July 10, 2014

Will Congress Heed Charla Nash’s Message?

Today, I shared the podium on Capitol Hill with the brave Charla Nash who, five years ago, suffered one of the most extensive and life-changing animal attacks in American history. After being called to help calm her boss’s adult male pet chimpanzee Travis at home, Nash suffered a disfiguring attack from the powerful 200-pound animal that left her barely alive.

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Charla Nash and I were joined  on Capitol Hill today by members of Congress, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. (left) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Photo: Pete Marovich/The HSUS

Today, for the first time in Washington, she told her story, advocating for the swift passage of the Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1463/H.R. 2856, which seeks to ban the interstate transport of primates for the pet trade.

In February of 2009, the enraged Travis bit off Charla’s hands and toes and essentially tore off her facebefore a police officer shot Travis to save his own life.  Travis suffered a mortal wound and staggered into his home and died in his bed minutes later.

As Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said today, the House passed his bill to ban the trade in primates as pets in 2008, but the Senate failed to act.  Just as our push for a national no-downer policy in 2003 preceded the finding of a downer cow in the food supply some months later – and a major disruption in world beef markets -- our warning about inaction in stemming the trade in primates as pets preceded the grisly and tragic circumstance of Ms. Nash and Travis in Connecticut.

Sensible policy action should not require these sorts of cataclysmic outcomes. But to have these sorts of events, and then to fail to act on policy reforms to prevent these tragedies from happening again, compounds the gravity of the inaction by Congress.

Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, in joining Blumenauer and House lead sponsor Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA. at today’s event, said a similar thing. They said they’d use all their power to shepherd this legislation through Congress, in honor of their one-time constituent. You can help by calling your U.S. senators and representatives and asking them to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act.

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Charla, who was attacked by a 200-pound chimpanzee, told reporters that she did not want anyone to suffer the same fate she did. Photo: Pete Marovich/The HSUS

Charla is as compelling an advocate for any bill as I’ve ever seen. And today she told a wall of reporters and TV cameras that she doesn’t want anyone to suffer the same fate she did. 

Who can argue with that from this modest and courageous woman?

In the coming days, I’ll be posting a video blog of an exclusive interview I’ve conducted with Charla.

P.S. It was a big day on the Hill for other reasons, too – with two hugely positive results for animals. First, the U.S. Senate blocked the so-called Sportsmen’s Act, which had terrible provisions I wrote about recently. These include expanding trapping in wilderness areas, blocking the Environment Protection Agency from regulating toxic lead ammunition, and allowing trophy hunters to import sport-hunted polar bear trophies. A combination of pro-animal Democrats and pro-gun Republicans (concerned they would not be allowed to offer amendments) blocked the bill. Here’s the cloture vote, with the “No” vote serving as the pro-animal vote. 

Second, Congressman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., became the 300th House cosponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518, the bill that cracks down on the sickening practice of horse soring. After such a remarkable showing of support for our position, I hope that House leaders will finally take up the bill on the House floor.

July 09, 2014

Howling for Wolves and Voting Rights in Michigan

Almost three decades ago, I spent a summer as a Student Conservation Association ranger at Isle Royale National Park, in the farthest reaches of northern Michigan. I hiked through the beautiful boreal forests of this World Heritage site, drawn there because of the stories I’d read as a child about the relationship between the wolves and the moose on the island. Not for a moment did I ever worry about a wolf attack – in fact, I yearned for a glimpse of these elusive creatures.

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Michigan's small population of wolves has to be protected from trophy hunters. Photo: Alamy

I’m back today in the lower peninsula, enjoying the Michigan summer and speaking up for wolves as the human population of 10 million grapples with the question of how it handles the 650 or so wolves who’ve reclaimed a small portion of their range, in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

Immediately after the federal government removed wolves from the list of endangered species, a majority of state lawmakers voted to open up a trophy-hunting season for wolves. The HSUS joined a larger coalition, called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, and conducted a referendum to give voters the opportunity to nullify the legislature’s precipitous and controversial action. We’re pleased to stand with the Detroit Zoo, Michigan’s native American tribes, Audubon chapters, the Michigan Sierra Club, hundreds of other groups, businesses, veterinarians, wolf scientists, and thousands of volunteers working on the ground who favor the restoration of basic protections for the state’s small population of wolves.

