June 2010 Blog Home August 2010


21 posts from July 2010


July 30, 2010

Ten Things You Missed at Taking Action for Animals 2010

Rep. Nick Rahall's dog Billie Sue at Taking Action for Animals banquet dinner
The HSUS
Rep. Nick Rahall's dog Billie Sue joined us at the banquet dinner.

Last weekend nearly 1,000 advocates from across the nation came together for The HSUS’s sixth annual Taking Action for Animals, connecting with other advocates and learning how to make the best possible case for animal protection. I’ve captured just a few of the highlights here, and you can see a recap in this video from the event. If you joined us at TAFA, I’d also love to hear your thoughts—and please save the date for next year’s conference, July 15-18.

  1. A laugh-out-loud performance by actor and comedian Hal Sparks at Saturday night’s banquet dinner, where we learned that Sparks shares a house with Chewbacca and Barbara Walters (a chow mix and Pomeranian, respectively).
  2. Meeting Rep. Nick Rahall’s adopted dog Billie Sue, rescued from the D.C. streets just before last winter’s blizzards.
  3. A standing ovation for our four lively plenary speakers: radio personality Jerry Cesak, author Meg Daley Olmert, ethologist and author Jonathan Balcombe, and photographer, "America’s Next Top Model" judge and HSUS spokesperson Nigel Barker.
  4. Members of Opportunities for Action at TAFA Student Summit
    The HSUS
    Members of Opportunities for Action at the TAFA Student Summit.

  5. The first-ever student summit, attended by 60 incredibly inspiring students and parents from all across the country, including Colorado, California and Michigan. Students learned about being an effective advocate for animals and how to get more involved, then rounded out the day by writing letters to their legislators. One group of youth, Opportunities for Action of New Jersey, woke at 2 a.m. to arrive at the conference on time. And before TAFA they sold homemade cookies, raising $350 for The HSUS’s anti-animal fighting campaign, $2.50 at a time.
  6. A packed exhibit hall with 72 fantastic exhibitors—including animal advocacy organizations, commercial vendors selling animal-friendly products, and authors signing their books for attendees—and happy four-legged faces greeting you throughout the conference, from Pud, a cat on a leash, to Dolce, the friendly registration desk dog.
  7. At a Social Media 101 workshop—one of more than 20 TAFA workshops on a wide range of topics—you would have learned how nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 per month in free advertising through Google Grants and have a donation button placed on their YouTube page.
  8. The HSUS's Michael Markarian and Wendie Malick at Taking Action for Animals Lobby Day on Capitol Hill
    The HSUS
    The HSUS's Michael Markarian and Wendie Malick.

  9. Insight into what keeps “Hot in Cleveland” actress Wendie Malick up at night (the plight of wild horses) and her hopes for a postcard brigade—an army of advocates who mail postcards to the Bureau of Land Management and congressmen, asking for an end to wild horse roundups.
  10. The crowning of the first “mayor” of TAFA (Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue) on Foursquare, a location-based social networking website, and prizes to Foursquare users who "checked in" at the conference.
  11. One-on-one meetings with your legislators at a Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, and a Get Ready to Lobby training session on how to effectively communicate with legislators and their staff.
  12. A lot of tweeting, and not from birds. We had a lively dialogue and conference play-by-play on the social networking site Twitter. Here are just a few examples:

Appetite4proit_tweet
Eactipis_tweet Sidragon_tweet


A footnote:
On Tuesday I asked you to submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management on the agency’s new policy proposal for wild horse and burro management. Since that time, we’ve heard from many of you who had difficulties using the BLM’s online comment submission system. We contacted the BLM immediately on your behalf and, as a result, we’re now providing the opportunity for you to submit your comments via email through humanesociety.org. Please make your voice heard before Aug. 3 in support of humane, sustainable programs for managing the herds.

July 29, 2010

Animal Crush Videos Make Comeback; Senate Must Act

Today, The HSUS released new information, in a telephone press conference with reporters, about gruesome animal crush videos that have made a comeback since the federal courts overturned the 1999 law Congress passed to ban their production and sale. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court declared this federal anti-cruelty law invalid and unconstitutional, creating an opening for peddlers of this smut to get back into this business.

Black and white puppy
iStockphoto

Last week, at the urging of The HSUS and in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the House passed legislation by a vote of 416-3 to fill the gap in the law and to reinstate a narrowly tailored federal prohibition on this disgusting commerce. Today, U.S. Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the co-authors of H.R. 5566,  joined me in a call to urge the U.S. Senate to take up the House legislation and ban interstate and foreign commerce in these obscene animal “crush” videos before the 111th Congress concludes its work.

