December 19, 2014

Breaking News: Federal Court Restores Protections for Great Lakes Wolves, Ends Trophy Hunting and Commercial Trapping

This afternoon, we received the very welcome and far-reaching news that a federal judge just issued an order requiring that sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, in response to our legal action. This comes just six weeks after voters in Michigan soundly rejected a trophy hunting season in the state and also rejected the idea of a seven-member group of political appointees making decisions about whether wolves should be hunted, trapped, or hounded.

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In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves. Photo: Alamy

The HSUS filed suit in 2013 to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

The decision to strip wolves of protection threatened the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region—where state politicians and agency officials have rushed forward with reckless killing programs that threaten wolves with the very same practices that pushed them to the brink of extinction in the first place.

In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations. Wisconsin had announced plans to cut what was an 800-member wolf population to just 350 animals, and it authorized trapping, hounding, and trophy hunting to get there. In fact over 80 percent of the wolves this year alone were cruelly trapped

In its 111-page ruling, the court chided the USFWS for failing to explain why it ignored the potential for further recovery of wolves into areas of its historic range that remain viable habitat for the species. The court also noted that the USFWS has failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species.

Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin lawmakers all rushed to set up killing programs for wolves. In fact, the Michigan legislature passed three separate laws to designate wolves as a game species, in its zeal to allow the state to authorize a trophy hunting and trapping season for wolves, and to undermine a fair election by Michigan voters on wolf hunting. It was only the referendums that we launched that prevented a much larger body count in that state, avoiding the bloodletting that we saw in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A series of stories from M-Live, a consortium of newspapers, laid bare that Michigan lawmakers relied on false stories about wolves to push through a hunting season. The lead sponsor of the hunting program had to apologize on the Senate floor for misleading statements.

Today’s ruling renders null and void the Michigan legislature’s efforts earlier this year to force a wolf hunt, despite the people of Michigan’s opposition. And it locks down the trapping and hounding and trophy hunting programs in the other Great Lakes states that left so many wolves dead and packs disrupted. A recent, peer-reviewed study from researchers at Washington State University, looking at 25 years of data, reveals that random killing of wolves, as these states permitted, actually increases the chance of wolf depredations on livestock.

Today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia follows another ruling by the same court in September that rejected the USFWS’s decision to delist wolves in the state of Wyoming. The HSUS was also a plaintiff in the Wyoming litigation. 

The HSUS simply wouldn’t tolerate this slaughter of wolves, so we stepped up at the ballot box and in the courts to turn it around, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.

December 18, 2014

Our Most Popular Videos of 2014

I like to make a logical case for animal protection, because I believe that our work is an extension of anti-cruelty principles that are so well-established in our society. So much of what is done to animals is wrong, and it defies the norms of a civil society. From dogfighting to factory farming, the people and institutions involved in these practices are so often causing trouble for people and the broader society, along with animals.

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Our videos help create positive change for animals like Sasha (above) who was rescued from deplorable conditions and has restarted a new life as Zoey. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

But we’re fortunate in that there’s also a powerful visual and storytelling component to our work, not only because animals are majestic and beautiful and enticing, but also because their plight is often so tragic and gripping. It can stir the conscience of people, and compel them to act.

Within the non-profit sector, The HSUS was one of the first organizations to invest in video, and our video.humanesociety.org platform is replenished with original video almost every day. Our team of videographers and photographers uses video to drive our campaigns, as with the Great Crate Challenge to increase awareness about cruel gestation crates. They often accompany our Animal Rescue Team or our veterinary services program on their deployments, as with Sasha (renamed Zoey) who was rescued along with 60 other animals from a property in Mississippi that was a blend of a puppy mill and a hoarding operation. Our gifted teams take reams of footage from our investigations unit and turn them into engaging stories, as they did with our Catelli Brothers veal calf and Iron Maiden gestation crate investigations. And they also celebrate animals and their place in the natural world and in society, as with Lil Bub, a former stray cat who became an Internet celebrity, or the work of our Humane Wildlife Services program.

Here are the 10 most viewed videos from The HSUS in 2014 – a refresher on some of the amazing work done by our team and enabled by your support.

1. The Great Crate Challenge

2. Meet Lil Bub, Internet Cat Sensation

3. Momma Fox and Her Seven Babies Have Left the Building 

4. HSUS Investigation of Catelli Bros. Calf Slaughterhouse in Shrewsbury, New Jersey

5. Broken leg, Mended Spirit: What Became of Sasha

6. More than 180 Animals Rescued From Arkansas Puppy Mill

7. Fifty Dogs Rescued From Suspected Dogfighting Operation in Sevier County, Tennessee

8. Pigs Suffer at Iron Maiden Farms in Owensboro, Kentucky 

9. 367 Rescued Dogs 365 Days Later

10. Actress Laura Marano Promotes Meatless Monday 

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Which one of these videos is your favorite? Leave a comment on my Facebook page.

December 17, 2014

HSUS Top Legal Victories for 2014

The HSUS is the number one provider of direct care to animals. We work hard to educate the public about animal issues and cooperate with a wide range of corporations on their policies related to animals – whether they are cosmetics companies, food retailers, or fashion firms. We also work on public policy and enforcement of the law. We have a very skilled and seasoned Animal Protection Litigation unit, and that group of lawyers, working in tandem with pro bono lawyers throughout the nation, drives a pretty remarkable agenda of activities. Our successful legal strategies to protect seals and whales, to defend California’s laws to protect farm animals, to defend a federal rule to regulate Internet sellers of puppy mill dogs, and to shut down Wyoming wolf trophy hunting are among the major wins that we’ve achieved in 2014. Here is my review of some of our biggest gains in the courts.

