March 2014 Blog Home May 2014


19 posts from April 2014


April 30, 2014

Going Nuclear Against Dogfighting

We have one overarching goal related to dogfighting: annihilate it, everywhere. 

Step by step, we are moving against the barbaric practice.  Earlier this week, Jennifer McDonald from Georgia, and Michael Martin, Robin Stinson and Sandy Brown, all from Alabama, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Coody to plead guilty to charges related to a four-year investigation of illegal dogfighting activities in the South -- a case in which The HSUS played a central role. After a series of raids that started in late August last year, there were 15 people arrested and more than 450 dogs seized in what was the second biggest sting against dogfighting in U.S. history.

ALABAMA_DOGFIGHTING_RESCUE
The HSUS
The HSUS is training law enforcement around the country and offering rewards and tip lines to root out animal fighting wherever it occurs

Since the original bust we fortified the federal law against animal fighting, making it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight.  President Barack Obama signed that measure into law in February.  Just last week, we participated in yet another enforcement action against dogfighting -- this latest one in Tennessee. We are training law enforcement around the country and offering rewards and tip lines to root out animal fighting wherever it occurs.

And we are moving against the activity on a global basis.  This week, we got one step closer by making dogfighting an explicit crime in Costa Rica.  The new legislation, sent to the president for her signature, prohibits the reproduction of material related to dogfighting training and the import, creation, purchase, and sale of dogfighting training equipment.  Lawmakers at the national level voted unanimously to create a much stronger battery of laws criminalizing dogfighting.

We are seeing the first arrests in Costa Rica for dogfighting, and we have launched a tip line and a rewards program, to encourage arrest and prosecution of perpetrators.

Remarkably, dogfighting is not prohibited in more than 100 nations.  It's a goal of ours to eliminate the practice everywhere. It’s a long road ahead, but we know you’ll be with us every step of the way.

 

Learn more about our work in Costa Rica to stop dogfighting:

April 29, 2014

A Bundle of Nonsense From Bundy and Others

Based on his interviews after he tried to start a range war in Nevada, we know that rancher Cliven Bundy is a racist and a freeloader, failing to pay grazing fees that are already absurdly inexpensive for public-land users like him. 

DESERT_TORTOISE
The HSUS
The  beating hooves of Cliven Bundy's livestock threatened the very existence of endangered desert tortoises who live here

What some may have missed in the story is that the federal government had been telling Bundy to remove his animals from federal lands because the beating hooves of the livestock threatened the very existence of the endangered desert tortoises who live here. In short, he was obligated to move his cattle to save a species from extinction. He’s thumbed his nose at all sorts of laws, and for some bizarre reason a bunch of cranks and even some pundits rallied to his side, before Bundy’s racist rhetoric made him as radioactive as Yucca Mountain.

What kind of person calls himself a “patriot” while knowingly flouting the laws of the United States?

We see this with a lot with people who want to harm animals. They wrap themselves in the flag, but ignore the principles that the flag symbolizes.

Cockfighting enthusiast David Devereaux earlier this month organized a rally in Corbin, Kentucky, to legalize the blood sport – the rally where Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin was a featured speaker. Bevin first claimed he had no idea the rally was about cockfighting, but then a local television station exposed that he knew exactly where he was and had undercover video of him answering a direct question on the topic.  The public was shocked that he’d been consorting with this crowd, and he soon apologized.

Devereaux has a right to advocate to assemble and to advocate for the repeal of Kentucky’s anti-cockfighting law and the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting. But he doesn’t have the right to break the law that he disagrees with in the here and now. The HSUS has been undercover at numerous cockfights in Kentucky. Many of the same people who filled the crowd at the cockfighting rally raise fighting roosters and they are undoubtedly fighting them and selling them in interstate commerce, which is a federal felony.

