Animal cruelty masquerading as regulatory reform

By on March 27, 2017 with 0 Comments

As readers of this blog will know and lament, bears and wolves are the latest victims of the anti-regulatory fervor infecting Congress. Last week, in a party-line vote, every Senate Republican voted in favor of a Congressional Review Act resolution rescinding a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that banned a host of inhumane and unsporting killing practices on our national wildlife refuges – activities in which no self-respecting sportsman would engage. It’s a sad chapter in our nation’s history of wildlife management, but it’s also a hollow “victory” for self-styled enthusiasts of rolling back bureaucratic red tape.

Passing regulations aimed at tamping down animal cruelty are not in any way about putting a damper on commerce or profit to businesses. They don’t cost anything; in fact, when businesses align their conduct with humane values, they typically become more profitable. The only parties put at a disadvantage are the stubborn perpetrators of cruelty. That’s a major principle of my book The Humane Economy.

It’s a logical failure to cast all regulatory actions as inimical to business. Some regulations are needed to help business, to codify our nation’s values, and to protect us all. Very few of us, for example, would embrace a rollback of Federal Aviation Administration oversight, even if we’re more than a little irritated by flight delays or pat-downs by airport security officers.

By contrast, killing wolf pups and mothers in dens isn’t some critical component of a thriving industry in Alaska or anywhere else. Scouting bears from airplanes, landing, and then shooting them isn’t a business and it’s not scalable, any more than killing blue whales or fin whales is good business and scalable today. These are barbaric and appalling practices, and they don’t meet the threshold moral tests we should apply in a civil society. In this case, it was a case of Congress usurping long-established federal authority and handing over power to a state hell-bent on turning our national wildlife refuges into game farms.

This is part of a broader anti-regulatory zeal that is sweeping up beneficial regulatory policies. The current administration and the Republican-controlled Congress seem to be acting on the assumption that government is the enemy. In a party-line vote, the House of Representatives passed the Midnight Rules Act, which would allow for a bundling of dozens of recently enacted agency rules for repeal by a simple majority in each chamber. By bundling dozens of rules in a single package, lawmakers would necessarily sidestep any close examination of the individual rules, voting instead on the principle of regulatory reform. Such an effort would wash away the good with the bad. Let’s hope the Senate doesn’t take up this fringe idea.

There’s also the matter of enforcing the rules on the books, and it’s plain that some of Donald Trump’s nominees bring an anti-regulatory zeal with them to federal agencies. This is most notably true for Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who filed a series of lawsuits to unwind the agency’s pollution and clean water standards as Oklahoma attorney general. If his past pronouncements are to be taken seriously, he intends to run environmental protection into the ground.

Sure, there are plenty of times the government goes too far. Bureaucracy has earned its reputation, and it can slow down private business and bungle government services. But it’s important that we don’t mistake inefficiency or overreach with categorical problems.

If President Trump wants to cut government spending, there is a target-rich environment. For decades now, the federal government has stacked the deck by doling out money or favors to private business, disrupting markets in the process. The agribusiness industry gets all manner of government assistance – through price supports, crop subsidies, predator control services, reduced grazing fees, government buy-up programs for surplus products, government-financed staff support through commodity check-off programs, and more. You cannot profess undying loyalty to the free market, claiming that government has custom-fit manacles on your wrists and ankles, but then select “all of the above” when it comes to federal support programs. That’s not a coherent ideology; it’s unconcealed opportunism and crony capitalism.

Let’s also remember that regulations often provide both safety and security, and sometimes they’re needed to protect the most vulnerable among us. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that show trainers shouldn’t torture horses by intentionally injuring their feet – that’s a regulation built on a federal law (the Horse Protection Act) duly enacted by Congress. When the USDA says that the term “organic” should mean that animals are not confined in small cages or mutilated as a routine husbandry practice, that’s a common-sense regulation, also grounded in the law and benefiting family farmers who invest in animal care and husbandry. What decent person wouldn’t agree with these rules, or begrudge the horsemen or farmers doing things the right way and not cutting corners?

So, by all means, stop government waste and overreach – particularly where it favors special interests at the expense of the public good. But don’t fall into the trap of backing an across-the-board policy of repealing regulations as an ideological tenet of Republican thinking. The better path is trust but verify. Examine the merits of each regulation.

