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555 posts from Actions to Help Animals


August 19, 2014

Trumped Up Charges Against Wolves, Dirty Dealings With Voters

When lawmakers take an oath to “faithfully discharge the duties” of their office, they shouldn’t play games with the voters who put them there in the first place.

Wolf
Michigan lawmakers are trying to keep voters from weighing in on the fate of their state's small, recovering population of wolves. Photo: Alamy

About half of the states have constitutional provisions to provide for citizen lawmaking, allowing voters to initiate legislation by petition, and to nullify acts of the legislatures in their states through a similar process. Both processes require the collection of a large number of signatures of registered voters by citizens within a short, definite time frame, and the mandate that voters decide the issues by majority vote. The initiative and referendum process have helped the causes of direct election of U.S. senators, voting rights for women, animal welfare standards, civil rights, campaign finance reform, and many other reforms we now view as critical in a civil society.

The HSUS and a strong coalition of organizations – including Michigan’s Native American tribes, the Detroit Zoological Society, Audubon Society chapters, the Sierra Club and so many other organizations – are utilizing this constitutional process to restore the state’s long-standing protections for the small, recovering population of gray wolves, who inhabit the rich and wide forests of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The state constitution not only provides the basis for the initiative and referendum process, but it also creates a system of representative government, where lawmakers are elected to serve the interests of voters in the state. The people vest power in these citizen lawmakers and executives and other officeholders.

Respect for the democratic process is a foundation stone of our political and civil society, and state lawmakers should be the first group to honor the process and the constitution. But what’s happening in Michigan is an abuse of power – a legally defensible set of actions, but a morally and politically unacceptable series of maneuvers and dirty, dishonest dealings that subvert the principles of citizen decision-making and undermine what limited confidence citizens have in representative government. It also eliminates a critical check-and-balance on representative government run amok. Indeed, the initiative and referendum process was designed as a hedge on the actions of lawmakers in the hold of special interests.

Here’s some background:

The HSUS and other groups qualified a referendum in the early part of 2013 in an attempt to give all state voters the opportunity to decide on a wolf-hunting season set by lawmakers, soon after the federal government removed wolves from the list of endangered species. State lawmakers tried to subvert our referendum by passing a second wolf hunting measure before the people could even vote on the issue. 

We responded with a second referendum, collecting hundreds of thousands of voter signatures, even though we felt aggrieved by this abuse of power by lawmakers and their special interest allies.

Now, lawmakers are making a third attempt to lock in wolf hunting, and doing so by trying to subvert our second ballot measure. Hunting groups qualified their own initiative petition, and now lawmakers are attempting to rubber-stamp it and deny a vote of the people. If lawmakers approve the petition, it could undermine the two referenda we’ve already qualified, and that will appear on the November ballot.

Just about every Michigan newspaper has called this series of legislative actions an abuse of power – with state senators coming back for a single day of lawmaking to take a third swipe at wolves and voters, even though the state had many pressing matters that lawmakers rightly should have focused on.

I do believe that the state’s newspapers have it exactly right, and this is what they had to say: 

“[A]n MLive.com investigation last fall found government half-truths, falsehoods and skewed statistics distorted arguments for the hunt…. Considering these facts, voters should be given the opportunity to decide … Lawmakers: Don’t deny Michigan citizens their voice yet again.” Grand Rapids Press (and seven other major newspapers), Aug. 3.

“Since the public called for these questions by collecting a substantial number of signatures on petitions … voters should decide. Next week, the state House should let them.” Livingston Daily, Aug. 15.

“[The Senate’s] legislation effectively thwarts the effort to ban wolf hunting… This isn’t the first time the lawmakers have acted against the public’s right to decide important state issues.” Port Huron Times Herald, Aug. 16

“In light of the poor decision making skills of the state when it comes to wolves, citizens rightly stood up to them and started a petition to protect these animals. But [the Senate instead endorsed] a competing petition, based in those same untruths and fears that caused the wolf to be made a game animal in the first place...” Petoskey News, Aug. 15.