And then there’s the horse soring crowd. Since 1970, it’s been a federal crime to show a horse who has been injured to exaggerate his or her gait. Yet, leading trainers like Jackie McConnell – the subject of an HSUS undercover investigation that led to his arrest and conviction – have for years kept right on soring and showing horses, and winning. A USDA examination of horses at shows has demonstrated that just about everybody in the “Big Lick” segment of the industry has tortured horses for the sake of a blue ribbon.  One after another, insiders have come forward to declare that you cannot get horses to step in this ludicrous and exaggerated way without hurting their feet.

Now this crowd is working with a couple of lawmakers to try to stymie progress on the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, HR. 1518/S. 1406, which seeks to strengthen the federal anti-soring law. That’s their right. But it’s not their right to keep violating the existing law.

The law is, in a sense, a living thing – it’s being perfected, expanded and retracted as each legislative session grinds ahead. But at any moment in time, the law is the law. Whether it’s David Devereaux, Cliven Bundy or Jackie McConnell, they should abide by it. If they don’t, they should be prosecuted, as McConnell was.  And never should we refer to them as patriots or give any credence to their rhetoric about “freedom.”  A more apt description of them would be “persons of interest” or “criminals.”

April 28, 2014

Give Me Shelter From Euthanasia – in California and Beyond

Our movement has made steady progress in reducing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable pets in shelters. In the mid-1970s, the nation was euthanizing about 15 million dogs and cats each year, and that number is now down to three million, thanks to aggressive promotion of pet adoption, spay and neuter and pet retention programs. It’s still three million too many, and The HSUS is committed to getting that number down to zero for healthy and treatable animals.

 

CAT_IN_SHELTER
The HSUS
Giving shelters the option to move faster on adoption and transfer to rescues when they are handling cats without identification is a novel, progressive step forward.

Even in progressive animal welfare states, such as California, we have a long way to go. California shelters euthanize perhaps half a million dogs and cats annually, and it’s not just in the Central Valley and the rapidly growing Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Half of all dogs and cats arriving at public and private shelters in California are euthanized, despite the efforts of governments, groups and individuals working to turn the situation around. They’re addressing the challenge through free or low-cost spay-and-neuter services, transfer of animals, stronger leadership, and reinforcement of activities focused on keeping animals from landing in shelters and getting them out alive when they do.

Any strong movement must engage in serious problem-solving on the big issues it confronts, and that goes for shelters and euthanasia. One particular problem relates to the euthanasia of cats. Of those who enter the shelter system, sadly, an overwhelming majority – 70 percent in California alone – do not come out alive.

Giving shelters the option to move much faster on adoption and transfer to rescues when they are handling cats without identification is a novel, progressive step forward. Cats in this class are very unlikely to be reclaimed by owners – for 15 years, the reclaim rate in California has stood at two percent. We can give 10 times that number of cats a much better chance at survival by moving them out soon after intake, rather than forcing shelters to hold them for a set number of days before making them available. This will reduce overcrowding, disease, and result in more lives saved.

That’s one reason why we supported California Assembly Bill 2343 introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who through his bill also wanted to address the chronic funding challenges associated with sheltering in the state.

Unfortunately, advocates in California were divided on the issue, with much of that dissension based on a false understanding of the bill and the political process. As a result we understand why Gatto decided to withdraw the bill on Friday. When lawmakers are put in the position of having to choose between different segments or players in the animal movement, it doesn’t inspire confidence in our cause, and it leaves lawmakers confused.  Keeping the status quo, and failing to develop and apply new strategies, is very unlikely to help animals facing euthanasia in the months and years ahead. 

For years, California’s budget shortfalls have resulted in no funding for key portions of the Hayden Law – a 1998 state statute named for the bill’s author, former California Senator Tom Hayden – that sought to strengthen the state’s animal sheltering laws and establish some important mandates. The shortfalls led officials to suspend laws that trigger payments to local governments, and for seven of the last 16 years much of the Hayden Law has not been in effect.

Even during years when there was funding for compliance, there have been challenges.  According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, “shelters that euthanize the most animals receive the most state funds. Shelters that are the most successful in promoting adoptions receive the least state funds.”