Today’s call was more than an exhortation, but also a cataloguing of this cruel trade. Following up on the leads provided by some of our sources, an HSUS researcher viewed 36 “preview clips” of crush videos, sent to prospective consumers to tease them into buying the full-length versions of the videos. These details are horrifying, and I feel badly about even writing them down. But I hope that knowledge of these abuses will compel good people to act. The videos depict the following:

  • Three young girls crush a puppy to death with their bare feet. The audio includes cracking sounds as the puppy’s bones break. Three dead puppies can be seen lying on the floor nearby.
  • A girl dressed in a leather mini-skirt and stiletto heels pokes the heel of her shoe through the eye of a small monkey.
  • A girl wearing a flimsy negligee, stockings and stiletto heels crushes a rabbit, who screams as his hind legs are crushed.
  • Two young girls in stilettos crush a medium-sized dog whose legs and mouth are tightly tied. One of the girls inserts the heel of her shoe into a dog’s eye socket.
  • A girl skins a live dog with a knife, removing the animal’s ear and the skin and fur on the dog’s head.

Last September, we released a status report about the re-emergence of crush videos in the wake of a federal appellate court’s overturning of the 1999 federal law. Our investigators found that at that time crushing videos were easily available for purchase. The password protected part of one website had 118 videos for sale. Videos ranged in price from $20 to $100. Each of the videos for sale contained footage of multiple animals, translating into hundreds of animals being tortured and crushed to death for the profit-making of this one website alone.

In United States v. Stevens, the Supreme Court struck down the law Congress passed on narrow grounds, finding that the 1999 federal law was overbroad because it could be interpreted to apply to many unintended circumstances, including hunting videos. The Court did not say that depictions of extreme animal cruelty are protected by the First Amendment. Instead, the Court unanimously recognized the long history of animal cruelty laws dating back to the founding of our country, and carefully left open whether Congress could draft a narrower law that would only reach depictions of extreme and illegal cruelty. At oral argument, Justice Stephen Breyer stated that if Congress passed a statute aimed solely at “crush videos,” there would be “a very strong case” for upholding that law. Like our child pornography laws, our drug laws, and the basic obscenity doctrine, the Court has left an opening for the Congress to crack down on sale of such materials in the United States as a method of reducing demand, and hopefully reducing production.

H.R. 5566 narrowly limits its reach to obscene depictions in which an actual live animal is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, or impaled in a manner that would violate a criminal prohibition on animal cruelty under federal law or the law of the state in which the depiction is created, sold, distributed, or offered for sale or distribution. We wouldn’t allow someone to murder someone or molest a child, and if they were not caught in the act, sell the video and profit from the underlying crime. The same principle is at work here, and the nearly unanimous House vote reveals that lawmakers understand what’s at stake.

July 28, 2010

Chimps Should Be Sent to Retirement, Not More Research

Flo lives in a cage in a federal government facility in New Mexico. A life behind bars is not much of a life for a 52-year-old who has committed no crime, and that hardly says enough. But we thought Flo was relatively safe from an even worse fate. We thought that this elderly chimpanzee and 201 others held captive at the Alamogordo Primate Facility would probably never again be in risk of being subjected to harmful experiments.

After all, the time is past for subjecting chimps to painful and unnecessary research, and much of the world is ahead of us in recognizing this fact.

Ask the Department of Health and Human Services to give 202 chimps the retirement they deserve
Animal Protection of New Mexico
Nicole, one of the 202 chimps in danger.

So I’m shocked to report that federal officials are going to relocate Flo and the other chimpanzees to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas. Suddenly, they are in risk of being used in painful and unnecessary experimentation.

I regret to say that in the hush-hush world of primate research, 15 of the chimps have already been moved—and unfortunately we don’t yet know who was sent.

These chimps are among 1,000 who remain in six U.S. laboratories today. Their suffering can be traced back to the capture of infant chimpanzees from the wild in the 1950s for the space program. Today, sophisticated instruments can be substituted for crash and G-force tests and other experiments. But the government sanctioned breeding of chimps boosted their numbers.

The chimps now at the Alamogordo facility once were housed by the notorious Coulston Foundation, which has had a checkered history of violations of federal animal care laws.

They’ve been through enough. They deserve to be retired.