Marine Mammals:

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Photo: Alamy

Seals: The World Trade Organization’s appellate body upheld the European Union's right to ban trade in commercial seal products. The HSUS and HSI submitted amicus briefs in the case, which marks the first time the WTO has recognized animal welfare as a legitimate basis for domestic legislation banning the import of inhumane products. 

End to Japanese Whaling in Southern Ocean: The International Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling that Japan’s whaling activities violate the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling's moratorium on commercial hunting. Attorneys for Humane Society International helped devise the legal theory that Australia used for its argument, that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling programs are disguised commercial whaling.

Right Whale Critical Habitat Settlement: The HSUS reached a settlement agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service to expand critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales.  In 2009, we petitioned the agency to significantly expand habitat protections to include all of the whales’ nursery and breeding and feeding grounds.

Navy Sonar Victory: The HSUS won a lawsuit challenging approval of the Navy’s “low-frequency active” sonar training program in the Pacific Ocean.  Scientific evidence has documented that this sonar testing physically harms marine animals, disrupts their communications, and leads to coastal strandings.

Farm Animals:

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Photo: The HSUS

Hens: In California, a federal court granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit from the attorneys general of Missouri and other states challenging AB1437 - a bill that bans the sale of eggs from battery cages in California. The court found the attorneys general do not have standing to file their case, ordered that the case can never be refiled, and concluded that their theory for why the egg law will harm consumers is without merit.

Chickens Raised for Meat: Perdue Farms and The HSUS announced the settlement of two federal cases in New Jersey and Florida concerning Perdue’s “humanely raised” claim on its Harvestland chicken labels. The settlement required the plaintiffs to dismiss their claims with prejudice, in exchange for Perdue agreeing to remove the “Humanely Raised” label claim from its Harvestland chicken packaging.

Gestation Crates:  1) The HSUS and its rural resident supporters won their lawsuit against a massive gestation crate facility in Minnesota.  The court held that the state Department of Resources erred in authorizing the facility to suck up eight million gallons per year from the local groundwater. HSUS attorneys have filed a follow-up lawsuit on behalf of neighbors, alleging the horrible odors from the facility constitute a nuisance. 2) We obtained a favorable settlement in our lawsuit against the Raleigh Transit Authority for refusing to run advertisements that showed pigs in gestation crates. We originally had asked to run the ad on a single bus for six months, but the ad was rejected for being “too negative.” As part of the settlement, the ads were featured on two city buses for six months. 3) In response to an HSUS legal action, an Iowa agency fined a giant gestation crate pork facility for a massive animal waste spill at its facility near the Des Moines River that confines thousands of sows and produces 11 million gallons a year of liquefied manure.

Country of Origin Meat Labeling: In July, The HSUS joined with United Farm Workers and small farmers to help defeat industrial agriculture groups’ lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s country of origin labeling rule. The D.C. Circuit held that compelling labeling of meat products for non-health and safety reasons (including presumably humane labeling) does not violate the First Amendment.

Wildlife:

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Photo: Alamy

Wyoming Wolves Lawsuit Victory: The HSUS won its lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. The ruling immediately reinstatefederal protection for the species, haltthe hunting of wolves, and cancels Wyoming's controversial policy of allowing wolves to be shot on sight in more than 85 percent of the state.

African Lion ESA Listing Granted: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted our legal petition to list African Lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  Once finalized, this rule would severely limit imports of lion trophies, and require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take action to protect lions from extinction.

Ohio Exotics Victory: The HSUS convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to uphold Ohio’s Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act –which The HSUS helped enact in the wake of tragic events in Zanesville Ohio in 2011. Several exotic pet owners and a roadside zoo brought a constitutional challenge, and The HSUS intervened to defend the law.

Roadside Zoo License Revocation: In response to an HSUS legal petition, a USDA Administrative Law Judge revoked the exhibitor license of Collins Zoo in Mississippi, which was the subject of an HSUS undercover investigation. The facility was also fined $39,375 for 22 AWA violations. Three tigers from the facility are at Black Beauty Ranch. 

West Hollywood Fur Ban Victory: The HSUS and the City of West Hollywood won dismissal of a constitutional challenge to West Hollywood's fur sales ban. The court held that West Hollywood’s intent to promote the City's identity as an "animal cruelty-free zone" was a legitimate basis for the legislation.

Puppy Mills and Animal Cruelty:

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Photo: Jason Miczek/AP Images for The HSUS

USDA Puppy Mills Regulation Victory:  The U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia ruled in our favor in a lawsuit challenging new USDA regulations expanding the number of dogs protected by the Animal Welfare Act, and cracking down on internet sales of puppy mill dogs.  The HSUS intervened in the case to protect this major policy decision, which has been in the making for more than a decade.

Puppy Mill Disclosure Victory: The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in our favor in a major FOIA case, holding that the USDA must release information contained in relicensing applications submitted by commercial dog breeders – including numbers of dogs sold and gross receipts from those sales.