AB 2343 would have created a grant program to replace the funds previously reimbursed to cities and counties for complying with the Hayden Law. These funds would have been distributed among agencies that complied, supporting agencies in a proportional way based on the number of animals leaving their facilities alive (through adoption, transfer or return to owner). An infusion of $10 million a year by the state would have incentivized the saving of animals, rather than euthanasia.

Gatto’s bill would also have given local agencies more tools to address the challenges they face every year during the summer months, when they often euthanize otherwise healthy kittens for reasons of space and capacity.  

California’s still-suspended state sheltering laws embrace an important goal that remains critical everywhere -- to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable companion animals. And AB 2343, which would have rewarded hard work and dedication on the part of shelters by supporting cost recovery for lifesaving outcomes – instead of reimbursing for euthanasia – represented the kind of approach we hope to see spread far and wide.  It’s a goal we’ll continue to support.

April 25, 2014

The Animals’ Republic of China?

Chinese students-- seals
Photo: Xiamen Animal Protection Group, 2012
The banner signed by schoolchildren condemning seal slaughter was sent to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.

A photo that caught my eye this week was this picture of a group of elementary schoolchildren in China holding up a banner that demands: “Stop Seal Slaughter! Stop Seal Trade!”

The banner was one of many recent signs of protest across the country, culminating in an admission by Gail Shea, Canadian fisheries and oceans minister, that animal advocates had essentially succeeded in preventing Canada’s bid to sell seal meat in China from going through. It was a significant victory for Chinese animal activists, who have been working hard to mobilize public and government sentiment against the trade, and for the staff of Humane Society International (HSI).

That’s just one example of the change happening in the way people in China view – and treat – animals. The work of those involved with animal welfare in China spans areas ranging from wildlife issues to protecting companion animals, farm animals and animals used in laboratories.

The Be Cruelty-Free team at HSI and its local partner, Capital Animal Welfare Association, have been pursuing the goal of a complete Chinese ban on animal testing of cosmetics. They have been meeting with Chinese policymakers and regulators to advance the acceptance of non-animal tests and accelerate the move away from animal testing. Late last year, HSI welcomed an announcement by China's Food & Drug Administration that from June 2014, China plans to remove its mandatory animal test requirements for domestically manufactured cosmetic products.

Event in Beijing
Photo: HSI 2011
Rebecca Aldworth, director of HSI/Canada, and Peter J. Li, China Policy Specialist for HSI, at a Beijing event to oppose seal product trade.

There’s also been groundbreaking work aimed at ending the dog meat trade – a trade that most Chinese now oppose. The latest development on this front was a startling incident this week, in which two dog thieves were beaten up by dog owners after being caught stealing dogs to sell them to restaurants. We at The HSUS don’t condone violence to fight animal abuse, but this incident demonstrates that the Chinese will no longer ignore dog trafficking.

Last year, HSI and its local partners rescued hundreds of dogs headed for the butcher’s knife at the Yulin dog meat festival. HSI has participated in raids on trucks crammed with dogs headed for slaughter, saving the lives of hundreds of animals, and provided funding for veterinary attention and to help shelter victims while loving new homes are found for them.

Other examples of work done by HSI and its partners in China include sharing expertise on wildlife issues with zoo directors and conservationists to help improve welfare and care of zoo animals (including inviting two zoo directors to spend time at the Houston Zoo), stopping American rodeos from entering the country, scuttling a proposed foie gras plant, and successfully persuading the government to stop serving shark fin soup at official functions.

China school students
Photo: Xiamen Animal Protection Group, 2012
Chinese schoolchildren learn about seals

In 2010, after learning of Canada’s intention to make mainland China a “dumping ground” for seal products that had already been rejected by citizens of Canada , the United States and the European Union, Chinese activists mobilized to form the Chinese Coalition Against Seal Trade, with practical assistance from HSI. Rebecca Aldworth, director of HSI/Canada, traveled to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to meet with members of the group, as well as with Chinese officials, business leaders and reporters.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese saw HSI’s graphic videos of seal slaughter, and a special online report on Canada’s seal hunt attracted nearly 30,000 messages of condemnation from the Chinese people. The Chinese Coalition Against Seal Trade wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian Senate and Wang Qishan, who was in charge of China’s international trade.

