Political shots fired as American lawmakers renew war on wolves

By on January 19, 2017 with 0 Comments

Just days after the newly constituted Congress commenced its work in the new year, some legislators from the West and the Great Lakes region showed that they have their fangs out for wolves and other animals. They are threatening not just to enable a massive kill of the ecologically and economically beneficial native carnivores, but also to open the floodgates for a host of bills and riders to target other endangered species in the crosshairs of special interests. These legislators have introduced two bills, H.R. 424 and S. 164, dubbed the “War on Wolves Act,” designed to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the northern Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and to prevent federal courts from intervening to ensure wolf management is consistent with principles of sound conservation science. They will almost certainly deliver on that promise if Congress passes them and President Donald Trump signs a final bill.

The War on Wolves Act strips the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its management authority over wolves and hands it off to state agencies whose past actions have shown a bias toward the bloodthirsty. These agencies have treated non-lethal co-existence measures as a sort of management oddity rather than the core of a sound strategy that balances the needs of wolves with the interests of wolf-country residents.

Lawmakers, quick to cater to the vocal minority that wants to hunt and trap wolves, are ignoring the best available science, which reveals that these apex carnivores occupy just a fraction of their original range and number only 5,000 across the entire lower 48 states. That science also shows that random killing of wolves – by trophy hunters and trappers – may actually lead to conflicts between wolves and livestock by disrupting and dispersing stable packs.

When the federal government delisted wolves in 2012 — and before federal lawsuits from The HSUS restored protections — trophy hunters and trappers, along with other causes of mortality, killed nearly a quarter of Minnesota’s wolves. Humans killed nearly one in every five wolves in Wisconsin that same year, including 17 entire family units, and half of the wolves killed in that state’s first season were pups. Michigan also conducted an ill-advised hunt, over the objections of the state’s own voters, in areas where common-sense measures would have prevented the few conflicts that had occurred with livestock and hunting dogs. In fact, between 2012 and 2014, 500 wolves had been killed in the Great Lakes states alone. Wyoming declared that over 80 percent of the state was a wolf “predator zone” — meaning that trophy hunters, trappers, and wildlife services agents had no restrictions on the manner of take, season for the killing, or even the age of pups or yearling animals. That policy is a prescription for local extinction.

This is not a sensible or conservation-minded plan and most definitely not a humane one – it is an all-out, barbaric assault on the forebears of the domesticated dog.

In 2014, two separate federal court decisions returned wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming to protections afforded to them under the ESA. Because of this, the sponsors of the War on Wolves Act included an insidious provision that would prevent citizens from challenging wolf protections through the courts, removing judicial review and putting Congress squarely in charge of making a listing decision. As the Chicago Tribune pointedly remarked when this same attempt was made in 2016: “The only reason to bar court challenges, of course, is to avoid having the legal weakness of your case exposed.”

A study last year showed that most Americans hold positive or even “very positive” associations with wolves. A 2014 statewide survey of nearly 9,000 Wisconsin residents showed most residents believe that wolves are important members of the ecological community who keep deer in balance and should be enjoyed by future generations. Wisconsinites surveyed said they were proud they were “one of the few places in the United States with wolves” and most did not want to see their wolves hunted or trapped.

Upon their reintroduction to Yellowstone, wolves moderated elk from congregating and stripping away vegetation from life-bearing riparian areas. These effects are documented in a popular video called “How Wolves Change Rivers,” based on a lecture by journalist and environmental advocate George Monbiot. The video has attracted more than 31 million views on YouTube. Wolves are also an enormous draw in the Upper Great Lakes, generating millions in commerce, while providing ecological benefits that are incalculable.

If Democrats in Congress, such as Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Amy Klobuchar, continue to align with Republicans on this issue, they will not only destroy wolf families and produce enormous pain and suffering for individual wolves, but they will also cripple defensive efforts to protect other endangered species targeted by special interests who want to remove federal protections for them. This is dangerous stuff, at a time when the ESA is likely to face its most serious and sustained assault ever because of Republican majorities in both chambers and now with Trump in the White House.