Before the public could even vote on the issue, lawmakers found a different means of allowing trophy hunting – by ceding authority to the seven-member Natural Resources Commission to establish hunting seasons for almost any species. They clearly feared that the voters would side with us, and tried to derail our referendum.

We responded with a second referendum, to give voters the chance to nullify the second legislative maneuver against wolves. We met their attempt to suppress voting rights with more citizen democratic action and a new opportunity to vote.

This time, the trophy-hunting lobby gathered signatures for its own wolf-hunting measure, ironically and counterintuitively as a third attempt to thwart a vote of the people. Their measure is called the “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act” – a well-dressed-up wolf hunting measure – and they have publicly stated that they want the legislature to approve it later this month or in August. The trophy-hunting lobby, by various means, wants legislators to control this issue, so they can have their way with wolves.

There’s one overriding conclusion I’ve come to in talking to people in this state. We at The HSUS and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected have confidence in the people of Michigan to weigh the issues and make the right decision. Our opponents don’t trust the citizens of the state, and they are making extraordinary efforts to block a public vote in a fair election.

Our system of government is grounded on the principle that regular people are entrusted to make election decisions, whether for candidates or issues. Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Men by their makeup are naturally divided into two camps: those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of higher classes; and those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them the safest and most honest, if always the wisest repository of the public interest.”

It’s a sad circumstance when lawmakers and their allies in the trophy-hunting community try to squelch the voting rights of citizens, in their zeal to kill animals who are rare, who’ve harmed no one, and who have a rightful place in this great state.  

July 07, 2014

A Bill for the One Percent – of Sport and Trophy Hunters

Just a few days ago, it was the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act. The act was the goal of the 1963 March on Washington and a year later it was muscled through Congress by President Lyndon Johnson and several key Democrats and Republicans. That was Congress at its best, doing something in the national interest and honoring the moral standards of our country.

That same year, Johnson signed into law another piece of landmark legislation – the Wilderness Act, which sought to preserve wild areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

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One provision  in the Sportsmen's Act would provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. Photo: Alamy

The Wilderness Act is about to be weakened by Congress, and there’s nary a howl, screech, or a primal scream about it.  Today, the Senate is scheduled to take up S. 2363, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” which has three particularly odious elements to it and represents a giveaway to the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, and others who represent the extreme wing of the Washington trophy hunting lobby. This is Congress at its worst, with Democratic leaders teeing up the bill to give a couple of southern Democrats – lead sponsor Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – a political talking point as they campaign in the rural areas of their states. The fact is, though, hardly one of the hunters whom Hagan or Pryor may run across will benefit much at all from any of these provisions of this bill.

One provision would roll back the Marine Mammal Protection Act and provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. It’s one thing to shoot a deer and eat the meat, and it’s another to fly up to the Arctic Circle, drop $40,000 on a guided hunt, and shoot a threatened species – all for the head and the hide and the bragging rights that go along with it. I don’t think too many guys in small town North Carolina or Arkansas will be the least interested in that kind of hunting. It’s just the latest in a series of these import allowances for polar bear hunters, and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and just wait for a congressional waiver to bring in their trophies.

A second provision of the bill would allow sport hunters and trappers priority use in wilderness areas, even though these lands were never designed specifically for this use. This is the provision that weakens the landmark Wilderness Act that Congress established a half century ago. We’re talking here about more than 100 million acres with this change in management priorities – subordinating wilderness values and prioritizing wildlife trapping, and all the misery that comes along with it for animals.

