December 03, 2014

FBI, Ellen, Puppy Mills, and Nestlé Most Popular Blogs of 2014

I write A Humane Nation to chronicle mainly what The HSUS and its affiliates are doing and accomplishing, to comment on the major issues and controversies of the day, and to answer the arguments or false claims of our opponents concerning our work. I discuss the wide range of subjects that we work on, and I take special note of the blogs that you like the most and that get the biggest response from readers. Today, in the first of a series of end-of-year blogs, I review the top 10 blogs of the year – blogs that received the most visitors. Readers took particular note of our gains and exposés of puppy mills, and major announcements from global food retailers to limit cruelty to animals on factory farms, but as always, there was a wide range of interest reflected in your top choices, including touches on street dogs and wild horses and the support of the incredible Ellen DeGeneres!

  • FBI to Start Tracking Animal Cruelty Cases: The Federal Bureau of Investigation signed off on including animal cruelty crimes within the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) - National Incident Based Reporting System — an action that will advance how law enforcement officials understand and act to prevent these often violent crimes. Just as the FBI tracks hate crimes and other important categories, we will now have critical data on animal cruelty. The HSUS and its affiliates had been pushing for this change in policy for years. This was the year that South Dakota became the 50th state to adopt felony-level penalties for malicious animal cruelty.
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    As a result of a federal rule finalized this year, other nations will no longer be able to raise tens of thousands of dogs in puppy mills and flood the U.S. market with them. Photo: AP Images for The HSUS
    United States Moves to End Puppy Mill Imports: In August, The U.S. Department of Agriculture made final a federal rule that we’d long advocated for prohibiting the import of puppies into the United States for resale. As a result, other nations will no longer be able to raise tens of thousands of dogs in puppy mills and flood the U.S. market with them. This action, grounded in a 2008 Farm Bill amendment we secured, is a major victory in our continuing fight against puppy mills across the globe.
  • The Tweet Heard Around the World: Ellen DeGeneres’s Oscar selfie with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars was retweeted 3 million times, becoming the most retweeted post in history -- and it helped the animals. Samsung decided to give a dollar for each retweet to Ellen’s designated charity and she directed $1.5 million to The HSUS, the other half going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Her donation went to three of The HSUS’ remarkable programs: Pets for Life, our Shelter Pet Project and our Animal Rescue Team.
  • Unilever: There Must be a Better Way for Day-Old Male Chicks: In September, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies announced it will work to prevent the destruction – via maceration and suffocation – of baby male chicks in the egg industry. Maceration, a little known part of egg production, is the mass killing of male chicks of no use to the industry since they don’t lay eggs. Unilever is now working to make a technology commercially and scientifically viable that would determine the sex of embryos in eggs long before they get out of the egg, so that they don’t hatch and create a terrible moral problem. Success in this effort would eliminate a vast amount of suffering for hundreds of millions of animals annually. 
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    Unilever announced it will work to prevent the destruction of baby male chicks in the egg industry. Photo: David Paul Morris for The HSUS
    Ending “Commercial” Exploitation:  This post, just after the Super Bowl and the roll-out of the much-hyped ads during the broadcast, discussed indicators of cultural, corporate, and political change for the good of animals. Increasingly, we are seeing advertisers move away from exploiting wild animals like chimpanzees and promoting heart-warming pet adoption stories and the virtue, care, and goodness associated with the human-animal bond.
  • Puppy Mills and 101 Damnations: We released our annual puppy mill report, “101 Puppy Mills,” in May at the start of The HSUS’ eighth annual Puppy Mill Action Week, where we spotlight harsh truths about the abuses of dogs occurring on a widespread scale in puppy mills. Missouri dominated the list, with 22 of the 101 mills identified in the report in Missouri. Kansas was second, followed by Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa.  Prop B in Missouri has helped to shutter more than 600 mills in Missouri alone in the last three years, but there are still thousands of mills operating across the United States.
  • Nestlé to Overhaul Farm Animal Treatment Across the Globe: In August, Nestlé, the world’s largest food company – with dozens of widely known brands, such as Dreyer's, Lean Cuisine, and Butterfinger – announced it will eliminate many controversial, yet currently standard, practices within its worldwide food supply chain. Nestlé’s new program will cleanse its supply chain of the following practices: confinement of sows in gestation crates, calves in veal crates and egg-laying chickens in cages; the forced rapid growth of chickens for meat production; and the harsh mutilation of the horns, tails, and genitals of farm animals without painkillers. 
  • Virginia Pet Stores: Selling Puppies and a Pack of Lies: We sent an undercover investigator with a hidden camera into every pet store in Virginia we could find that sells puppies. Our researchers also traced the sources of more than 2,000 puppies shipped to Virginia pet stores over seven months in 2014. We uncovered widespread deception and omissions – all seemingly designed to provide false assurances or to dupe the public into buying expensive puppies from mills treating dogs deplorably.
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    The HSUS has long argued that the Bureau of Land Management should be working with the humane community to manage wild horses and burros using fertility control methods. Photo: Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS
    Olympian Tom McMillen Says ‘Nyet’ to Dog Slaughter: Former Olympic athlete Tom McMillen sent a letter to the leader of the International Olympic Committee, urging the body to intervene and stop the killing of street dogs in Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. You also liked my posts about the slaughter of dogs in Sochi and Humane Society International’s work to rescue these dogs and bring them into the United States to be placed for adoption. In his letter McMillen, an HSUS board member, wrote: “Mass dog extermination programs as part of Olympic preparations stand in stark contrast to Olympian values. The socially responsible and ethical way forward is to adopt and implement easily available humane methods rather than hunting down and poisoning these animals as all the world watches.”
  • Latest Roundup in Wyoming Exposes Flaws, Failures in BLM’s Wild Horse Management Program: At least 10 animals, including four yearlings, were killed after a poorly conducted and strategically suspect government roundup of approximately 800 wild horses in Wyoming. The HSUS has long argued that the BLM, which conducts these round-ups, should be working with the humane community to manage wild horses using fertility control methods.