“Adding insult to injury, Wednesday’s wolf hunt vote was held on the only day in August the Senate will meet. Senators interrupted their five-week summer vacation to return to Lansing solely to steal the voters’ right to participate in the lawmaking process.” Traverse City Record-Eagle, Aug. 14.

“The GOP-controlled Senate … utterly disregard[ed] the will of the majority of citizens who oppose the hunting of gray wolves…. [T]he zealousness of those pursuing the hunt, their willingness to exaggerate or fabricate examples of wolf depredation and the dismissiveness with which they treat wolf biologists inspire no confidence in us.… [T]his initiative belongs … on the November ballot — and we beseech lawmakers in the House regardless of their personal view to put their trust in citizens.” Battle Creek Enquirer, Aug. 14.

“There is no imperative — no pressing public interest — to establish a wolf hunt, certainly not against the will of the majority of Michigan voters…. If lawmakers give a lick about the rights of its citizens and the democratic process, they will let voters decide this issue.” Battle Creek Enquirer, July 26.

“By blocking not one but two efforts to refer legislation to voters, lawmakers would send a bad signal. Let voters spend the next three months considering the merits of the proposals.” Lansing State Journal, Aug. 9.

“Last week, the Detroit area was hit by a massive rainstorm that closed parts or all of every freeway, some for days. Thousands of basements were flooded … But incredibly, when lawmakers met the day after the flood, the only item on their agenda was passing a bill to prevent a referendum that would outlaw the hunting of wolves.” The Toledo Blade, Aug. 18.

The Michigan House is set to vote on the issue on August 27th. But if they care about good government and matters like trust and proper governance, they will not call up a third wolf-hunting bill. The voters of the state deserve an opportunity to decide the issue. That’s proper and right. 

But if lawmakers continue to charge ahead with the subversion of voting rights, they will expose themselves as holding the view that they think that Michiganders are too dimwitted to decide whether wolves should be hunted or trapped – ironically the same group of citizens who put these lawmakers in office.

August 18, 2014

Tip of the Hat for Big Cat Habitat

As I’ve mentioned before, The HSUS and its affiliates are collectively the largest provider of hands-on care for animals. Last week I was on the ground at one our facilities – in Texas – for the opening of the Big Cat Habitat at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, run by the Fund for Animals and The HSUS. In my video blog today I talk with Ranch director Ben Callison about what makes this Big Cat Habitat so distinctive and appealing. We also discuss that while rescue and animal care are critical, they alone are insufficient to deal with all of the problems faced by animals – in this case, the exotic pet trade. We must prevent animals from getting into dangerous situations in the first place – and that comes by convincing people not to acquire wild animals as pets and by creating laws to forbid private ownership of these animals.

August 05, 2014

No Ivory Auctions at Christie's

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation today to forbid his state from participating in the international trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns. This is the first law in the country to prohibit any imports or intrastate sale of such items, and it comes with the knowledge that the United States is the second largest ivory-trading nation in the world, after China. Together, these two consumer markets are driving the killing of tens of thousands of elephants, principally in Africa, by marauding, terrorist-funded poaching operations.

Elephants
The New Jersey law is the first in the country to ban the import and intrastate sale of ivory. Photo: iStockphoto 

We are anxiously awaiting a signature from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on nearly identical legislation. We hope his signature comes in the days ahead, and once it does we will have locked down two major ivory trading posts in the United States.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a proposed rule to close loopholes in federal law on the import of ivory, but it’s facing heat from the trophy hunting and gun lobbies, and from the music and antique industries, which still want to sell items with ivory on them. Amazing to think we’d jeopardize the fate of the largest land mammal in the world just so that someone gets an opportunity to resell a gun or a guitar with a little ivory on it. Where is the sense of broader responsibility and other-centeredness in people?

