June 23, 2014

Unreasonable Delay, Unthinkable Abuse

The GlobalPost, an award-winning news site that covers international issues, reports that there may be more than 3,000 puppy mills in South Korea that are churning out dogs not only for sale in that country, but also for export to the United States. This, despite a law that The HSUS worked to pass to forbid the import of puppies from foreign mills for resale.

Puppy mill pup
The USDA needs to crack down urgently on foreign shipments of puppy mill dogs into the United States. Photo: Chuck Cook/The HSUS

In 2008, The HSUS worked to include a provision in the Farm Bill to ban imports of dogs less than six months of age for resale, because of our findings that foreign breeders and dealers were shipping dogs into the country from Eastern Europe, China and Mexico. Many of the dogs were ailing or dead by the time they arrived in the United States on long-distance flights. The language was also supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club. Congress adopted the provision, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it needed to promulgate regulations to enforce the provision. Now six years since congressional enactment of the law, and even though an entirely new Farm Bill was drafted, debated and adopted after protracted debate, the USDA still has not taken final action on a relatively non-controversial provision to shut down the U.S. market to unscrupulous foreign breeders and dealers.

“On a GlobalPost undercover visit to a vast puppy mill in Gimpo, northwest of Seoul,” according to reporter Geoffrey Cain, “a breeder said he refuses to export ‘teacups,’ estimating that one in every three dogs dies during shipping or within a month of their arrival.”

In March, 38 U.S. Representatives wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack demanding action and highlighting the inordinate delay, noting that the agency published a proposed rule in September 2011, but has taken no final action.    

“Congress recognized that this law is needed,” wrote Reps. Dina Titus and Jim Moran and three dozen other lawmakers, “to address: (1) a critical public health threat – imported puppies present a risk of transmissible diseases, including diseases which are transmissible to humans such as screwworm, rabies, scabies and Brucellosis, and  (2), an acute animal welfare problem – many puppies arrive dead or are seriously ill due to being bred in inhumane conditions and having traveled long distances in cramped containers that may be exposed to extreme temperatures.”

The USDA did take action to close a gaping loophole in U.S. law, bringing Internet sellers of puppies under its authority.  But its puppy mill work is woefully incomplete until it cracks down on foreign shipments of dogs into the United States. There’s no excuse for this inaction and inattention, while dogs suffer so terribly.

You can help. Click here to tell the USDA to stop puppy mill imports.

June 20, 2014

Dogs at Work – but Definitely Not Working Dogs

A year ago, on the blog, I reported that the beagle had landed. It was just about a year ago that my wife and I adopted Lily – middle-aged for a canine – from a local rescue group. We feel like we hit the jackpot, and we are still dumbfounded that she had been passed over at nine adoption events, given that she’s the sweetest, most gentle and lovable dog out there (except for your dog, of course). 

Fortunately for me, The HSUS already had a “dogs in the office” policy in place, so when I am not traveling, I’ve been able to bring her to the office with me every day. That’s been a joy for me.

I am an evangelist for the idea, after seeing its impact in the workplace. It’s an incredible workplace benefit, and because today is Take Your Dog to Work Day –a day created by Pet Sitters International™ in 1999 to honor the human-animal bond – it’s a perfect time to introduce the idea to the management of your company. Here are some tips for convincing your boss to allow dogs at work, adapted from the book Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces. And here’s my take, and Lily’s, on the idea.

June 19, 2014

Horses Need Your Help in Climbing Steep (Capitol) Hill

Dutch, a Tennessee walking horse, was subjected to soring. Photo: The HSUS

Thanks to The HSUS and some individuals who care deeply about horses, Dutch is safe today, protected by people looking out for him. But his story is not only a tale of woe, but also an extraordinary biographical intersection of two major horse-abuse problems The HSUS is working hard to address on the national level: “soring” and slaughter.

A Tennessee walking horse, Dutch had been a show horse subjected to soring,  an illegal practice where trainers inflict severe pain on the legs and feet of horses by mechanical or chemical means to cause them to step higher – a gait known as the “Big Lick” – and to win ribbons. 