There’s no question that our movement is making extraordinary progress, and the blog is a diary of that progress and the change that intentional compassionate action ushers in.

December 02, 2014

Canadian Sealers Propose Bill to Stop Cameras From Documenting Slaughter

For the last decade, The HSUS and Humane Society International staff has braved extreme weather conditions and hostile sealers to expose the commercial sealing industry’s mass clubbing and shooting of baby seals in Atlantic Canada. We’ve encouraged journalists, scientists, members of the European Parliament, and other key players to come to the ice floes to see exactly what happens, and to help us tell the world about the inhumane killing and waste of marine life.

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Canada's annual commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world. Photo: HSI

Our work, along with the footage and other documentation we’ve shared, has resulted in the closing of much of the global market for seal products. In fact, earlier this year, an appellate panel of the World Trade Organization established that animal welfare is a legitimate criterion for restricting trade, largely upholding the European Union’s critical ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts.

As a result of this global campaign, prices for seal skins in Canada have crashed, and it’s only because of multi-pronged subsidies provided by the country's provincial and federal governments that some sealers continue to participate in the annual slaughter. Despite the government’s efforts to prop up the hunt through subsidies, we’ve helped spare more than 1.8 million baby seals since 2009 alone. The government sets quotas and each year commercial sealers fall far short because there are so few remaining markets for seal products.

Now, faced with a global revolt over the images of seal killing, the sealing industry has taken a page out of the playbook of American animal-use industries.  Its leadership want to make it a crime to take pictures or video of the hunt. Last week, Dion Dakins, CEO of the largest seal processor in Canada, called for a bill to outlaw independent observation of the commercial seal hunt. In testimony before the Canadian House of Commons Fisheries Committee, he recommended that the government stop issuing licenses to observe the seal hunt and that observers be required to remain at least one nautical mile away from sealing activities. He further recommended that all observers be required to carry an electronic locator.

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The work done by The HSUS and HSI to expose the mass clubbing and shooting of baby seals has encouraged key players to come to the ice floes to see exactly what happens, and to help us tell the world about the inhumane killing and waste of marine life. Photo: HSI

The proposal brings to mind the numerous “ag-gag” measures that agribusiness leaders have advanced in 20 states during the last two years, and their convoluted ways of suppressing the truth about animal cruelty on factory farms. Of course, the factory farms are private facilities, and the ice floes where sealers slaughter baby animals are in the open ocean, which is no one’s property.

Indeed, animal abusers count upon concealment and physical separation to get away with their deeds.  But The HSUS and HSI, whether through our undercover investigations at factory farms or our Protect Seals unit going to the very edge of the continent to document abuse, won’t have any of that. We are trying to connect people to the reality of what’s occurring, and asking people of conscience to honor their values and do something about it.

The response of the industry and the state to suppress information and routine practices in industry is an admission that they cannot win the argument. Animal abuse is not portable, so they cannot take it somewhere and hide it.  But they can try to wall it off, either with physical structures or physical distance, and try to get police and Coast Guard officials to enforce that standard.

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Seal carcasses left behind after a hunt. Photo: HSI

What Mr. Dakins and his political supporters are proposing is that non-governmental organizations, the media and scientists—unless they are sanctioned by the very government department tasked with promoting commercial sealing—be prevented from documenting, studying, and reporting on an activity that involves a commodity they want to sell to consumers. This cynical move would not only undermine one of the most important foundations of any democracy -- freedom of the press and access to information -- it would also blatantly violate Canadian law. Canada's commercial seal slaughter occurs in public space that belongs to all Canadians, and the right to document and report on what happens there is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In the decade we have documented this slaughter, we have been attacked by sealers, harassed by authorities, and mobbed by industry supporters. From questionable regulations effectively preventing access to the killing areas to repeated efforts to dramatically increase the distance at which observers must remain from sealers, the sealing industry and the Canadian government have done everything in their power to make it impossible for us to film the annual bloodbath that happens in eastern Canada. We have persevered because if our cameras stop rolling, the seal slaughter will go on in secret, and that is exactly what the sealing industry wants.

And we are not going anywhere until we stop this slaughter. If the sealing industry wants the public to buy its products, it needs to be prepared for independent scrutiny of its production methods. If the industry is truly doing nothing wrong, it has nothing to fear from the NGOs and reporters who film the killing.

December 01, 2014

Chris Christie’s Shameful Veto

Late on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving – with the American public focused on family and football during a long holiday weekend and news organizations nationwide at low tide in terms of staffing – Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey chose to announce that he was vetoing a bill banning gestation crates, as a way of burying the story. Gestation crates are confining metal cages that pack in breeding pigs so tightly that they can’t even turn around. They are banned in nine other states and on their way out of the supply chains of more than 60 of the biggest names in American food retail, including McDonald’s, Costco, and Kroger.