And finally, the bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead ammunition, which is a known toxin that threatens hunters who consume wild animals and also threatens wild animals who incidentally consume prey with lead. Lead poisoning is known to be the leading cause of death for endangered California condors, and it poisons and kills as many as 130 other species, including other threatened and endangered animals. Given that hunters can use non-toxic shot – which ultimately makes their wild game meals at home much safer for their families – there’s just no reason to stifle the judgment of scientists at the EPA. President George H.W. Bush required non-lead ammunition for all waterfowl hunting in 1991, and for more than two decades hunters have used it for duck and goose hunting. Why not for other forms of hunting, too – especially now that we have so much more information to warrant this transition to a safer form of hunting?

The Senate has appropriations bills to consider, and it’s got a raft of strong animal protection bills it can take up. It is a shame that it’s filling its docket as a purely political act for vulnerable Democrats, to throw a bone to the extremist segment of the trophy hunting lobby. Rank-and-file hunters won’t know the difference, but millionaire trophy hunters will be the ones who benefit from this shameful legislation.

More than 100 humane and environmental organizations co-signed a letter sent today to the Senate opposing the bill. Let’s hope lawmakers pay attention. You can take action by contacting your two U.S. Senators, and urging them to shoot down S. 2363.  

July 03, 2014

Don’t Let Hot Cars, Fireworks and Extreme Weather Ruin July 4th Celebration – for Pets

A father who left his 22-month-old son in an SUV in Atlanta on a hot day is now under investigation for the boy’s death. The story’s been front page news across the nation, and it's a vivid and tragic reminder that any creature – a toddler, a dog, a cat or another – who’s unable to get out of a hot car, is vulnerable to the punishing and fatal effects of trapped, searing heat.

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This Fourth of July, resist the temptation to bring your pet along on holiday travels.  Photo: iStockphoto

What’s even more shocking is how often it happens: already, this is believed to be the 14th case of a child dying of heatstroke in a parked car this year -- a statistic that reminds us that raising public awareness about the dangers of summer heat can save lives.

We at The HSUS for several decades have reminded people about the dangers of dogs in parked cars, especially during the summer months. Leaving a dog inside a car for a few minutes while you run out for a quick errand might seem harmless enough, but it can be deadly. On a balmy, 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to heat up to 99 degrees. Rolling down the windows has little effect. Quickly rising temperatures can often lead to brain damage or the pet could die from heatstroke or suffocation.

One way to remind yourself to stay committed and aware is to sign our pledge that you will not leave your dog or other pet in a parked car. Then, share it with friends, along with these tips on what to do if you see a dog in a parked car. The HSUS also has a great infographic that explains the dangers of leaving dogs in parked cars.

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Click infographic for larger view

This Fourth of July, we also ask that you resist the temptation to bring your pet along on holiday travels to barbecues and other celebrations. Ask yourself if it’s in your pet’s best interest to be exposed to extreme noise, startling displays of pyrotechnics and frightening smells, when the alternative is an evening lounging on the bed at home, with the TV on to dampen the strange sounds of our nation’s birthday party. Here are some tips on how to give your pet a safe and happy Fourth. Mid-year is also a great time to double check your pet’s ID tags and microchip information and update or replace them as needed, and – as hurricane season rolls in -- to come up with a disaster preparedness plan for your family and pets.

Many local and state governments are tightening restrictions on leaving pets in cars, and expanding law enforcement’s latitude to free an animal believed to be in danger. You can contact your local elected officials to discuss how your community can protect pets in this way. Let’s make it a priority to keep our pets safe and healthy.

July 02, 2014

New Digs, New Chance for New Iberia Chimps

I have a fantastic update to share with you today. All of the federally owned chimpanzees from New Iberia Research Center – more than 100 individuals – have officially moved to Chimp Haven, the National Chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. This is the largest group of government-owned chimpanzees to be retired, and, with this transfer, Chimp Haven’s population has doubled in less than two years. This very significant development comes as a direct result of the decision by the National Institutes of Health to work with Chimp Haven and The HSUS on a plan to transition the nation’s population of nearly all government-owned laboratory chimps to sanctuaries.