Yet after his owners decided they were done showing him, they heaped another cruelty upon Dutch – selling him to people intent on slaughtering him for meat.  Last year, he would have been killed and cut up, just one more healthy American horse sent to slaughter, but for the intervention of The HSUS and the caring folks at Omega Horse Rescue in Airville, PA, who turned his life around.

Wayne Pacelle
I joined horses and their owners yesterday in the Walk on Washington, a rally on Capitol Hill to support the PAST Act. Photo: Valerie Pringle

We’ll make sure he’ll never enter either domain of horse exploitation – not to be intentionally abused again for show ribbons, or put into a kill box at a slaughter plant for human consumption.

But while Dutch had a remarkable turn of fortune, we cannot intercept and rescue all the horses in the soring industry or the slaughter pipeline.  Instead, we need policies to prevent this cruelty, so that no one tries to do this to animals in the first place. 

Yesterday, the All American Walking Horse Alliance led a rally of Tennessee walking horse owners to urge support for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1406 and H.R. 1518.  This legislation, backed by The HSUS, the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and many others, would increase penalties for illegal soring, ban the use of devices implicated in soring (stacks that conceal sharp and hard objects jammed into the tender foot and chains that rub against flesh burned with caustic chemicals), and eliminate a failed, corrupt industry self-regulation system. The House bill has an astonishing and almost unheard of 293 cosponsors, and the Senate bill has 56 – meaning that more than two-thirds of House members, and more than half of the Senate are actively supporting the legislation.

Keith Dane
Keith Dane, vice president of equine protection at The HSUS, addresses participants at the Walk on Washington. Photo: Valerie Pringle

We are working to get the PAST Act passed, as a free-standing bill, or as an amendment to a larger bill.

At the same time, we are working to maintain language in the Fiscal Year 2015 agriculture spending bill to bar horse slaughter plants from reopening on American soil.  We won House and Senate votes on this issue in their appropriations committees, but our adversaries may try to offer amendments to strip this anti-horse-slaughter language during Senate and House floor debate. You can call your federal lawmakers and speak out against slaughter and soring.

The Congress, with The HSUS helping to drive the debate, now has some major equine welfare issues in the saddle.  In Dutch’s story, we see precisely why these horse protection reforms must be enacted, and urgently so.

June 17, 2014

Not Standing Idly for Elephants in Peril

Poachers recently killed Satao, one of Kenya’s best known elephants, whose tusks weighed more than 100 pounds each and reached all the way to the ground. A poison arrow felled Satao in Tsavo National Park, and his death was announced last Friday by the Tsavo Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service, who monitored his movements and tried to protect him.

The fight to protect Satao’s relatives and others of his kind must happen on the ground in the range nations. But it also must happen, in a different way, in the wealthy consumer nations where elephant ivory is carved and turned into high-value products.

The United States is the second largest ivory marketplace in the world, after China.
Photo: Sergey Khachatryan/The HSUS

Yesterday, lawmakers in New Jersey – a main point of entry into the United States for smuggled wildlife products – passed a bill, making this the first state legislature to ban all import and sales of elephant ivory and rhino horn. And this week, the New York legislature is expected to vote to implement a similar ban in that state. As the bills move to their final stage of approval with Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey and New York are neck and neck in the race to be the first U.S. states to ban ivory.

It might surprise some of you to know that there are major loopholes in U.S. laws restricting the elephant ivory trade. Those loopholes, combined with greed, have made the United States the second largest ivory marketplace in the world, after China. Enforcement and wildlife agencies remark that our current market for ivory provides cover for illegal ivory because of lack of adequate enforcement controls and the difficulty in distinguishing legally acquired ivory from the ivory of newly poached elephants. New York City is the nation’s largest market for elephant ivory, which makes the prospective ban in New York and neighboring New Jersey even more significant and potentially valuable in helping elephants in Kenya and the rest of Africa.