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Gov. Christie vetoed the bill despite the fact that 9 out of 10 New Jersey voters support a ban on gestation crates. Photo: The HSUS

Under the leadership of state Senator Raymond Lesniak, and with the backing of The HSUS and local animal welfare groups, the New Jersey legislature had passed the bill to ban gestation crates with overwhelming majorities in both chambers. Our campaigners and volunteers then ran a tremendous grassroots campaign, activating thousands of Christie’s constituents to call into his office in support of the bill. New Jersey native Jon Stewart even devoted a segment of The Daily Show to the issue, ridiculing Christie for his talk of putting the people of New Jersey first even as he showed himself to be pandering to industrial pork producers in Iowa, which is where the 2016 presidential caucuses are staged. 

Bizarrely, Christie’s veto message – his second on this issue in two years -- assailed the bill as a “political movement” driven by “misguided partisans.” But opposing animal cruelty is not a partisan issue, and this measure passed with strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans in both the Assembly and Senate. In fact, the Senate bill passed 32 to 1 – the very opposite of a partisan vote. The New Jersey-based twin sisters who launched a Change.org petition urging Christie to sign the bill were themselves young Republicans. Polling showed that there were no partisan divides on the issue among the electorate – 9 of 10 voters favored the ban.  Here’s an issue of basic animal mistreatment where just about everybody in New Jersey saw things the same way: animals built to move should be allowed to move.

Christie also called the bill “a solution in search of a problem,” but I see it differently. Gestation crates are a problem in search of an excuse, and Christie found that excuse in the talking points from Iowa politicians and the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council. Christie’s message mimicked the slogans of that trade association and the politicians aligned with Big Ag.

Preventing cruelty to animals is as legitimate a goal as stopping it where it already exists. And if we let gestation crates move to New Jersey, you can be sure that the pork industry would howl that banning them would kill jobs, as they’ve claimed elsewhere. It’s not that the industry wants to have it both ways – they want a ban on gestation crates neither way.

Of course, if Christie was serious about stamping out the problem where it exists, he’d call his friend, Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, and tell him to end the practice in that state, where a million sows are still confined in gestation crates. Branstad apparently had no qualms about telling Christie what to do, mistakenly claiming that gestation crates are needed to protect piglets (the crates are only used to confine pregnant pigs before their piglets are born). I would be happy to take Branstad to a farm and show him the difference between gestation crates and farrowing crates, which are not covered by the bill.

The fact is, Branstad and Christie – and their friend Congressman Steve King – have aligned themselves with an increasingly fringe element of animal agriculture that is determined to defend extreme confinement practices. In addition to the food retailers who are shunning the crates, so, too, are major pig producers such as Smithfield, Cargill, and Hatfield. The European Union bans the crates and Canada, Australia, India, and, most recently, Brazil have pledged to phase them out. It’s ironic that one of the most animal-friendly states in the nation is the place where an anti-crate bill is vetoed, on the recommendation of a governor from a far-off state. It just so happens that the Iowa governor’s endorsement is coveted by the Republican presidential candidates who troll for votes in Iowa’s 99 counties, and I’d be willing to bet that had a great deal to do with Christie’s action.

Despite the Friday-night veto, we’re committed to getting the job done on crates, in New Jersey and everywhere else. We’ll continue our work with food companies and pork producers and lawmakers and other citizens to phase out gestation crates and give breeding pigs more space. We’ll work with Senator Lesniak to eventually pass this legislation and serve animals and the people of New Jersey. Christie’s done neither with his cynical action.

November 26, 2014

Making Gains Against the World’s Biggest Spectacle of Animal Sacrifice

With our team on the ground, Humane Society International (HSI) and its partners are making pretty remarkable progress to halt the largest religious sacrifice spectacle in the world -- in the mountain nation of Nepal where nearly half a million animals could be hacked to death later this week.

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Buffaloes for sacrifice are collected in a pit at the site of the Gadhimai Festival in Nepal. Photo: Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for HSI

Participants in the sacrifice have been hauling and carrying water buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs, chicken, and pigeons to Nepal’s Bara district, just 100 miles outside the capital city of Kathmandu, for the Gadhimai festival.

This is how N.G. Jayasimha, who heads the HSI office in India, described the sacrifice in an op-ed this week for The Guardian: “One by one they have their roped heads yanked down, their kicking hind legs restrained, and then their heads sliced off with a machete. Others are so exhausted from travelling hundreds of miles to the festival without food or water, that they simply languish even as all around them buffaloes and goats are being decapitated. I have even seen calves trying to nuzzle comfort from the severed heads of their mothers lying on the ground.”

As Jayasimha goes on to write, the sights and sounds are unimaginable. Pools of blood, animals bellowing in pain and panic, wide-eyed children looking on, and devotees covered in animal blood.

The bloody spectacle has been repeated every five years for more than 250 years now, but surely it has no place in the 21st century.

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HSI board member Nanditha Krishna (left), and Manoj Gautam of Animal Welfare Network Nepal (right) try to convince Mangal Chaudhry, chief priest of the Gadhimai Temple. to stop the animal sacrifice. Photo: Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for HSI

Over the past months, HSI staff members, along with our partners, Animal Welfare Network Nepal and People for Animals in India, have adopted a multi-pronged approach to persuade the Nepalese and the Indian governments and religious leaders to stop the animal sacrifice and reduce the number of animals reaching the sacrificial site.