In other news, polls close at 7 p.m. central time in Missouri, and The HSUS is pushing hard to defeat Amendment 1, a so-called “right to farm” measure that was written to prevent future reforms of factory farms, puppy mills or captive hunting facilities. One rural paper called the measure a “farce,” and 16 of 17 major daily papers in Missouri have urged its defeat – including papers throughout the state’s countryside. So, too, have the Missouri Farmers Union, the League of Women Voters of Missouri and the Humane Society of Missouri, along with a big, broad cross-section of people concerned about corporate farms driving small farmers out of business and disregarding the needs of animals, the water and the land.

I’ll blog about the results in real time tonight after 8 p.m. Central Time, and post updates. Early reports from polling stations in Columbia and Joplin show voters trending “no” on Amendment 1, but these are unscientific samples.

August 04, 2014

MyBirthday, MyHumane

Lily says Happy Birthday!
My dog Lily gets the celebration started.
Photo: Crystal Moreland

Like most people, as I get older, there’s consistently decreasing excitement about my birthday. 

Of course, I cannot turn back the clock, so instead, I am focusing this birthday on spreading the word about The HSUS’ myHumane program.

As others have recently done, I have set up a fundraiser page where friends and family – and HSUS supporters –can donate to The HSUS’ many lifesaving programs, instead of their customary giving of birthday gifts. All of the money raised will go to help advance the wide range of critical animal protection work at the organization. Animals should get more birthdays.

From horses subjected to barbaric soring, to dogs forced to endure lifelong confinement in puppy mills, or the animals on factory farms who know only privation, there is no animal issue that we do not confront and tackle at The HSUS. Funds raised by the MyHumane Birthday pledge campaign will go toward fighting all of these cruelties, and others such as battling dogfighting, poaching, and seal killing.

Happy-birthday-wayne
A birthday greeting from HSUS staff and animals. Photo: Jennifer Fearing

Already, since the myHumane Birthday Pledge was announced in June, more than 4,300 supporters have pledged their big day and made it count for The HSUS. We are hoping thousands more will join, as part of making a lifelong commitment to supporting and protecting animals. On the myHumane page, you can ask for donations in honor of other life events, including weddings and memorials. You can also fundraise for animals during athletic events, as a classroom or as a community group.

All you need to do today is visit myHumane to pledge your birthday. When your big day rolls around, we’ll send you a reminder email to set up a fundraising page on myHumane. Then, instead of gifts, ask your friends to donate to your page. That’s it!

Birthdays are milestones in our lives. But they can get a little boring, and we can add value to them as they add up by doing good and sharing them with animals who need our help so desperately.

P.S. I received a special gift today, in the form of recognition from the Non-Profit Times, a major journal for the charitable sector. I was named one of the 50 most powerful and influential people in the non-profit world. Given that there are well over a million charities in the United States, and an extraordinary number of people who do non-profit work, I am honored to receive this recognition.

July 28, 2014

Show Me the Money: Corporate Ag Bankrolling Missouri’s Amendment 1

The people who tried a full-on repeal of Prop B – the 2010 voter-approved ballot measure to crack down on cruelty to dogs in a state that had become notoriously known as the puppy mill capital of the United States– are now trying to pull a fast one on Missouri voters in a statewide vote next Tuesday, August 5th. The state has long had a statutory “right to farm” provision. Now, through Amendment 1, they want a “right to farm” provision in the state constitution, far more sweeping in effect, that reads in part that “farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in the state.” 