Last year, a criminal investigation by New Jersey state agencies and the federal government led to the prosecution of an international network of wildlife traffickers in rhino horns and elephant ivory worth several million dollars. The network’s ringleader, Zhifei Li, was sentenced to 70 months in prison last month in a U.S. district court in New Jersey.

Since the President’s Executive Order against poaching issued last summer, federal agencies have taken steps to implement meaningful change to address the wildlife trafficking crisis. The Executive Order created a Presidential Task Force and called for the development of a National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking. The National Strategy was released this February and lays out how the administration can and should implement efforts to address this critical issue, including a federal rule to prohibit the importation and sale of elephant ivory across state lines.

Also, in April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service temporarily stopped imports of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants from Tanzania and Zimbabwe in a much-needed reprieve for these animals.

Actress Meryl Streep, an American icon and a native of New Jersey, wrote to Gov. Chris Christie in a statement released today on behalf of The HSUS. Ivory is a “product of horrific cruelty to elephants, who could very well become extinct within decades if we don’t act now.”

About 35,000 African elephants were poached in 2012 for their ivory tusks. In Central Africa, populations of forest elephants have declined by 65 percent during the last decade. Asian elephants are endangered with fewer than 50,000 left in the wild. Just last year, of about 28,000 rhinos of five different species that remain in the wild, more than 1,000 were poached for their horns.

We know now that terrorist networks and other criminal syndicates are driving much of the poaching, as a way to generate cash for their violent, destabilizing efforts in Kenya and other countries in Africa.

Fighting these terrorist groups requires the efforts of the world’s most powerful nations to turn around the problem.The HSUS and Humane Society International can help in providing political support for closing loopholes and killing off the profits of the poachers. That’s why we applaud New Jersey lawmakers, led by bill author state Senator Raymond Lesniak, for firing this salvo against poachers.We hope that Gov. Christie signs the bill in short order, that New York lawmakers follow suit, and that the Obama administration makes final its national rule with all due haste.

June 16, 2014

Federal Court Ruling on 'Crush Videos' Just the Latest to Affirm Value of Animal Protection Legislation

It's still a crime to sell videos showing appalling forms of animal cruelty, after a federal appeals court upheld a federal anti-cruelty law Friday. This is just the latest in a string of federal court decisions, upholding the authority of Congress and the states to take action on a wide range of abuses against animals. I sat down this weekend with Jonathan Lovvorn, The HSUS’ senior vice president and chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation, and discussed Friday’s ruling and a string of other important federal court cases – and how The HSUS’ work with legislative bodies and with the courts has been transformational for our movement.

Wayne: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated a federal law that bans the sale of "animal crush" videos—horrific videos where men force women to torture animals for their sexual pleasure.  We know that state laws against cruelty are grounded on a solid legal basis, but it seems to me that this is meaningful to have this appellate court ruling on a federal anti-cruelty statute.

Jonathan:  Yes, this is one of the most important court decisions of 2014.  You'll remember that a few years ago the Supreme Court struck down a 1999 federal statute banning the possession and sale of animal crush videos in United States v. Stevens.  In response, The HSUS’ federal affairs and litigation teams worked with our allies in Congress to pass a new, constitutionally-sound ban on animal crush videos.  But last year a Texas district court struck that law down on First Amendment grounds as well.  So we joined with our pro bono partners at Latham & Watkins to persuade the Court of Appeals that the district court erred badly in assessing the law and this case. Last Friday, the court affirmed that Congress has a legitimate interest in preventing the “wanton torture and killing” behind animal crush videos and “that, as demonstrated by federal and state animal-cruelty laws, society has deemed worthy of criminal sanction.” The ruling bolsters the authority of the federal government and the states to set standards to prevent cruelty to all animals. 

The HSUS' litigation unit is focused on making sure that state and federal laws against staged animal fights are fully enforced.
Photo: The HSUS

Wayne: The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, our lobbying arm, have worked methodically to fortify federal and state laws against dogfighting and cockfighting.  The original federal animal fighting law, enacted in 1976, was weak, and not enforced at all for a quarter century.  But we worked with Congress to upgrade that law in 2002, making all interstate and foreign transport of fighting animals a federal crime, and we started working with federal officials on some cases.  In 2007, we worked to upgrade penalties – to a felony – for the underlying crime, and in subsequent upgrades, banned the possession of fighting animals and the interstate transport of cockfighting implements.  This year, we worked with our allies in Congress to make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. Of course, that rapid progress has rattled cockfighters, who have brought a series of constitutional challenges to the animal fighting laws.  