Estimating that 70 percent of the animals killed in Gadhimai are transported illegally across the border from neighboring India into Nepal, we successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of India on the issue. We won, and the high court issued an order directing the Government of India to stop animals being illegally transported across the border for sacrifice. The court also asked animal protection groups and others to devise an action plan to ensure the court order is implemented.

HSI worked with India’s Ministry of Home Affairs to issue a directive to the Indo-Nepal border forces, to stop and confiscate the animals, and to date 114 arrests have been made and more than 2,500 animals have been seized at the border, on their way to the festival. This is an incredible outcome given the long history of this spectacle.

The HSI/India team and its partners are working directly with the Department of Livestock Services in Nepal to build controlled zones and quarantine stations for each animal brought to the sacrifice. Our team has met with temple officials and the Nepal government, including a rare audience with Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, and members of parliament. We urged them to bring an end to the mass animal sacrifice at Gadhimai.

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Alokparna Sengupta (right) of HSI/India and Manoj Gautam of Animal Welfare Network Nepal talk to men taking buffaloes for sacrifice at the Gadhimai Festival. Photo: Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for HSI

We also requested that language promoting animal welfare and compassion towards all living creatures be added to Nepal’s constitution, similar to language in India’s constitution, and that legislation be introduced to tackle animal cruelty in the Kingdom.

We have a formidable group of people working for us, including HSI board member Dr Nanditha Krishna who has succeeded in banning animal sacrifice in 52 villages in India. Right now, in Gadhimai, our team is making one final attempt to persuade the temple priest to cancel the sacrifice. Meanwhile, our work to stop animals from getting to the sacrifice site in the first place continues full steam as Jayasimha and his team along with our partners patrol the India-Nepal border and the festival itself.

“It is a life-saving mission I know I must make,” Jayasimha wrote, “but I go back to Gadhimai full of dread and fear. I know it is going to be hard, but someone needs to help these animals.”

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Join HSI in the fight to protect animals around the world, from ending animal sacrifice to fighting puppy mills and the use of animals in research.

Ask Nepal to stop the Gadhimai sacrifice »

November 25, 2014

Brazil Adds Its Might to the Movement to End Gestation Crates

Brazil, the largest pork producer in Latin America, struck a body blow to inhumane sow gestation crates today with two major announcements. First, BRF, Brazil’s largest pork producer, announced that it will eliminate the lifelong confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates on company-owned and contract farms – a move expected to affect more than 300,000 animals. At the same time, the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply signed formal agreements with the Brazilian Association of Pig Farmers and the European Union (EU) to encourage the country’s pork producers to end the use of these pre-birthing crates. Under the agreements, Brazilian pork producers will be provided with research and training to facilitate their successful transition to more humane group housing systems.

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 HSI has been working for more than five years with pork producers, food retail companies, and the Brazilian government to shift away from gestation crates (above) and towards more humane group housing systems. Photo: The HSUS

The announcements by Brazil’s national government and by BRF, producer of the brands Sadia and Perdigão, come on the heels of 2014 announcements from other major pig-producing nations to phase out the crates.  The European Union’s ban on the continuous use of gestation crates came into effect in 2013. Australia’s phase-out ends in 2017, New Zealand’s ends next year, and Canada’s in 2024. The South African pork industry is considering a phase-out of crates by 2020.  This is nothing short of momentous movement in the global campaign to halt the use of crates, and The HSUS and Humane Society International have been catalysts for this action.

Gestation crates are barely larger than the animals’ bodies. Sows confined in them typically suffer from severe health problems, including infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, poor social interaction, lameness, and the psychological torment of being immobilized for months and years on end. Our team at HSI has been working for more than five years    with pork producers, food retail companies, and the government in Brazil - to shift away from gestation crates and towards more humane group housing systems.

HSI’s work in Latin America has already led Arcos Dorados, the largest McDonald’s franchisee in Latin America, to ask all of its pig suppliers in Latin America in April this year to present plans to promote group housing systems for breeding sows.

In August, Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, followed suit by committing to phase out crates throughout its global supply chain, including in Brazil. More than 60 multinational food companies – including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Sodexo, and Compass Group (GRSA in Brazil)—have agreed to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. Nine U.S. states have banned, or are phasing out the use of crates, and a bill is sitting on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s desk to ban them in the Garden State.

With every new corporation or country that turns away from crates, we get that much closer to the end of the era of extreme confinement of animals on factory farms.  Today’s move by global agricultural giant Brazil is a great cause for celebration, a symbol of hope, and a reminder of the universal appeal of our values of decency and compassion for all life.

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You can help end gestation crates too. Join us in this fight today! 

November 24, 2014

Pets for Life: Keeping Animals in Loving Homes and Out of Shelters

The Hurricane Katrina crisis – 10 years ago, next year – was a wake-up call for our movement on so many levels. One takeaway: most disadvantaged and underserved people with dogs or cats love their animals, but typically they have been unable to afford or access basic services for them. Many of the animals we rescued from neighborhoods in New Orleans and other communities were not spayed or neutered and had never been inside a veterinary clinic. But it wasn’t as if they didn’t love their animals. There was a gap between what the caretakers wanted and what they were able to provide, mainly because of economic means. A lot of us who went down to New Orleans got a lesson in not making judgments about people and staying focused on providing services to sync up the compassion of people in poverty with the actual care their animals needed.