The NIH’s National Center for Research Resources plans to move the remaining chimpanzees from Alamogordo to San Antonio by January 2011—arguing that it’s a matter of financial necessity. The truth, however, is that taxpayers would benefit if the chimpanzees were kept in New Mexico and had their care provided by a sanctuary organization.

The wise expenditure of money has never really seemed to be a consideration in this program. The government has paid a private company $42 million to warehouse the Alamogordo chimpanzees for the past ten years, and millions more to renovate the facility, which is located on an air force base. Now, federal officials are pouring more money into construction at the San Antonio research center, and undertaking the substantial costs of transport.

That’s no deal for taxpayers or for chimps.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, along with the Albuquerque Journal, have spoken out against this harmful and wasteful move. Other policymakers and opinion leaders are openly skeptical. The HSUS has joined with Animal Protection of New Mexico and other like-minded groups in urging the Department of Health and Human Services to retire these chimpanzees immediately and let them live out their days in New Mexico without enduring more lab experiments.

Last year, an investigator for The HSUS took you behind laboratory doors at the world’s largest chimpanzee lab, to reveal the continuing plight of our most highly evolved primate cousins. Now there is another critical situation that we must act upon, and we hope you’ll add your voice to this call—because Flo and the other chimpanzees deserve better. After taking action online, please also call Health and Human Services at 202-205-5445 and ask them to halt the transfer of these 202 chimpanzees and retire the animals from research.

July 27, 2010

Be Heard by BLM: Urge an End to Wild Horse Roundups

Yesterday I asked you to contact Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in response to the reported plans to kill more than 150,000 geese in New York state (please do call 202-720-3631 if you haven’t done so already). Today, I need your action on another urgent concern—urging the Bureau of Land Management to stop the cruel and senseless roundups of wild horses and instead to develop humane, sustainable programs for managing the herds, such as fertility control through immunocontraception.

Wild horse on the range
Kayla Grams/The HSUS

Over the past 10 years, the BLM has removed some 74,000 wild horses and burros from the range, and it intends to remove a total of 12,000 horses this year. The current program is costly, illogical, and has also had tragic consequences—you may have heard about the rising death toll associated with the BLM’s current Tuscarora wild horse gather in Elko County, Nev., where at least a dozen mustangs have died from dehydration, water intoxication and related complications.

The federal government has submitted a new policy proposal for wild horse management and is now accepting public comments. Please take a few minutes to make your voice heard—the deadline for comments is next Tuesday, Aug. 3, and we’ve provided instructions and guidance on our website.

I’ve asked Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife scientist with The HSUS, to elaborate on why the BLM must seriously reconsider its current policies and procedures given the program’s track record and the recent tragedy in Elko County.


So far this year, 18 wild horses rounded up by the BLM in Nevada have died. The BLM claims on its website that 16 of these horses died due to preexisting dehydration-related complications, congenital deformities or physical injuries, and that only two died as a result of “gather-related operations” (one horse was euthanized after sustaining a leg fracture in a temporary holding corral and another died from a neck injury).

Based on several factors, however, we can’t help but question the BLM’s assertion that all but two deaths were unavoidable, and that the agency was blameless and practiced due diligence prior to the gather.

First, the BLM has failed to answer the most basic, pertinent question posted in a Questions and Answers section on its informational site: “Why is the BLM using a helicopter to chase and capture wild horses in the summer’s extreme heat?”

Instead of answering the question, the agency simply describes the procedures used to conduct gathers during summer months—with no explanation for why they’re held in the hottest month of the year as opposed to the fall or winter, when the mares are not foaling and the new foals of the year are older and stronger.

For years, The HSUS has urged the BLM to use passive gather techniques, such as nutrient baits and/or water trapping (placing nutrients or water in an area where they are scarce to gradually lure horses, then building a large corral around the animals), to alleviate, to the greatest extent possible, the suffering, stress and trauma inherently associated with roundups.

In its Environmental Assessment for the Elko County gather, the BLM acknowledges that “water trapping can be very effective when water resources are scarce…”, but dismissed water trapping from detailed study for this gather because it claimed, among other factors, that the area has an abundance of public and private water sources.

Of course, we know now that at the time of the gather, water sources on the range were, in fact, scarce. So not only was water trapping a feasible option, it would have been preferable and should have been used once the BLM realized the targeted horses were suffering from dehydration due to inadequate water. The agency also knew that animals already suffering from dehydration are susceptible to toxic hydration if they drink too much water too quickly once it is made available.

