May 2014 Blog Home July 2014


19 posts from June 2014


June 14, 2014

Poached Poodle or Baked Bichon?

This week, Peter Li, China specialist with Humane Society International (HSI), arrived in Yulin in China’s Guangxi province – a city that is about to host an infamous annual event where thousands of dogs are slaughtered for meat. He found the town uneasy and alert to growing concerns at home and abroad about this culinary monstrosity. All signs in restaurants advertising dog meat have been removed and dishes featuring dog meat have been taken off the menu. A slaughterhouse Peter visited had no dogs around, although there was evidence of dog slaughter, principally in the form of hair left behind after the clean-up operation.

Yulin dogs
Small cages packed with frightened dogs are arriving in Yulin, China, for the dog meat festival. Sign this petition to express your outrage.
Photo: Humane Society International

“Local authorities,” Peter wrote, “are under tremendous pressure…activists and journalists are converging in Yulin from across the country.”

It’s better than it was in 2012, when the killing was all out in the open and the streets of Yulin were painted red with the blood of dogs. Thousands of dogs crammed in cages and transported over great distances arrived at the Yulin dog meat festival that year– traumatized, sick, exhausted, hungry and dying. In the end, they were bludgeoned to death, in front of other dogs.

Although the festival is still slated to take place, there has been a change in attitude, particularly among the public and Chinese media, and it’s got the dog meat traders and the authorities in Yulin on the defensive.  A lot of that is due to the work being done by HSI partner groups on the ground in China such as Vshine, Shoushan of Guangdong, Xi’An Xijin, Capital Animal Welfare Association and Animals Asia Foundation. 

Our partner groups have mobilized thousands of Chinese in a series of public protests held at key venues, sending a strong message to local authorities that brutality brings no tourists or economic profit—only shame and stigma.

Last year, 46,000 supporters from around the world signed our pledge against the cruelty, and our campaign continues to grow. This month alone, more than 100,000 people have signed on to express their outrage, and we’re letting authorities know the spotlight is on them. HSI partner groups have joined activists and protestors to rally against the festival, including at a recent event in Dalian in northeast China, where more than 1,000 supporters and dozens of dogs represented Vshine to protest the Yulin event. Yesterday, HSI partner groups in China held a protest in front of the mayor’s office in Yulin, and instantly images of the protest swept across Chinese media.  

Our partners met with Yulin's Food Safety Office and submitted an investigative report  on shocking violations by dog meat traders, including fake certificates issued in provinces thousands of miles north of Guangxi that illustrate how far the dogs must travel under terrible conditions.

If you haven’t already signed the petition, please do so here. Or you can contribute toward ending the brutal dog meat trade here.

The dog meat festival culminates on June 21 in Yulin, much to the horror of dog lovers in China and the world over. Small cages packed with frightened dogs, carried on the backs of motorcycles, are already arriving in the city. But we can also confront this reality knowing that Peter and HSI and our friends in China are there to bear witness, to ensure that international attention remains focused on Yulin, and to continue our efforts to convince Chinese authorities that this barbaric trade in dog meat has to stop once and for all.

The HSUS and HSI want the dog meat trade ended in China and in any other place where it finds any favor, whether out in the open at a festival or in some dark, dingy corner. 

June 12, 2014

Coyote Ugly – the Violent Sequel

On a frigid winter day in Michigan, a hunter shoots a coyote three or four times, gravely wounding the animal. Gasping for life, the poor creature lays prone, bleeding in the snow. The hunting ethic calls for an additional shot to put the animal out of his misery.

But this hunter didn’t get the memo.  Just for sport, he unleashes a pack of hounds to attack the coyote. The dogs then shred the defenseless coyote as the hunter presses them to continue the attack. It’s tough stuff for anyone to watch, even someone like me who has had to look at thousands of hours of animal cruelty video footage during my two decades at The HSUS. In this case, the hunter let this entire horror play out in front of a child, thinking again that it was all some sort of enjoyable or educational experience.

Today, Mlive.com reporter John Barnes publicly exposed this cruelty, and The Humane Society of the United States is calling attention to the egregious practice of hound hunting of mammals and this unbelievable instance of wanton depravity. We are releasing this video in the hopes that exposing these grievous acts of animal cruelty will result in the prosecution of the perpetrator.