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Thanks to Pets for Life, Ming Ming's scratched eye  was treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. Photo: Valerie Gardner

An estimated 23 million pets in the United States are in homes where their caretakers live at or below the poverty level, and that typically leaves the animals without access to veterinary care. That’s three or four times the number of pets who end up in shelters each year. Spay/neuter rates among these animals average less than 20 percent -- the exact opposite of the national average of 80 percent. Almost 90 percent of pet owners in these high-poverty areas have never reached out to their local shelter or animal service providers, and close to 80 percent of their pets have never seen a veterinarian.

Our Pets for Life program is aimed at addressing this circumstance, by taking veterinary care and services to some of the country’s most underserved neighborhoods. By bringing these services, including spay and neuter programs and wellness care, to neighborhoods with the most pressing needs, we are working to both cut down on the population of homeless pets and to provide a better quality of life for the animals themselves, ensuring they remain in loving homes. And thanks to our partner, PetSmart Charities®, which has invested almost $2 million in this program since 2013, we have just managed to extend this lifesaving program to five new jurisdictions.

To help implement this program, the Central Oklahoma Humane Society in Oklahoma City, the Nevada Humane Society in Reno, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, Humane Ohio in Toledo, and the Washington Humane Society in Washington, D.C. will each receive $50,000 from PetSmart Charities, in partnership with The HSUS. From The HSUS they will receive hands-on, in-depth training, consistent guidance, and ongoing support. This expands the reach of our Pets for Life Program to more than 25 cities across the country.

The HSUS has been running our Pets for Life programs on the ground in Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles since 2011, focusing on community outreach and securing very tangible results. Through October of this year alone we have provided direct care services to over 15,000 dogs and cats and spayed/neutered over 10,000 – for the benefit of the animals and to the joy of the people caring for them.

We first identify an area of focus where a large percentage of people live at or below the poverty level and where there are little to no pet care resources – animal care “deserts,” as we refer to them. We then reach out to the community directly with services and information. Our teams go door to door in the neighborhoods, we often provide transportation for the dogs and cats to their spay-and-neuter and wellness care appointments, and we keep showing up. We aren’t just there for one day, we maintain a continuing presence and become the trusted resource on pet issues. We also focus on the humans along with their companion pets.

Recently during a day of outreach, knocking on doors in Atlanta, members of our Pets for Life team met Valerie and her dog Ming Ming. Ming Ming’s eye was swollen, red and irritated. Instead of assuming Valerie didn’t care or that this was a situation of cruelty or neglect, we talked to Valerie and found out she was very worried for her dog, but she was unemployed and didn’t have the money to get Ming Ming’s eye looked at. So PFL stepped in and we took her to see a veterinarian. Ming Ming had a scratched eye that was treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. “Ming Ming’s eye is healing nicely!” Valerie wrote to our team shortly after. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” 

In addition to such direct community outreach, and perhaps even more importantly, we’ve been mentoring dozens of other dog-and-cat care organizations in how to implement the program, developing a new, risk-based strategy that is one of the most viral ideas in our movement. These groups are now actively extending their own reach to underserved areas and putting these practices to work, so that every pet – regardless of where he or she lives – has access to wellness services, spay-and-neuter, and other critical information and resources.

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You can help us grow the Pets for Life program and continue its success across the country today.  

November 21, 2014

The HSUS Celebrates a 60-Year Quest to Stop Cruelty to All Animals

It was 60 years ago, on November 22, that four individuals founded The HSUS, with grand ambitions but only a few nickels in their pockets. At the time, there were just 500 or so local humane organizations scattered across 3,100 counties. Like islands, with scant connection and sense of unity, they lacked resources and, to a degree, a connection to a cause larger than their own operations. They were often disassociated from the larger dynamics driving animal homelessness and cruelty. It was within this context that our founders stepped up to provide effective national leadership and vision. The HSUS didn’t seek to duplicate the work of local groups, but helped them run better and to grow the humane movement as a whole.

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Fred Myers (above) and other founders of The HSUS realized that we would not be able to rescue our way out of the problems -- we needed to prevent cruelty.

Above all, Fred Myers and the other founders of The HSUS resolved to confront national cruelties beyond the reach of local societies, and to restore the broad scope of the early humane movement’s focus on a full array of animal cruelties. They crafted an ambitious motto: “Every field of humane work—Everywhere!” They somehow scraped together enough dollars to sustain an organization aligned with their vision and committed to helping all animals.

In the post-World War II era, their first campaigns helped pass a federal humane slaughter law and restrict the seizure of pets from shelters for use in animal experiments. They realized that we would not be able to rescue our way out of the problems -- but needed to prevent cruelty by raising awareness, professionalizing our entire field of work, and driving sound public policies and corporate reforms. 

If Myers and the others could see us today, I think they’d be very pleased that The HSUS, more than any other organization, has framed the debate about animal protection in society. They could never have anticipated the range and reach of our work in 2014. With nearly 1,000 staff members and consultants, and millions of volunteers and other supporters, we’re confronting the biggest forms of cruelty, no matter how maligned or disregarded the animal or how entrenched the abuse.