Having contingency plans in place in the event of a crisis of this nature is one of the many critical changes that must be made to the BLM’s broken wild horse and burro management program. Instead of constantly defending its policies and procedures when things go wrong (and they clearly did in Tuscarora), the BLM needs to conduct a fair and objective evaluation of its procedures and make changes that will alleviate unnecessary suffering and save lives in the future.

You can help the BLM better serve the treasure it has been mandated to protect—our wild horses—by submitting comments on the agency’s recently released proposal.

July 26, 2010

Gaggle of Problems with N.Y. Plans to Kill Canada Geese

We had a fantastic conference this weekend, with nearly 1,000 citizens from across the nation gathering in Washington for the Taking Action for Animals event to learn about the issues and to improve their skills in becoming stronger animal advocates. I was heartened to see so many fabulous people commit to working hard to make the world a better and safer place for all animals.

Canada goose in water
McFarland/The HSUS

At the same time I was feeling optimism about our swelling ranks, I was reminded of the challenges ahead. New York Times writer Isolde Raftery reported on Saturday of the plans by local, state, and federal officials to kill more than 150,000 Canada geese in New York state alone, presumably because some people see the birds as a nuisance. Earlier this month, Brooklyn residents were shocked when 400 geese were rounded up in Prospect Park and killed.

In our day, such plans for mass slaughter are wrong and unacceptable. Even if there are concerns about geese, there is just no reason to resort to capturing them and gassing them, or increasing or suspending kill limits for hunters who want to shoot these birds. There are humane population control techniques, such as egg addling, that are known as effective in controlling and ultimately reducing goose population numbers.

The HSUS is strongly opposed to this killing, as are other responsible voices and experts. The HSUS is particularly concerned that the federal government, specifically the Wildlife Services program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, may execute much of the killing.

We need a federal agency to help with wildlife conflicts. But we do not need a federal agency that is just a contract killer for the states, local communities, or private interests that want wildlife quietly liquidated. The Wildlife Services program has needed reform for a long time, and it is past due that the Obama Administration deliver change to this agency. In the past, mass killing may have seemed like the only option. But it is no longer an acceptable response.

Please call Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at 202-720-3631 or email him and politely urge him to change the ways of Wildlife Services and to take no part in a mass killing program of geese in New York. New York City residents can also call 311 to encourage the Mayor’s Office to work with The HSUS on a more humane, effective and transparent plan. Our tax dollars should not be used for these scorched earth policies. Vilsack should turn Wildlife Services into humane wildlife services, and help us resolve human-wildlife conflicts. Let’s remember, if there are 250,000 geese in New York, there are 19 million people in the state. It’s not like we humans do not have a role in these conflicts.

If we have the will, we can figure out a way to coexist.

July 23, 2010

Standing Up for Street Dogs in Baghdad and Beyond

In the United States, persistent euthanasia in shelters is the problem we all struggle to end. In developing countries, it is a different kind of killing—wholesale culling of dogs. Mass extermination campaigns are a grim and persistent reality throughout the world. And when authorities go looking for quick solutions to the perceived threat of rabies among strays, even overwhelming evidence showing that indiscriminate killing does no good often does not put the brakes on these plans.

Street dog
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

The most urgent case comes from Baghdad, where Iraqi authorities have shot or poisoned well over 50,000 canines in a campaign targeting the city’s estimated street dog population of 1.2 million. This week, my colleague Andrew Rowan of Humane Society International sent a letter to Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture, encouraging an alternative to “shoot to kill” and “poison bait” policies. We’ve offered our advice and counsel to the city in an effort to redirect its approach to proven methods of population control and rabies suppression.

Andrew’s letter emphasized the tremendous gains being made with Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release programs, including the one we recently implemented in conjunction with the government of Bhutan, and those we’ve helped to introduce in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia—countries also coping with street dog overpopulation. These programs sterilize a large number of dogs, dramatically curb the overpopulation of street animals, and provide superb training opportunities for veterinary students and technicians, since each dog is given a quick checkup and vaccinated against rabies.

In any event, it’s clear that large-scale poisoning and shooting programs are not the answer. On the island of Bali, the recent outbreak of rabies has not abated despite an aggressive culling program that has killed around 100,000 dogs. Yet, in the two Bali regencies (districts) where a large-scale dog vaccination program was instituted, there have been no human rabies cases.

Among other consequences, poisoning and culling often causes dog owners to move their animals, spreading rabies still further. Vaccination, in contrast, maintains a stable local dog population and does not lead to the spreading of the disease. It is a strategy that comports with the best information and counsel provided by the World Health Organization, the leading source of expert knowledge on the topic.