Any decent-minded person agrees that purposely wounding a wild animal so that it can be tortured by a pack of dogs is a blood sport, akin to animal fighting.  It should be illegal, and the people who do it should be held accountable.

There are conflicting views about coyotes. Some people label them as “varmints” and can only see coyotes as wily, voracious competitors for human food sources. Many others recognize that they are closely related to dogs and play a vital role in ecosystems, especially in controlling rodent populations. Because coyotes prey on skunks and raccoons, they indirectly benefit other species such as ground-nesting birds, promoting biological diversity and ecosystem health.

Today, hounding for coyotes is allowed in Michigan. In Wisconsin, it’s also allowed for coyotes and for wolves.  And if we don’t succeed on ballot measures to protect wolves in Michigan in November – an issue The HSUS has helped place on the ballot in order to prevent this very sort of cruelty – hounding for wolves may be coming to the Wolverine State soon. This is the type of cruelty the politicians in Lansing and the unelected political appointees at the Natural Resources Commission could allow if they get their way and prevent the voters from having a say on wolf hunting.

This conduct should have no place in a civil society, and we should all be on our guard against it. And today in Michigan, prosecutors should act with haste. 

June 11, 2014

URGENT ACTION: Need Your Help to Prevent Horse Slaughter in the U.S.

I need you to make a phone call today to your U.S. Representative in Washington, D.C.  Please call the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121 and urge your Member of Congress to vote “NO” on any amendments that would promote horse slaughter for human consumption.  Specifically, you can say you oppose the “Mullin” amendments and any others to open up horse slaughter plants.

HORSE_SLAUGHTER
Take action now to stop horse slaughter in the United States.
Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Recently, I reported that the House and Senate Appropriations committees included a provision defunding horse slaughter on U.S. soil in their pending FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bills. This is the same provision that Congress enacted as part of its final FY14 Omnibus Appropriations bill. 

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: “killer buyers” purchase young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. Americans do not consume horse meat, and our nation’s limited agency resources and inspectors should not be diverted from the important current duties of protecting the food supply for U.S. consumers.

The votes are expected early this afternoon. Please call right away and please spread the word to other animal-friendly advocates throughout the nation. The vote is expected to be close, so your involvement is especially important and critical.

Click here to take action now.

June 10, 2014

Feds Must Lead on Lead

In 1991, to his great credit, President George H.W. Bush banned the use of lead ammunition in waterfowl hunting by federal rule, despite predictions from the National Rifle Association and other organizations that the demise of duck and goose hunting was imminent. Now, 23 years after the ban went into effect, we can see that the wild-eyed predictions were not prophetic, but imaginary.  Waterfowl hunting remains a popular activity throughout much of the nation, and countless hunters have readily made the switch to steel, copper, bismuth and other forms of less toxic ammunition.

Mourning dove
Mourning doves consume lead shot that they find on the ground. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals die from lead poisoning.
Photo: iStockphoto

A quarter century later, there have been additional, practical developments in the firearms and ammunitions industry, and lead-free ammunition is not only available and affordable, but it’s really the only responsible ammunition to use if you’re a hunter.

Today a group of rank-and-file sportsmen and The HSUS, along with 11 other animal protection and wildlife conservation groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, jointly petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to require the use of nontoxic ammunition when discharging a firearm on the more than 160 million acres of federal lands managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals – from more than 130 species – die from lead poisoning, either by ingesting lead shot or fragments directly or by feeding on prey contaminated with fragments of lead ammunition. 

Lead ammunition fragments upon impact, making it nearly impossible to remove completely from meat, which makes it a public health threat to consumers, too. In children, lead exposure can cause lower IQ, learning disabilities, stunted growth, kidney damage and attention deficit disorder. Adults are less sensitive to the effects of lead and absorb less into their bodies, but can experience potential health effects, including hearing loss, high blood pressure and infertility.

Last year, California became the very first state to enact legislation that will phase out the use of lead ammunition used for the taking of wildlife. The U.S. Army has also taken steps to eliminate its use by switching to “green bullets.”

Teddy Roosevelt is a patron saint in the hunting community, and he achieved that status not only because of his zest for the sport, but also for his foresighted leadership in the conservation of public lands. He probably did more to protect public lands in the United States than any other individual. And that ethic was built into some of the organizations he helped to found and build. But where is the leadership now in the hunting community?