What would Amendment 1 mean in practical terms? Assuming the worst-case scenario:

  • The state could not restrict foreign ownership of factory farms, or impose standards for animal care on these megafactories. That should concern every family farmer.
  • The state could not restrict captive shooting of deer on hundreds of cervid ranches in the state. That should concern every sportsman, since deer farming ranches are at odds with the North American Wildlife Management Model and it is documented that these deer farms have been major incubators for Chronic Wasting Disease, a progressive, fatal disease that threatens wild deer populations.
  • Missouri's standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial dog breeding operations might be fully repealed, creating a free-for-all for puppy mills in the state.
Puppy mill dog
If Amendment 1 passes, standards for the care of dogs in Missouri puppy mills might be fully repealed. Photo: Shannon Johnstone

Amendment 1 is a radical, overreaching, dangerous ballot measure brought forward by organizations, led by the Missouri Farm Bureau, that opposed voter-approved ballot measures to outlaw cockfighting and to crack down on puppy mills.

Just about every major paper in the state has urged voters to oppose Amendment 1.  Here’s what they have to say:

“….[c]reating a constitutional protection for all agricultural enterprises could create a haven for corporate farms that pollute our environment and put undue pressure on family farms.” Springfield News Leader: July 26, 2014.

Amendment I is “a measure designed to protect corporate agriculture rather than the traditional family farm.” Joplin Globe: July 13, 2014.  

“Changing the state constitution to give extra protection to an industry that has had its way in Missouri since the founding of the state shuts consumers out completely.” St Louis Post-Dispatch: June 16, 2014.

“Amendment 1 is a concerted effort to shield factory farms and concentrated agricultural feeding operations from regulations to protect livestock, consumers and the environment.” Kansas City Star: June 23, 2014.

“The amendment is likely to create some new litigation without good purpose….Amendment 1 is clutter. Vote ‘no.’” Columbia Daily Tribune: July 15, 2014. 

“Amendment 1 protects the farming practices of corporate farmers absolutely…..The right to build factory farms--including those with thousands of hogs confined next to family farms? Spraying poison over our homes and farms that can also drift over towns?” West Plains Daily Quill: July 22, 2014.

“This bill is NOT good for farmers. It will greatly increase further consolidation of agriculture, increase proliferation of genetically modified patented life forms, and destroy local control of the spread of the consolidating (ie. Family Farm Destroying) CAFO’s.” Ozarks Sentinel.

Amendment 1 could “give big corporate agriculture an even bigger advantage over family farms.” Christian County Headliner News:July 22, 2014.

“If you see the ghost of Proposition B in [Amendment 1], your eyesight is excellent. Proposition B, our readers will recall, is the animal welfare law approved by voters in 2010 but then changed dramatically by lawmakers.” Jefferson City News Tribune: June 8, 2014.

The measure has been funded almost exclusively by corporate and commodity agriculture groups who want no standards in agriculture, including on puppy mills. It’s so overreaching that a remarkable array of groups are opposed to it – including family farming groups such as the Missouri Farmers Union and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center; humane organizations such as the Humane Society of Missouri, Great Plains SPCA, and the ASPCA; conservative organizations such as the Missouri Libertarian Party and the Locke and Smith Foundation; good government and religious groups such as the League of Women Voters of Missouri and Missouri Faith Voices; and environmental groups such as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

Missouri voters should cast their ballot against Amendment 1 on August 5th. And please spread the word to Missourians you know.

Paid for by The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, CEO, 2100 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. 

July 24, 2014

Updates on Urgent Battles for Animals

Today, some updates on important issues in our orbit.

Ag-gag legislation

California downer cow abuse
Our investigations like this one at a California slaughter plant have unearthed shocking animal abuse. Photo: The HSUS

Last night, former HSUS undercover investigator Cody Carlson and I appeared on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton to talk about the concerted effort by agribusiness interests to stifle animal welfare investigations of factory farms and slaughter plants. This was an in-depth treatment of the issue, with undercover investigative footage broadcast on MSNBC. It was especially nice to see Rev. Sharpton, who has his own considerable political following, associate himself with animal protection, and he vowed to keep on top of the subject.

While the industry’s lobbyists were able to ram an ag-gag bill through in Idaho (after the state’s powerful industry was angered by Mercy for Animals’ shocking exposé of animal cruelty), they failed in every other state, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Vermont.