Whether it’s a question of managing populations of wild horses on the range, pigeons in the city, or stray dog populations, there is a common theme: The humane solution is more elegant, more scientific, and more effective than the crude, violent, and indiscriminate killing.

July 22, 2010

Inside a Puppy Mill Rescue and Compulsive Hoarding

One of more than 100 dogs rescued from a Carriere, Miss. puppy mill
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
One of the dogs rescued from a Carriere, Miss. puppy mill.

The name Sea Breeze Kennels conjures up nothing but pleasant images. But as our Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force discovered, the facility by that name was anything but pleasant. Working with deputies from the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office, our team found more than 100 dogs living in absolute filth and squalor, and plenty of sick and ill animals. The HSUS and its partners have now rescued these dogs, and you can see details of the raid and the rescue effort on this video.

Seeing these images reminded me of the images I saw last night on Animal Planet in its new series about animal hoarding. That six-part series, which will highlight The HSUS’s rescue work in selected cases and airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, focuses on people with a mental disorder that results in their having more animals than they can reasonably care for, and the homes of these hoarders soon become overtaken by the smells of urine and feces everywhere. The homes become one large litter box, rarely if ever cleaned, and these hoarders increasingly become estranged from their own families.

The images from the Mississippi puppy mill were even more disturbing than the hoarding cases profiled last night, and they were pretty awful. We at The HSUS are committed to rescuing animals in distress, but most importantly to prevent animals from getting into these circumstances in the first place.

July 21, 2010

U.S. House Votes to Crack Down on Animal Crush Videos

Animal crush videos are back and, next week, The HSUS will release details about their resurgence on the Web. By all appearances, this lurid and sickening commercial activity re-emerged from the shadows after two federal courts, most recently the U.S. Supreme Court in April, struck down as unconstitutional the 1999 federal law criminalizing the sale of these videos.

Rabbit
iStockphoto

Today, the U.S. House voted 416-3 in favor of a new, more narrowly tailored law to crack down on the commercial trade in these videos. The bill, H.R. 5566 and known as the Prevention of Interstate Commerce in Animal Crush Videos Act, was introduced by Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). Gallegly was the author of the original 1999 law and has been an especially tenacious foe of animal cruelty and the crush video industry. The House Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing on the topic, taking testimony from scholars on the First Amendment who argued that a more carefully crafted measure could survive a legal challenge and suggested what the contours of such legislation should be. Gallegly and Peters introduced a bill that took the witnesses’ recommendations into account, and it quickly gained 263 cosponsors, including Democratic and Republican leaders. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and the full committee’s Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) worked with all parties to produce a strong bill, which responds to the concerns expressed by the court.

The House action today is a reminder of the near universal view among the American people that individuals who commit malicious and obscene acts of cruelty for commercial gain should not have license to peddle and profit from videos showing these acts. By banning the sale of the videos, the federal government can deter these people from making the videos in the first place. Because it is so hard to catch people in the act of making them, the only practical way to crack down on the activity is to stop the sale of these obscene videos.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced its opposition to the legislation, again on First Amendment grounds, but its arguments did not seem to resonate with lawmakers. Of those who voted today, every Democrat voted in favor of the bill, and only three Republicans voted against it—Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Now, the action shifts to the Senate where Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have vowed to lead the fight in favor of the bill. We’ll work hard to help them succeed and to see the legislation sent on to the President in the weeks ahead.

It was a disappointment in April when the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to strike down the law. But with any setback, we must be resilient. The measure approved today has even more support than the 1999 measure that the House approved. With the strong leadership of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus in the House, we did not wait a moment to re-engage the fight, and today’s result is a key step toward restoring a much-needed federal prohibition.

Animal cruelty is a vice, and more people than ever realize that it is a form of social pathology. The people who commit these acts are a danger not only to animals, but also to our communities, and they need to be stopped with the force of law.

July 20, 2010

Replacing the "Guinea Pig": Safer, Humane Chemical Tests

Last month, the Environmental Defense Fund and its partners in the campaign to reform U.S. law to regulate chemicals made an impassioned plea for American consumers not to be treated like “guinea pigs.” I’d like to remind our friends and colleagues in the environmental and consumer protection communities that advocates for animal protection—while respecting the interests of all animals and believing that none of them should be treated like disposable lab equipment—also care about protecting human health and the environment, and that we all must work together to achieve a future that is both safer and more humane.