The banner signed by the schoolchildren condemning the seal slaughter was sent to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. These young people are part of an effort that has really paid off, for the seals, and for the activists and organizations working to end the abuse of these beautiful animals, and it was great to see these schoolchildren sending out a message—loud and clear—that they will not tolerate cruelty to animals. These are markers of success in the biggest nation in the world, and some of its most important.

P.S. China has just announced that people who eat animals listed as rare or endangered – including the panda, golden monkeys, Asian black bears and pangolins – could face 10 years or more in prison. Knowingly buying any wild animals killed by illegal hunting will carry a maximum penalty of three years in jail. This is yet another very significant development for animals in the most populous nation in the world.

April 24, 2014

Local Governments Telling Puppy Mills to Take Their Business Elsewhere

I’ve mentioned before that self-regulation has not worked in many sectors of the animal economy – not in factory farming, not in the “Big Lick” segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse show world, and certainly not in the puppy mill industry.  In today’s video blog, I address the rapid spread of local ordinances, including the latest gains in the city of Chicago and also in Cook County, Ill., restricting pet stores from selling puppy mill dogs – all a consequence of the industry having failed to develop and implement a strong set of minimum care standards. 

April 23, 2014

Creating Safer Communities for Cats and Wildlife

Every year, spring delivers babies. And these newborn birds and mammals are particularly vulnerable to predators, including outdoor cats. Too often, folks have lined up on one side or the other – for feral cats or for wildlife. 

Yellow warbler
John Harrison
Whether you’re a 'bird-person' or a 'cat-person' there is a common ground that will create safer communities for all animals.

Here’s where we stand: We’re for both.  All animals deserve protection. And in terms of the debate and on-the-ground care of cats and wildlife, we have experts and professional staff in both realms dedicated to finding humane solutions.

Our broad engagement for all species is one reason we’re involved in a broad public debate over outdoor cats, as in a recent op-ed exchange in the San Diego Union-Tribune that included a submission by The HSUS’ Wildlife Scientist John Hadidian and San Diego Humane Society CEO Gary Weitzman, and another by a representative of the San Diego Audubon Society. 

The HSUS aggressively promotes public education programs and humane management practices, including spay-and-neuter programs for owned cats as well as colony management programs like Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).  These programs reduce the number of outdoor cats by urging people to keep pet cats indoors, thereby cutting down on reproduction among free-roaming or community (feral and stray) cats and stabilizing and reducing their numbers over time.  This, we believe, is the only positive way forward, since the vast majority of citizens will never accept mass round-ups and euthanizing of feral cats.  Our approach is the best practical option. 



Cat
iStockphoto
Indoor cats can live long, healthy, happy lives and keeping your cat indoors can save the lives of other animals.

The outdated strategy of trapping and killing feral cats is generally ineffective. Moreover, if that were the only alternative, we’d lose overnight the enormous investments in cat management made by TNR practitioners and cat lovers.  And they would never participate in a round-up and kill approach, so there’s no way such a round-up could ever succeed.

While TNR and other sterilization projects may not produce substantial results overnight, they can reduce impacts over time.  What’s more, the vast national community of cat lovers can make the largest possible difference of all to help baby wildlife– simply by keeping their cats indoors or safely confined to their property.

There are more than 70 million owned cats in the United States but only 60 percent of these live safely indoors. Indoor cats can live long, happy, healthy lives, and keeping your cat indoors can also save the lives of other animals. Getting cats spayed or neutered and keeping collars and visible identification on them at all times can help decrease the overall population of community cats, keeping both your cat and wildlife safe.   If your cat really wants to explore the great outdoors, consider building or buying a catio or screened-in porch area for them to relax and bird-watch at their leisure.  Many adventurous cats can also be trained to enjoy walks on a harness and leash.  