Jonathan:  Just a decade ago, it was legal in some states to attend a dogfight or stage a cockfight. No longer, because of the efforts of The HSUS, HSLF, and other organizations. Our litigation unit has now been focused on making sure these state and federal laws against staged animal fights are fully enforced, and also on fending off a series of constitutional challenges against the laws. Last year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key ruling upholding Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause to ban even localized animal fighting due to the interstate nature of organized cockfighting rings.

Wayne: In the states, animal welfare groups, led by The HSUS and HSLF, have helped to pass about 1,000 laws in the last decade.  But as we succeed in passing these laws, it is inevitable that our opponents will try to get judicial review and to invalidate them by invoking a range of legal theories. Just take California in the last few years. Shark fin dealers challenged the ban on the possession and sale of shark fins, foie gras producers challenged the ban on the sale of foie gras from force-fed birds, and now some states are challenging the ban on the sale of cruelly-produced eggs.  We helped pass all of these laws, so it’s so important that we defend them.

Jonathan: It’s an important indicator of our movement’s progress that we now spend most of our time enforcing the law and defending our legislative victories. In these cases, someone is usually claiming some type of constitutional right to abuse animals—whether it’s the “right” to cram animals into tiny cages, the “right” to fight animals for gambling, or the “right” to crush animals to make obscene videos. Our opponents march into the courts because they have already lost in the court of public opinion and in the nation’s legislatures. Ironically, this was traditionally the recourse of the animal protection community—shut out of the political process, and focused primarily on difficult legal challenges to policies that had already been decided against us. This noticeable inversion in position—wherein those who profit from animal cruelty and abuse are now the ones stuck filing the last-gasp legal challenges — is an unmistakable sign that we are winning.

Wayne: The courts have also sided with us on the power of the states to ban the sale of horse meat for human consumption.  While we’re working tirelessly in Congress to ban the slaughter of all American horses, it’s so important that we maintain the state protections for horses.

Jonathan: We got our first big win on horse slaughter in 2007, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Texas’ ban on horse slaughter. Later that year we helped close the last horse slaughterhouse on American soil when we helped lead a coalition to pass and defend a ban on horse slaughter in Illinois.  In upholding that law, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that “States have a legitimate interest in prolonging the lives of animals” and promoting the “humane treatment of our fellow animals.” Last year, when horse slaughter threatened to resume in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri, we filed a series of legal challenges that managed to halt these plans long enough for our legislative team to secure a Congressional rider to block any plants from opening in the United States. This type of integrated legal and legislative strategy is something only The HSUS has the capacity and sophistication to deploy successfully, and one of the major reason for our successes.

Wayne: Tell us what kind of human resources The HSUS has assembled to draft well-crafted bills, to enforce the law, to defend our gains in court, and to challenge overreaching and restrictive statutes by our adversaries.

Jonathan: In 2005, after the corporate combination with The Fund for Animals, we started building up in our house and pro bono legal team. It now consists of 25 attorneys, who specialize in many different areas of the law – wildlife, farm animals, anti-cruelty and international law. Our in-house experts partner with hundreds of cooperating attorneys, and many of the biggest, most respected law firms in the country.  This combined public interest and private practice legal “team” is the most important aggregation of legal talent that has ever been assembled in our movement, and you can see some pretty remarkable results from this investment of donor dollars and pro bono engagement. We are grateful every day that our supporters have enabled this new, critical legal capacity for a movement that has rather dramatically moved into the realm of public policy and law enforcement. The federal courts have proved essential on a wide range of other social reform movements – from the earliest civil rights victories to the enormous string of recent judicial decisions affirming marriage equality – so it’s logical that this would be a critical arena for our movement, too.

