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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.

Fred Myers
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.
  • VEAL CRATES
    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.
  • Seal slaughter
    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.

October 13, 2014

Cruelty and Ideology Masquerading as Science

Last week, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected a recommendation from its agency’s biologists to authorize a spring bear hunting season in the southern part of the state. Cubs orphaned during spring hunts have no hope of survival, so allowing the killing of mother bears effectively dooms the family. The vote was 4 to 2, with the commissioners rejecting the rationale from employees of the Department of Fish and Wildlife that the spring hunting season was needed to reduce bear impacts on trees on land selected for logging.

Black bear and cub
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban the extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. Photo: Alamy

I see this sort of reductionist thinking on a regular basis from state fish and game personnel. They are single-minded about reaching a specific kill total, and they subordinate other social, practical and scientific concerns to their one-dimensional goal.

For years, we’ve battled the biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game over wolf hunting. They have repeatedly authorized a host of cruel and vicious practices against wolves to reduce their numbers dramatically – by offering up a blend of aerial gunning, steel traps and neck snares, as well as by promotion of hunting on lands managed by the National Park Service. They are not serving wolves, but the people who have an irrational fear of wolves and who don’t want wolves killing moose or caribou that they themselves want to shoot for trophies. It’s not about biology – but about ideology and pandering to the whims of people who want to shoot a moose or caribou, regardless of the social or ecological costs.

This sort of reductionist thinking is also in evidence in Maine right now. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping.

The DIFW is not serving the people of Maine – it is serving Master Maine Guides who use a combination of bait, hounds and traps to essentially guarantee a kill for their fee-paying clients. The guides and outfitters buy up leases from private timber companies in northern Maine, and exclude all hunters who don’t pay them a fee. Then they strew garbage over the leased land and condition the bears to visit.

In the process, these guides are giving the shaft to the Maine hunter who cannot pay their fees, and therefore cannot access these hunting grounds. What’s more, the guides are drawing in so many bears to the bait sites, that they are depleting the neighboring lands of bears. So the out-of-state, fee-paying hunters get a guaranteed kill and the lunch-bucket hunter in Maine goes home empty-handed. 

This has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with a corrupting commerce that favors one class of hunters over another.

The HSUS has a great roster of scientists, who would be the first to tell you that true science demands a full and searching debate, and that is how we develop our programs and positions. Our scientists know, however, that there is more to debates about how to treat animals than one narrow scientific metric, and that science does not take place in a social or moral vacuum. The best scientists give us options, not answers, and the whole of society weights that information and layers over a broad set of value judgments to make a final policy determination. 

The history of American science is laced with cases of ideology masquerading as science.  Here are just a few examples. 

DDT

The courageous advocate Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, called public attention to the risks of indiscriminate pesticide use.  In the early 1960s, the pesticide industry attacked her and insisted that DDT and other pesticides were safe. 

Smoking

We now know that smoking kills, but for decades tobacco industry researchers suppressed the facts and said the opposite. Misleading studies and disinformation campaigns received millions of dollars in tobacco money as the industry sought to fight restrictions on smoking. Big Tobacco targeted the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and other institutions studying the problem as bad science. But as time has revealed, it was tobacco science that was corrupt.

Ozone Depletion

The revelation that mundane household products like hair spray and deodorant could destroy the Earth’s ozone and increase cancer rates was one of the primary environmental stories of the 1970s. The $1 billion aerosol industry responded with its own research denying the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) effects of aerosols, and created a handful of scientific organizations to defend its products in the marketplace.  Fortunately, as a result of the negative publicity, the American people were already changing their habits, so that by the time the Food and Drug Administration announced strict regulations on CFC propellants in 1976, their use had already dropped by 75 percent. Even so, ozone deniers kept up their campaign for another 20 years.

Scientific Racism and Biological Determinism

The belief that social and economic differences between races, classes and sexes arise from inherited, inborn distinctions misshaped the study of human intelligence for decades. As noted by scientist Stephen Jay Gould and others, the “science” behind concepts of an intelligence quotient and the general intelligence factor was riddled with bias and falsification.

So when state biologists tell you they know better, and when they wade into ideology and not biology, give them a few of the examples above. 