Democrats should come to their senses, embrace active management of the occasional problem wolf, and defend both the decisions by scientists and judges to honor the provisions of the ESA. If they do not, we’ll see an emptying of the ark in the United States in this Congress, starting with wolves. We need to send a signal that the American public won’t go for this species-by-species gutting of our nation’s most important wildlife protection law.

Breaking news: Obama Administration sets sweeping new standard for farm animal welfare

By on January 18, 2017 with 16 Comments
Breaking news: Obama Administration sets sweeping new standard for farm animal welfare

In its final major action for animals – this one perhaps promising to improve the treatment for millions and millions of animals in the coming years — the Obama Administration today finalized a rule that clarifies and updates the requirements of the “organic” label, establishing clear and meaningful protections for farm animals raised under that . . . 

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Ringling announcement an indicator of broader shift toward animal protection

By on January 16, 2017 with 418 Comments
Ringling announcement an indicator of broader shift toward animal protection

It was the second thunderbolt from Ringling Bros. in the span of two years – a little more than a flash of time in the company’s 146-year history, but as dramatic and sensational as one could imagine. On Saturday night, during a long holiday weekend when people aren’t paying as much attention to the news . . . 

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After years-long anti-soring campaign, USDA bans torture of walking horses

By on January 13, 2017 with 164 Comments
After years-long anti-soring campaign, USDA bans torture of walking horses

Pushed to act by a series of HSUS undercover investigations and a national campaign that attracted the support of more than 300 members of the U.S. House and Senate across the political spectrum, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced strict new rules to crack down on the barbaric practice of horse soring — the . . . 

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Former HSUS doc gives lifesaving advice in new doc about food, agriculture, and health

By on January 12, 2017 with 0 Comments
Former HSUS doc gives lifesaving advice in new doc about food, agriculture, and health

Dr. Michael Greger, former director of public health and animal agriculture at The HSUS and author of the runaway New York Times bestseller How Not to Die, is an extraordinary fount of knowledge about health and diet, and his work and science-based thinking are on full display in a compelling four-part series, “Prescription: Nutrition,” on . . . 

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Breaking news: A six-month reprieve for Yellowstone’s grizzlies

By on January 11, 2017 with 3 Comments
Breaking news: A six-month reprieve for Yellowstone’s grizzlies

The Obama Administration has passed a flaming-hot coal to the Trump Administration – pushing to the incoming leadership at the Interior Department the decision to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears. Yesterday, news outlets reported that a Rocky Mountain region official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that the agency . . . 

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200 more dogs saved from the butcher in South Korea

By on January 10, 2017 with 3 Comments
200 more dogs saved from the butcher in South Korea

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with a link to the HSI news release with a list of the shelters where the dogs are going. Our Humane Society International team has closed down yet another dog meat farm in South Korea, once again becoming the architect of a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of . . . 

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More gains in India, including on the trade in exotic animal skins and fur

By on January 9, 2017 with 1 Comment
More gains in India, including on the trade in exotic animal skins and fur

We’ve seen some extraordinary gains in the United States for animals in recent years, but India has more than kept pace, particularly since Humane Society International opened an office there five years ago. Working alongside local groups, our HSI team has just succeeded in persuading authorities to ban the import of the skins of exotic . . . 

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While China cracks down on ivory trade, U.S. House sets up attack on Obama-era rules

By on January 6, 2017 with 2 Comments
While China cracks down on ivory trade, U.S. House sets up attack on Obama-era rules

China announced last week a timetable to shutter the ivory market in the world’s most populous country and the biggest trading post for elephant tusks, which are carved into decorative trinkets, necklaces, bracelets, and other household items and jewelry. The year-long phase-out, expected to be completed by the end of 2017, was a follow-up on . . . 

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An open letter – looking back, and charging ahead in 2017

By on January 5, 2017 with 7 Comments
An open letter – looking back, and charging ahead in 2017

Dear Friends: Let’s start the New Year with thanks. Thanks to all of us. Whatever you did as part of the movement to help animals in the year just past, be proud. It was a challenging year. And so many, many people did so much, providing so much support and encouragement. For some, the compassionate . . . 

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