May 2011 Blog Home July 2011


22 posts from June 2011


June 30, 2011

Stopping the Slaughter of Our Horses

There’s been a flurry of activity with bearing on our campaign to stop the slaughter of American horses. A few weeks ago, I asked you to call your U.S. representative and urge him or her to support an amendment led by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., to bar funding for federal inspections at any horse slaughter plant in the United States, and thereby prevent the opening of any such plant in the country. It was a close vote in the House Appropriations Committee, but the Moran amendment passed, and it was retained in the bill subsequently passed by the full House of Representatives. 

Now we must gear up to fight this battle in the Senate, and we know we’ve got some great allies there. In fact, this month Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced S. 1176, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, to end the cruel slaughter of American horses for human consumption and transport for that purpose in this country and in our neighboring nations. “As a lifelong horse lover and rider, this practice is appalling to me, and more importantly, the majority of Americans oppose it,” Sen. Landrieu announced in introducing the bill.

Rescued horses at the Duchess Sanctuary in Oregon
Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS
Take action to help horses here.

Though the foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the United States were shuttered in 2007, many thousands of American horses still endure the long journey to Canada and Mexico to be killed for their meat every year. The methods used in these slaughterhouses are often deplorably cruel, though evidence shows that U.S. plants were also plagued with problems.

Last week, the federal Government Accountability Office released a new report on this situation. Though some in the horse slaughter industry have tried to use it as a rallying cry to restart this barbaric practice in our country, the report confirms the obvious: transporting horses long distances in double-decker trailers and killing them for meat are fundamentally inhumane.

The report discusses horse neglect and abandonment, which is a serious problem that our Animal Rescue Team and animal care centers tackle head-on through rescues and providing sanctuary for mistreated horses. In the midst of a serious economic downturn, caring for any animal can be difficult to afford, but there are humane options for owners who can no longer care for their horse.

The report states that the number of horses being sent to slaughter has remained about the same since the closure of U.S. plants, suggesting that the same number of irresponsible people are still sending their horses to be killed for meat.

The government report also underlines problems with the transport of horses to slaughter, an issue we’ve been concerned about for years. The trip is stressful and dangerous for the horses, traveling long hours, often in double-decker trailers that were designed for shorter animals such as cattle and pigs. There have been too many horrific trailer accidents that have cost many slaughter-bound horses their lives, like the crash the miracle horse Catori survived last year. (She and her foal are still doing well.)

The report says that the USDA must do more to protect horses during transport. This week, Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., introduced S. 1281, the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2011, to ban double-decker trailers for interstate transport of these animals.

The report further recommends that “Congress may wish to consider instituting an explicit ban on the domestic slaughter of horses and exports of U.S. horses intended for slaughter in foreign countries.” We couldn’t agree more, and that’s exactly what the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would do. What’s also needed is more education and outreach about the responsibilities and expense of horse ownership, and the options available to struggling horse owners such as adoption and rescue groups. And we need to rein in overbreeding of horses that creates more horses than there are good homes for them.

You can stay up-to-date on the latest news on this campaign by joining our Facebook cause.        

June 29, 2011

Talk Back: Stopping Captive Hunts, Working Like a Dog

Earlier this week, I called on the California Senate Natural Resources Committee to pass strong anti-shark finning legislation, and to resist the maneuvers by lobbyists and lawmakers working on behalf of the restaurants and other businesses and groups that trade in shark fins. The bill has survived, but we’ve got a tough task ahead to align California law with those of Guam, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, with Sen. Leland Yee leading the charge against the legislation.

Gazelle at a captive hunt facility
Take action to stop captive hunts.

Last week, I told you about an Animal Planet special featuring a new HSUS investigation into captive hunts, where trophy hunters pay to shoot tame, fenced-in animals. Many of you were shocked to hear that this despicable practice still goes on in the United States—in fact, in about two dozen states, due to the obstructionist efforts by the NRA and the Safari Club International.