It should be telling that Maine is the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. That alone suggests that the Maine DIFW and the biologists it employs do not represent the mainstream of thought in bear biology. Rather they are the champions of an outlier opinion dressed up as science.

October 10, 2014

Enduring Challenges, Quantum Progress Through First Three Quarters

The HSUS and its affiliates drive transformational change for animals. We don’t measure our success based on how many press releases we issue, bills we sponsor, or policy papers we write. We measure our success based on animals rescued from distress, corporations that change their policies for the better, laws enforced and bills enacted, and awareness generated by our communications efforts. We know you expect us to achieve concrete results for animals, and that’s what we aim to deliver every day. Today, I provide a few highlights of some of the biggest changes that The HSUS has achieved so far this year with your support.

  • puppy mill dog
    This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule to prohibit the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries. Photo: Jason Miczek/AP Images for The HSUS
    We secured commitments from three of the nation’s largest pork producers – Cargill, Clemens and Tyson Foods – to phase out cruel gestation crates. We persuaded Smithfield Foods to extend its commitment for a crate-free future to all of its contract farms. We worked with Unilever on its historic commitment to stop the killing of male chicks by the egg industry, and with Heinz to switch a fifth of its North American egg purchases away from cage operations. We worked with Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, to announce a new policy to cleanse its supply chain of pork, veal, and eggs from operations that confine animals in cages or crates. We helped persuade the Canadian government to phase out gestation crates, and convinced the courts in India to hear a case against battery cages. 
     
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule to prohibit the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries. (Last year, the USDA closed the loophole that allowed breeders who sell online or directly to the public, sight-unseen, to operate without federal licenses or inspections.) We also helped to pass anti-puppy mill measures in Connecticut and Minnesota, a very big mill state.
     
  • With many partners, The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund have had the second best year, in numerical terms, for enacting state animal welfare laws – a total of 117 and counting. This includes South Dakota becoming the 50th state to enact felony-level penalties for animal cruelty and fighting, West Virginia becoming one of the last to restrict the ownership of wild animals as pets, and California banning many classes of rodenticides. We also helped defeat 47 bills that would have been bad for animals, including several “ag-gag” bills. We led the effort to pass federal bills to make it a crime to be a spectator at an animal fight and to facilitate the transfer of the vast majority of government-owned chimps from labs to sanctuaries.

  • Our litigators and our program departments helped secure a landmark court ruling dismissing a challenge to California's farm animal welfare laws against extreme confinement of farm animals. They helped uphold a regulation that bans the imports of seal skins to the European Union against a challenge at the World Trade Organization; engineered a ruling from the International Court of Justice against Japan’s commercial killing of whales in the Southern Ocean; won a federal appeals court ruling upholding the federal law against the sale of videos depicting malicious cruelty; and banned wolf hunting in Wyoming.  (We also blocked the trophy hunting of wolves in Michigan by qualifying two referendums to stay measures enacted by lawmakers in Michigan.)

  • We persuaded India to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients—the first country in South Asia to do so. We also helped China repeal its requirement that domestically-produced cosmetics be tested on animals, and scored another victory in January when Merck pledged to stop testing on chimpanzees.

  • Horse
    In January, we helped reinstate a ban on domestic horse slaughter. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS
    We helped reinstate a ban on domestic horse slaughter in January when Congress approved the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, which included language that prohibits the USDA from spending taxpayer dollars to inspect prospective horse slaughter plants. This prevented three horse slaughter plants, in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico, from opening – and we got an assist in blocking the openings of kill plants from our legal staff. Two Congressional committees voted to retain this defund language in the FY 2015 spending bill, so chances are good that the no-slaughter policy will be extended at least through next September 30th.

  • We helped enact a ban on the sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, while our litigators helped secure a U.S. District Court ruling upholding California's ban on the possession or sale of shark fins, which we helped pass in 2011. Both New Jersey and New York enacted HSUS-led bans on ivory and rhino horn, the first such comprehensive state-based restrictions in the United States. We partnered with the Vietnamese government to reduce demand for rhino horns through a public education campaign. Because of our successful efforts to close global markets for seal products, most sealers chose not to participate in the seal hunt again this year, with the sealers falling 340,000 seals short of their kill quota.   