  • Three decades ago, just four U.S. states had felony penalties for malicious animal cruelty and only a dozen made dogfighting a felony—with a half dozen states actually allowing legal cockfighting. Today, malicious animal cruelty and dogfighting are felonies in all 50 states, and cockfighting is banned in all states. It’s a federal felony to engage in animal fighting or to sell videos depicting animal cruelty.
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    The HSUS has successfully campaigned to lead the veal industry to completely phase out veal crates by 2017, among other successes for farm animals. Photo: Farm Sanctuary
    A decade ago, nearly all veal calves, pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens were confined in crates and cages so small that the animals could barely move. Since then, we’ve successfully campaigned to lead the veal industry to completely phase out veal crates (by 2017) and gained wide acceptance from leaders in the egg industry that they must abandon barren battery cages. We’ve also caused several big pork producers to phase out gestation crates, and more than 60 major food retailers—from McDonald’s to Costco to Safeway—to stop buying from factory farms that confine the animals so severely. Prop 2, our landmark 2008 ballot measure to give farm animals more space to live, is set to take effect on January 1st, 2015.
  • Just this year, with Humane Society International helping drive the reforms, the European Union and India – with nearly 1.7 billion consumers between them -- forbid selling any cosmetics products tested on animals in-country or anywhere else in the world. The U.S. government is moving nearly all the chimpanzees it owns from laboratories to sanctuaries and has stopped funding research that involves dogs and cats acquired from “random source” dealers.
  •  Only three nations in the world continue to conduct commercial whaling, while whale watching is now a multi-billion-dollar industry. We’ve reduced Canada’s seal slaughter by 75 percent, upholding an EU ban on imports of seal skins, and restricted the import of tuna that is not dolphin-safe, into the United States.
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    We’ve reduced Canada’s seal slaughter by 75 percent. Photo: Kathy Milani/HSI
    Today, 45 states restrict the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets, and the federal government restricts importing and transporting a wide range of species, including several species of large, constricting snakes and big cats, for the pet trade. We have helped pass more humane breeding standards for dogs in 35 states, and, at the federal level, banned imports of dogs from foreign puppy mills, and finally achieved federal oversight of Internet sellers of dogs and cats. We’ve normalized the discussion of spay-and-neuter and adopting, and helped drive the reduction in euthanasia over the last 40 years from 15 million dogs and cats to three million today.

 We are heartened by this progress but mindful of immense challenges ahead. Here’s what we see in the years to come:

  • Ending euthanasia of healthy and treatable pets in the United States and protecting street dogs globally: In the United States, by expanding our Pets for Life mentorship programs, we’ll be helping communities where there are an estimated 23 million pets living in poverty and where their caretakers do not have access to spay/neuter and other critical wellness services.  HSI will expand its sterilization and vaccination programs, focusing on Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, the Philippines and Puerto Rico, which together have an estimated 25 million street dogs.
  • street dog
    HSI will expand its sterilization and vaccination programs, focusing on Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, the Philippines and Puerto Rico, which together have an estimated 25 million street dogs. Photo: Alex Rothlisberger/Michelle Cintron
    Reducing suffering for billions of animals on factory farms: We will continue to take this issue head on—seeking the elimination of extreme confinement and promoting the substitution of more humane practices, conducted principally by family farmers. Because we believe it not a practical goal to raise nine billion animals humanely and sustainably, we’ll encourage consumers to reduce their meat consumption, just a bit, starting in the United States. Making better food choices—say, by skipping meat one day a week—will yield enormous results for human health, the global environment and animal welfare.
  • Securing animal cruelty laws throughout the world: Today, approximately half the nations around the globe have some form of anti-cruelty legislation. We will seek to convince at least 20 additional countries to adopt statutes in the next 10 years, with the ultimate goal of building a comprehensive, global legal framework against cruelty, as we’ve done across the United States.
  • Curbing wildlife cruelty and ushering in a new era of humane wildlife management: We will target the worst abuses of wildlife and urge a more enlightened paradigm of wildlife management, characterized by use of non-lethal methods to control wildlife conflicts, a more active use of fertility control and other technologies to manage wildlife populations humanely, and the promotion of non-consumptive wildlife tourism. We’ll push states to ban the use of highly toxic lead ammunition by sport hunters, outlaw the possession of dangerous wild animals as pets and at roadside zoos, and halt the reckless killing of marine mammals and terrestrial predators, especially by inhumane means.
  • RABBITS_ISTOCK_000013563165_222681
    The HSUS and HSI will drive progress toward replacing animal testing with transformative research and technologies. Photo: iStockphoto
    Replacing animal testing and research with 21st century science: The HSUS and HSI will drive progress toward replacing animal testing with transformative research and technologies, adding Brazil, China, Russia and the United States to the community of nations that forbid cosmetics testing on animals. We’ll also work with the leaders of the world’s top scientific nations—in the European Union, United States, Canada and Japan—to fully replace animal tests with a new conceptual framework and advanced, human-biology-based technologies, with the goal of substantially ending toxicity testing on animals by 2025.

And, of course, we’ll continue fighting to stop the slaughter and soring of American horses, end the killing of dogs for their meat in Southeast Asia, restrict the private ownership of wild animals, stop the trade in ivory and rhino horn, end shark finning, rescue animals in need, and do so much more.

More than anything, animals need a powerful, strategic organization that can provide immediate relief and rescue, as well as shape opinion and drive corporate and public policies. That’s what you have in The HSUS. But as we take our movement to the next level of success, we need your active support and participation more than ever. Let’s look back with pride on the past 60 years and celebrate this milestone in our history. But let’s also unite to drive even more meaningful reform in the months and years ahead.

**

P.S. A humane future also begins with you. Have a look at our vision for what lies ahead, and tell us yours as well.