Even if you don’t live with cats, there are many things you can do to protect all animals. These include:

  • Getting involved with a local effort to boost indoor cat programs.
  • Promoting the use of collars and visible ID.
  • Supporting programs that work to manage community cat populations.
  • Spaying and neutering any unowned cats that you or your neighbors may be feeding.
  • Subsidizing the cost of spaying or neutering for cat owners who cannot afford it.
  • Supporting local wildlife rehabilitation facilities to help injured birds and other animals.
  • Making your backyard safer for wildlife by using humane deterrents to keep outdoor cats out of your yard.

Whether you’re a “bird-person” or a “cat-person” there is a common ground that will create safer communities for all animals. An easy first step is to sign The HSUS’ pledge to keep cats and wildlife safe. 

April 22, 2014

The HSUS’ 2013 Annual Report: Helping Animals in Crisis, Driving Transformational Change

We are deep into 2014 already with several successes under our belt, including the defeat of the King amendment, major announcements from Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods about phasing out gestation crates for breeding pigs, a ruling from a United Nations court reeling in Japan’s illegal whaling, and major gains in Congress on ending the use of chimpanzees in government laboratories and new prohibitions on attending animal fighting spectacles.  But 2013 didn’t turn that long ago, and today I release our annual report for last year on our accomplishments and activities. 

As you’ll see, we continued to make gains in all of the areas where we made major investments, and we fortified the financial position of the organization in a meaningful way through wise stewardship of your donations, with 81 cents of every dollar going directly toward animal protection programs.

Transparency is one of our core values, and we tell our story every day in A Humane Nation, All Animals, HumaneSociety.org, on Facebook, and through other communications platforms.  But for a single document, our annual report provides the most comprehensive overview of our work.  I hope you’ll dig in, as a way of gaining a richer understanding of our work. I’ll leave it to you to review my President’s essay and the pages that follow it. 

We do have the most comprehensive programs in the United States and throughout the world to help all animals.  Here’s just some of what we do:

  • Aiding shelters, especially when natural disasters and cruelty cases overwhelm their capacity to respond.
  • Leading the nation’s most ambitious projects to reduce pet overpopulation and thereby reduce pressure on local shelters and rescues.
  • Providing sanctuary, rehabilitation, veterinary treatment, and other direct care for more animals than any other group – more than 118,000 animals assisted in 2013 alone.
  • Combatting puppy mills, organized animal fighting, wildlife poaching, Canada’s commercial seal slaughter and many other large-scale animal abuses.
  • Managing a coast-to-coast network of nature preserves, through our Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust.
  • Working to end the suffering of street dogs in countries around the globe.
  • Combatting the trade in wildlife here and abroad, whether it’s sharks, elephants, rhinos or other creatures whose parts put them at risk. 
  • Joining with hundreds of America’s major corporations in food retail (e.g., McDonald’s, Safeway and Costco), fashion (e.g., Armani and J.C. Penney), cosmetics (e.g., Lush, Aubrey Organics and Jack Black) and household products sectors (e.g., Procter & Gamble and Unilever) to conduct more humane procurement, production or testing practices.
  • Fighting factory farming and providing a new vision for agriculture, including supporting sustainable family farmers who answer to higher animal welfare standards – both in the United States and the developing world.

The HSUS’s critics caricature our work, reinvent it as something it’s not, or complain that we should be doing more of one thing or another.  Mainly, they just don’t want us focusing resources on animal cruelty problems of their making. I understand their perspective, and you should too.

Because we are tackling the biggest problems for animals, we get big results.  But we also face fierce resistance from those committed to the status quo.  That’s unfortunate, but inevitable.  It’s the price of progress.

I hope this annual report inspires you to deepen your engagement, and reminds you to act as a practitioner of animal protection and as an ambassador for our organization.  We cannot do this work without the participation of people like you, throughout the country and now throughout the world.

April 18, 2014

Discover Multiple Ways to Help The HSUS Fly

So many people support The HSUS because we are the top animal-care provider in our field and also the most influential and impactful advocacy organization, battling against dogfighting, puppy mills, the trade in ivory and rhino horn, commercial whaling, factory farming, and so many other problems.