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Julius, a 46-year-old chimpanzee, will join six of his offspring at the sanctuary. Photo: Chimp Haven

Chimp Haven’s total population currently stands at 212 chimpanzees, and it’s no easy feat to welcome so many chimpanzees in such a short amount of time. Chimp Haven’s decision to accept these chimps required an array of activities, including fundraising, construction of new chimpanzee housing, humanely transporting the animals, integrating them into large social groups, and getting each of them settled in their new homes.

An investigation at New Iberia conducted by The HSUS and broadcast by ABC News in 2009 was a pivotal moment in our efforts to end chimpanzee research and retire  chimpanzees to sanctuary.  To their great credit, the leadership at New Iberia has been very positive about moving this process ahead and providing a new life for the chimps.  

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Ned, who had difficulty with social interactions, already has many new friends at the sanctuary.
Photo: Chimp Haven

There’s Julius, a 46-year-old chimpanzee who fathered 29 children in captivity and who will join six of his offspring at Chimp Haven.  There’s Monkey, who once suffered severe trauma to his chin and lower lip because of a seizure and is receiving medical care. There’s Ned, who experienced head trauma as an infant, causing impaired mobility and cognition that made social interactions difficult, but who – with care and encouragement -- has already made several friends among staff and other chimpanzees in his new home.

Back in September of 2012, this group of chimpanzees was declared permanently ineligible for research but most were slated to move to another laboratory in Texas when New Iberia decided it no longer wished to maintain chimpanzees for NIH. While we supported the ineligible designation, we urged NIH to work with us to send all of these chimpanzees to sanctuary. In December of that year, a joint effort was announced between NIH, the Foundation for NIH, Chimp Haven, and The HSUS to send these chimpanzees to Chimp Haven if $2.3 million in funds could be raised for construction.

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Monkey, who had suffered severe trauma to his chin and lower lip because of a seizure, is receiving medical care. Photo: Chimp Haven

The HSUS was able to help kick off the fundraising with $500,000, thanks to one of our most dedicated and generous supporters, Audrey Steele Burnand. We were later able to add more than $100,000 on top of that to provide critical support to Chimp Haven. Fortunately, Chimp Haven was able to secure the remainder of the needed funds for construction and immediately got down to the hard work of making the retirement of these chimpanzees a reality.

We couldn’t be more thrilled for the chimpanzees who will now get to live out the remainder of their lives climbing trees, relaxing in the sun, and living in larger social groups. The HSUS extends our congratulations to Chimp Haven for this amazing milestone and looks forward to more great news like this in the future as the National Institutes of Health continues its plan to retire more than 300 federally owned chimpanzees.

P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a moment to check out our People’s Silver Telly Award winning video about the retirement of this group of chimpanzees. This evocative and award-winning video, made by The HSUS last year, demonstrates the great job Chimp Haven has been doing in giving the chimpanzees a better life in their golden years.

July 01, 2014

Jon Bernthal: 'Walking Tall' for Animals

AD_BERNTHAL_12_13_HIGHRES_183043I was a Jon Bernthal fan before he burst onto the screen in the fabulously successfully, award-winning first two seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead. He played the tightly wound and fiercely protective former law enforcement officer who helps lead a band of people fighting for survival against hordes of zombies overrunning the human race in a post-apocalyptic world.  I knew that he was a big animal person, thanks to a tip from his dad, Rick Bernthal, who is the chairman of the board of The HSUS.  I met Jon’s two dogs, Boss and Venice, at Rick’s house and knew of Jon’s passionate advocacy for pit bulls and his support for our efforts to crack down on puppy mills, dogfighting and other forms of abuse. 

Jon and I caught up on Saturday, just before the start of our 60th anniversary gala in Washington, D.C., and talked about his views on animal issues, his animal-loving dad, and just a bit about his movies. The gala, hosted by actor Ben Stein and also featuring CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell, was both inspirational and motivating, and we were so pleased that Jon took the time from his movie making and other activities to join us.  Here’s the trailer for one of his movies, Fury, with Brad Pitt, due out November 15th across the nation.  And here’s my interview with him for today’s video blog. 