Florida Puppy Dealer Settlement: With the help of Weil Gotshal & Manges, The HSUS moved to enforce the settlement agreement that was reached between the Wizard of Claws and the plaintiffs in our original consumer protection action for selling sick puppies. On the eve of trial, defendants agreed to a settlement requiring them to follow strict new requirements on what breeders they can purchase dogs from, and pay thousands of dollars to support HSUS puppy mill enforcement work.

Federal Crush Law Victory: The HSUS helped convince the Fifth Circuit to reinstate the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, after a lower court declared it in violation of the First Amendment.  HSUS pro bono partner Scott Ballenger of Latham & Watkins was cited in the opinion as a constitutional expert.

Sharks:

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Photo: Vanessa Mignon

California Shark Fin Sales Ban Ruling: A federal court dismissed a lawsuit challenging California's shark fin law. The lawsuit by shark fin dealers sought to overturn recent legislation eliminating the demand for shark fins in California. This is the latest in a series of challenges to the law, all defeated by HSUS attorneys.

Porbeagle Shark ESA Listing Victory: The HSUS won its lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s denial of an HSUS petition to list porbeagle sharks as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The court agreed with The HSUS that the agency had misread the scientific evidence, and improperly assumed a best-case scenario for the species.

December 16, 2014

A Wrap-Up on Congress and Its Work on Animals in 2014

The U.S. Congress wrapped up its work on the Farm Bill in early 2014, and in the end we saw two very good outcomes in that package: an upgrade to the federal law against animal fighting to make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight, and a nixing of the King amendment, which posed an enterprise-level threat to animal protection laws. But House Republican leaders denied us opportunities to get a vote on several items that were appropriate fits for the Farm Bill and that had broad, bipartisan support: the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, to strengthen current federal law and combat the cruel practice of soring of Tennessee Walking Horses; the Egg Production Inspection Act Amendments of 2013, to set a minimum standard for space and enrichments for laying hens (to be phased in over time); and the SAFE Act, to stop the slaughter of American horses at home or abroad. 

Very significantly, Congress did renew its ban on horse slaughter inspections, so the critical policy of blocking horse slaughter plants from setting up shop on U.S. soil will continue through the current fiscal year. It was a tough fight, and we are grateful to so many lawmakers of both parties for standing tall on this issue. But what was really an abrogation of duty, and a thwarting of the will of both the electorate and that of so many lawmakers of both parties, was inaction on the anti-soring bill.  This legislation had 60 Senate cosponsors and 308 in the House – truly, an unprecedented level of support. Republican leaders should have brought it up for debate and a vote. What’s more, Congress’s failure to act on the egg industry reform bill – to ban barren battery cages – is yet another example of the grip that agribusiness interest groups have on Congress. This was a sensible bill supported by the affected agriculture industry, but the pork and cattle industries opposed it because they want no farm animal welfare standards enshrined in the law.

Here’s my rundown of the top areas in which Congress did take steps to help and protect animals in 2014 (the second year of a two-year Congress):

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Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS

Authorizing Legislation

Despite huge levels of bipartisan support for a series of animal protection measures, including horse slaughter and egg industry reform, Congress took action only on a few items, including animal fighting, veterinary assistance to animals in remote areas, and Defense Department work on wildlife trafficking. Some key animal protection reforms were enacted, including:

  • Animal Fighting Spectators – Via the Farm Bill, Congress enacted legislation to establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for knowingly bringing a minor to such fights.
  • Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act – Congress enacted legislation to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport, administer, and dispense controlled substances outside of their registered locations to ensure that they can provide proper care to animal patients in rural or remote areas, including pets in disasters, farm animals, and wildlife.
  • Ivory and Wildlife Trafficking – The National Defense Authorization Act, now awaiting the President’s signature into law, contains a Senate provision adding authority for the Department of Defense to partner with civilian law enforcement on joint task forces to combat wildlife trafficking.
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Photo: Alamy

Playing Defense

Congress fended off several measures that would have been catastrophic for animals:

  • King Amendment – The final Farm Bill signed into law in February did not include the dangerous King amendment, which aimed to gut state laws protecting farm animals. Nearly 200 Members of Congress publicly opposed this sweeping attack on states’ rights and the welfare of animals, joined by more than 300 organizations, newspapers, and other officials (see full list). 
  • Sportsmen’s Act – This package of harmful bills was defeated in the Senate on a procedural vote. The Sportsmen’s Act would have carved out a loophole in the law for wealthy hunters to import sport-hunted trophies of threatened polar bears, opened sensitive federal lands to sport hunting and trapping, and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect wildlife, habitat, and people from lead poisoning through exposure to toxic ammunition (but note that Congress subsequently enacted a bad provision on lead in the omnibus spending bill approved last week). 
  • Ivory/Wildlife Trafficking – Harmful language that had been part of the House Interior Appropriations bill – to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from cracking down on the illicit trade in elephant ivory – was kept out of the final FY15 omnibus spending bill. We hope this will provide some relief for many imperiled species by curbing the illegal trade in wildlife parts that has become a source of cash to finance terrorist networks and transnational organized crime.
  • Otters – Language sought by commercial fisheries and the Department of Defense, to provide an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act that would allow them to harm sea otters off the southern California coast, was kept out of the final National Defense Authorization Act.
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Ruthanne Johnson/The HSUS

Spending

Some key successes were tucked in the FY15 omnibus spending bill that provides funding for federal departments and is expected to be signed into law this week:

  • Horse Slaughter – The omnibus contains a provision to maintain a prohibition on the use of federal funding for inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively making it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption in this country. This language was initially recommended by the President in his FY15 budget request and subsequently adopted by the House and Senate appropriations committees earlier this year. Combined with the announcement from the European Union last week that it will ban the import of horsemeat from Mexico, this is a major one-two punch against the North American horse slaughter industry.
  • Wildlife Trafficking – The omnibus dedicates $55 million to combat wildlife trafficking, with at least $10 million of that directed to programs to protect rhinos from being poached for their horns, and it prevents the United States from assisting certain countries and military groups if they are found to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking. The Senate committee reports accompanying the appropriations bills for the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security also spoke of the seriousness of this problem and directed those agencies to report back on their actions to address it.
  • Wild Horses – The omnibus includes language to encourage the Bureau of Land Management to consider new, more humane methods of wild horse population management, including $1 million for a related study, so that the agency can move beyond its current inhumane and costly system of round-ups and long-term penning. It also contains language prohibiting the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros for human consumption.
  • Animal Welfare Enforcement – The omnibus sustained funding levels for USDA enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal animal fighting law, as well as for programs to address the needs of animals in disasters and to incentivize veterinarians to practice in rural and inner-city areas and to apply for USDA inspection positions.  
  • Alternatives to Animal Testing – The Committee Report accompanying the House Interior Appropriations bill contained language encouraging continued development of non-animal alternatives for chemical testing.
  • Captive Marine Mammals – The omnibus retained a House-approved floor amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill directing USDA to study the effects of captivity on marine mammals and finalize a much-needed upgrade of its Animal Welfare Act regulations for captive orcas and cetaceans that has been languishing for nearly 20 years, so these rules will better address the animals’ physical and behavioral needs. 

The biggest setbacks include a provision that seeks to deny the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the content of lead ammunition, language to interfere with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting the sage grouse as an endangered species, and provisions to prevent USDA from trying to reform the corrupt beef check-off program that finances agribusiness lobbying against animal welfare improvements or to regulate animal waste as a greenhouse gas. We must redouble our efforts to correct these problems in the new Congress.

Despite the polarized environment, and what many characterized as the least productive Congress of all time, there were some major gains for animals, and a few key setbacks. We are so grateful for the determined and supportive efforts of hundreds of lawmakers – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- who want to see our nation do better on animal protection. We celebrate the victories and are committed to staying active in this arena for the long haul, no matter who is in charge. Most importantly, we ask the American people to help us hold their lawmakers accountable on animal issues so we can achieve greater progress in the future. 

December 15, 2014

HSUS' Top Transformational Results of 2014

At The HSUS and Humane Society International, our most important measure is driving positive change on the biggest issues for animals in the United States and abroad. We take on the tough fights, and we so appreciate your steadfast support for our work. Today, I recount our 10 biggest gains of the year. Each gain often constitutes a whole series of wins that drive movement in a major sector of animal use. Please take stock of these gains and celebrate them with us, knowing that we are committed to redoubling our efforts in 2015.

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Photo: Alex Gallardo/For The HSUS

Strengthening the U.S. Anti-Cruelty Framework: South Dakota became the 50th state to adopt felony-level penalties for animal cruelty, capping our 25-year campaign to establish strong penalties for malicious cruelty in every state. We helped to pass federal legislation to make it a crime to attend, or bring a child to, a dogfight or cockfight. In a critical defensive maneuver, we stripped the King amendment from the Farm Bill, protecting a wide variety of state laws that could have been overturned. We helped persuade a federal appellate court to overturn a lower court ruling and affirm the constitutionality of the federal animal crush video law passed in 2010. And we helped persuade the FBI to start tracking animal cruelty crimes on a federal level, making it easier to apprehend animal abusers and prevent past abusers from owning animals in future.

Phasing out Gestation Crates Globally:  This year, Australia and Canada made commitments to begin phasing out their use of sow gestation crates, Brazil’s largest pork producer agreed to move away from crates, and India shut down its only gestation crate facility. In the United States, we secured commitments from some of the nation’s largest pork producers, like Smithfield Foods, Cargill, Tyson, and Clemens, and from major retailers like Delhaize, to move away from gestation crates. We also helped Wendy’s, Safeway, SUPERVALU, Dunkin Donuts, Denny’s, Jack in the Box and other companies strengthen their gestation crate policies.

Horse Slaughter Suspension: We blocked three horse slaughter plants from opening on U.S. soil, by securing amendments to two massive spending bills in Congress to bar federal dollars for any horse slaughter inspections. We held up horse slaughter plants in the courts until we were able to lock down the issue in Congress. Meanwhile, the European Commission suspended imports of horsemeat from Mexico to the European Union (EU), after lobbying from The HSUS and HSI, and an audit that identified serious food safety issues and confirmed our allegations of rampant cruelty in the Mexico horsemeat trade.. Since 87 percent of the horses slaughtered in EU-certified plants in Mexico originate from the United States, this is perhaps the biggest blow to the entire North American horse slaughter industry since the shutdown of horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2007.

