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December 18, 2014

Our Most Popular Videos of 2014

I like to make a logical case for animal protection, because I believe that our work is an extension of anti-cruelty principles that are so well-established in our society. So much of what is done to animals is wrong, and it defies the norms of a civil society. From dogfighting to factory farming, the people and institutions involved in these practices are so often causing trouble for people and the broader society, along with animals.

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Our videos help create positive change for animals like Sasha (above) who was rescued from deplorable conditions and has restarted a new life as Zoey. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

But we’re fortunate in that there’s also a powerful visual and storytelling component to our work, not only because animals are majestic and beautiful and enticing, but also because their plight is often so tragic and gripping. It can stir the conscience of people, and compel them to act.

Within the non-profit sector, The HSUS was one of the first organizations to invest in video, and our video.humanesociety.org platform is replenished with original video almost every day. Our team of videographers and photographers uses video to drive our campaigns, as with the Great Crate Challenge to increase awareness about cruel gestation crates. They often accompany our Animal Rescue Team or our veterinary services program on their deployments, as with Sasha (renamed Zoey) who was rescued along with 60 other animals from a property in Mississippi that was a blend of a puppy mill and a hoarding operation. Our gifted teams take reams of footage from our investigations unit and turn them into engaging stories, as they did with our Catelli Brothers veal calf and Iron Maiden gestation crate investigations. And they also celebrate animals and their place in the natural world and in society, as with Lil Bub, a former stray cat who became an Internet celebrity, or the work of our Humane Wildlife Services program.

Here are the 10 most viewed videos from The HSUS in 2014 – a refresher on some of the amazing work done by our team and enabled by your support.

1. The Great Crate Challenge

2. Meet Lil Bub, Internet Cat Sensation

3. Momma Fox and Her Seven Babies Have Left the Building 

4. HSUS Investigation of Catelli Bros. Calf Slaughterhouse in Shrewsbury, New Jersey

5. Broken leg, Mended Spirit: What Became of Sasha

6. More than 180 Animals Rescued From Arkansas Puppy Mill

7. Fifty Dogs Rescued From Suspected Dogfighting Operation in Sevier County, Tennessee

8. Pigs Suffer at Iron Maiden Farms in Owensboro, Kentucky 

9. 367 Rescued Dogs 365 Days Later

10. Actress Laura Marano Promotes Meatless Monday 

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Which one of these videos is your favorite? Leave a comment on my Facebook page.

December 16, 2014

A Wrap-Up on Congress and Its Work on Animals in 2014

The U.S. Congress wrapped up its work on the Farm Bill in early 2014, and in the end we saw two very good outcomes in that package: an upgrade to the federal law against animal fighting to make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight, and a nixing of the King amendment, which posed an enterprise-level threat to animal protection laws. But House Republican leaders denied us opportunities to get a vote on several items that were appropriate fits for the Farm Bill and that had broad, bipartisan support: the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, to strengthen current federal law and combat the cruel practice of soring of Tennessee Walking Horses; the Egg Production Inspection Act Amendments of 2013, to set a minimum standard for space and enrichments for laying hens (to be phased in over time); and the SAFE Act, to stop the slaughter of American horses at home or abroad. 

Very significantly, Congress did renew its ban on horse slaughter inspections, so the critical policy of blocking horse slaughter plants from setting up shop on U.S. soil will continue through the current fiscal year. It was a tough fight, and we are grateful to so many lawmakers of both parties for standing tall on this issue. But what was really an abrogation of duty, and a thwarting of the will of both the electorate and that of so many lawmakers of both parties, was inaction on the anti-soring bill.  This legislation had 60 Senate cosponsors and 308 in the House – truly, an unprecedented level of support. Republican leaders should have brought it up for debate and a vote. What’s more, Congress’s failure to act on the egg industry reform bill – to ban barren battery cages – is yet another example of the grip that agribusiness interest groups have on Congress. This was a sensible bill supported by the affected agriculture industry, but the pork and cattle industries opposed it because they want no farm animal welfare standards enshrined in the law.

Here’s my rundown of the top areas in which Congress did take steps to help and protect animals in 2014 (the second year of a two-year Congress):

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Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS

Authorizing Legislation

Despite huge levels of bipartisan support for a series of animal protection measures, including horse slaughter and egg industry reform, Congress took action only on a few items, including animal fighting, veterinary assistance to animals in remote areas, and Defense Department work on wildlife trafficking. Some key animal protection reforms were enacted, including:

  • Animal Fighting Spectators – Via the Farm Bill, Congress enacted legislation to establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for knowingly bringing a minor to such fights.
  • Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act – Congress enacted legislation to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport, administer, and dispense controlled substances outside of their registered locations to ensure that they can provide proper care to animal patients in rural or remote areas, including pets in disasters, farm animals, and wildlife.
  • Ivory and Wildlife Trafficking – The National Defense Authorization Act, now awaiting the President’s signature into law, contains a Senate provision adding authority for the Department of Defense to partner with civilian law enforcement on joint task forces to combat wildlife trafficking.
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Photo: Alamy