Some lawmakers had something to say about this, and they’ve introduced legislation to outlaw the practice. Many of you had something to say as well:

 

What hideous cowards they must be who kill penned animals, all for a "trophy" on the wall. No, I did not know this happens in the United States. Thank you HSUS and Wayne Pacelle for bringing this to light. —Jackie Reina

I sat through it with my eyes diverted much of the time. I went to bed furious. This is one of the most disgusting acts I can think of—and unfortunately, I live right smack in Central Texas—there are canned hunting operations all around here. Unfortunately, most people don't know about the practice—hopefully, this exposé and this bill will be the end of this awful practice. —Jennifer Lawyer-Wilson

I also wrote last week on a lighter note about Take Your Dog to Work Day, an annual holiday started by Pet Sitters International. The dozens of dogs who come to our office every day are a great reminder of why we work to protect and celebrate all animals.

Continue reading "Talk Back: Stopping Captive Hunts, Working Like a Dog" »

June 28, 2011

Animal Testing Policy Gets a Facelift

Worldwide, more than 100 million animals are used every year in laboratory experiments. Many of them suffer terribly; virtually all are killed in the process. As a key part of our work to help animals in laboratories, we push for scientific efforts to replace animal testing with more sophisticated alternatives.

A particularly crude and infamous test is the Lethal Dose 50 percent test, in which various doses of a substance are given to groups of animals in order to determine the amount that kills 50 percent of them. Developed in the 1920s, the LD50 test is now being replaced by a variety of procedures, some of which use fewer or no animals. Yet some uses of this inhumane test persist.

Mouse
iStockphoto

One of the most disturbing examples is the testing of batches of Botox© and related products that share the same active ingredient: the potent botulinum neurotoxin. Yes, that Botox—the popular anti-wrinkle treatment, which also has several medical applications. In this context, death from the LD50 test comes slowly and distressingly from suffocation. Somehow, the LD50 test became the industry standard and regulatory requirement for gauging the potency of these products. Incredibly, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 mice per year are subjected to this test for Botox-like products worldwide.

But now, following a seven-year effort by The HSUS and our partners, these animals can quite literally begin to breathe a little easier. On Friday, Botox manufacturer Allergan announced that the company has developed—and received federal approval for—a new procedure that avoids using animals in testing this product. The company expects the new method to reduce animal use in Botox testing by 95 percent within three years, as it secures regulatory approvals outside the United States.

We began urging Allergan to replace this test after a 2003 exposé by the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments revealed the industry-wide practice of using the LD50 test for Botox-like products. Dialogue with the company initially proved unproductive, so we partnered with Calvert Investments to file a series of shareholder resolutions. We withdrew our third resolution last year when Allergan increased disclosure about its efforts to develop an LD50 alternative and CEO David Pyott made a firm commitment to progress.

The HSUS and Humane Society International will urge other companies that manufacture Botox-like products to assess whether the new testing method can be tailored to those products, to spare more animals from suffering. 

Allergan’s achievement was not a trivial task—the company ended up spending 10 years and $65 million developing the alternative, for which they deserve considerable credit. This is a welcome example of the power of scientific innovation, spurred by humane concern, to replace long-standing uses of animals. Millions more animals in laboratories await similar outcomes.

June 27, 2011

Help Save Sharks Today

I spent the last week traveling across California and meeting with hundreds of Californians as part of my book tour. At each stop, people asked about the legislative fight in Sacramento to stop shark finning—a harshly cruel, wasteful, and totally unsustainable trade. It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks per year are slaughtered for their fins—in short, these marine creatures are mutilated and killed all for a bowl of soup.

Earlier this year, Oregon and Washington lawmakers approved bills to ban the sale of shark fin products, building on the previously enacted laws in Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. Now, California must act, especially so because it is the biggest market for shark fins outside of Asia.

Shark swimming
iStockphoto

On Friday, I joined Leonardo DiCaprio and the leaders of WildAid and the Natural Resources Defense Council in writing a letter to members of the California State Senate in support of the proposed shark fin ban, Assembly Bill 376.

The bill, authored by Assemblymen Paul Fong and Jared Huffman, is backed by The HSUS, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Oceana, the Asian Pacific Ocean Harmony Alliance, and dozens of other conservation-minded organizations representing millions of Californians. It would save sharks and help marine ecosystems by banning the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins in California. In addition to DiCaprio, last week’s letter was signed by Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Ke$ha, Ben Stiller, Kristen Bell, Kelly Hu, and Chinese basketball star Yao Ming.

Tomorrow the bill faces its toughest test—in the Senate Natural Resources committee, where the lobbyists for the shark finning industry and the restaurants that serve this cruel item are pinning their hopes on blocking the bill (which already passed the Assembly 65 to 8). The opponents are led in the legislature by San Francisco state senator Leland Yee, who is a candidate for mayor.