  • We conducted deployments of our Animal Rescue team in states across the nation, saving animals from puppy mills, animal fighting rings and hoarding operations. We operate our Pets for Life program, or conducting mentoring for it, in more than 20 cities. Our Rural Area Veterinary Services program provides free veterinary services in rural communities. Our wildlife team rehomed more than 4,100 wild animals this year – from gopher tortoises to tigers to prairie dogs.
     
  • We opened our new Big Cat Habitat at the Fund for Animals’ Black Beauty Ranch in Texas and also opened a new Wildlife Clinic at The Fund for Animals center in California, and continued to expand and improve our affiliated animal care facilities across the nation. Together with our affiliates, we provided direct care to more than 100,000 animals. 

In the coming months, I’ll blog with more details about each of these victories, and the many others that you’ve helped us to achieve this year. Today, though, I just want to thank you for all you do to make this incredible progress for animals possible. I hope you take pride in it, reflecting on all the good that you help us to do for animals – and the progress we can achieve together in the year ahead.

October 07, 2014

The HSUS Launches Video Series Featuring Faith and Animal Welfare

Our Faith Outreach program at The HSUS partners with people of faith to fight animal cruelty, spread kindness, and highlight the rich history of compassion for animals in all the world’s major religious traditions. From the Dalai Lama to the Episcopal Bishop of Washington to Dada Vaswani, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many remarkable people of faith who share my deep conviction that it’s our human responsibility to be merciful toward all of God’s creatures.

Lamb
The world's major religions all share the conviction that it's our human responsibility to be merciful toward all of God's creatures. Photo: Julie Busch Branaman

Reaching into the past, to those people whose faith drove them to protect animals from cruelty, can be just as inspiring. Some of the most notable names that come to mind are 19th-century reformer William Wilberforce, evangelical author and social activist Hannah More, and 20th-century writer C.S. Lewis. That is why I am pleased to announce that we are releasing this week a 12-part video series, Living Legacy: Faith Voices on Animal Welfare, to honor these three pioneers. 

Wilberforce was an English Parliamentarian best known for his heroic efforts to end slavery. He was passionately committed to animal welfare and instrumental in establishing the RSPCA, the world’s first animal welfare charity. More, an evangelical and writer, wrote stories that combined biblical themes with popular entertainment – stories that included kindness to animals. Lewis was an academic, a force of nature, and the author of dozens of popular books, including the beloved Narnia series. For him, pain, including animal pain, was understood best from a biblical perspective, and the videos reveal that he became an anti-vivisectionist because he believed that God makes every living creature for a purpose. 

In the videos, these striking historic personalities are discussed by three influential voices: Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University and author of Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More, and Dr. Jerry Root, associate professor at Wheaton College, director of the Wheaton Evangelism Initiative and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and a C.S. Lewis Scholar.

The Faith Outreach program at The HSUS has now been active for nearly eight years, and during that time we have engaged thousands of faith leaders and community members from all major religions in our work. Our multi-faith council, the HSUS Faith Advisory Council, was created in 2012 and includes leading scholars and representatives from a range of religious denominations, faiths and backgrounds. We’ve now just formed an HSUS Dharmic Leadership Council comprising leaders within the Hindu and Jain traditions, and they are deeply committed to the principle of Ahimsa, or dynamic non-violence towards animals. And we have a thriving Faith Outreach Volunteer Program comprised of advocates who host film screenings and pet-food drives, and create safe havens for wildlife at places of worship throughout the country.

We hope these videos will give animal lovers a historical perspective into the long relationship between faith and animal welfare, and the widespread support that exists for animal protection among people of faith . You can view them by clicking here or on the embedded video playlist below.

October 02, 2014

Canada Stops Mounties From Pulling Muskrat Out of the Hat

Earlier this week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police made the smart and progressive decision to stop using fur for regular cold-weather use in their uniform hats. The famed Mounties noted that they had "listened to the views and concerns of the public and employees in regards to the use of animal products in police-issued uniform and equipment." There are functional alternatives to fur, and it is just another example of moral progress to opt for faux. 

muskrat
At least two muskrats are killed for each RCMP hat, usually after being caught in inhumane traps.  Photo: iStockphoto

But again, as elsewhere, we see the overreaching hand of government attempting to lobby for and aggressively work to maintain animal exploitation practices under the guise of executing its duties.