Puppy Mill
Skymiles donations have helped staff travel on critical animal rescue missions, including puppy mill rescues

But in addition to making a gift to The HSUS, you can help bolster programs with our corporate supporters.

Over the past year, donations of Delta Airlines Skymiles have helped our staff travel on critical animal rescue missions, including puppy mill rescues that saved the lives of thousands of dogs. Surveys you took on SurveyMonkey have so far contributed nearly $800,000 to help the vast spectrum of animal protection programs we work on here at The HSUS, from farm animal protection to companion animal welfare to wildlife protection.

Now, we have new arrangements with Amazon and Discover that make it easier than ever for you to support animals without making too much of an effort. Here’s a short inventory of some easy ways to help:

    ● The new HSUS Discover it® credit card: Every time you use this card, Discover contributes a portion to The HSUS. But with this customized credit card you benefit too, with cash rewards and the ability to see your FICO credit score for free on each monthly statement. Visit Discover.com/HSUS to learn more and apply. Current Discover cardholders can easily convert their existing card by calling the number on the back of their card and requesting the new HSUS card.

    ● Delta SkyMiles Skywish program: This program makes it easy for you to donate your miles to a charity of your choice, and The HSUS is one of the charities featured in the SkyWish program. Visit Delta.com/SkyWish to donate your miles.

    ●AmazonSmile: Amazon.com’s charitable arm donates 0.5 percent of the purchase price of qualifying items to The HSUS when you select it as the charity of your choice. To sign up, visit Smile.Amazon.com and select The Humane Society of the United States.

    ● SurveyMonkey Contribute: By signing up to be a panel member, you will receive surveys from SurveyMonkey clients who need your opinion. For every survey you take, SurveyMonkey will donate 50 cents to help animals in need and you'll be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card. Sign up here for SurveyMonkey Contribute.

    ● Vehicle Donation: This program turns your used car, van, truck, RV, motorcycle, boat or even airplane into a charitable contribution for The HSUS. Proceeds from the sale of donated vehicles pump much-needed dollars into our programs. Donate your used vehicle today.

As I travel around the country, so many people ask me how they can help. I tell them that becoming a dues-paying member of The HSUS and its affiliates is an essential step. They can also volunteer in numerous ways, from assisting with disaster response, building humane communities in cities around the country, grassroots activism and direct care at our animal care centers. In addition, they can apply to become a District Leader or an intern with The HSUS. But by getting the Discover Card, takings surveys through SurveyMonkey, donating accrued Delta miles, shopping through AmazonSmile, or donating an old vehicle, you can magnify your impact.

I hope you’ll think about doing one or more of these actions today. Every small step makes a big difference for animals and for The HSUS.

April 16, 2014

Full-Court Press in the Courts

HSUS member card 60Back in the late 1950s, The HSUS printed this mission statement on its membership cards: “Every Field of Humane Work—EVERYWHERE."  But even our founders could not have anticipated how today The HSUS and its affiliates bring so many tools to the fight. 


The recent landmark legal victory in the International Court of Justice against Japan’s commercial whaling activities in the Southern Ocean has had me thinking about our work in the courts. In 2005, my colleague Mike Markarian and I reached out to Jonathan Lovvorn, then an attorney at a public interest law firm, about heading and building a dedicated legal unit for animals. Less than a decade later, we’ve grown our team to 24 litigators—aided by a network of over 1,000 pro bono lawyers from the nation’s top law firms—and this team is working like never before to help all animals, on both the domestic and international stages, and to bring new levels of firepower to our cause.

Fifteen years ago, the Humane Society International’s legal team helped devise the theory under which Australia would take Japan to court over its illegal whaling.  But it’s our current legal team that is developing a skilled approach to animal law, developing ideas about how to defend animals under contemporary legal frameworks, and putting those ideas into play in the courts.