If you live in California, we need your help. Please contact your state senator and ask him or her to support AB 376. 

In particular, if you live in any of these senators’ districts (you can look up your district here), your call today is essential.

Sen. Alex Padilla – (916) 651-4020
District includes: Van Nuys, Canoga Park, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Pacoima, and other cities of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.

Sen. Lois Wolk – (916) 651-4005
District includes: Davis, Woodland, West Sacramento, Fairfield, Elk Grove, Winters, Dixon, Tracy, Manteca, and Stockton.

Sen. Ted Lieu – (916) 651-4028
District includes: Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Torrance.

If you live outside of California, take our no-shark fin pledge now.

June 24, 2011

Some Common Sense from a "Gun-Owning Animal Lover"

We hear or read comments every day in the press from Members of Congress from both parties about the need to reduce government spending, because of our nation’s multi-trillion dollar deficit. The budget crisis is so severe that even iconic programs that benefit millions of Americans—including Social Security and Medicare—are being examined for major cost savings.

If the Congress seems now to have the political will to confront some of these very popular programs, you would think it’s a no-brainer to stop some of the most outrageous spending programs that cause cruelty to animals, including the use of chimpanzees in experiments and buy-ups of surplus pork and spent-hen meat by the USDA. But surely among the most wasteful, archaic, and cruel programs is the federal government’s wildlife-killing program. Every year, USDA’s Wildlife Services’ program kills in excess of four million animals, including wolves, bears, coyotes, and other creatures as a de facto subsidy to ranchers and other resource users. Cutting this program would not only benefit taxpayers but also provide a break for animals.

Gray wolf
© USFWS

But last week, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment from Representatives John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., to cut $11 million from the Wildlife Services program. Remarkably, the House rejected the amendment by a vote of 132 – 287. Only 29 Republicans and 103 Democrats favored the amendment. 

We expected agriculture groups to defend the subsidy, since many ranchers love the idea of federally funded trappers and hunters killing wolves, coyotes, and other animals that they think threaten their livestock. They really like their hand-outs, and they want to keep riding the gravy train. But what was shocking was that the NRA opposed the amendment. Many members of the House undoubtedly voted against the amendment because of their obedience to the whims of the gun lobby.

Representative Campbell, who is a conservative Republican and defender of the Second Amendment, was as befuddled by the NRA’s stance as were so many other observers of this debate. I thought Rep. Campbell had a lot of good thoughts to offer on the subject. Here’s a portion of his statement:

I have been a longtime member of both the NRA and the Humane Society. I do not see their missions as being in conflict. I strongly support the Second Amendment to the Constitution and believe that people should have the right to keep and bear arms. This is about freedom, it is about self-defense, and it is about respect for the Constitution. I also love animals. I believe that human beings should treat animals humanely, in part, because they are God's creatures and we have a moral obligation to care for and protect them. I also think that how a society treats animals is closely correlated to how that society will treat its people.

So, what's the conflict here? One can own guns and love animals. I understand that some people like to hunt. I personally don't and could never see myself shooting an animal. But, I respect and uphold the right of others to do so. Unfortunately in DC, sometimes groups or members of Congress will support or oppose something based on who is for or against it, or who is sponsoring it, instead of because of what the bill actually does. That's too bad. And, I won't do it.

I will continue to speak out for and vote to support the Second Amendment. And, I will just as vociferously support laws that protect animals, both wild and domesticated, from abuse at the hands of the dark side of human behavior. I'm a gun-owning animal lover. And, I think that's just fine.

June 23, 2011

HSUS Report Card

It’s important to cultivate within ourselves the right sorts of values when it comes to animals, and that we put these beliefs into action. That’s the very purpose of The HSUS—to promote a collective consciousness in society about animals and to push for tangible progress on animal welfare issues in big and small ways. And it’s our mission to protect all animals, wild and domesticated.

The HSUS's 2010 annual report You can assess our progress by reading about our work in the newspaper or reading our magazines or our web site. But every year, we produce an annual report to provide a summary for our members and supporters about the things we are doing. In addition to The HSUS's 2010 achievements I blogged about a few months ago, our new annual report offers a big-picture view of how we helped animals across the country and all over the world last year.