November 20, 2014

The Intersection of Gestation Crates and Presidential Politics

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces a threat to his brand of “straight talk” and “no nonsense” with the full-blown national controversy over his veto last year of a bill to ban gestation crates, and his apparent recent pledge to an Iowa pork producer to veto a revised version of that bill -- despite an extraordinary level of popular support for the measure in the state he was elected to serve. Last night, New Jersey native Jon Stewart focused on Christie and his inclination to again veto the legislation to ban the use of the two-foot-by-seven-foot immobilizing metal crates. You’ll be hard pressed to find a funnier and more cutting deconstruction of political maneuvering and posturing anywhere else on American television.

Gestation crate
An HSUS survey shows Republican caucus-goers are far more inclined to view Christie favorably if he signs the bill banning inhumane sow gestation crates. Photo: The HSUS

“My job is to stand up for the people of New Jersey and fight for them and that’s what I’m going to do regardless of the politics,” Christie says in one clip Stewart played to represent how the governor talks about his approach to policy making. In a second clip, the governor declares that he “always put the people of New Jersey and my oath ahead of petty personal politics.”

It’s the disconnect between that kind of talk and his actions on the gestation crate issue that’s causing the controversy for Christie – a chief executive who has a creditable record of signing pro-animal bills during his tenure, including measures to upgrade the state’s anti-cruelty law and to combat horse slaughter and the trade in ivory. Given that support for the gestation crate bill in New Jersey is as close to unanimous as it gets in American politics – with 93 percent of New Jersey voters favoring Senator Ray Lesniak’s bill – there’s just no compelling reason to veto the bill except for the perceived political assessment of how this issue plays in Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s top pig -producing state, with about a fifth of the nation’s pigs and an estimated one million sows in extreme confinement in gestation crates. But those numbers should not be confused with popular support, and The HSUS has released a survey that shows Republican caucus-goers are far more inclined to view Christie favorably than unfavorably if he signs the bill. 

Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad – who signed legislation to legalize mourning dove hunting after decades of protection for the song birds, signed an ag-gag bill into law two years ago, and is suing to strike down California’s ban on the sale of eggs from hens confined in small, barren battery cages – has urged Christie to veto the bill.  As the state’s top Republican, now entering his sixth term, Branstand’s endorsement is one of the most coveted in the state. 

In addition to Stewart’s riff, the pigs got an additional assist when Jessica Chastain, Stewart’s guest last night, was so moved by the gestation crate piece that she started talking about it and how cruel it is to keep the sows in confinement so severe that the animals cannot even turn around.

This morning the gestation crate legislation also got a boost from a major conservative voice for animal protection. Matthew Scully, a speechwriter for six Republican presidents and Republican nominees and a fan of Christie, wrote a 2000-word essay on the crates legislation for the conservative website, National Review Online, noting that “the governor of New Jersey is not a man to be pushed around” by the pork industry, and that he should sign the bill because it’s the right thing to do and is in his political interest. 

In his critically acclaimed book Dominion, Scully visited a pig factory farm in North Carolina, the second-largest pig -producing state, and that account remains one of the most moving narratives in contemporary writings about animal protection. Scully gave readers a feel for his powerful convictions and his observations in this piece where he calls cruelty as it is, regardless of who and how powerful the perpetrators are:  

Living creatures, every bit as intelligent and sensitive as dogs, lie trapped by the millions in a sunless hell of metal and concrete, for years unable to walk or turn around, afforded not even straw to lie on — because even that little kindness, like giving the pigs extra space, would throw off the miserly economics of the enterprise. All of this, we are emphatically assured, is right and necessary — not only for the sake of more cost-efficient production, holding down the all-important price of bacon, but also for the benefit of the animals themselves. Does anybody really believe this, even the people who insist that it is true?

You can help stand up for pigs who can’t turn around. If you live in New Jersey, contact Gov. Christie’s office today. If not, sign our petition to end the use of gestation crates.

***

Watch Jon Stewart discuss Chris Christie's 'pig problem':

November 19, 2014

Japan May Defy International Court Ruling on Whaling

I guess it’s no big surprise that Japan has advanced a new proposal to kill whales for commercial purposes in Antarctic waters, again under the guise of “science” and “research.”  In late March 2014, the highest court in the world -- the International Court of Justice (ICJ) -- ruled that Japan’s previous program in these waters, JARPAII, was not based on science and thus was in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling. Following the ruling, Japan indicated that it would abide by the decision and the rule of law. Indeed, there will be no whales killed for the first time in over a century in the Southern Ocean in the current season – a triumph for our cause and a respite for the whales.

Minke Whales
Japan’s new plan calls for a quota of 333 minke whales, which exceeds the number of animals that the whalers have actually killed in recent years. Photo: iStockphoto

However, at this year’s annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Portoroz, Slovenia, Japan made it clear that it intended to respond to the detailed criticism in the ICJ ruling. Japan also indicated that it would resume its take of whales in the icy waters that include the IWC-designated Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which Japan does not recognize, in a renewed 2015-2016 whaling program.

Japan’s new plan, NEWREP-A, calls for a quota of 333 minke whales -- a sharply reduced quota over that of the prior plan, JARPAII, but one that exceeds the number of animals that the whalers have actually killed in recent years. Over the 12-year time horizon for the plan, the aggregate kill would be nearly 4,000 whales, if it all comes to pass. 