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Kevin Wolf/AP Images for The HSUS

New Puppy Mill Rules: After years of effort, we helped secure a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule prohibiting the import of puppies into the United States for resale, effectively stopping pet stores and brokers from importing tiny underage puppies for resale from foreign puppy mills. We fended off a case in federal court that tried to block last year's USDA rule to bring Internet sellers of puppy mill dogs under the agency’s regulatory oversight. We assisted with puppy mill raids across the nation and helped pass anti-puppy mill measures in Connecticut and in Minnesota. 

Massive Gains Against Chimp Experiments in U.S., Animal Testing Throughout the World: As a follow-up to legislation in Congress to fund the transfer of government-owned lab chimps to sanctuaries, Merck & Co. ended its experiments on chimpanzees. We persuaded India to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients, and the import of cosmetics tested on animals overseas. With the European Union’s ban on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals coming into force last year, we’ve now created a 1.7 billion- people-strong cruelty-free cosmetics market. We helped China repeal its requirement that domestically-produced cosmetics be tested on animals.  In Europe,  our team worked through the REACH program to secure the gains that would save hundreds of thousands of animal lives. The National Institutes of Health ceased, in October, to fund research using dogs from Class B dealers and the USDA revoked the license of one of the remaining dealers, a long-sought goal.

Breaking Down Battery Cages: High Courts in two Indian states agreed to hear the case against battery cages. We also won a critical legal ruling to assure implementation in January 2015 of California’s laws banning the extreme confinement of farm animals and also the sale of eggs from hens kept in extreme confinement. We worked with Unilever on its historic commitment to stop the killing of male chicks by the egg industry. And 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.

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Photo: Keren Su/Alamy

WTO Srikes Blow Against Sealing in Canada: The World Trade Organization Appellate Body largely upheld the European Union’s ban on the trade in products of commercial seal hunts, which we helped achieve, to cut off demand for the Canadian seal slaughters. The ruling also established that animal welfare is a legitimate basis for nations to impose laws that restrict trade. Because of our successful efforts to close global markets for seal products, most sealers chose not to participate in the Canadian seal hunt again this year,

Clamping Down on Japanese Commercial Whaling in International Court: In a historic decision, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program violates the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling’s ban on commercial hunting. HSI was the incubator of this legal theory. A few months later, at the International Whaling Commission meeting, our team helped to defeat Japan’s proposal for coastal commercial whaling and to pass a resolution to codify the ICJ’s ruling.

Gains for Wolves: We scored two victories in our effort to halt the slaughter of wolves across the north of the country. In Michigan, we decisively won a ballot measure to stop the wolf hunt and another to remove hunting decisions from a pro-trophy hunting commission. In Wyoming, we helped secure a court ruling reinstating federal protections for the state’s gray wolves.

Ivory and Rhino Horn Bans: At our urging, the New York and New Jersey legislatures banned the sale of ivory – the first state laws of their kind. We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new rule, and stopped Congress from undermining that effort. In Vietnam, HSI’s public education program achieved a stunning 38 percent reduction in demand for rhino horn. We worked with federal lawmakers to allow increased collaboration among enforcement agencies on illicit trafficking activities, and to secure tens of millions in funding to curb poaching of elephants and rhinos and trafficking in their parts. 

We provided direct care to more than 100,000 animals this year through our animal rescue, veterinary, and animal care programs, and many others.  We also played defense, blocking ag-gag laws in almost a dozen states. 

In all of these battles, we required not only your steadfast support, but also your active participation.  Let's make 2015 an even bigger and better year for animal protection.

December 12, 2014

Pope Francis Says All Animals Can Go to Heaven

After the new Pope was chosen last March and then took the name “Francis” – after Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals -- I took a deep breath and dared to hope that this could be the pontiff who calls on all of his followers to show mercy and decency to all creatures.  Until now, Francis hasn’t said much about animals, but his commitment to reform and his comments on so many important issues of the day  are helping to make the Church more relevant than at any time in recent memory.  Recently though, he reinvigorated the legacy of Saint Francis by telling a child grieving the loss of his pet dog that “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”  It was front-page news in the New York Times, and his ideas are being noticed and discussed throughout the world.

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There is an emerging consensus in all faiths and traditions that all animals matter for their own sake. Photo: istock

The theological implications of Pope Francis’ comments aren’t yet clear. But as Dr. Jerry Root, a noted theologian and member of HSUS’s Faith Advisory Council, notes: “Without entering into the theological debate, Pope Francis’ comment reminds us how precious these creatures are and it underscores how important they are to God.”    

That value – the preciousness of every animal life and our duty to care for them – is shared by almost all of the world’s faiths and belief systems. Hinduism teaches that the Divine exists in all living beings, including animals, and that we have a duty of ahimsa, or non-violence, that extends to all. Buddhism teaches that we should treat humans and animals with equal respect. Islam and Judaism too encourage the greatest consideration for non-human life.  Our Faith Outreach Program reaches people of these faiths and so many others, to connect their faith values to their treatment of animals.

Pope Francis’ comments remind us that humane values run deep in Christianity, too. Our Faith Outreach Program recently posted a series of compelling videos about how faith drove the evangelical reformers C.S. Lewis, William Wilberforce, and Hannah Moore to fight against cruelty to animals. If you haven’t watched them yet, I encourage you to do so.

I’ve always been personally affected by a story in the Bible (Matthew 10:29) that tells us that not a sparrow falls without his Maker knowing. My wife and I created the Sparrow Fund, which cares for injured pets and wildlife when no one else is equipped to do so, in this spirit. You can support the Fund’s work here.