In the workings of government, and through the pressure applied to government, we seek to find that sweet spot where private industry flourishes and where private citizens and their interests are safeguarded. That’s the essence of a regulated capitalism and the preservation of a civil society.

USDA using poison explosives to kill wildlife and pets in the West

By on March 24, 2017 with 0 Comments
USDA using poison explosives to kill wildlife and pets in the West

When young Canyon Mansfield and Casey, his three-year-old Lab, headed out together to play in the area behind their home in eastern Idaho, they hardly expected the walk to be their last together. Without notifying a soul, and in violation of their agreement not to place sodium cyanide M-44s on federal public lands, agents with . . . 

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Humane Society International closes another dog meat farm in South Korea (our seventh)

By on March 23, 2017 with 3 Comments
Humane Society International closes another dog meat farm in South Korea (our seventh)

“When I first entered the darkness, the overpowering stench of feces and urine made me retch,” said Adam Parascandola of Humane Society International. “The ammonia burned the back of my throat. We could hear the cacophony of desperate barking but we couldn’t see their faces, just their eyes peering out.” Some of the dogs cowered . . . 

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A Senate Republican attack on animals menaces grizzlies, wolves in Alaska

By on March 22, 2017 with 62 Comments
A Senate Republican attack on animals menaces grizzlies, wolves in Alaska

I tossed and turned almost the entire night. It wasn’t a nightmare that roiled me. It was yesterday’s awful spectacle in the U.S. Senate. By a 52 to 47 vote, senators approved, on a party-line vote, their colleague Dan Sullivan’s resolution to rescind a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rulemaking action that forbids the . . . 

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Can the humane economy continue to advance in our challenging times?

By on March 21, 2017 with 0 Comments
Can the humane economy continue to advance in our challenging times?

It’s fitting, it seems, that on the launch day of the paperback version of The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals in bookstores, Burger King and Tim Horton’s announced new policies concerning the welfare of chickens raised in meat production. These major food retailers are announcing new space . . . 

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An attempted overthrow of our national wildlife refuge system

By on March 20, 2017 with 12 Comments
An attempted overthrow of our national wildlife refuge system

Let’s be very clear. The resolution advanced by Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan to allow unconscionable methods of hunting grizzly bears and wolves on national wildlife refuges in the state is an attack on the entire national wildlife refuge system. Sen. Sullivan wants to give the Alaska Board of Game carte blanche to allow the most . . . 

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Gulliver’s travails underscore urgency of lead ammo ban

By on March 17, 2017 with 2 Comments
Gulliver’s travails underscore urgency of lead ammo ban

Gulliver’s chances didn’t seem high when a caring person saw him fall from a tree and called animal control. A beautiful bald eagle, Gulliver was the victim of acute lead poisoning. Gulliver couldn’t stand or even hold his head up. His bloodwork showed a lead level of 94.2, startlingly higher than the normal level of . . . 

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Arkansas poised to enact draconian ag-gag measure

By on March 16, 2017 with 10 Comments
Arkansas poised to enact draconian ag-gag measure

The attack on animals – and the people who defend them – isn’t just happening on the federal level. It’s happening in some important states, too. The Arkansas Senate yesterday approved a controversial state “ag-gag” bill that allows employers in Arkansas to sue workers who expose cruelty at their workplaces. It had passed the House . . . 

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HSUS 2016 annual report: Transformational progress for orcas and elephants, farm and lab animals, and others

By on March 15, 2017 with 2 Comments
HSUS 2016 annual report: Transformational progress for orcas and elephants, farm and lab animals, and others

Today, we officially release our 2016 annual report. I hope you’ll read and take pride in the progress we are making across such a wide range of issues and challenges. Below, I’ve closely reproduced my President’s essay from the report. I’m proud to note that thanks to you, we grew our net assets by nearly . . . 

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Alaskans say no to using aircraft, cruel traps to kill grizzlies on national wildlife refuges

By on March 14, 2017 with 9 Comments
Alaskans say no to using aircraft, cruel traps to kill grizzlies on national wildlife refuges

When we worked to outlaw cockfighting in the last U.S. state where it was legal, we knew that the people of Louisiana didn’t support the practice and had their own aspirations of banning such blood spectacles in their state. The politicians there had it wrong for years, somehow convincing themselves that there was strong support . . . 

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