Missouri right to farm amendment

Missouri already has a longer-standing ag-gag law, and now interests there are trying to prevent any further state regulation of any agricultural operations, whether it is factory farms, puppy mills, or captive deer hunting facilities, by enacting a constitutional amendment that provides a “right to farm.”  The proponents of this ballot measure, led by the Missouri Farm Bureau, are spending hundreds of thousands as an investment in deregulating these industries for good. But the state’s opinion leaders are having none of it. All of the state’s major newspapers – including the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Kansas City Star, Joplin Globe, Jefferson City News Tribune, along with many small town papers – have urged voters to oppose Amendment 1. Family farmers, including the Missouri Farmers Union, have joined The HSUS in saying that Missouri should not protect foreign or state corporations from hurting animals, degrading the land or fouling water. We can win this fight, and we must. To get involved go to www.VoteNoOn1.org.

USFWS suspension of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe

Elephant
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suspension on the import of sport-hunted trophies from Zimbabwe should be broadened to include all African countries that permit elephant hunting. Photo: Alamy

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the suspension of the import of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe. Given the crisis situation African elephants are facing, with tens of thousands of elephants slaughtered each year for their ivory, this is good news. Hunting these majestic animals in a head-hunting exercise does not enhance their survival and the suspension should be broadened to include all African countries that permit elephant hunting.

Massachusetts bans shark fin trade

Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts signed legislation banning the possession and sale of shark fins in the state. The HSUS worked to pass the bill, along with our allies at the New England Aquarium, MSPCA-Angell and Fin Free Massachusetts. This is the latest victory in our campaign to end the cruel practice of shark finning, in which sharks’ fins are cut off and the fish are then thrown back into the ocean, leaving them to drown. Annually, as many as 73 million sharks are slaughtered worldwide. Massachusetts is the ninth state to ban the sale and possession of shark fins.

Michigan wolves petition

Wolf
There is yet another attempt by the trophy-hunting lobby in Michigan to nullify ballot measures that would  protect wolves from needless killing. Photo: Alamy

Michigan’s state Board of Canvassers certified a pro-wolf hunting petition for the November ballot. This petition represents yet another attempt by the trophy-hunting lobby to nullify ballot measures to protect wolves from needless killing. We have an amazing coalition of humane groups, Native American tribes, environmentalists and scientists intent on protecting the state’s small population of wolves, who were just removed from the list of federally endangered species. We want to let Michigan citizens vote on these issues in November, and we are urging the politicians in Lansing to stop undermining fair elections. Pledge to protect Michigan wolves here.

Comment period on constricting snakes ends today

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) comment period seeking additional information for the listing of five species of large constrictor snakes—boa constrictor, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda—as injurious species closes today. So there is still time for you to write the agency to urge them to end the inhumane trade of these beautiful, wild creatures. It has been more than four years since USFWS proposed listing nine species identified as “medium” or “high risk” for colonizing the southern tier of the United States. In 2012, USFWS got only half the job done, listing only four species. Almost all of Florida’s major newspapers – from the Sun Sentinel to the Orlando Sentinel to the Tallahassee Democrat – have urged the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action, since that state has become ground zero on the issue.

July 18, 2014

Every Field of Humane Work – Everywhere

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that nearly 50 counties and cities have laws against puppy mills. This version has been corrected. Nearly 50 counties and cities have outlawed the sale of puppies in pet stores.

Given that it’s our 60th year, and we’re now six months into 2014, I thought it might be a good time for a progress report on the major accomplishments of the year – as signs of the forward movement for animals and also as indicators of what your investments in The HSUS yield in very tangible terms.