The conservation-minded leaders within the hunting community are faint voices, and the loud and politically identifiable leaders are the anti-environmentalists and anti-conservationists at the NRA, Safari Club International, National Shooting Sports Foundation and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. They follow in the footsteps of Roosevelt in time only, but certainly not in spirit or deed. They treat conservation as an historical artifact, but not as a continuing commitment. They cast the idea of sacrifice and the common good as part of a scheme to erode their rights.

Because these special interest groups refuse to act responsibly by advocating for less toxic ammunition, the government must impose rules for the good of wildlife and public health. It must act, just as it did a quarter century ago when presented with abundant information about the immense collateral impact of scattering millions of pounds of toxic lead ammunition in the environment. When it’s left behind, by one means or another, lead finds its way into the stomachs and tissues of animals, debilitating, blinding, poisoning and often killing them. Its impact on wildlife continues long after the bullet has left the chamber.

It’s time for the feds to get the lead out and ban toxic lead ammunition on federal lands.

June 09, 2014

Cargill Puts Gestation Crates One Big Step Closer to Extinction

It was in 2007 – a year after Arizona voters approved Prop 204 (banning veal and gestation crates) and a year before Prop 2 in California (banning extreme confinement of calves, sows and laying hens) – when my colleague Paul Shapiro had his first meeting with representatives from Cargill. Cargill is one of the world’s biggest agribusiness firms and the country’s largest private corporation, and Paul was there to urge it to end its reliance on gestation crates in its pig production facilities.  Two years later, Cargill invited me to its Minneapolis headquarters and assembled its entire global animal agriculture team to discuss animal welfare. It was the sort of constructive discussion with agribusiness companies that had been lacking in years prior.

PIGS_IN_GESTATION_CRATES
More than 60 major global food retailers, including McDonald's and Burger King, have pledged to eliminate purchases of pork from producers who rely on gestation crates.
Photo: The HSUS

Yesterday, the long process of dialogue, which allowed our ideas to settle in and ultimately to seem eminently practical, produced a tremendous animal welfare outcome. Cargill announced, in a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that it would commit to converting its sow operations to group housing for its company-owned farms by 2015 and for its contract operations by 2017.  This is the fourth major announcement from the biggest names in pig production in the United States, with Smithfield Foods, Hormel and Tyson Foods recently announcing that they would take more decisive steps away from gestation crates. Major Canadian producers like Olymel and Maple Leaf have made similar announcements too.

These producer announcements come after a cascade of similar announcements from more than 60 major global food retailers – McDonald’s, Burger King, Kraft Foods, Kroger, Costco, Cracker Barrel, and others  – that they will eliminate their purchases of pork from producers who rely on these crates.

With nine U.S. states, and governments and industry groups in Australia, Canada, South Africa, and India recently committing to move away from gestation crates – and with the European Union already implementing the ban on continual confinement in gestation crates  and working to assure compliance among all 28 nations – we have a multinational rejection of this intensive, inhumane and extreme form of confinement of pigs. These advancements, and now Cargill’s announcement, make it clearer than ever that gestation crates will be relegated to the dustbin of agricultural history – where they belong.

The HSUS and our Humane Society International arm have led the fight against gestation crates in North America and throughout the world, and we are excited to be involved in yet another major announcement of progress on this front.  We still have work to do, but the trajectory of this debate is clear, and it’s obvious that the forces aligned against us have failed to succeed with their campaign to preserve the status quo.

We know there’s still a long way to go, but we should take a moment to welcome Cargill’s progress, and to celebrate another mile marker in our marathon run against gestation crates.  The finish line is starting to come in focus.

June 05, 2014

Answering the Haters of Animal Protection

Lobbyist and PR man Rick Berman has made a career of setting up phony front groups and flacking for the most disreputable of corporate causes. He has worked with consistent ineffectiveness against efforts to combat smoking, drunk driving, consumption of mercury-laced fish by pregnant moms and trans fats by people of any age, and so many other societally destructive enterprises. When Berman designed a misleading ad campaign for the Indoor Tanning Association promoting the supposed "health benefits" of indoor tanning, the Federal Trade Commission ordered the trade group to yank the illegal ads in 2010 and Berman recently lost yet another battle when the federal government decided to regulate tanning beds, as a way of preventing skin cancer. 