June 30, 2014

Live Pigeon Shoots: The Shame of Pennsylvania

More than two decades ago, when I first became active in animal protection, I went to protest what was then the nation’s largest pigeon shoot — in Hegins, Pennsylvania. The organizers trapped thousands of live pigeons from cities and other areas where the birds lived and then trucked them back to Hegins for the Fred Coleman Memorial Shoot, a Labor Day affair that had gone on unchallenged since the 1930s.

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At a typical Pennsylvania pigeon shoot, organizers release trapped pigeons from boxes and shooters waiting just yards away maim and kill the birds as a target shooting exercise.
Photo: The HSUS

During the day, all day long, the organizers released the pigeons from boxes just yards away from a line of waiting shooters, who maimed and killed the birds as a target shooting exercise. Little boys dashed into the fields to twist off the heads of the wounded, flailing birds, compounding the cruelty with a clean-up process that just had to deaden the empathy of kids conscripted to participate in this perverted adult spectacle.

After some years, a state court ruled that humane society police officers could enforce the anti-cruelty laws of the state and that such laws did apply to pigeon shoots. That spelled the end of the Hegins shoot, but, amazingly, other live pigeon shoots persist, in more clandestine circumstances, in other parts of Pennsylvania, hiding in the shadows and obscured from public protests or scrutiny. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered a bill to ban the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption, and added to it the target shooting of dogs and cats and live pigeon shoots.  They passed the bill, H.B. 1750, by a vote of 10 – 4.

Now the National Rifle Association is attempting to use its lobbying muscle to prevent the consideration of this bill on the Senate floor, threatening lawmakers with retribution, should they support H.B. 1750.

Can you imagine that there is still controversy anywhere about whether it’s right to ban these spectacles of cruelty? A spectacle that causes obvious pain and suffering to animals. A spectacle that cannot be called hunting because there is no licensing, hunting season, no bag limits, and no consumption of the animals shot. An activity that has superior substitutes such as clay, skeet or trap shooting, involving the use of inanimate objects – with many of these forms of target shooting recognized as an Olympic sport.  A spectacle that has long fallen out of favor throughout the world.

Witnessing the cruelty of pigeon shoots changed the life of The HSUS’s current senior vice president of campaigns, Heidi Prescott. At the time, she was a volunteer and a wildlife rehabilitator. At her first shoot, it didn’t take her long to come across a wounded bird who had been suffering for hours and was gasping for breath. The bird’s injuries were so severe that she helped to humanely euthanize the animal. She says that after this experience, she made a pledge to campaign against pigeon shoots until they were ended for good. She’s been fighting for 20 years for the enactment of this policy, and she’s been joined by a strong group of responsible lawmakers, including State Representative John Maher, and State Senators Stewart Greenleaf, Dominic Pileggi, Pat Browne, and Richard Alloway, who are similarly committed to ending this cruelty.

Now, other state lawmakers must join them and demonstrate resolve, in the face of hollow threats from the NRA.  No lawmakers have ever looked back, despite opposition at the time, and wondered whether they should have voted to outlaw dogfighting, or cockfighting, or malicious cruelty to animals. And the rest of us only look back and wonder why those legal protections for animals took so long.

Live pigeon shooting is a cruel and frivolous form of fleeting entertainment, with no larger social purpose or benefit. It is not hunting – it is a disgrace, and lawmakers who fail to stand tall on issues with this kind of moral clarity should feel only shame and embarrassment.

June 27, 2014

Declining Populations of Elephants and Polar Bears in Sights of Trophy Hunters

Yesterday, CNN published a column from me about the confusing message sent by the U.S.  government in taking action to fight the elephant ivory trade but still allowing trophy hunters to bring in ivory tusks from a number of African countries. 