That spirit—that every life matters—is so directly at odds with the institutionalized abuse of animals in factory farms, puppy mills, and so many other spheres where animals are treating like objects or things. It is a notion that Pope Benedict, the previous Pope, once condemned as being at odds with creation care.

Pope Francis is not inventing a Christian concern for animals.  Almost a millennium ago, Saint Francis is said to have preached to the birds and even blessed a wolf to show that God intended us to love all of creation. Pope Francis is modernizing and amplifying that concern, and gently building upon it. Pope John Paul II made clear years ago that “dominion” is a call for us to care for animals, not a license to abuse them. My friend Matthew Scully, a Catholic, wrote a beautiful book on the topic, Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. Scully sums up well the thinking of defenders of animal abuse when he writes that “theirs is a dominion only of power, with them and not God at the center, all grandeur and no grace.”

Pope Francis’ comments may not instantly change how the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics treat animals. But it fortifies an emerging consensus in all faiths and traditions that all animals matter for their own sake. Here at The HSUS we share that value and are committed to championing it. 

December 11, 2014

A Look Back at Federal Rulemaking in 2014 by Obama Administration and the Influence of Congress and the Courts

The release earlier this week of the pending $1.1 trillion omnibus Congressional spending bill – bundling 11 separate spending bills together to fund the operations of government through September 2015 – reveals the tug and pull between Congress and the executive agencies on federal rulemaking, including for animals. Much of the news – good and bad – relates to green or red lights for funding of executive actions by agencies that deal with animals. 

On the good news side, the omnibus spending measure renews a government policy to defund inspections at horse slaughter plants – preventing slaughter operations from killing these animals for human consumption – and encourages more humane management of wild horse populations on public lands. The final bill provides needed funding for the enforcement of key animal welfare laws, including laws to prohibit trafficking in ivory and other wildlife parts. We had worried about a different outcome because the original House version of the legislation tried to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from cracking down on the illegal trade in ivory in the United States.

On the bad news front, the bill’s managers added a provision to restrict what agencies can do to “regulate the lead content” of ammunition. We read this provision narrowly, and we don’t think it would block the FWS from banning the use of lead on federal land, but we are mindful that some proponents of this provision want to prevent federal agencies from taking any action to protect wildlife and the public from the dangers of lead ammunition.

In today’s blog, though, I want to focus on the big actions that executive agencies within the Obama Administration took on animal protection this year. Here’s my rundown of the top accomplishments for the Administration in 2014:

Wildlife

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    Photo: Alamy
    Wildlife Trafficking: The FWS issued a director’s order for agency personnel to strictly enforce existing restrictions on the commercial trade in elephant ivory and on the import, export, and sale of items made from other protected species under the “antiques exception” of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The FWS also suspended imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Tanzania and Zimbabwe during 2014.
  • Southern White Rhino: The FWS listed the Southern White Rhinoceros as threatened under the ESA to curb rampant poaching. 
  • African Lions: The FWS released a proposed rule that would list African lions as threatened under the ESA and create a special rule governing the import of sport-hunted lion trophies. That final rule, when issued, is likely to dramatically restrict the flow of these trophies into the United States.

Companion Animals

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    Photo: The HSUS
    Puppy Mill Imports: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adopted a final rule to ban imports of dogs from foreign puppy mills for resale in the United States. The HSUS worked to get Congress to ban these imports as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, but the USDA had not adopted rules to enforce the law until this year. The new rule could restrict sales in the United States of tens of thousands of dogs who are raised inhumanely in foreign puppy mills and suffer terribly during long-distance transport, simply to be resold for the pet trade.
  • Class B Random Source Dealers: The USDA revoked the license of one of the last remaining random source dealers after the dealer committed multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. This dealer was supplying animals to Georgia Regents University, where The HSUS carried out an undercover investigation late last year. As of October 1, the National Institutes of Health will no longer fund research that involves dogs from random source Class B dealers.
  • Animal Travel: The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final rule that expands its current requirement that air carriers report incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of an animal during air transport, to include animals not yet “owned” as pets, such as animals en route from breeders. 

Farm Animals

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    Photo: The HSUS
    Veal Calf Investigation: The USDA suspended inspections of a veal calf slaughterhouse after an undercover investigation exposed Humane Methods of Slaughter Act violations there. We are awaiting a proposed rule on this issue, to close the loophole allowing the slaughter of downer calves, to deal with a problem that extends well beyond a single slaughter plant.
  • Meat Purchasing Contracts: The USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service sent a notice to beef, pork, and lamb slaughter facilities indicating its intent to update its animal handling and welfare purchase specifications to impose a zero-tolerance standard for missed stuns or animals regaining sensibility following stunning.

Expanding Protection, Sanctuary for Marine Mammals

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    Photo: iStockphoto
    Expansion of Pacific Ocean Sanctuary: Through an executive order, the President expanded the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 490,000 square miles – six times its current size – making it the largest marine monument in the world. The sanctuary is expected to protect nearly two dozen types of living marine mammals, along with threatened species of sea turtles.
  • Right Whale Protection: The National Marine Fisheries Services finalized a rule to restrict fishing gear harmful to endangered right whales.