GESTATION_CRATES
Berman traveled to Canada to oppose efforts to end the use of gestation crates, with no success.
Photo: The HSUS

But he always seems to show the greatest enthusiasm when shilling for companies and individuals involved in the business of animal cruelty – also with little to show for it, except the fees collected by him and his for-profit PR operation, Berman and Company. He’s been barking out the talking points of the pork industry ever since The HSUS and Humane Society International launched a global campaign to end gestation crates. Earlier this year, he traveled to Canada to try to arrest efforts to end the use of crates, but the National Farm Animal Care Council didn’t seem to care or notice, and it recently committed to end the lifelong confinement of pigs in crates. He wrote a whiny piece about how the country made a mistake by agreeing to end this form of extreme confinement. No whiny pieces have as yet been published in India or the European Union, where the crates are also banned, or in Australia, where the pork industry is well on its way to eliminating the cruel cages—but we’re watching and waiting.

Berman fights efforts to crack down on malicious cruelty to animals (Measure 5 in North Dakota), puppy mills (Prop B in Missouri), confinement of farm animals (Prop 2 in California and Prop 204 in Arizona, as well as bills in Congress and state legislatures), clubbing of seals in Canada, and so much more. And he spends the millions of dollars he receives from corporations in the business of hurting animals in an effort to weaken The HSUS’ brand, principally by implying that we shouldn’t spend any money on trying to help reduce suffering for animals in agriculture, science, wildlife management, fashion, the wildlife trade, or any sector other than the sheltering of companion animals.

Here’s the truth about The HSUS and its affiliates. Collectively, we’re the number one provider of animal care and services in the United States and we do so with a dizzying array of domestic and international programs – from the work of our Animal Rescue Team to our rural veterinary programs to Pets for Life to our Animal Care Centers to our international street dog sterilization programs.

But it’s our advocacy programs that Berman’s patrons really don’t like, whether it’s our policy and enforcement work, our corporate reform efforts, or our work to shift attitudes and opinion among thought leaders and the public at large.

I’ve been reading Todd Purdum’s book, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, about the struggle for civil rights and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in Congress.  It is startling to read what civil rights activists endured – not only hate and lies and the denial of voting rights and other basic liberties, but also beatings, high-pressure fire hoses, arson, and even murder. These are different times with different struggles, but every push for progress in society faces its own obstacles.

The obstacles we face are less violent, but still plenty vicious. They come in the form of hate, lies, bullying and legislative obstruction, including continuing attempts to criminalize undercover investigations (ag-gag laws) and maneuvers to establish constitutional protections for factory farming practices and to protect foreign-owned agricultural companies in the United States.

Future historians who write about the triumph of animal protection ideals and policies probably won't even grant a footnote to the small-minded obstructionists, the Rick Bermans, the Forrest Lucases, and the Ted Nugents of the world, just as the vast majority of those who stood in the way of civil rights have long been forgotten to history, and for good reason. Yet it’s a still a wonder how anyone, in any era, could be so small-minded, so reactionary, and, because of their pecuniary or personal interests in seeing cruelty continue, so deadened to the suffering and pain of animals.

June 04, 2014

Dug In on Drug Use in Horse Racing Industry

The integrity of international cycling has been tarnished because of confirmed cases of doping at the highest rungs of the industry, with Lance Armstrong’s remarkable record nullified because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. We have seen a series of scandals in Major League baseball, with Barry Bonds, the greatest home run hitter of all time, having a permanent asterisk by his achievement because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Both sports, in response to scandal and embarrassment, set up rigorous standards to prevent doping and to catch and punish violators.

 

RACEHORSES
Racehorses in the United States are breaking down with unacceptable frequency and run many fewer races during their careers, principally because they are not as healthy as their predecessors.
Photo: iStockphoto

In horse racing, there is continuing scandal, but little embarrassment. There is widespread drugging of equine athletes, but leaders of many racing organizations are fiercely resisting reforms at the national level, even though the whole enterprise engages in interstate gambling only with the consent of Congress.