Now, I'm excited to share a fun new way to review the contents of our 2010 annual report, through a special online version, with great stories and images highlighting some of The HSUS’s major accomplishments of last year—including rescued puppy mill dogs, rehabilitated wildlife, farm animals saved from suffering, young people finding alternatives to dogfighting, and much more. It features testimonials from the many committed animal advocates, law enforcement agencies, and other groups we work with to rescue animals, reform corporate policies, strengthen animal protection laws, and educate people about animal protection.

Please take a few minutes to check it out today and share it with your friends and family. In the meantime, we're already halfway through 2011, continuing our many campaigns to celebrate the animals who share our world and to fight cruelty wherever we find it. You can learn more about our ongoing work anytime at humanesociety.org, or by signing up to receive email updates here.

June 22, 2011

Dog Days

Bringing dogs to work is an emerging social phenomenon, and now there’s even a day to celebrate it: Friday, June 24, is the second annual Take Your Dog to Work Day®,” created by Pet Sitters International. It’s yet another manifestation of how dogs have infiltrated and enlivened just about every aspect of our lives–and it’s all to the good. 

dogs at work
HSUS office dogs (from left to right) Teddy, Charley & Bella

For HSUS, it’s been an everyday occurrence, given that we’ve had a dogs-in-the-office policy for a number of years. And for companies thinking about this workplace benefit for dogs and people, there’s no better guide or resource than Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces, which was co-authored by our own Jennifer Fearing.

Dogs at work policies can be beneficial to employees and their canine companions as well as the company’s bottom line. Some 60 dogs come to work every day at The HSUS’s offices, and it’s one of the most popular benefits we have.

We’re glad to see this trend emerge, and it’s one we encourage. It’s an antidote to the loneliness dogs feel during the day when we’re gone, and it’s produces healthier, happier, and harder-working employees.  It’s just another small component of the new, humane economy we're working to build.

June 21, 2011

Talk Back: Smithfield’s Record Profits and Our Animal Rescues

Last night’s Animal Planet Investigates piece on our captive hunting undercover work exposed an ugly subculture of the hunting industry. It’s bad enough that exotic animals are placed in fenced areas to be shot for a trophy. Add to this that the operators then drug some of the animals to make the whole thing a farce in terms of an actual hunt. It’s almost beyond belief.

Pigs in pens on factory farm
© USDA

We are urging our supporters to contact their U.S. Representative and Senators in support of pending federal legislation on the topic.

I’ll publish some of your comments soon on that item, but want to share your feedback on some other recent blogs. Many of you felt it is time for Smithfield to get back on track with its pledge to ban gestation crates, in light of its enormous earnings in the first and second quarters of the year.

“Maybe if everyone boycotted Paula Deen and other chefs [who support Smithfield] that would get their attention and they would withdraw their support. Smithfield has not suffered consequences and only when these companies lose revenue or celebrity support, which translates to lost revenue, will they think twice about their approach to humane treatment of animals.” –Connie

“Gestation crates are not necessary, nor appropriate. Pigs are easy going, smart and intensely social animals, and this needs to be recognized and respected. These animals do better when they are allowed to roam outside to root in soil and to be together. Don't be cruel, and maybe your sales will increase instead of decline.” –Christa

“The dollar is the indisputable leader in denial, despair, destruction and death.” –Arden Allen

So many of you were touched by our recent animal rescues, like the rescue of 700 cats from a hoarding situation in Florida:

“It broke my heart to hear about those cats in such terrible conditions and I thank the HSUS so much for recuing them. I hope they get good homes. Thank you the HSUS for caring so much for animals.” –Renee S. Fox-Turbush

Our efforts to reunite animals with their owners in disaster regions also inspired you:

Continue reading "Talk Back: Smithfield’s Record Profits and Our Animal Rescues" »

June 20, 2011

On Animal Planet Tonight: Pulling Back the Curtain on Captive Hunting

In The Bond, I point a few fingers at the folks who stand in the way of animal protection. Sure, sometimes it’s a few politicians, but generally they take their cue from special interest groups that make it their business to retard progress on animal welfare.

Of the groups I take aim at in the book, there is not one that is more of a hindrance to progress on its core set of issues than the National Rifle Association. That organization has an ideological commitment to the status quo, whether it’s defending the continued use of toxic lead shot ammunition, widespread predator killing, bear baiting, live pigeon shoots, hunting endangered species, and even captive hunts for mammals. It’s a long list.