Playing Defense

Congress fended off several measures that would have been catastrophic for animals:

  • King Amendment – The final Farm Bill signed into law in February did not include the dangerous King amendment, which aimed to gut state laws protecting farm animals. Nearly 200 Members of Congress publicly opposed this sweeping attack on states’ rights and the welfare of animals, joined by more than 300 organizations, newspapers, and other officials (see full list). 
  • Sportsmen’s Act – This package of harmful bills was defeated in the Senate on a procedural vote. The Sportsmen’s Act would have carved out a loophole in the law for wealthy hunters to import sport-hunted trophies of threatened polar bears, opened sensitive federal lands to sport hunting and trapping, and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect wildlife, habitat, and people from lead poisoning through exposure to toxic ammunition (but note that Congress subsequently enacted a bad provision on lead in the omnibus spending bill approved last week). 
  • Ivory/Wildlife Trafficking – Harmful language that had been part of the House Interior Appropriations bill – to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from cracking down on the illicit trade in elephant ivory – was kept out of the final FY15 omnibus spending bill. We hope this will provide some relief for many imperiled species by curbing the illegal trade in wildlife parts that has become a source of cash to finance terrorist networks and transnational organized crime.
  • Otters – Language sought by commercial fisheries and the Department of Defense, to provide an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act that would allow them to harm sea otters off the southern California coast, was kept out of the final National Defense Authorization Act.
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Ruthanne Johnson/The HSUS

Spending

Some key successes were tucked in the FY15 omnibus spending bill that provides funding for federal departments and is expected to be signed into law this week:

  • Horse Slaughter – The omnibus contains a provision to maintain a prohibition on the use of federal funding for inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively making it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption in this country. This language was initially recommended by the President in his FY15 budget request and subsequently adopted by the House and Senate appropriations committees earlier this year. Combined with the announcement from the European Union last week that it will ban the import of horsemeat from Mexico, this is a major one-two punch against the North American horse slaughter industry.
  • Wildlife Trafficking – The omnibus dedicates $55 million to combat wildlife trafficking, with at least $10 million of that directed to programs to protect rhinos from being poached for their horns, and it prevents the United States from assisting certain countries and military groups if they are found to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking. The Senate committee reports accompanying the appropriations bills for the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security also spoke of the seriousness of this problem and directed those agencies to report back on their actions to address it.
  • Wild Horses – The omnibus includes language to encourage the Bureau of Land Management to consider new, more humane methods of wild horse population management, including $1 million for a related study, so that the agency can move beyond its current inhumane and costly system of round-ups and long-term penning. It also contains language prohibiting the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros for human consumption.
  • Animal Welfare Enforcement – The omnibus sustained funding levels for USDA enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal animal fighting law, as well as for programs to address the needs of animals in disasters and to incentivize veterinarians to practice in rural and inner-city areas and to apply for USDA inspection positions.  
  • Alternatives to Animal Testing – The Committee Report accompanying the House Interior Appropriations bill contained language encouraging continued development of non-animal alternatives for chemical testing.
  • Captive Marine Mammals – The omnibus retained a House-approved floor amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill directing USDA to study the effects of captivity on marine mammals and finalize a much-needed upgrade of its Animal Welfare Act regulations for captive orcas and cetaceans that has been languishing for nearly 20 years, so these rules will better address the animals’ physical and behavioral needs. 

The biggest setbacks include a provision that seeks to deny the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the content of lead ammunition, language to interfere with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting the sage grouse as an endangered species, and provisions to prevent USDA from trying to reform the corrupt beef check-off program that finances agribusiness lobbying against animal welfare improvements or to regulate animal waste as a greenhouse gas. We must redouble our efforts to correct these problems in the new Congress.

Despite the polarized environment, and what many characterized as the least productive Congress of all time, there were some major gains for animals, and a few key setbacks. We are so grateful for the determined and supportive efforts of hundreds of lawmakers – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- who want to see our nation do better on animal protection. We celebrate the victories and are committed to staying active in this arena for the long haul, no matter who is in charge. Most importantly, we ask the American people to help us hold their lawmakers accountable on animal issues so we can achieve greater progress in the future. 

December 15, 2014

HSUS' Top Transformational Results of 2014

At The HSUS and Humane Society International, our most important measure is driving positive change on the biggest issues for animals in the United States and abroad. We take on the tough fights, and we so appreciate your steadfast support for our work. Today, I recount our 10 biggest gains of the year. Each gain often constitutes a whole series of wins that drive movement in a major sector of animal use. Please take stock of these gains and celebrate them with us, knowing that we are committed to redoubling our efforts in 2015.

