health, announced their opposition to the King amendment in a letter to Farm Bill conferees. “Rep. King’s amendment is overly broad and could undermine a state’s ability to protect its citizens from foodborne illness,” they wrote. “The amendment could result in the state with the weakest record for ensuring that food is produced safely setting standards for the citizens of the 49 other states. For example, California in 2003 banned contaminated oysters from the Gulf of Mexico unless they are processed to eliminate deadly bacteria. This law has resulted in clear benefits for California residents. Under the King amendment, Louisiana’s law that allows the sale of unprocessed oysters would supersede California’s law and restrict California from protecting its citizens.”

Indeed, King keeps low-balling the effect of his provision, saying his amendment will only affect “one or two” state laws – mainly California’s law to assure that eggs sold in California meet the state’s production standards. But few people not solidly in the King camp believe his interpretation; King has made a habit of espousing radical beliefs on a wide range of issues, including animal welfare and food safety.

The reality is, if just a single state, as the food safety groups above noted, wanted to sell an unsafe or inhumanely produced agricultural good, then every state would be at that one state’s mercy. It’s like the old language in the federal animal fighting law before it was fortified. When a few states still allowed legal animal fighting, cockfighters could ship fighting birds across state lines from places where cockfighting was banned to those legal destinations. It was a tail wagging the dog situation, until Congress amended the federal law to ban any interstate transport of fighting animals.

King claims he’s just protecting the Constitution, and states should not set up trade barriers. If King were correct, then the federal courts would strike down the state laws he claims are being used for protectionist purposes. But these state laws have been upheld time and again, as being within the historic police powers of the states.  That’s precisely why King is trying for a new federal pre-emption power grab, and seeking to override duly enacted state laws creating standards or conditions on agricultural practices.

With all of the arguments running in our direction, and so many groups opposed, the threat posed by the King amendment is still real, and the matter is unsettled. Today, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey lashed out at Vilsack for criticizing the King amendment. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas continues to support the amendment along with King, who is also on the Farm Bill conference committee. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other agribusiness groups are working hard in favor of the King amendment in hopes of wiping out the few state laws that restrict their reckless and irresponsible behavior.

This is no time to relent, and there is a lot at stake. Please be sure to contact your elected officials and urge them to oppose the King amendment. And let others know about this rash and cynical attempt to scuttle laws that all of us have worked hard to secure, laws that benefit and safeguard both human and animal welfare.

November 18, 2013

Crack Job by Cracker Barrel Shareholders

When shareholders want to see movement inside a company they invest in, they sometimes submit shareholder resolutions. For years, animal welfare advocates and organizations like The HSUS have been doing just that, specifically when we want the company to improve its animal-care or animal-purchasing practices. Today, for the first time, a shareholder proposal on an animal welfare topic passed, almost unanimously. That vote is a telling sign of the emerging societal consensus on the extreme confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates. People just don’t like them.

240x240 pig istockRather than criticizing a company for not doing something a certain way, the proposal praised Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the iconic middle-America restaurant chain based with more than 600 outlets, for recently announcing plans to eliminate gestation crates – small cages used to virtually immobilize breeding pigs for months on end – from its pork supply chain.

The fact that virtually 100 percent of Cracker Barrel’s shareholders – from some of the world’s largest banks to individual stockholders – voted to applaud the company for working to address cruelty to farm animals in its supply chain offers further evidence that it is a business imperative for food companies to proactively engage growing social concerns over animal welfare issues. Companies that choose to ignore such issues may fall out of favor with consumers, while those that embrace this kind of positive change win points with them.

The HSUS applauds both Cracker Barrel for working to improve farming conditions in its supply chain and the company’s shareholders for recognizing the value in that work.

P.S. Unfortunately, politicians are often laggards on important social issues. Look at the history of women’s suffrage, civil rights and so many other topics. In New Jersey today, Gov. Chris Christie has, for the moment at least, thwarted our effort to override his veto of the Legislature’s sentiment that it seeks to ban gestation crates. We fell just two votes short of the two-thirds vote needed to override his veto. It appears that Gov. Christie is more focused on appeasing Republican caucus-goers in Iowa than the people of New Jersey, who oppose gestation crates with a 91 percent supermajority. He may have miscalculated attitudes in Iowa, however. Polling from all major pig-producing states, including Iowa, reveals broad-based opposition to immobilizing animals in these crates. We’re not done yet in New Jersey.

November 15, 2013

Great News for Great Apes

Last night, the Senate gave final approval to a bill – backed by The HSUS and the National Institutes of Health – that will provide millions in federal funding to assist with the transfer of chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries. Passing this legislation was essential for NIH to act on its plan to retire nearly 90 percent of the government-owned chimpanzees whose fate is at stake.

A team of Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate – Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) – came together in an extraordinary show of support. Together, they passed legislation that will allow NIH the flexibility to proceed with the funding, and give retired research chimpanzees the opportunity to live the remainder of their days in suitable sanctuaries.

Kitty the Chimp at Black Beauty Ranch

The passage of this legislation, which now awaits the president’s signature, caps a remarkable series of successful initiatives executed by The HSUS and kick-started by an HSUS undercover investigation that broke on ABC News in March 2009. One of our brave investigators was hired by the largest primate laboratory, with the largest population of chimps, and found not only mistreatment, isolation and breeding of chimpanzees in violation of federal policy, but also long-term warehousing of chimps. Many of the chimps were not even being used in experiments. The question was, what’s the point of keeping them in these deficient environments and breeding more of them if so many are not even used?