Harp Seal
THE HSUS
Our international legal team has been working to defend the European Union’s historic ban on the sale of seal products

Our international legal team has been working to defend the European Union’s historic ban on the sale of seal products. Canada and Norway have challenged Europe’s ban at the World Trade Organization (WTO), in yet another attempt to prop up their collapsing sealing industries. It hasn’t been enough to close markets for seal products; we’ve had to work hard to defend those trade restrictions in the international sphere.  We’ve already scored one big victory in the WTO’s recent ruling upholding Europe’s ban–the first time that a WTO panel has upheld a law on moral grounds for animal welfare reasons, and a fantastic precedent for future action to stop the global trade in exotic wildlife, ivory and other cruelly produced products. Now the case is on appeal, and our team is there, fighting for all commercially hunted seals.

On the domestic front, our team has been working to block a lawsuit trying to roll back California’s protections for egg-laying hens. In 2008, we passed landmark reform for California’s farm animals through Proposition 2, and two years later we persuaded California’s legislature to extend Proposition 2’s protections to all eggs sold in the state. That infuriated factory farmers, who have persuaded six states—Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Governor of Iowa – to sue California in a last-ditch effort to overturn its protections for egg-laying hens. Our litigators are determined to stop them, and we’ve brought in heavyweight pro bono partners from the law firms Latham & Watkins and Schiff Hardin to help our team defend this farm animal protection law.

Foie Gras ducks
Ariana Huemer/Farm Sanctuary
Out litigators successfully defended a California law banning the sale of foie gras, and the cruel practice of force-feeding geese and ducks so their livers blow up to several times their normal size

In fact, our litigators have been very active in protecting humane progress in California recently. In the last few months, they’ve successfully defended California laws banning the sale of both shark fins and foie gras. We advocated strongly for the passage of both laws which ban two cruel practices—cutting the fins off live sharks before dumping them back into the ocean to drown, and force-feeding geese and ducks so their livers blow up to several times their normal size. But once we helped to pass these laws, we faced inevitable lawsuits from special interests who claimed, incredibly, that they had a constitutional right to continue these abusive practices. In the end, our litigators helped persuade federal courts to reject both challenges, with both courts ruling that the laws expressed California’s legitimate interest in combating cruelty.

That sentiment was strengthened by a $155 million judgment that our litigators secured in California (though the defendants were only able to pay $4 million of that amount to the federal government, and a smaller share to The HSUS). The judgment came in a government fraud lawsuit filed by The HSUS and later joined by the Department of Justice, stemming from our 2008 undercover investigation into the Hallmark Westland slaughter plant in Chino, California. That investigation revealed shocking and widespread mistreatment of “downed” dairy cows – cows who are too sick or injured to walk.

Horses held for slaughter
Kathy Milani/THE HSUS
Working with our federal affairs team, our litigators stopped any horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States and are now working to adopt a federal legislative ban on exports of live horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico

And, of course, our litigators have continued to fight in our long-running battle to end the slaughter of American horses. When the ban on the federal inspection of horse slaughter expired last year, they partnered with Front Range Equine Rescue to save horses from slaughter. While our federal affairs team advocated on Capitol Hill for a legislative solution, our litigators successfully stopped any horse slaughter plants from opening here. That teamwork resulted in a ban on horse slaughter on American soil, and we are now working to adopt a federal legislative ban on exports of live horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico.

Our legal team consults with law enforcement, drafts state and federal legislation, advises community advocates on legal strategies to help animals, brings critical cases and so much more.  It’s as if the animals have a major law firm working for them every day, helping drive reform and bringing new and critical gains to the cause of protecting all animals.

April 15, 2014

Seal Slaughter Resumes in Canada

Canada’s bloody commercial seal slaughter resumed yesterday, although with many fewer boats and participants than in past years. The offseason fishermen who seek to kill seals do so only because the federal government provides subsidies to help buy up the pelts. But their actions lead to an extraordinary loss of life in this seal nursery.  Today, I offer my latest video blog and commentary.  

You can help stop Canada’s senseless seal slaughter by making a donation to The HSUS’ Protect Seals campaign, which is hard at work to shut down the commercial sealing industry.