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Photo: Alex Gallardo/For The HSUS

Strengthening the U.S. Anti-Cruelty Framework: South Dakota became the 50th state to adopt felony-level penalties for animal cruelty, capping our 25-year campaign to establish strong penalties for malicious cruelty in every state. We helped to pass federal legislation to make it a crime to attend, or bring a child to, a dogfight or cockfight. In a critical defensive maneuver, we stripped the King amendment from the Farm Bill, protecting a wide variety of state laws that could have been overturned. We helped persuade a federal appellate court to overturn a lower court ruling and affirm the constitutionality of the federal animal crush video law passed in 2010. And we helped persuade the FBI to start tracking animal cruelty crimes on a federal level, making it easier to apprehend animal abusers and prevent past abusers from owning animals in future.

Phasing out Gestation Crates Globally:  This year, Australia and Canada made commitments to begin phasing out their use of sow gestation crates, Brazil’s largest pork producer agreed to move away from crates, and India shut down its only gestation crate facility. In the United States, we secured commitments from some of the nation’s largest pork producers, like Smithfield Foods, Cargill, Tyson, and Clemens, and from major retailers like Delhaize, to move away from gestation crates. We also helped Wendy’s, Safeway, SUPERVALU, Dunkin Donuts, Denny’s, Jack in the Box and other companies strengthen their gestation crate policies.

Horse Slaughter Suspension: We blocked three horse slaughter plants from opening on U.S. soil, by securing amendments to two massive spending bills in Congress to bar federal dollars for any horse slaughter inspections. We held up horse slaughter plants in the courts until we were able to lock down the issue in Congress. Meanwhile, the European Commission suspended imports of horsemeat from Mexico to the European Union (EU), after lobbying from The HSUS and HSI, and an audit that identified serious food safety issues and confirmed our allegations of rampant cruelty in the Mexico horsemeat trade.. Since 87 percent of the horses slaughtered in EU-certified plants in Mexico originate from the United States, this is perhaps the biggest blow to the entire North American horse slaughter industry since the shutdown of horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2007.

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Kevin Wolf/AP Images for The HSUS

New Puppy Mill Rules: After years of effort, we helped secure a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule prohibiting the import of puppies into the United States for resale, effectively stopping pet stores and brokers from importing tiny underage puppies for resale from foreign puppy mills. We fended off a case in federal court that tried to block last year's USDA rule to bring Internet sellers of puppy mill dogs under the agency’s regulatory oversight. We assisted with puppy mill raids across the nation and helped pass anti-puppy mill measures in Connecticut and in Minnesota. 

Massive Gains Against Chimp Experiments in U.S., Animal Testing Throughout the World: As a follow-up to legislation in Congress to fund the transfer of government-owned lab chimps to sanctuaries, Merck & Co. ended its experiments on chimpanzees. We persuaded India to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients, and the import of cosmetics tested on animals overseas. With the European Union’s ban on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals coming into force last year, we’ve now created a 1.7 billion- people-strong cruelty-free cosmetics market. We helped China repeal its requirement that domestically-produced cosmetics be tested on animals.  In Europe,  our team worked through the REACH program to secure the gains that would save hundreds of thousands of animal lives. The National Institutes of Health ceased, in October, to fund research using dogs from Class B dealers and the USDA revoked the license of one of the remaining dealers, a long-sought goal.

Breaking Down Battery Cages: High Courts in two Indian states agreed to hear the case against battery cages. We also won a critical legal ruling to assure implementation in January 2015 of California’s laws banning the extreme confinement of farm animals and also the sale of eggs from hens kept in extreme confinement. We worked with Unilever on its historic commitment to stop the killing of male chicks by the egg industry. And we worked with  Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, to announce a new policy to cleanse its supply chain of pork, veal, and eggs from operations that confine animals in cages or crates.

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Photo: Keren Su/Alamy

WTO Srikes Blow Against Sealing in Canada: The World Trade Organization Appellate Body largely upheld the European Union’s ban on the trade in products of commercial seal hunts, which we helped achieve, to cut off demand for the Canadian seal slaughters. The ruling also established that animal welfare is a legitimate basis for nations to impose laws that restrict trade. Because of our successful efforts to close global markets for seal products, most sealers chose not to participate in the Canadian seal hunt again this year,

Clamping Down on Japanese Commercial Whaling in International Court: In a historic decision, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program violates the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling’s ban on commercial hunting. HSI was the incubator of this legal theory. A few months later, at the International Whaling Commission meeting, our team helped to defeat Japan’s proposal for coastal commercial whaling and to pass a resolution to codify the ICJ’s ruling.

Gains for Wolves: We scored two victories in our effort to halt the slaughter of wolves across the north of the country. In Michigan, we decisively won a ballot measure to stop the wolf hunt and another to remove hunting decisions from a pro-trophy hunting commission. In Wyoming, we helped secure a court ruling reinstating federal protections for the state’s gray wolves.