PHASING OUT SOW GESTATION CRATES

Gestation crate
After years of negotiations with The HSUS, three of the country's meat industry giants announced new policies on the issue of sow gestation crates. Photo: The HSUS

After years of negotiations with The HSUS, Cargill, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods – three of the biggest meat industry giants -- announced new policies on the issue of gestation crates, with the Cargill and Smithfield announcements being the most definitive and game-changing. Pushed by the Humane Society International affiliates there, Canada announced a national ban on gestation crates, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, Arcos Dorados, the largest operator of McDonald’s restaurants in that part of the world, announced a requirement for pork suppliers to present documented plans to limit gestation crate use and promote group housing for sows. Our HSI India office helped to shut down the country’s only gestation crate facility on the basis of cruelty.

KILLING THE KING AMENDMENT AND THROTTLING AG-GAG BILLS

In the biggest fight on the Farm Bill, we succeeded in blocking the dangerous King amendment, which aimed to nix state laws protecting farm animals. At the state level, we battled ag-gag bills introduced in several states to make it virtually impossible to expose animal cruelty and worker safety abuses at factory farms. Our investigations – including at a Kentucky hog factory – showed how exposing abuses is essential to a robust examination of what’s happening at facilities far removed from the line of sight of consumers.

ENDING ANIMAL FIGHTING AND COMBATING MALICIOUS CRUELTY

Chimpanzee
At our urging, Congress passed legislation to help finance the transfer of all government-owned laboratory chimpanzees to sanctuaries. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

We succeeded in fortifying the federal animal fighting statute by making it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. South Dakota became the 50th state in the nation to establish felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, after a decades-long national campaign by The HSUS to have 50 state felony statutes.We made cockfighting a first-offense felony in Louisiana and banned the possession of cockfighting weapons and paraphernalia. Forty-one states now have felony cockfighting statutes. We helped convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to overturn a lower court ruling and affirm the constitutionality of the federal animal crush video law we worked to pass in 2010.

CURBING THE USE OF CHIMPS AND OTHER ANIMALS IN RESEARCH AND TESTING

At our urging, Congress passed legislation to help finance the transfer of nearly all of its government-owned laboratory chimps to sanctuaries, after NIH agreed to phase out the use of the vast majority of these great apes in experiments. Merck announced that it is ending the use of chimps in experiments, just weeks after President Obama signed the federal chimp legislation. India and China all announced new policies on animal testing for cosmetics, following the European Union action last year forbidding any sale of cosmetics tested anywhere else in the world.   

FIGHTING PUPPY MILLS

We released our second annual Puppy Mills report, detailing 101 cases of horrific puppy mill abuse, and helped to get anti-puppy mill measures enacted in Connecticut and Minnesota. New Jersey’s Senate also passed a bill relating to mills and pets stories, and locally, nearly 50 counties and cities have outlawed the sale of puppies in pet stores. We won a court of appeals ruling requiring puppy mills to divulge their history of Animal Welfare Act violations, and conducted puppy mill rescues in Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee.

ENDING HORSE SLAUGHTER AND SORING

After HSUS lawsuits temporarily blocked three horse slaughter plants from opening in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico, we’ve won a series of votes in Congress to bar the establishment of horse slaughter facilities on U.S. soil. We are working on extending that ban into 2015, and are well on our way. Our anti-horse soring bill – the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act – attracted support from more than two-thirds of lawmakers in the House and Senate combined, and is poised for final action.

PROTECTING MARINE MAMMALS

Minke whale
The International Court of Justice ruled that Japan's whaling program in the Southern Ocean is illegal. Photo: iStock

A World Trade Organization appeals panel adopted our legal position and that of the European Union that animal welfare provides a legitimate rationale for banning the import of seal skins from Canada – providing an enormous precedent for other restrictions of animals or their parts grounded on animal welfare values. The International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean is illegal, prompting the island nation to say it will observe the ruling. We also persuaded the Obama Administration to reverse its position that federal law precluded the state’s from adopting their own shark fin bans, and won a federal court ruling dismissing a challenge to California’s shark fin law.