Animal Cruelty

When it comes to beneficial rule-making for animals we often see court challenges, and that’s why The HSUS works so hard in the courts to defend favorable government action. This year, the federal courts upheld a number of our past regulatory advances. In November, a federal court upheld new USDA regulations expanding the number of dogs protected by the Animal Welfare Act, and cracking down on internet sales of puppy mill dogs. The HSUS intervened in the case to protect this major policy decision, which has been in the making for more than a decade. In June, a federal court rejected a lawsuit by elephant trophy hunters seeking to overturn a new FWS policy banning the imports of tusks from threatened populations of elephants shot in Tanzania and Zimbabwe. And in May, a federal court in California upheld the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to end its controversial "no otter zone" policy of relocating sea otters along the Pacific coast. In November, The HSUS reached a settlement agreement with the NMFS to expand critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales. 

December 10, 2014

California Not Just Dreamin’ of Cage-Free

In just three weeks, two of the most consequential animal protection laws passed anywhere in the United States will take effect in California. Proposition 2, a citizen initiative, requires that all breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens in the state have enough space to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs. And Assembly Bill 1437, which California lawmakers enacted in 2010, will extend Prop 2’s farm animal welfare standards to all shell (whole) eggs sold in the state, no matter where the hens are raised.

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It’s time for restaurants, supermarkets and other food service providers across California to comply with the law and go cage-free. Photo: The HSUS

That’s a sea change for farm animals, and in particular for the roughly 260 million American egg-laying hens trapped in barren battery cages. These wire contraptions confine each hen to less space than a shoebox, preventing them from performing even their most basic natural behaviors. More than 30 nations have banned, or are phasing out, battery cages based on humane concerns—including every European nation, Israel, and most recently, India.

Now California can lead the United States toward a cage-free future, if food retailers and producers cooperate with what California voters and consumers want. Some major food companies—including the food service giants Aramark, Compass Group, and Sodexo—have already converted to 100 percent cage-free shell eggs in their California operations to comply with the laws. Others—from Burger King to Unilever (Best Foods/Hellmann’s)—are going cage-free nationally, recognizing that consumers want a better standard. Eggs are affordable either way, so why put the animals through so much privation? Why not let them flap their wings and move around and not be so severely overcrowded?

Some companies, though, still don’t seem to be ready for California’s new laws. Their procrastination has been encouraged by a series of four legal challenges against the laws filed by some egg producers and Midwestern politicians who want to fight animal welfare improvements.

Now that judges have soundly dismissed those challenges, it’s time for every food retailer in California—from upscale San Francisco restaurants to supermarkets to the tens of thousands of restaurants and other food service providers across the state—to comply with the law. Cage-free systems are clearly compliant with Prop 2 because they provide hens with enough space to perform the basic natural behaviors that the law requires. Battery cages, which deprive hens of the ability to act out so many natural impulses, are clearly not.

The debate over Prop 2 centered on the question of whether California would go cage-free. Voters made a judgment about the measure based on that question. In our first-ever press release about Prop 2 in October 2007, we wrote that the law “will prevent the use of inhumane factory farming practices such as ... battery cages for egg-laying hens.” Our opponents acknowledged this, citing a University of California analysis that assumed Prop 2 “would eliminate the use of cage systems for laying hens in California,” and writing after our victory that "[c]ages for laying hens … will certainly be outlawed.”

California citizens and legislators overwhelmingly voted to end battery cage confinement. In fact, almost two thirds of Californians voted for Prop 2—more than any other citizen-led ballot measure in American history at  that time—even after our opponents wrongly claimed in the state’s official voting guide that Prop 2 would “forc[e] hens outdoors for most of the day.”  And the California Legislature passed AB 1437 by bipartisan votes of 65 to 9 in the assembly and 23 to 7 in the senate in order to make sure that eggs sold in California come from hens housed in systems consistent with Prop 2.

Now, six years later, it’s time for food retailers and egg producers to honor the outcome of that political debate. All retailers and egg producers in California should go cage-free, as many are already doing. That complies with the law, is consistent with the values of consumers, and gives animals a better life.

California-based Bon Appetit Management Co., a food management giant serving more than 500 locations, recently wrote, “In the run-up to the January 2015 California deadline, every company, lobbyist, and lawmaker should get on board with cage-free compliance. Let’s give consumers what they’re asking for—and move toward a more sustainable future for all of us in the process.”  I couldn’t agree more.

December 09, 2014

North Carolina to End Use of Gas Chambers for Euthanasia

Not long ago, shelters in dozens of North Carolina's counties killed homeless animals in carbon monoxide gas chambers. Starting February 2015, that will end. Last week the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a new policy statement that relies on formal policy positions from The HSUS and the American Veterinary Medical Association to stipulate that gas chambers are not appropriate for routine euthanasia in shelters.  North Carolina becomes the 25th state with a formal ban in place (you can see a map of the current gas chambers landscape here), although thankfully many of the states yet to ban gas chambers are no longer using them.

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Even as we continue the push to elevate the field of animal sheltering, our most important priority is to pursue efforts that keep animals out of harm's way in the first place. Photo: AP Images for The HSUS

A description of the perils of gas chambers in Animal Sheltering Magazine explains why The HSUS opposes their use: "[Dogs and cats] are placed into a small, dark, hot box, filled with the lingering smells of the animals who came before them – many of whom sweated, urinated, defecated before dying. If placed in the chamber with more than one animal, they may begin fighting out of fear and desperation. The strange sights, sounds, and noises often escalate the panic. For several minutes they may exist in this state of terror, clawing and calling for a way out. They may struggle for air or begin convulsing before finally losing consciousness."