JARPAII targeted 855 minke whales, 50 humpback whales (although it never took any humpbacks) and 10 fin whales annually, and it is at least good news that Japan’s modified plan, coming after the court’s ruling, calls for no taking of humpback or fin whales.

At Portoroz this year, after intense debate, the member nations of the IWC approved New Zealand’s resolution to uphold the ICJ ruling and to impose strict review standards on any new proposals for scientific whaling. The IWC vote means that the Japanese plan must be carefully considered by the IWC’s Scientific Committee, using standards set by the ICJ, and then by the commission itself. Japan, unfortunately, will undoubtedly dismiss the anticipated criticism as political or emotional and will increase its effort to justify the logic of its proposal, a pseudo-scientific rationale for dressing up a commercial catch as an exercise in research. In the end, should Japan succeed, a few biological samples will be sent to laboratories while a ton of whale meat infiltrates the commercial marketplace.

It is difficult to fathom why Japan continues this archaic and cruel slaughter when it meets no pressing domestic need for protein, does so much to tarnish Japan’s image as an enlightened nation and a civil society, and, as a practical matter, harpoons and blows up the biggest creatures ever to live on the planet. What’s even more confounding is that the whole whaling industry is a financial boondoggle, surviving only because of the subsidies, the largesse, and the ceaseless diplomatic maneuverings of Japan’s national government.   

The ICJ ruling should have given the island nation an escape path to terminate its whaling programs. Whale meat already goes to waste, and young people in Japan are thoroughly uninterested in eating the slabs, steaks and cubes from whales. 

In fact, whale watching and appreciation is growing at a rapid pace in the country, and there is a more favorable ethos toward animals and the environment taking hold. The fact is, of the 200 nations in the world, Japan stands with just two others in attempting to justify a commercial hunt for these most remarkable creatures. 

It’s not too late for the country to restore its honor and reverse course on this important issue.

November 18, 2014

Poachers and Trophy Hunters Conspiring to Hurt Endangered Rhinos

Shooting a rhino for sport seems about as challenging as shooting a parked bus. The prehistoric-looking beasts are big and not fleet of foot. They confront a threat by charging it, not running away. That doesn’t serve them well as a hunting guide and a trophy hunter get within range with a high-powered telescopic rifle to bring down the endangered animals for their heads and horns.

THANDI_DRINKING_4_MARCH_160131
Last year more than 1,004 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone and this year’s tally as of October 24th was 899 – that’s three rhinos poached each day. Photo: Dr. William Fowlds

But despite the absence of any challenge, there is an elite class of people that will go to great lengths, and will pay a pretty penny, to shoot a rhino. Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 at a January auction of the Dallas Safari Club for the privilege of shooting one, claiming he wanted to help the species. He needs a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow him to import the rhino's body following the hunt in Namibia, and The HSUS is opposing the import allowance.

Additionally, Michael Luzich, a Las Vegas investment manager, bid $200,000 for a permit to kill a rhino and is also seeking a permit to bring the trophy into the United States, which The HSUS is also opposing.

But the high-minded talk of conservation in such circles always seems to break down quickly when there’s talk of their not being able to import the heads of slain animals into the United States. The Dallas Safari Club says it will return Knowlton’s money to him if the federal government doesn’t allow him to bring back the head. 

The whole fascination with killing a rhino is bizarre to me.

"I'm a hunter," Knowlton told WFAA-TV in Dallas. "I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino."

All of this farce is playing out in the wake of a major federal investigation about a rhino-killing scam that stretched from Alabama to South Africa. The owners of Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris -- Dawie Groenewald and his brother, Janneman Groenewald --  were charged with conspiracy to sell illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa (in order to defraud American hunters), money laundering and secretly trafficking in rhino horns. The operation was run out of Alabama and George Beck, the same U.S. Attorney who so deftly handled the prosecution of a ring of illegal dogfighters I wrote about last week, is handling the criminal charges against the alleged perpetrators.

According to a statement from the federal authorities, the defendants are charged with selling illegal rhino hunts by misleading trophy hunters. The defendants are alleged to have failed to obtain the necessary permits required by South Africa, and to have cut the horns off some of the rhinos with chainsaws and knives. The indictment alleges that the defendants then sold the rhino horn on the black market. 

Eleven illegal hunts are detailed in the papers filed in federal court, including one in which the rhino had to be shot and killed after being repeatedly wounded by a bow, and another in which Dawie Groenewald used a chainsaw to remove the horn from a sedated rhino that had been hunted with a tranquilizer gun. 

We are grateful to the federal authorities for breaking up this scam and this unconscionable conduct, with people on two continents conspiring to profit from and participate in trophy hunting and rhino horn sales.

The whole business of the commercial killing of rhinos, at a time when the species is at risk of extinction, needs to end. Last year more than 1,004 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone and this year’s tally as of October 24th was 899 – that’s three rhinos poached each day. At this rate, the 2014 rhino poaching figure for South Africa will be 1,100, exceeding last year’s record-setting poaching level.

News reports have quoted a USFWS spokesperson Gavin Shire as saying that the agency is applying extra scrutiny to the import permit requests because of the rise in poaching. The USFWS should deny the permits to the Safari Club hunters and follow that the first rule of conservation, as stated by Aldo Leopold: preserve all the parts. And let’s hope that U.S. Attorney Beck is able to deliver meaningful sentences to the ringleaders of the Out of Africa scam, just as he did with a group of miscreant dogfighters in his home state.