There are challenges all around us, but there is also unmistakable progress in our movement. Just take the gains that have been secured today, on Friday, February 12th, as an example. We are seeing progress across the country, and also in the Americas, across the wide range of issues we work on – strengthening standards against using wild animals in circuses, cracking down on puppy mills, winning in the courts to tamp down abuses related to factory farming, enacting anti-cruelty laws throughout the world, and protecting habitat for wildlife.
- The Minneapolis City Council today voted unanimously to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants in circuses and traveling shows. Bullhooks, which resemble fireplace pokers, are used by trainers to strike, jab, prod, pull, and hook sensitive spots on an elephant’s body. They instill fear in these large and magnificent creatures so they will perform tricks on command. “Bullhooks are cruel, and the public is clearly no longer willing to tolerate abuse or mistreatment of elephants, whether it happens in sight or behind the scenes,” said Council Member Cam Gordon who offered the measure. Minneapolis now joins 50 other U.S. cities that have protections for captive elephants, including 12 that have banned bullhooks.
- Last night, Tempe Arizona became the 120th locality in the nation to ban the sale of puppies in pet stores, unless they come from shelters or rescues. After the city of Phoenix successfully passed a similar ordinance in 2014, Tempe animal advocates contacted City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby to ask her to introduce a similar ordinance in Tempe. Both Phoenix and Tempe suffer from an abundance of homeless dogs, a problem made worse by the influx of puppies brought into the state for resale in pet stores. Knowing that the vast majority of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, Kuby put together a working group to research the issue exhaustively, while local advocates gathered complaints about sick puppies sold by pet stores and the heartbreak and expense that resulted. The ordinance passed unanimously.
- This afternoon we got news out of Minnesota concerning our ongoing campaign against the cruel confinement of pigs in gestation crates. A state court issued a ruling allowing a lawsuit filed by neighbors of a massive, new, almost–4,000-pig animal factory to go to trial later this year. The lawsuit, filed by HSUS attorneys on behalf of HSUS members and other victims, claims that the staggering animal waste from this facility emits sickening fumes, and constitutes a legal nuisance to the surrounding community. It’s one more example of how cruel confinement practices have far-reaching impacts on animals, consumers, the environment, and rural communities, and why consumers are increasingly demanding an end to these inhumane and outmoded practices.
- The President of Honduras signed the Animal Welfare and Protection Law. After publication in the official newspaper it will be enacted within six months. The law prohibits dog fighting and contains specific anti-cruelty provisions that makes intentional mistreatment of animals a crime punishable by prison time (three to five years). Additionally, the law includes provisions for companion, wildlife, and farm animals. Humane Society International has started to collaborate with organizations and government institutions to help provide the necessary resources to implement the legislation.
- Using the Antiquities Act, President Obama protected “1.8 million acres of spectacular landscapes, fragile wildlife habitat, unique historic resources, and important cultural sites. The three designations connect Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest, and 15 wilderness areas previously designated by Congress, creating a series of protected lands stretching hundreds of miles.” It was 20 years ago that I worked with several environmental leaders and with Senator Dianne Feinstein to pass the California Desert Protection Act, protecting eight million acres of the desert. Today’s executive action by the President binds these massive public land holdings together to strengthen protections for wildlife. My congratulations to Senator Feinstein for pushing for these critical protections and for urging President Obama to take action.
I often think of gains like these as a tonic for those of us who are alert to the suffering of animals. It’s so hard to know of the abuses that occur, but it’s so uplifting to know that together we are making a difference to turn around these problems, one by one.