The change in North Carolina's policy is the culmination of a years-long effort spearheaded by HSUS's North Carolina State Director Kim Alboum and volunteers to raise the level of professionalism and standards of care for animals in shelters across the state, including by eliminating inhumane methods of euthanasia. Since January 2013, we've helped to close 13 carbon monoxide gas chambers in North Carolina alone, most with the aid of grants provided through The HSUS. The going hasn't always been easy - in one discouraging case, a North Carolina shelter director actually returned a grant to us rather than close the shelter’s chamber. But there is no doubt that the steady pressure applied by Kim and other advocates created an atmosphere where it was simply unacceptable to continue this method of killing.

While we celebrate victory for the animals of North Carolina, there are carbon monoxide gas chambers still operating in 10 other states. We continue to push in states like Michigan and Kansas, where bans are close to enactment in state legislatures. We will be backing legislation in Oklahoma and Utah in 2015 to ban chambers outright. And we, of course, will continue to provide grants and other assistance to allow shelters to make the transition to less harmful ways of euthanizing animals.

But even as we continue the push to elevate the field of animal sheltering, our most important priority is to pursue efforts that keep animals out of harm's way in the first place, and to ensure that pets stay in their happy, healthy homes for life. Our Pets for Life program just announced the addition of five new mentor communities, expanding our reach to more than 25 communities nationwide and directly impacting the lives of tens of thousands of animals. And we continue to fight against outdated policies that put pets at risk of losing their homes - such as the recent terrible bill in the town of Moreauville, Louisiana, that would have banned pit-bull-type dogs and Rottweilers, causing them to be taken from their homes and destroyed. Thanks to public outcry and pressure from our litigation team, local lawmakers repealed it, and we’re grateful to them for doing so.

Ultimately our goal is to keep every pet in a healthy, happy home – and, for those who do need a safety net, provide a shelter system that strives to save every life and treats every creature with dignity and mercy.

December 08, 2014

Europeans Suspend Horsemeat Imports From Mexico – Deal Huge Blow to North American Slaughter Operations

The horse slaughter industry has been dealt the biggest blow since The HSUS led the fight in Congress, the states, and federal courts to shut down the three operating horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2007. Today’s game-changing news: the European Commission has suspended the import of horsemeat from Mexico to the European Union (EU) due to food safety concerns.

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Mexico accepts tens of thousands of American horses for slaughter and shipment to Europe. Photo: The HSUS

Mexico not only kills thousands of its horses for export to the EU, but accepts tens of thousands of American horses for slaughter and shipment to Europe. This announcement could prove to be an earthquake for the North American horse slaughter industry, since Belgium, France, Italy, and other EU nations are major consumers.  

HSI EU executive director Jo Swabe and I have personally appealed to senior EU regulatory leaders multiple times on this issue. I have long wondered how the Europeans could tolerate the rampant abuse and drugging of horses endemic to the North American trade, given their rigorous adherence to humane food safety standards for other species. The regulatory correction to the situation in Mexico has now finally occurred.

The suspension follows a series of audits by the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) – the most recent one was published last week. The audit is a shocking account of significant animal welfare concerns that riddle the entire horse slaughter pipeline, from the United States to Mexico. The audit also details serious concerns about the traceability of horses slaughtered in EU-certified equine slaughterhouses in Mexico; 87 percent of these animals originate from the United States. 

The Commission’s decision reflects exactly what The HSUS and HSI have been saying for years – there are serious food safety issues regarding horsemeat that originates from U.S. horses because they are not raised as food animals. Horses are our companions and partners in work and sport. As a result, horses are commonly treated with drugs such as phenylbutazone and other substances long deemed unfit for human consumption. And, as the audit shows, American horses lack lifetime medical records and do not meet EU food safety regulations.

While the audit focused on food safety, it also documented appalling suffering in the United States and Mexico. It details downed, sick horses slaughtered for human consumption despite being ill, horses suffering in export facilities on U.S. soil, and horrific welfare problems during transport. The audit confirms the cruelty of the horse slaughter pipeline that The HSUS has repeatedly exposed through undercover footage. The FVO even acknowledges that the information received from groups such as The HSUS and HSI accurately depicts the extremely poor conditions in which horses are transported. Special thanks to Animals Angels for its tireless work to document this trade.

The predatory horse slaughter industry is singularly concerned with making a buck, by snatching up young and healthy horses at auction, often outbidding legitimate horse owners and rescues. For these interests, it’s never been about euthanizing old, sick horses – that’s been a fiction since the start of this debate. This lust for profit is precisely why the industry and its legions of lobbyists have fought so hard to block federal legislation that would end horse slaughter.

We’ve long argued that Congress should enact the SAFE Act (Safeguard American Food Exports Act), to halt the transport of horses for slaughter within the United States and also to our North American neighbors. With Congress last year defunding slaughter in the United States, and the EU’s action to shut down imports from Mexico, there really is no rationale for not banning this trade.

The people of the United States do not see horses as a source of food, and despite all the scrutiny and pressure coming to bear on the horse slaughter industry, it has shown itself to be consistently reckless, unsafe, and inhumane. There’s no redeeming it, and the details documented in the European Commission announcement make that plain. 

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Ask your legislators to help protect our nation's horses through the SAFE Act.