Click here for more information on The HSUS’ litigation program.

June 14, 2014

Poached Poodle or Baked Bichon?

This week, Peter Li, China specialist with Humane Society International (HSI), arrived in Yulin in China’s Guangxi province – a city that is about to host an infamous annual event where thousands of dogs are slaughtered for meat. He found the town uneasy and alert to growing concerns at home and abroad about this culinary monstrosity. All signs in restaurants advertising dog meat have been removed and dishes featuring dog meat have been taken off the menu. A slaughterhouse Peter visited had no dogs around, although there was evidence of dog slaughter, principally in the form of hair left behind after the clean-up operation.

Yulin dogs
Small cages packed with frightened dogs are arriving in Yulin, China, for the dog meat festival. Sign this petition to express your outrage.
Photo: Humane Society International

“Local authorities,” Peter wrote, “are under tremendous pressure…activists and journalists are converging in Yulin from across the country.”

It’s better than it was in 2012, when the killing was all out in the open and the streets of Yulin were painted red with the blood of dogs. Thousands of dogs crammed in cages and transported over great distances arrived at the Yulin dog meat festival that year– traumatized, sick, exhausted, hungry and dying. In the end, they were bludgeoned to death, in front of other dogs.

Although the festival is still slated to take place, there has been a change in attitude, particularly among the public and Chinese media, and it’s got the dog meat traders and the authorities in Yulin on the defensive.  A lot of that is due to the work being done by HSI partner groups on the ground in China such as Vshine, Shoushan of Guangdong, Xi’An Xijin, Capital Animal Welfare Association and Animals Asia Foundation. 

Our partner groups have mobilized thousands of Chinese in a series of public protests held at key venues, sending a strong message to local authorities that brutality brings no tourists or economic profit—only shame and stigma.

Last year, 46,000 supporters from around the world signed our pledge against the cruelty, and our campaign continues to grow. This month alone, more than 100,000 people have signed on to express their outrage, and we’re letting authorities know the spotlight is on them. HSI partner groups have joined activists and protestors to rally against the festival, including at a recent event in Dalian in northeast China, where more than 1,000 supporters and dozens of dogs represented Vshine to protest the Yulin event. Yesterday, HSI partner groups in China held a protest in front of the mayor’s office in Yulin, and instantly images of the protest swept across Chinese media.  

Our partners met with Yulin's Food Safety Office and submitted an investigative report  on shocking violations by dog meat traders, including fake certificates issued in provinces thousands of miles north of Guangxi that illustrate how far the dogs must travel under terrible conditions.

If you haven’t already signed the petition, please do so here. Or you can contribute toward ending the brutal dog meat trade here.

The dog meat festival culminates on June 21 in Yulin, much to the horror of dog lovers in China and the world over. Small cages packed with frightened dogs, carried on the backs of motorcycles, are already arriving in the city. But we can also confront this reality knowing that Peter and HSI and our friends in China are there to bear witness, to ensure that international attention remains focused on Yulin, and to continue our efforts to convince Chinese authorities that this barbaric trade in dog meat has to stop once and for all.

The HSUS and HSI want the dog meat trade ended in China and in any other place where it finds any favor, whether out in the open at a festival or in some dark, dingy corner. 

June 12, 2014

Coyote Ugly – the Violent Sequel

On a frigid winter day in Michigan, a hunter shoots a coyote three or four times, gravely wounding the animal. Gasping for life, the poor creature lays prone, bleeding in the snow. The hunting ethic calls for an additional shot to put the animal out of his misery.

But this hunter didn’t get the memo.  Just for sport, he unleashes a pack of hounds to attack the coyote. The dogs then shred the defenseless coyote as the hunter presses them to continue the attack. It’s tough stuff for anyone to watch, even someone like me who has had to look at thousands of hours of animal cruelty video footage during my two decades at The HSUS. In this case, the hunter let this entire horror play out in front of a child, thinking again that it was all some sort of enjoyable or educational experience.