It is common for racehorses in the United States to be given drugs on race day to enhance their performance, which stands in sharp contrast to horse racing standards in Australia, the United Kingdom, and other major racing nations. In the United States, there is a patchwork of over three dozen horse racing jurisdictions, all with different medications permitted, varying levels of those medications allowed, different penalties for violations, different rules on which horses are tested for drugs, and different laboratories used to do the testing.  Without one single regulating body, racehorse owners and trainers who are barred from racing in one jurisdiction can simply move their business elsewhere. While racing without same-day medications is thriving around the globe, racehorses in the United States continue to be doped. They are breaking down with unacceptable frequency and run many fewer races during their careers, principally because they are not as healthy as their predecessors.

This is an especially hot topic right now: there are federal reform measures pending in both the House and Senate (H.R. 2012 from Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Penn., and S. 973 from Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.) to address the issue of drugged racehorses in the United States; there has been persistent reporting by the New York Times that reveals 24 horses die a week on American race tracks; and there is the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in the United States since 1978.

The HSUS is advocating for the passage of that legislation, known as the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013, which would designate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the independent anti-doping organization for interstate horse races. This is the same agency that is recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for the Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sports in the United States. USADA would create rules regarding the use of permitted and prohibited substances, and develop anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs.

The racing industry has failed to regulate itself and every day racehorses are paying for this with their lives. It’s time for the horse racing industry to be held to the same standards as other competitive sports. Today New York Times columnist Juliet Macur and yesterday Kentucky Derby-winning breeder Jim Squires, also in the Times, made that very point in calling the industry out and demanding it get behind real reform.

Any sports gaming industry that takes shortcuts on the welfare of its athletes and that cheats or misleads its customers will see an erosion in public support. Only when the racing industry takes the necessary steps to put the horses’ welfare first will it regain its standing, and only then can it hope to reverse what is widely viewed as an irreversible decline in attendance and the handle at tracks – to say nothing of deaths and injuries suffered by so many horses used by the industry.

We will be paying close attention to the running of the Belmont Stakes this weekend, breathless about the prospects of California Chrome. But even if all the athletes cross the finish line unharmed, and even if there is a new Triple Crown winner, horse racing will still be in the grips of persistent problems it has chosen to run away from.  At this point, the best we can say is that there are many good people within the industry, and they care about the welfare of horses, but that the leadership of the industry and too many rank-and-file owners, trainers and breeders are willing either to tolerate or participate in corrupt and unethical practices in order to win, place or show.

June 03, 2014

Putting a Societal Safety Cap on Animal Poisons

As collateral damage to our war on rodent “pests,” hundreds of children and thousands of pets are exposed to rodenticides each year, with many suffering serious illness or death – to say nothing of the slow, painful deaths suffered by the intended victims. In addition to being used extensively in and around our homes and businesses, these poisons are placed on federal lands, in state parks, in privately owned wildlife corridors, and in so many other open space areas, in order to kill mice, rats, ground squirrels and other small mammals who are thought to weaken levees, to infest structures, or to have some other adverse impact.

Mouse
The manufacturer of d-Con brand mouse and rat poisons last week announced an agreement with the EPA to end the sale of some of its most toxic poisons. Photo: Dick Randall

On Friday, we were excited to learn that Reckitt Benckiser Inc., the manufacturer of d-Con brand mouse and rat poisons – and the sole holdout against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements to make rat and mouse poisons safer— announced an agreement with the EPA to end the sale of some of its most toxic poisons. Under the agreement, d-Con can continue to sell the poisons – called second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, or SGARs – until the end of the year, although we urge retailers to remove these harmful products from their shelves immediately.

So many different wild animals are at risk from these poisons, including predatory birds and mammals who feed on so many rodents in order to survive.  Of course, these natural predators are the best rodenticides around, and when we poison them incidentally by setting out these toxins for other species, we engage in a self-defeating exercise.

For many years now, The HSUS’s wildlife department had been working with the EPA and non-government organizations to push for ending the use of SGARs and other toxins that hurt animals. Among other victories, we have fought for and won restrictions from the EPA on the use of Avitrol bird poison, a nervous system toxicant that was also dangerous to mammals and other animals. 

We are also working to end the use of the highly toxic predator poison, sodium cyanide, in M-44 devices, and Compound 1080 in livestock protection collars. Both are used to kill predators, mainly coyotes, around ranches and farms, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. In addition to the thousands of animals intentionally killed each year by M-44s—more than 14,000 in one year —M-44s kill non-target animals, including pets and endangered species, and injure human beings. Wildlife Services reported that M-44s killed 337 non-target victims in one year including 27 domestic dogs, two gray wolves, and hundreds of other species. Compound 1080, which is placed in a collar worn by sheep and goats so that an attacking coyote ingests a lethal dose, causes vomiting and convulsions (among other painful and distressing symptoms) and death from cardiac failure or respiratory arrest.