The good news is, two African nations – Botswana and Zambia – have recently banned trophy hunting, stopping Americans and hunters of other nationalities from killing animal species that are already in peril as a consequence of a surge in poaching for the ivory trade. What’s more, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banned imports, at least temporarily, of trophy tusks from Tanzania and Zimbabwe. These are all very positive moves. We hope the United States does not backtrack on these actions, and instead continues to restrict all trade in ivory, including imports by trophy hunters.

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The Sportsmen's Act would allow American trophy hunters to import the heads and hides of polar bears they’ve previously shot in Canada. Photo: iStockphoto

The United States is also in the thick of an urgent fight over the trophy hunting of polar bears – a species even more scarce than African or Asian elephants.  A federal bill known as the Sportsmen’s Act, S. 2363, is set to come up in the full Senate soon after the July 4th recess. This bill is chock full of horrible provisions, including one that would allow American trophy hunters to import the heads and hides of polar bears they’ve previously shot in Canada, even though polar bears are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The bill would also prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the use of lead ammunition by sport hunters, and it would establish sport hunting as a priority use of federal lands. 

The fact is, trophy hunters are still creating havoc with threatened species, fighting the overdue and logical transition to non-toxic ammunition, and seeking advantages over all other recreationists on our public lands.  They’ve just gone too far, and it’s time for animal advocates to speak up. We urge you to call your two U.S. Senators and express opposition to S. 2363, the Sportsmen’s Act.

June 26, 2014

Rescue, Rehab and Release

The animal care team at our affiliated Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, California, last year took in a red-tailed hawk who’d been found at a trolley station. Her wing was heavily damaged, after coming out on the losing end of a collision with a mechanized vehicle or an overhead power line. Trolley Girl, as she came to be known, had surgery on her wing and burned feathers removed. She lost a lot of muscle strength, but over time and with proper care she was declared fit for flight exercises in March and expect that she is now counting down the days until released into the wild.

Trolley Girl is just one of about 15,000 creatures every year who come, broken, into our wildlife rehabilitation centers where our staff and volunteers work tirelessly to mend their wounds and broken bodies and to give them a second chance at life in the wild.

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These orphaned red fox kits are being cared for at the Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
Photo: Heather Fone/The HSUS

It’s something that happens not only at our facilities, but at hundreds of other wildlife rehabilitation centers quietly but critically operating in communities throughout the nation.  That’s why I am so pleased that Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and 11 cosponsors introduced a resolution today (H. Res. 651) in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and the dedicated individuals who devote their lives and expertise to it. 

Wildlife rehabilitation has probably been around as long as kids have been bringing orphaned baby animals home and asking moms and dads how to care for them. But over time, the needs in this sector have increased as wild animals face increasing peril from roads, power lines, glass windows, poisons, wind turbines and other human-made constructs and hazards.

The quality of the centers focusing on these concerns has risen to meet these demands and today we have increasingly sophisticated and specialized facilities staffed by specialists – veterinarians, administrators, husbandry experts and even nutritionists in some cases. These facilities have broadened the mission of rehabilitation and they often serve as early warning centers to monitor the health and status of our wildlife communities.

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A red-footed tortoise enjoys a strawberry at the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Photo: Amber McPherson/The HSUS

The three wildlife rehabilitation centers operated by The HSUS and its affiliates, located in California, Florida, and Massachusetts, see animals ranging from baby birds and squirrels and opossums to bald eagles and mountain lions. Our experts not only help the animals but they also spend a lot of time working within their communities, and particularly with kids, teaching them about wildlife and about minimizing impacts on wild animals and respecting them.

Rep. Smith said today, “Every year, hundreds of thousands of wild animals are orphaned, injured or become sick. This resolution recognizes the work of wildlife rehabilitation centers and their self-less efforts to protect our wildlife. Today, we thank these individuals and organizations for what they do on a daily basis.”

As I travel around the country, I try to visit many of these wildlife rehabilitation centers, where I have been delighted to meet the selfless people providing a remarkable safety net for animals in crisis.  It’s a network of emergency care centers not nearly as numerous and well-funded as the array of dog and cat shelters and centers, but every bit as critical for animals. We join Congressman Smith and other lawmakers in saluting them and their life-saving work today.

