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March 26, 2014

NRA, Farm Bureau Stand in Way of Progress

This week, as always, there are an extraordinary number of high-profile outcomes as well as continuing debate over the major issues The HSUS is engaged upon.  Here are a few short takes:

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One of the pigs I met while visiting Lucky 3 farms in North Carolina. Photo by Shannon Johnstone

North Carolina Puppy Mills: Our Animal Rescue Team was on the ground again in Duplin County, North Carolina, rescuing 50 dogs from absolutely atrocious conditions at the request of law enforcement. The North Carolina Farm Bureau and other agribusiness entities have opposed state legislation to set humane breeding standards in the state, despite The HSUS and its local partners having conducted 19 puppy mill rescues since 2011. What more evidence is required to document the widespread problem with mills in the state, and the urgent need for reform? I had just been down in North Carolina days before, visiting family farmers, including two members of our North Carolina Agriculture Council. These folks make animal care a priority and don’t subscribe to the views of the Farm Bureau that there should be no progress on animal welfare policy in the state. Here are a few pictures from my visits.

Kentucky Ag-Gag Measure Introduced: The Kentucky Farm Bureau has hijacked a good animal welfare bill introduced in that state’s legislature to establish humane standards for euthanasia, and added an ag-gag provision making it a crime to simply record animal abuse, food safety violations or other crimes on factory farms without the owner’s consent. This action comes just a few weeks after an HSUS undercover investigation at a hog factory farm in Owensboro that showed sows languishing in cages and where our investigator documented dead baby piglets being ground up and fed to adult pigs in order to ward off a dangerous diarrhea-inducing disease. The Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Board did accede to The HSUS’s request to ban veal crates in the state two weeks ago, but it failed to adopt a policy banning gestation crates, which confine pigs just as severely as the stalls that confine veal calves.

California Shark Finning: U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III issued a ruling yesterday upholding California's ban on possession or sale of shark fins, rejecting claims that the law discriminates against the Chinese-American community. The HSUS worked with its partners to pass this law in 2011, in what is the biggest shark fin market outside of Asia. After Chinese-American business groups filed to stop the law, the National Marine Fisheries Service intervened, arguing that federal law preempted state laws prohibiting shark fins. The HSUS mounted a furious challenge to that argument, and the Administration reversed its position after hearing our legal arguments and after negotiating with state attorneys general. Judge Orrick noted that reversal in his important ruling yesterday.

The Ivory Trade: The National Rifle Association and some antique dealers are opposing a proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to tighten up loopholes in the trade in ivory occurring in the United States. It’s easy for us to point a finger at other nations of the world for their role in selling ivory, which is driving not only the grisly killing of tens of thousands of elephants in Africa, but also providing hard cash for terrorist groups on that continent that are destabilizing governments and killing civilians. But the U.S. is the second-largest market for ivory after China, and our “ban” on ivory allows pre-1973 ivory and other ivory items to be legally traded. But it’s impossible for law enforcement officials to distinguish between that ivory and more recently carved ivory from tusks of poached elephants. The new proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service would require proof that the ivory had been legally obtained if it’s going to be traded, and that makes it a critical component to cracking down on elephant poaching and reducing our market demand for ivory. 

Maine Bear Baiting: I reported recently that the state certified our initiative petition in Maine for a ballot measure in November to ban the unsporting and inhumane practices of bear baiting, trapping, and hounding – a priority for The HSUS since Maine is the only state in the nation to allow all three practices.  The trophy hunting lobby is mounting a case that the only way to control the bear population is to allow baiting. But Daryl DeJoy, of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine and a Maine guide, eviscerates that argument in an op-ed today in the Bangor Daily News, showing that professional guides are dumping literally millions of pounds of junk food in the woods in the critical period before bears go into hibernation.  This reckless supplemental feeding – conducted when guides set up bait sites (one guide says he puts out 200,000 pounds of food!) – increases fat reserves, and almost certainly improves survivorship, causes females to bear young much earlier, and also habituates bears to human food sources. In other words, baiting grows the bear population and causes bear-human conflicts, and has no place in responsible wildlife management.

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