The investigation added fuel to the effort to get chimps out of labs, and The HSUS helped spearhead the effort, working with federal lawmakers, with leaders at the NIH, and with the Department of the Interior over the last four years. Last night’s final passage of the CHIMP Act amendments was a milestone on a set of achievements that offer the promise of new lives for these great apes and an end to decades of persecution.

The turning point came when an expert panel of scientists, called to examine the value of chimpanzee research after our allies in Congress requested the review, determined that the use of chimpanzees was “largely unnecessary.” The panel said chimps had been useful in certain areas in the past, but we now have other ways to gather insights and information.

Some months later, NIH director Francis Collins accepted the recommendations and announced, in dramatic fashion, that NIH would in fact retire the vast majority of its government-owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries.

Then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to a legal petition from The HSUS, the Jane Goodall Institute, and other groups, proposed that all chimps, including the captives, be listed as endangered – a more stringent standard of protection with consequences for people who possess them, including laboratories.

As we gained ground in these areas, we realized that there was a limit on the amount of money NIH would be able to spend from its budget on sanctuary support, as per a law that The HSUS helped to pass 13 years ago, known as the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act. There was no similar restriction on funding for the housing of chimps in laboratories, so NIH was faced with the prospect of being forced to keep retired chimpanzees in barren lab cages rather than spend the money more efficiently on higher-welfare sanctuaries; and this barrier not only threatened future retirement of chimpanzees, but funding for care of chimpanzees already retired at Chimp Haven in Louisiana, the national chimpanzee sanctuary.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the CHIMP Act that removed the barrier, and last night the Senate gave swift, final approval to the measure. The president is expected to sign the bill in the coming days. This decision came down to the wire – with sanctuary funding expected to run out today.

Meanwhile, The HSUS – thanks to its generous supporters – has donated more than $600,000 to chimp sanctuaries to support the movement of more chimps to these superior facilities. 

All in all, it’s an incredible example of what The HSUS brings to the animal movement: an ability to work with executive agencies as diverse as NIH and the Interior Department, to move legislation in Congress at a time when that body is viewed as dysfunctional, and partnering with hands-on groups (in this case, chimp sanctuaries) that are the right resting place for the retired animals.

We extend our thanks to so many of our supporters, but especially so to Jon Stryker, Audrey Burnand, and Jane Goodall. And we thank many lawmakers and other public officials, with a special shout-out to NIH director Francis Collins for his incredible leadership on the issue. Hats off to the many HSUS staff members who worked tirelessly on the issue for years – from the undercover investigator, to our communications team, to our Animal Research Issues department, to federal affairs and the animal protection litigation unit.

This is a good move for taxpayers, but it’s also a reclaiming of our humanity and our kinship with the great apes. They deserve not just survival, but peace – and now we are making that dream come true.

November 14, 2013

Crushing the Ivory Tower

Elephant poaching is an epidemic. The stragglers are slaughtered, and so are entire family groups. Typically, their faces are hacked off, since that’s the easiest way to run off with the ivory. Poachers are killing upwards of 30,000 African elephants each year, and the future for the world’s largest land mammal looks bleak as a consequence.

In a historic move today that underscored the United States’ commitment to end the trade, the federal government destroyed close to six tons of its stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory from seizures in the U.S. – an amount of ivory equivalent to 2,000 poached elephants killed for their tusks.  

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Twelve thousand pounds of ivory, all slated for destruction
in the crush.

The crush sends the message that buying ivory kills elephants, and that ivory statues, trinkets, and jewelry are part of the problem, and that we have to restrict trade in these products. We’ve got to come out of our ivory towers and fight the menace of poaching and the insidious trade in elephant parts. We hear a lot about China, and concerns about the trade there are warranted, but the fact is, the United States is the second-largest market for ivory in the world. 

Ivory trade laws in the U.S. are riddled with loopholes, with the law allowing pre-1973 ivory to be sold. But there’s no way for the buyer to make a judgment about the age of the ivory, and smugglers take advantage of this deficiency, selling ivory that comes from recently-poached elephants. In fact, one-third of ivory for sale is illegal, meaning it is ivory from elephants who were killed in the last 40 years.

We need stronger laws in the U.S., at the state and federal levels, to ban any trade in ivory. 

The HSUS and its global affiliate Humane Society International are working on a number of fronts to combat the wildlife trade, including ivory trafficking. The HSUS is urging lawmakers in New York and Hawaii to ban the sale of ivory and we are working with the federal government to determine if the ivory sale loopholes can be closed through issuance of new regulations.

Fresh off of a major announcement on animal testing there, HSI has been working with its partners in China to mobilize public support for elephants and against the ivory trade. We also issued a statement today with our partners in China that urges the international community to reject ivory consumption and push for sustained global collaborative efforts, including that of the Chinese government, on combatting illegal wildlife trade.

The U.S. ivory crush has already encouraged advocates and NGOs with whom we work in China and Hong Kong to push for crushes of their government-held ivory stockpiles. Hong Kong’s ivory stockpile is believed to be as high as 26 tons. Hong Kong has a unique role in the global ivory trade because it is both a significant transit point and destination market. Their government is expected to make a decision early next year.

Ivory looks best on the elephants, and they’re the ones that make the best use of it.

Tell Hong Kong to destroy its ivory stockpile >>