A Berlin Wall Moment for Animal Protection

By on March 5, 2015 with 22 Comments

It’s surely one of the biggest announcements of the modern era in animal protection: Ringling Bros. has announced that it will cease its use of elephants in its traveling circus.

I’ve been a witness to and participant in big moments during my three decades of work in animal protection: banning cockfighting in Louisiana to make it the 50th state to end the practice; declaring victory on California’s Prop 2 to end extreme confinement of farm animals as the votes streamed in; getting word from McDonald’s that it would stop buying gestation crate pork. And this is right up there with them.

While the number of animals affected here is fewer than in these victories, or countless others that we’ve helped to drive, the result here may be as impactful, or even more so. This was a company that fought animal welfare groups at every turn – before city councils, in state legislatures, within Congress, in the courts, and in the press. The company infiltrated several nonprofit organizations by placing spies in them.  Its leadership seemed to have limitless resources, and a fierce resolve to keep the elephants so deeply associated with its brand.

And now, just like that, the company announces it will cease, by 2018, its use of elephants in circuses. Get the confetti and streamers. Grab the kids and the dog. Put on the party hat. Head over to the parade. Jump on what remains of the fallen wall and raise your arms.

Ringling Bros. cited the number of cities and counties that have recently adopted ordinances to restrict the use of elephants in circuses as contributing to its decision. And there’s no question that the documentary Blackfish, and the enormous public response to the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld was also a contributing factor. But the outcome was ordained by factors larger than any one thing.

Movements rise and fall based on their success in winning the hearts and minds of regular people.  With South Dakota making cruelty a felony last year, making it the 50th state to do so, Americans across the board have now accepted the notion that cruelty is wrong. With ethologists and other scientists demonstrating, in indisputable ways, that animals have complex social and behavioral needs, we are no longer in denial about the lives and minds of elephants and other animals. And with the world shrinking, in terms of communications and so much information available to us, any business built on the backs of exploiting animals cannot long endure.

Smart businesses purge their companies of cruelty and substitute something different, and they move on. The best of them thrive because they can then tap into the love and appreciation that so many millions of Americans have for animals.

The HSUS has been a bitter opponent of Ringling Bros. for many a year. We’ve never liked, nor accepted, what they do to animals in their care. But kudos to their leaders for recognizing that as the world changes, they can embrace that new world, instead of fighting it forever. Good for them for embracing it, even if it’s later than we’d wished, and we urge them to retire their use of all wild animals in their traveling act. But today, they have taken a big, hearty, important step toward joining the humane economy, and we celebrate it.

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Learn more about The Humane Society’s work to end animal cruelty >>

Big Ag Getting Its Hen House in Order – Cages and All

By on March 4, 2015 with 5 Comments
Big Ag Getting Its Hen House in Order – Cages and All

Soon, a group composed of many conventional thinkers in the food and agribusiness industries, calling itself the “Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply,” is expected to release a report on various forms of housing egg-laying hens—including cramming them into barren cages so small they can’t even fully open their wings, confining them in larger cages, and . . . 

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Cutting Through the Nonsense on Tail-Cutting

By on March 3, 2015 with 9 Comments
Cutting Through the Nonsense on Tail-Cutting

A couple of years ago I visited perhaps the largest dairy farm in the United States – Fair Oaks Farm in northwest Indiana, which at the time had 36,000 cows, divided into 3,000 cows per pod. Expecting to be pretty horrified by the operation, I was pleasantly surprised by the care provided to the animals. Among . . . 

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Is Industrialized Agriculture a House of Cards?

By on March 2, 2015 with 5 Comments
Is Industrialized Agriculture a House of Cards?

I’m so grateful to House of Cards actress Kate Mara for her continuing work with The HSUS, including her recent video to promote Meatless Monday for animals and for our health. Mara is a big deal in Washington, D.C. because of her starring role during the first two seasons of the hugely popular Netflix dramatic . . . 

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Indian Tribes, Others Stand Up for Wolves

By on February 27, 2015 with 9 Comments
Indian Tribes, Others Stand Up for Wolves

The United Tribes of Michigan (comprising 12 recognized Indian tribes in the northern part of the state) recently adopted a resolution opposing removal of federal protections for wolves and calling on people to recognize the historical and ecological significance of wolves. It’s a message closely aligned with that of The HSUS, and we are glad . . . 

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SEA the WORLD From Whales’ Perspective

By on February 26, 2015 with 4 Comments
SEA the WORLD From Whales’ Perspective

The footage was recorded in January, taken by the operator of a whale-watching boat in Cabo St. Lucas – at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula in the west of Mexico. A juvenile humpback whale surges out of the water, and splashes down on his side. He proceeds for several minutes with his natural display, . . . 

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Best in Spay-and-Neuter

By on February 25, 2015 with 5 Comments
Best in Spay-and-Neuter

Consider two recent events focused on dogs: one, yesterday’s 21st annual World Spay Day, a joint program of The HSUS, HSI, and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), and two, last week’s 139th Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden. The first is not so much a celebration of dogs, but a practical-minded . . . 

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Court Ruling Underscores Need for Action to End Horse Soring

By on February 24, 2015 with 18 Comments
Court Ruling Underscores Need for Action to End Horse Soring

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down a U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation requiring private, industry-appointed inspectors to impose mandatory minimum penalties on participants caught “soring” – the practice of deliberately injuring a horse’s legs and hooves to force the horse to perform an artificial, high-stepping gait highly prized in . . . 

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Meat Industry Gripes, as Grip on U.S. Dietary Guidelines Loosens

By on February 23, 2015 with 5 Comments
Meat Industry Gripes, as Grip on U.S. Dietary Guidelines Loosens

The federal government’s dietary guidelines have a stilted history. When I was growing up, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) promoted the Basic Four Food Groups as the construct of the ideal diet, with meat and dairy constituting half of the food groups and fruits and vegetables bunched into a single slot (and grains into . . . 

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Dogs Rescued from Arkansas Mill, Where Cold Compounds Misery

By on February 20, 2015 with 12 Comments
Dogs Rescued from Arkansas Mill, Where Cold Compounds Misery

The bracing freeze that has enveloped so much of the country reminds us of the power of nature and our vulnerability to the extremes of climate. During a time like this, those of us in cold-weather climates bundle up head to toe to go outside, steel ourselves, and rush to get back inside a protected . . . 

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