The USDA also kills millions of birds with DRC-1339, a slow-acting poison used on blackbirds, starlings, pigeons, crows, ravens, magpies and gulls, to address various kinds of conflicts. This toxin kills by damaging the kidneys and heart so that poisoned birds die slowly, usually over a period of one to three days.




RodenticideInfographic_Apr2014_NPSSome states are moving independently to restrict poisons.  Through an HSUS-led ballot initiative 15 years ago, California banned the use of sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 by the federal government or any other party.  And earlier this year, California announced a regulation to designate SGARs as restricted materials, effective July 1, 2014. This action will prevent the public from buying SGARs but allow exterminators and farmers to use them. A California Superior Court on May 12 denied the request from the maker of d-Con to delay implementation of the regulation so these products must be off California shelves after the end of this month.

Also in California, pending state legislation and City of Los Angeles action would keep all SGARs away from the most vulnerable potential victims of unintended rodenticide poisoning, by prohibiting the use of SGARs in all state and national parks, wildlife refuges and conservancies in the state, and by banning the use of SGARs in Los Angeles parks and environmentally sensitive areas. The HSUS’ Humane Lobby Day in California will feature a 90-minute workshop for all attendees with a panel of experts on SGARs to discuss science, history, case studies, and regulatory and outreach efforts. It’s not too late to sign up and join us in Sacramento on June 11th.

We must see an end to the era of widespread poisoning and usher in a new model of wildlife management that allows society to address conflicts, but not in a way that leaves a trail of victims up and down the length of the entire ecological food chain. 

June 02, 2014

Ending Tyranny Against Animals

There are people whose lives and work dramatically affect the trajectory of history, and Mohandas K. Gandhi was surely among the biggest agents of change in the last century. He helped to usher in an end to colonialism, to drive the spread of democracy as a form of governance, and to stir the conscience of people throughout the world on issues ranging from prison reform to economic justice to animal protection.

On Saturday, we felt the presence of Gandhi’s ideas and celebrated his continuing influence today – more than 60 years after his death – at the unveiling and dedication of a life-size statue of him within view of Manhattan, in the small New Jersey city of Secaucus.  The HSUS co-hosted the event at the Sadhu Vaswani Center of New Jersey.  Two federal lawmakers – Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Frank Pascrell, D-N.J., both leading animal protection advocates – joined the ceremony and offered remarks.

Vaswani quote
Photo: Kathleen Schatzmann

The Rev. Dada Vaswani, at the age of 95 years, gave a deeply moving keynote speech about the father of the nation of India, noting that “Mahatma Gandhi was born in India, but he belonged to all of humanity.”  The Rev. Vaswani devoted a large share of his speech to the systemic mistreatment of animals, noting that we as a society are continuing to engage in a “tyranny” against animals, especially in the form of the institutionalized cruelty of factory farms.

Gandhi never sidestepped the question of animal cruelty.  And his work reminds us that the principles of justice and decency are indivisible.  That same fire inside him that burned so hot against colonialism and poverty also propelled his work against animal abuse and so many other injustices.

There were so many occasions when even Gandhi’s allies told him that the cause of disassembling British rule was impossible.  It was impossible only until it was inevitable.

That’s the way I feel about animal cruelty.  How can rational people defend clubbing seals for their fur when we can keep ourselves warm with plenty of other garments?  How can they tolerate testing on helpless animals for cosmetics when so many companies already market their products without resorting to animal tests?  And how can people throughout the world stage fights between animals when we humans can choose so many other forms of entertainment that do not leave behind the battered bodies of animals?

For me, this weekend’s event was a reminder of the strong Indian traditions of compassion and mercy for animals and the impactful life of one great Indian leader.  But it was also a reminder that great causes require not only leaders but mass struggle and determination, and if those causes are right and the adherents resolute, they cannot be forever contained or denied.  Right and decency will triumph, as the Rev. Vaswani noted, as past movements for the rights of man, the end of slavery, and suffrage for women have shown.  One day, the end to all forms of animal cruelty will be added to that list.