I wrote earlier this week about the state of Maine using public resources to influence the upcoming ballot question there on bear baiting, hounding and trapping. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been all in to try to protect the business of bear baiting guides who offer guarantee kills of bears, even though state law forbids this sort of use of taxpayer funds to influence elections. Well, in Canada, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that the government would force the RCMP to revert to using hats made from fur. This is the same Tory government that spends millions of dollars a year to defend the clubbing of seals, so it shouldn’t be a great surprise. But it’s another example of the state’s overreaching, outrageous role in perpetuating animal abuse, at a time when the world wants to move on from it.

Each fur hat requires at least two animals to die, and usually to suffer beforehand in cruel leghold or body-crushing traps. Some will even be caught in drowning traps and held underwater to die a slow and agonizing death. This method of killing is so inhumane, it has been deemed unacceptable by the Canadian and American Veterinary Medical Associations.

Approximately 3,000 hats are issued to new RCMP officers every year, which means 6,000 to 9,000 muskrats suffer and die each year to meet the demand.

The Canadian government’s politically motivated actions are an affront to the many members of the public and the police officers who supported the RCMP's conscientious decision.  

Humane Society International’s Canada office is calling on the country’s government to stop playing fur politics with RCMP uniforms. This was a decision made by the RCMP, for the RCMP, in the best interests of the force, the public and animal welfare. Politicians should propel, not retard, moral progress for animals. 

September 03, 2014

Evangelical Leader Advocates for Stewardship, Not Cruelty

I had a chance to interview one of the nation’s leading evangelical Christians, Dr. Ed Stetzer, and his daughter Jaclyn, a powerful duo advocating for animal welfare. The discussion is part of our larger Faith Outreach program at The HSUS, which seeks to engage religious leaders and scholars and to remind people of faith that their own traditions condemn cruelty and uphold mercy and kindness toward all creatures.

Ed and Jaclyn Stetzer 1
Dr. Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay Research, and his daughter Jaclyn, who is a passionate equestrian, with her horse, Smudge. Photo: Donna Stetzer

Dr. Stetzer is Executive Director of LifeWay Research, an organization that advises church leaders on church health and effectiveness, and the lead pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He has planted, revitalized and pastored churches, and trained pastors and church planters on six continents. Dr. Stetzer holds two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. "He is one of the leading thinkers on the earth in the areas of evangelism, church planting, and movements," according to one Christian publication. He is contributing editor for Christianity Today, and is frequently cited or interviewed in national news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. He is also executive editor of The Gospel Project, a Bible study curriculum used by over 400,000 individuals each week.

It’s been particularly exciting for me to see the response to our message of concern for animals within the evangelical Christian community, and I so enjoyed my conversation with Dr. Stetzer and Jaclyn who, among other things, is a passionate equestrian.

WP: I understand that a passion for animals is a family affair in the Stetzer household. How did the topic first come up as a family discussion item?

Jaclyn: The topic first came up as a family discussion item about a year ago before church. When we were driving to McDonald’s, I remembered watching Eating Mercifully the day before, and I asked my parents if we could change our eating habits.

Ed: Yes, we continued the talk over dinner conversations—and, talking about animal welfare over dinner seems odd but actually makes a lot of sense. It helps us connect our lives—even our eating—to bigger issues. Jaclyn would be the one who has been most vocal, but it has impacted all of us.

First, there was a general concern about animal welfare around us. We are involved with a local shelter— we give financially and Jaclyn volunteers there. Second, there was a concern for factory farming and how we might eat in a way that is the most humane way possible. We want to be sure that our lifestyle does not cause animals to be treated in an inhumane manner.

I think Jaclyn would prefer us all to be vegans, but we have all agreed that it is part of our stewardship to care what happens from the farm to the table.

Third, we have our own pets— dogs, birds, and a (shared) horse. Our home too often smells like a barn, but our animal friends know they are part of our family!

There are plenty of apologists for cruelty who invoke the Bible to justify exploitation of animals, saying that man has “dominion” over the animals. But dominion, to those of us at The HSUS, is not a synonym for domination. What’s your view?