Today, Mlive.com reporter John Barnes publicly exposed this cruelty, and The Humane Society of the United States is calling attention to the egregious practice of hound hunting of mammals and this unbelievable instance of wanton depravity. We are releasing this video in the hopes that exposing these grievous acts of animal cruelty will result in the prosecution of the perpetrator.

Any decent-minded person agrees that purposely wounding a wild animal so that it can be tortured by a pack of dogs is a blood sport, akin to animal fighting.  It should be illegal, and the people who do it should be held accountable.

There are conflicting views about coyotes. Some people label them as “varmints” and can only see coyotes as wily, voracious competitors for human food sources. Many others recognize that they are closely related to dogs and play a vital role in ecosystems, especially in controlling rodent populations. Because coyotes prey on skunks and raccoons, they indirectly benefit other species such as ground-nesting birds, promoting biological diversity and ecosystem health.

Today, hounding for coyotes is allowed in Michigan. In Wisconsin, it’s also allowed for coyotes and for wolves.  And if we don’t succeed on ballot measures to protect wolves in Michigan in November – an issue The HSUS has helped place on the ballot in order to prevent this very sort of cruelty – hounding for wolves may be coming to the Wolverine State soon. This is the type of cruelty the politicians in Lansing and the unelected political appointees at the Natural Resources Commission could allow if they get their way and prevent the voters from having a say on wolf hunting.

This conduct should have no place in a civil society, and we should all be on our guard against it. And today in Michigan, prosecutors should act with haste. 

June 11, 2014

URGENT ACTION: Need Your Help to Prevent Horse Slaughter in the U.S.

I need you to make a phone call today to your U.S. Representative in Washington, D.C.  Please call the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121 and urge your Member of Congress to vote “NO” on any amendments that would promote horse slaughter for human consumption.  Specifically, you can say you oppose the “Mullin” amendments and any others to open up horse slaughter plants.

Take action now to stop horse slaughter in the United States.
Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Recently, I reported that the House and Senate Appropriations committees included a provision defunding horse slaughter on U.S. soil in their pending FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bills. This is the same provision that Congress enacted as part of its final FY14 Omnibus Appropriations bill. 

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: “killer buyers” purchase young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. Americans do not consume horse meat, and our nation’s limited agency resources and inspectors should not be diverted from the important current duties of protecting the food supply for U.S. consumers.

The votes are expected early this afternoon. Please call right away and please spread the word to other animal-friendly advocates throughout the nation. The vote is expected to be close, so your involvement is especially important and critical.

Click here to take action now.

June 10, 2014

Feds Must Lead on Lead

In 1991, to his great credit, President George H.W. Bush banned the use of lead ammunition in waterfowl hunting by federal rule, despite predictions from the National Rifle Association and other organizations that the demise of duck and goose hunting was imminent. Now, 23 years after the ban went into effect, we can see that the wild-eyed predictions were not prophetic, but imaginary.  Waterfowl hunting remains a popular activity throughout much of the nation, and countless hunters have readily made the switch to steel, copper, bismuth and other forms of less toxic ammunition.

Mourning dove
Mourning doves consume lead shot that they find on the ground. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals die from lead poisoning.
Photo: iStockphoto

A quarter century later, there have been additional, practical developments in the firearms and ammunitions industry, and lead-free ammunition is not only available and affordable, but it’s really the only responsible ammunition to use if you’re a hunter.

Today a group of rank-and-file sportsmen and The HSUS, along with 11 other animal protection and wildlife conservation groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, jointly petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to require the use of nontoxic ammunition when discharging a firearm on the more than 160 million acres of federal lands managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals – from more than 130 species – die from lead poisoning, either by ingesting lead shot or fragments directly or by feeding on prey contaminated with fragments of lead ammunition. 

Lead ammunition fragments upon impact, making it nearly impossible to remove completely from meat, which makes it a public health threat to consumers, too. In children, lead exposure can cause lower IQ, learning disabilities, stunted growth, kidney damage and attention deficit disorder. Adults are less sensitive to the effects of lead and absorb less into their bodies, but can experience potential health effects, including hearing loss, high blood pressure and infertility.