Tonight, we’re firing back, and we’re pulling back the curtain on the captive hunting industry on Animal Planet. Imagine hand-raised, exotic animals such as antelopes or even endangered species living inside fenced enclosures, often fed at the same time and place each day so that they've come to trust people.

Now imagine a guide bringing customers to shoot these penned-in animals for hundreds or thousands of dollars, then mount their heads as trophies on their walls. Imagine that some of the animals are even drugged with tranquilizers to make them more tame. What would you call this barbaric business? Certainly anything but fair chase.

These are privately owned facilities that allow customers to pay top dollar to shoot exotic animals for guaranteed trophies. Many people have never heard of this cruel industry, even though it is shamefully flourishing at more than 1,000 ranches in more than two dozen states. Tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, Animal Planet will reveal new footage from an HSUS undercover investigation into captive hunting, where everything from an endangered addax antelope to a kangaroo have prices on their heads.

In "Animal Planet Investigates: Captive Hunting Exposed," you’ll follow two HSUS undercover investigators as they pose as hunters to visit captive hunts in Texas and New York. This special will show never-before-seen footage of what's really going on behind the fence at these operations, and the steps we're taking to stop it. (Click here to see a preview.)

Captive hunting is an activity for people who don't want to get their boots scuffed. It may have the look of hunting, but it’s a façade – with people dressed up as sportsmen carrying big checkbooks. The odds are so stacked against the animals that several operations offer "no kill, no pay" or "100 percent success rate" guarantees on their websites.

The only reason these operations are not banned is because of the NRA, Safari Club International and groups like them. It's past time to put the lid on canned hunts once and for all, and tonight’s presentation will give us much-needed momentum on the issue. Please tune in or set your recording devices and ask your friends to watch "Animal Planet Investigates: Captive Hunting Exposed" at 9 p.m. tonight (June 20). You can also RSVP to our Facebook event, and make sure to check out HSUS' Wildlife Abuse Campaign to stay up-to-date on everything we're doing to battle captive hunts.

P.S. You can also take action on captive hunts here.

June 17, 2011

Smithfield Profits Soar as its Sows Suffer, Despite Company’s Pledge

Like many animal protection advocates, I was heartened when Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—announced in 2007 that it would phase out its use of gestation crates to confine breeding sows. At the time, the company stated it’d be rid of these cruel crates by 2017 at its company-owned facilities.

The self-imposed timeframe for getting rid of these inhumane contraptions—which virtually immobilize sows for their entire lives—was longer than I’d hoped for. That sows would continue being crammed into tiny metal crates no wider than their bodies (preventing the animals from even turning around) for another decade was difficult to accept. But it was the first time a major pork producer made such a commitment, and we applauded the company for its decision to move in a positive direction. We knew the decision could affect the lives of many future generations of breeding sows.

Then, in 2009, Smithfield put a “pause” on its commitment following an economic downturn. In a correspondence I had with Smithfield CEO C. Larry Pope at the time, I stated that while we were disappointed with the “pause,” we hoped Smithfield would set a new timeline for meeting its commitment. Pope ensured me that the company would do that just, writing, “I can confidently say…that once we see a recovery I will indeed set a timeline to complete this [phase-out] process.” (Read the full letter here.)

In 2010, an HSUS undercover investigation at a Smithfield subsidiary in Virginia found breeding sows who had bitten the bars of their crates until their mouths bled, others with injuries and open sores from the crates, and prematurely born piglets falling through the slats of the floor into manure pits—underscoring why these crates are fundamentally inhumane.

Yesterday, The Virginian-Pilot (Smithfield’s hometown newspaper) ran an article about Smithfield having posted “record profits” for its latest fiscal year. Smithfield is nearly three-quarters of a century old, and it made more profits this year than in any previous year. Mr. Pope, it is time to fulfill your commitment and get the crate ban back on track.

Smithfield’s own animal welfare advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin, says that Smithfield needs to quicken the conversion, further noting that “I also feel very strongly that we've got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go."

I agree. If you do too, please let Smithfield know.

P.S. Also, tune in or set your TV to record this Monday, June 20 at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, when Animal Planet will reveal new footage from an HSUS undercover investigation into captive hunting. This barbaric business allows trophy seekers to shoot tame, exotic animals inside fenced enclosures, everything from an endangered antelope to a kangaroo.