Guinea pig

It goes without saying that informed decisions regarding chemical safety cannot be made without adequate information (including testing to detect hazardous properties, and information concerning the levels to which humans and wildlife may be exposed). However, simply calling for more data is not the answer; it is also vital that the inadequacies of the current testing paradigm be acknowledged and overcome.

Today’s chemical testing entails animal poisoning studies, most of which were designed decades ago, and which tell us a lot about how large doses of single chemicals affect small animals with short life spans, but very little about how mixtures of chemicals at typically low exposure levels affect larger, longer-living human beings. A rat force-fed a chemical for his or her three-year life—often causing painful symptoms such as tumors and organ failure—cannot reliably predict the effects of a human lifetime’s worth of low-level exposure to a “cocktail” of environmental chemicals, which is the situation we’re faced with in the real world.

Animal tests are expensive and time consuming, and their relevance is often questioned by stakeholders on one side or the other, leading to disputes over which chemicals represent a real threat, and a seemingly bottomless pit of animal testing to “prove” that a chemical is harmful or safe. (Remember the decades-long battle over whether cigarette smoking causes cancer? Today, history is repeating itself with Bisphenol A and other chemicals.) Even in optimum conditions, regulating chemicals on the basis of animal data takes years, and relies heavily on guesswork and unproven assumptions. And at the end of all that, the results can still—rightly—be called into question.

So instead of dealing with chemical safety and animal suffering as two separate issues, The HSUS and its affiliates are addressing the “guinea pig” problem with one ambitious project.

In 2007, the National Academy of Sciences published a report titled “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy.” In it, a team of eminent scientists (including HSUS staff member Martin Stephens, Ph.D.) established two guiding principles: first, that animal testing is of limited value in predicting real-life human health effects of chemicals or for dealing with the current backlog of tens of thousands of chemicals that are being inadequately regulated; and second that a new approach—a paradigm shift—is needed. The Academy advocates moving away from conventional animal test requirements toward a combination of modern computer-based and human-relevant systems biology approaches that can deliver results in days rather than years, and at a small fraction of the cost of animal testing. In fact, many of the participating scientists envision the complete replacement of animal tests, and see this work as prompting a long overdue, and desperately needed, revolution in the regulation of chemicals.

The Human Toxicology Project we are promoting in the United States and globally is, like the Human Genome Project before it, a solution-oriented scientific program that will overhaul the current antiquated testing paradigm so we are no longer treated as guinea pigs—and neither are guinea pigs. It will prevent the horrible effects of testing toxic chemicals on millions of animals, greatly advance our understanding of the effects of chemicals on human biology, and lead to more reliable risk assessment decisions.

July 19, 2010

Lunch with a Leader, Next Steps in Ohio

Lunch at the Vegiterranean in Akron, Ohio
The HSUS
One of several spectacular dishes at Vegiterranean.

Sometimes the work of animal advocacy is tough. But today wasn’t that kind of day. My colleague Paul Shapiro and I were pleased to spend time with an incredible advocate, and to enjoy the hospitality and gourmet cuisine of Vegiterranean, which is the creation of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (a native of Akron) and Chefs Scott Jones and Tal Ronnen, author of "The Conscious Cook."

Paul and I had a wonderful lunch with our top volunteer in the state—David Meadows, of Dayton. David gathered more than 3,500 signatures in the collective effort in our quest to qualify a farm animal welfare measure for the ballot. Specifically, the measure sought to phase out some of the most inhumane confinement practices in industrial agribusiness.

In the end, we decided not to submit the signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2010 ballot because we worked out an agreement with Gov. Ted Strickland and the leaders of nearly all of the state’s top agricultural trade groups, recommending eight different reforms, including phase-outs of veal crates and gestation crates and a moratorium on new battery cage egg facilities.

The HSUS's Wayne Pacelle and Paul Shapiro with Ohio volunteer David Meadows
The HSUS
With volunteer David Meadows, center, and Paul Shapiro,
senior director of our End Factory Farming campaign.

While the agreement is done, all of the elements of the deal remain to be enacted. We must have an ongoing presence in Ohio to assure that the Legislature, the Governor, and the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board adopt these reforms. And that presence is needed, too, to be sure we can push forward on other important reforms in Ohio, including upgrading the state’s anti-cruelty law and outlawing dog auctions in the state.

Today though was a moment to celebrate the volunteers who make these campaigns hum. Without the efforts of dedicated volunteers like David Meadows to participate in the political process, or in other civic-minded ways, we could not achieve the historic gains we are propelling.