DEFENDING TERRESTRIAL WILDLIFE

We passed legislation in West Virginia to restrict the private ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets, bringing the number of states with some restrictions on possession of dangerous wild animals to 45. And our legal team convinced a federal court of appeals to throw out a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s new exotics law. We qualified two referenda in Michigan to block trophy hunting and commercial trapping of the state’s small population of wolves, and we qualified a ballot measure in Maine to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping. At our urging, the New York and New Jersey legislatures banned the sale of ivory, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service temporarily banned the import of tusks from American sport hunters travelling to Tanzania and Zimbabwe for elephant hunts there. We have also come to the aid of over 10,000 wild animals in harm’s way, including deer, coyotes, geese, prairie dogs and raccoons, due to construction, habitat destruction, and other human-caused threats.

EXPANDING ANIMAL PROTECTION ACROSS THE GLOBE

Sochi dog
We worked with Olympic athletes to bring back dogs rescued from Sochi, the site of the Winter Olympics. Photo: Meredith Lee/The HSUS

We arranged for Olympic athletes, led by silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, to bring back street dogs rescued from Sochi, the site of the Winter Olympics, highlighting the importance of humane street dog management work. Our HSI-Costa Rica office was centrally involved in a successful effort to develop specific legislation banning dogfighting in the country, and our HSI-India staff and board members were part of a campaign to end bull fighting and bull racing – practices that were banned this year by the Supreme Court of India.  

The HSUS and its affiliates constitute the movement’s largest provider of hands-on services to animals, and we are the globe’s leading advocacy organization for animals.  This year, Humane Society International is planning on opening HSI offices in Brussels, Mexico, South Africa and Vietnam to further extend our major campaigns across the world. We are taking on the fight in so many ways – public policy and enforcement, corporate reforms, hands-on care of animals, and educating the public. We also provide more choices to consumers, like our work with dozens of school districts (including Dallas, Houston, and Philadelphia) to incorporate meat-free meal programs into lunchrooms, or investing in companies that are building parts of the emerging humane economy.

We’re grateful for your support, and hope you join with us in taking on the challenges that animals face in our world. 

 

July 16, 2014

Bear Baiters Spread Doughnuts, False Claims, and Fear in Maine

In today’s Bangor Daily News, Maine hunter Joel Gibbs upends the simplistic framing coming from a vocal segment of bear trophy hunters in the Pine Tree State about Question 1 on the November ballot.

Maine black bear
Maine is the only state that allows baiting, hounding and trapping of bears. Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS

With Maine’s bear baiting season about to start later this month, the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine is attempting, with fear tactics, to rally hunters, warning them that Question 1 bodes the end of bear management in the state.  In fact, Question 1 would only put a stop to certain inhumane and unsporting methods of take already illegal for other big-game species, such as deer and moose – baiting, hounding and snare trapping.

As Gibbs said in his column today, he’s killed nearly two dozen bears during the last quarter century, but has never needed to rely on shooting the animals over a giant barrel full of meat parts and jelly doughnuts, or taken aim at a bear as it clung to a tree limb after being driven there by a pack of dogs with radio transmitters on their collars. And he’d never think of shooting a bear execution style, after catching one in a snare trap.

As a fair chase hunter, Joel Gibbs is not an outlier – he actually is in the mainstream of bear hunting in America. It’s just that Maine somehow fell out of the mainstream, and it’s allowed a relatively small number of guides to turn the north woods into a vast dump site and an unsporting killing ground, mainly for out-of-state trophy hunters intent on making an easy kill to acquire a trophy.

You see, of the 3,000 to 4,000 bears shot in Maine each fall, out-of-state shooters account for more than 60 percent of the killing.  Calling the baiter a “guide” is a stretch. He’s more like a junk-food distributor and bear pointer.  Hundreds of Maine guides collectively put out millions of pounds of food for bears, in order to gain a fee of $1,500 to $3,000 to create a bear-killing opportunity. Then, they tell a seated client to shoot the biggest bear at the dump site.