Last year, California became the very first state to enact legislation that will phase out the use of lead ammunition used for the taking of wildlife. The U.S. Army has also taken steps to eliminate its use by switching to “green bullets.”

Teddy Roosevelt is a patron saint in the hunting community, and he achieved that status not only because of his zest for the sport, but also for his foresighted leadership in the conservation of public lands. He probably did more to protect public lands in the United States than any other individual. And that ethic was built into some of the organizations he helped to found and build. But where is the leadership now in the hunting community?

The conservation-minded leaders within the hunting community are faint voices, and the loud and politically identifiable leaders are the anti-environmentalists and anti-conservationists at the NRA, Safari Club International, National Shooting Sports Foundation and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. They follow in the footsteps of Roosevelt in time only, but certainly not in spirit or deed. They treat conservation as an historical artifact, but not as a continuing commitment. They cast the idea of sacrifice and the common good as part of a scheme to erode their rights.

Because these special interest groups refuse to act responsibly by advocating for less toxic ammunition, the government must impose rules for the good of wildlife and public health. It must act, just as it did a quarter century ago when presented with abundant information about the immense collateral impact of scattering millions of pounds of toxic lead ammunition in the environment. When it’s left behind, by one means or another, lead finds its way into the stomachs and tissues of animals, debilitating, blinding, poisoning and often killing them. Its impact on wildlife continues long after the bullet has left the chamber.

It’s time for the feds to get the lead out and ban toxic lead ammunition on federal lands.

June 09, 2014

Cargill Puts Gestation Crates One Big Step Closer to Extinction

It was in 2007 – a year after Arizona voters approved Prop 204 (banning veal and gestation crates) and a year before Prop 2 in California (banning extreme confinement of calves, sows and laying hens) – when my colleague Paul Shapiro had his first meeting with representatives from Cargill. Cargill is one of the world’s biggest agribusiness firms and the country’s largest private corporation, and Paul was there to urge it to end its reliance on gestation crates in its pig production facilities.  Two years later, Cargill invited me to its Minneapolis headquarters and assembled its entire global animal agriculture team to discuss animal welfare. It was the sort of constructive discussion with agribusiness companies that had been lacking in years prior.

More than 60 major global food retailers, including McDonald's and Burger King, have pledged to eliminate purchases of pork from producers who rely on gestation crates.
Photo: The HSUS

Yesterday, the long process of dialogue, which allowed our ideas to settle in and ultimately to seem eminently practical, produced a tremendous animal welfare outcome. Cargill announced, in a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that it would commit to converting its sow operations to group housing for its company-owned farms by 2015 and for its contract operations by 2017.  This is the fourth major announcement from the biggest names in pig production in the United States, with Smithfield Foods, Hormel and Tyson Foods recently announcing that they would take more decisive steps away from gestation crates. Major Canadian producers like Olymel and Maple Leaf have made similar announcements too.

These producer announcements come after a cascade of similar announcements from more than 60 major global food retailers – McDonald’s, Burger King, Kraft Foods, Kroger, Costco, Cracker Barrel, and others  – that they will eliminate their purchases of pork from producers who rely on these crates.

With nine U.S. states, and governments and industry groups in Australia, Canada, South Africa, and India recently committing to move away from gestation crates – and with the European Union already implementing the ban on continual confinement in gestation crates  and working to assure compliance among all 28 nations – we have a multinational rejection of this intensive, inhumane and extreme form of confinement of pigs. These advancements, and now Cargill’s announcement, make it clearer than ever that gestation crates will be relegated to the dustbin of agricultural history – where they belong.

The HSUS and our Humane Society International arm have led the fight against gestation crates in North America and throughout the world, and we are excited to be involved in yet another major announcement of progress on this front.  We still have work to do, but the trajectory of this debate is clear, and it’s obvious that the forces aligned against us have failed to succeed with their campaign to preserve the status quo.

We know there’s still a long way to go, but we should take a moment to welcome Cargill’s progress, and to celebrate another mile marker in our marathon run against gestation crates.  The finish line is starting to come in focus.