June 25, 2014

Capitalism With a Conscience – for Animals

All over America, and around the world, corporations are listening to their customers and taking intentional steps to contribute to the new, emerging humane economy, one that lightens the burden of suffering for animals. I recently announced that Cargill, the largest private corporation in the United States, has set a timeframe for purging gestation crates from its supply chain. Earlier this year, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, two other major meat producers, made announcements of a similar nature. And over the last two and a half years, we’ve seen 60 major American food retailers – the companies that sell the product to consumers -- agree to phase out their purchase of pork from operators using gestation crates. 

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Safeway earns the Spira award for its work to end the use of gestation crates in its food supply chain. In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are confined for virtually their entire lives in these inhumane crates. Photo: The HSUS

Across the whole breadth of the economy, we are seeing a raft of companies from Whole Foods Market to Hampton Creek to Beyond Meat and LUSH Cosmetics providing opportunities for their customers to act on their values in the marketplace – on issues ranging from factory farming to animal testing to fur selling. 

One pioneer who contributed so meaningfully to our present-day successes is the late Henry Spira.  Between the mid-1970s and the 1990s, he spearheaded campaigns to end animal testing and pushed better treatment for farm animals, forging alliances between major corporations and animal protectionists. Spira recognized that the attentiveness of corporations to animal welfare concerns was central to our movement’s future success. In fact, Spira biographer and campaign partner Peter Singer published a very useful synopsis of Spira’s rules for effective corporate engagement on animal protection issues.

In recognition of his pathbreaking work, we worked with Professor Singer and others to create the Henry Spira Humane Corporate Progress Award, to recognize businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs committed to advancing progress on animal issues. In 2013, the inaugural year for the award, we recognized Aramark, Burger King and Sodexo for working to eliminate some of the worst factory-farming practices from their supply chains; CeeTox, Inc. for its work to replace the use of animals in chemical and other product testing; and the Consumer Specialty Products Association, which brokered an industry-wide agreement to add a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant to prevent accidental poisoning of children and animals.

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John Bartlett, Inc. earns the honor for its celebration of fur-free fashion and for its work to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty of an industry that each year kills 75 million animals for fashion. Photo: Greg Vaughan

This year, we honor the country’s second largest grocery store chain, Safeway, and fashion designer John Bartlett, Inc. with the Spira Award. Safeway earns the honor for its work last year to end the use of gestation crates in its food supply chain and for moving toward group housing for pigs. In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are confined for virtually their entire lives in these inhumane crates that are barely two feet wide, essentially immobilizing the animals for the duration of their lives.

Our second awardee this year is John Bartlett, Inc., which earns the honor for its celebration of fur-free fashion and for its work to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty of an industry that each year kills 75 million animals for fashion. In 2012, my friend John Bartlett, the namesake of the company, made fashion week history with the debut of his 100 percent cruelty-free menswear collection.  His work makes plain that style and fashion won’t suffer in the least when we shed fur from our garment choices.

Safeway and John Bartlett, Inc. are trailblazers leading the way in a private sector that is becoming more aware of animal issues and more humane with each passing year.  While it’s true that a small number of companies and trade associations continue to cling to their business models grounded on cruelty and exploitation of animals, attacking The HSUS and fighting reforms supported by the public, they are really the outliers in a sea of change that’s bringing our economic lives and practices into greater alignment with our values. Their stubborn commitment to the status quo of cruelty and indifference to animals is bound to be swept away by the swell of support for humane values everywhere.

We’re dedicated to transforming our economy for the better, helping animals in the process.  The HSUS is the number one provider of animal-care services among humane organizations, through its own hands-on programs for pets, wildlife and other creatures in crisis.  And we are the nation’s number one, high-impact animal advocacy organization, driving change in the realms of public awareness, public policy and, of course, corporate reforms.  Today, we celebrate the corporations joining our movement and doing right by animals.  These companies would make Henry Spira proud, and we thank them.