The HSUS has worked with rank-and-file hunters like Joel Gibbs in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington to ban these practices by citizen initiative, just as Maine voters are proposing to do in November. Maine is the only state that allows baiting, hounding and trapping of bears.  

The guides and their allies in the trophy hunting lobby say it’s essential for management, but how can that be if no other state allows all three of these practices? And what is the behavioral and population-wide effect of dumping millions of pounds of food out for bears during a critical period prior to hibernation, especially given that every responsible wildlife management agency says it’s a mistake for humans to feed bears? Doing this grows the bear population, habituates bears to human food sources, and causes bear encounters with people.

In the last 10 years, according to Maine’s own state wildlife agency, the bear population has increased by 30 percent. This has happened even though state wildlife managers have allowed the use of these unsporting and inhumane tactics, which have drawn all of these out-of-state hunters but haven’t even stabilized the bear population. In contrast, in the states that have banned bear baiting and hounding, the bear populations and the number of human-bear conflicts have stabilized, and more people have participated in fair-chase bear hunting, generating greater revenue for those states.

I hope the majority of Maine voters follow the voting recommendation of Joel Gibbs and support Question 1. Even if a majority of bear baiters in Maine don’t take Joel’s voting advice, maybe he can teach them a thing or two about how to hunt bears, in a way that doesn’t stack the odds so badly against the bears and violate the basic precepts of hunting itself.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, PO Box 15367, Portland, ME 04112.

July 14, 2014

Burrowing in on Wild Horse and Burro Management

Burros are among my favorite of the animals residing at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, with their long ears and friendly stares. We have a couple hundred of rescued burros there, and visitors seem to have a special fascination with them, too. As with all of the animals at the ranch, they've landed there because of some tale of woe - in most instances, because the burros have gotten a raw deal from the federal government, which manages, or mismanages, their populations on the vast reaches of public lands in the West.

Burros
Guatemala has burros of its own and does not need shipments of burros from the United States. Contact BLM now to keep our nation's wild burros here. Photo: Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, is mandated to maintain populations of wild horses and burros in the 11 western states where they live. There are only about 40,000 wild horses and only 8,000 burros, and three quarters of the horses are in just two states - Nevada and Wyoming. The remaining states have relatively small populations, typically with 3,000 or fewer animals.  There are millions of cattle and sheep on those federal lands, yet ranchers complain of too many wild equids.

The government has been rounding up and removing horses and burros, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact.  In the process, the feds have been building a captive equine population now in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. Just last week, the BLM released new information that its personnel and contractors would round up nearly 2,400 more wild horses and burros this year. The cost of the round ups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.

For years, we have pressed the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the program, to focus instead on fertility programs to manage populations - a solution that the National Academy of Sciences also recommended in a report commissioned by the BLM. The BLM has been slow to implement the recommendations of the NAS.

Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals. While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of WFHBA, which requires that the BLM's first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.

We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide. Through Humane Society International (HSI) and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program (HSVMA) affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries. But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM - a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation's heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.

We do work with BLM, through our Platero Project, to adopt out burros to suitable owners. So far this year we have placed 190 burros and we remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, the solution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities. 

July 11, 2014

An Exclusive Video Interview with Charla Nash

Yesterday, I wrote about my visit to Capitol Hill with Charla Nash, the courageous woman who five years ago suffered an unthinkable mauling by a pet chimp.  She came to Washington, D.C. at my request to lobby in support of the Captive Primate Safety Act, which seeks to ban the interstate trade in primates as pets.  She spoke at a press conference with me and with lawmakers committed to passing this legislation.

Last night, she sat down with me for an exclusive interview for A Humane Nation. As you’ll see, she’s a remarkable woman with an incredible spirit, and someone who wants to be known not just as a victim, but primarily as an agent of change and reform.

I hope you’ll forward this interview to your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative and urge them to support S. 1463/H.R. 2856.  I hope you’ll also forward it to friends and colleagues and ask them to help Charla and The HSUS turn around this problem.