Ed: Our view is that is stupid — animal cruelty is not a result of dominion. Actually, stewardship should be the result of dominion.  

Jaclyn: My view about God giving us dominion over animals is that we do have the right to rule over them, but in a kind and humane way. Since God has given us dominion over animals, we should rule them like any good ruler — with love, kindness and respect. And that applies to all animals; not just our dogs and cats. The excuse for cruelty, “God gave us dominion over animals,” is invalid because God knows we should take care of animals. The Bible even talks about being kind to animals: “A righteous man cares about his animal’s health” (Proverbs 12:10). We should be kind to animals because dominion is a responsibility we shouldn’t abuse!

We refer to a band of states from Alabama and Mississippi up through Ohio as the cockfighting corridor, because anti-cockfighting laws in this region are so weak.  Do you see some potential for an alliance between animal protection groups and evangelical Christians to allow us to turn around this problem?

Ed: I hope so. A lot of evangelicals are wary of animal rights groups (and are more open to animal welfare groups), but they often do not distinguish between the two. However, if there is a correlation between Bible belt locations and cruelty locations (and there is), I think that churches need to teach people what stewardship is and why it matters. I appreciate the work your faith outreach people are doing to bridge that gap.

Jaclyn: I do believe that Christians and animal protection organizations can come together to help end cockfighting. Both Christians and animal protection organizations believe that we should respect living creatures. We both believe that animals should be treated humanely. The Humane Society of the United States was founded by a pastor. Maybe that’s a sign of how we can work together! 

TENNESSEE_WALKING_HORSE (2)
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act provides the necessary systems and focus needed to address horse soring, says Dr. Stetzer. Photo: The HSUS

Horse soring — where trainers intentionally and illegally inflict injuries to the feet of Tennessee walking horses to induce an exaggerated gait for horse show performances — is centered in your home state of Tennessee. Two Tennessee lawmakers, Senator Lamar Alexander and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, want to maintain the status quo and they are leading the fight to block enactment of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act in Congress.  Where do you stand on these issues?

Ed: I asked my member of Congress about this since she has been involved with the issue. Congresswoman [Diane] Black sent me helpful information and a very nice note. She is co-sponsoring the Horse Protection Amendments Act, which has a lot of support among the Tennessee house delegation, and is particularly championed by the people you mentioned.

But, that does not do all that Jaclyn and I think it needs to do.

Ironically, this is not a Democrat vs. Republican thing here in Tennessee. It’s just a difference in perception about what is needed. I think that some leaders think that the industry needs more time to figure it out (and need some limited pressure to do so), but as Jaclyn just said to me, “They don’t seem to be figuring it out.”

So, we are actually supporting another bill (also by a Republican, ironically, but this time from Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield). H.R. 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act provides the necessary systems and focus needed to address this issue. 

We’re encouraging Congresswoman Black, Congresswoman Blackburn and Senator Lamar Alexander to change course and support H.R. 1518. Tennessee can do better and Tennessee walking horses need better.  

 Jaclyn: Thanks, Mr. Pacelle for sending me Eating Mercifully and letting us do this interview!

July 24, 2014

Updates on Urgent Battles for Animals

Today, some updates on important issues in our orbit.

Ag-gag legislation

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

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

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

Missouri right to farm amendment

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

USFWS suspension of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe

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

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

Massachusetts bans shark fin trade

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

Michigan wolves petition

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

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

Comment period on constricting snakes ends today

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

July 18, 2014

Every Field of Humane Work – Everywhere

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

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

PHASING OUT SOW GESTATION CRATES

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

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

KILLING THE KING AMENDMENT AND THROTTLING AG-GAG BILLS

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

ENDING ANIMAL FIGHTING AND COMBATING MALICIOUS CRUELTY

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

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

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

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

FIGHTING PUPPY MILLS

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

ENDING HORSE SLAUGHTER AND SORING

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

PROTECTING MARINE MAMMALS

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

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

DEFENDING TERRESTRIAL WILDLIFE

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

EXPANDING ANIMAL PROTECTION ACROSS THE GLOBE

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

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

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

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

 

July 09, 2014

Howling for Wolves and Voting Rights in Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 01, 2014

Jon Bernthal: 'Walking Tall' for Animals

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

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