Ivory and Rhino Horn Bans: At our urging, the New York and New Jersey legislatures banned the sale of ivory – the first state laws of their kind. We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new rule, and stopped Congress from undermining that effort. In Vietnam, HSI’s public education program achieved a stunning 38 percent reduction in demand for rhino horn. We worked with federal lawmakers to allow increased collaboration among enforcement agencies on illicit trafficking activities, and to secure tens of millions in funding to curb poaching of elephants and rhinos and trafficking in their parts. 

We provided direct care to more than 100,000 animals this year through our animal rescue, veterinary, and animal care programs, and many others.  We also played defense, blocking ag-gag laws in almost a dozen states. 

In all of these battles, we required not only your steadfast support, but also your active participation.  Let's make 2015 an even bigger and better year for animal protection.

December 05, 2014

Science and Sentiment Say Wolf Trophy Hunting Doesn't Wash

If policy makers stick to their guns and continue allowing trophy hunters to kill wolves in six states in the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions, they will be defying both science and, generally speaking, the will of voters.

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Washington State University researchers found that shooting wolves indiscriminately may make things worse for farm animals, and for wolves. Photo: Alamy

Folks, the recent weeks of 2014 have brought us to a turning point. So let’s turn. It’s time to turn away from the past and catch up with the future in the way we manage predators in the wild.

The right decision now, after what we have learned, is to suspend trophy hunting and trapping programs for the small, recovering wolf populations just recently taken off the federal list of endangered species – with the knowledge that it’s the right thing to do on so many levels.

One compelling reason is science. Underlying the growing number of wolf hunts in the United States is the wrongheaded, but long-standing, belief that trophy hunting and trapping programs for wolves reduce the threat that wolves pose to cattle, sheep, and other free-ranging livestock.

Well, that theory is now in doubt. And it’s not just me who says so.

The first serious study of that theory has been released and it found just the opposite. When I say serious, I mean very serious science. Washington State University researchers dug into comprehensive statistics from 25 years of wolf “management” and found that shooting wolves indiscriminately may make things worse for farm animals. As well as for wolves.

That’s because when disrupted, wolf families adapt, move, split up, increase reproduction – and then they kill even more livestock.

Researchers found that shooting wolves indiscriminately reduces predation on cattle and sheep only when wolf populations are brought so low that, guess what, they end up protected again under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolf haters are having a hard time coping with the truth here. A spokeswoman for one Washington state group was quoted as criticizing the integrity of the 25-year statistical survey because it was sponsored by the state legislature.

Or here’s what a spokesman for Idaho’s wool growers told National Geographic: "The professor can say whatever he wants. We're not going to just let wolves run wild."

Well, folks, you can’t invoke science only when it suits you – as the trophy hunting lobby so often does. The science may not be the final word, but it’s an important set of facts to inform a final decision.

The other element to consider is our values: obviously, here we differ with the wool growers and the trophy hunters. But let’s face it, by all accounts, it appears their views are in the minority. The public wants more protection for wolves, in a world where we all are showing greater conscious consideration of animals.

In the first-ever plebiscite on the subject, voters in Michigan sided with wolves and against trophy hunting and trapping. Voters faced two separate votes on laws passed by the Legislature to permit wolf hunts, and both were repealed. The margins were overwhelming, 64-36 and 55-45, with one of the measures getting more than 1.8 million votes against wolf hunting, more votes than any of the statewide candidates for office received in their winning elections.

Let me add that Michigan has one of the most deeply rooted and publicly popular hunting traditions in the United States. But voters there, including hunters, understood that wolf haters were plain wrong – and that these ancient animals played a vital role in the wild ecosystem, and in fact were more valuable as a draw for tourists than as stuffed decorations in private trophy rooms. What’s more, nobody eats wolves, so the idea of killing them has no practical value, and responsible hunters don’t go for that, either.

Just as with the new science, there can be no quibbling with the meaning here.

The two pillars of good policy – independent and verified science and thoughtful electoral consensus – agree: hunting wolves is not acceptable to the public and makes life worse for ranchers who raise cattle and sheep. 

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December 04, 2014

Top Gains for HSI on the Global Stage in 2014

The HSUS has long taken on the toughest fights.  Our sister organization, Humane Society International – operating now in 20 nations -- is doing the same, and winning major campaigns and advancing our ideals throughout the world. Here are our top 10 accomplishments on the international stage for 2014 – showing the way on animal testing, factory farming, the trade in wildlife, and much more.

Ending Animal Testing for Cosmetics in India:

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Photo: iStockphoto

India joined the European Union and Israel in banning animal testing for cosmetics in its own labs, and closed its borders to newly animal-tested beauty products from abroad. This closes two key global market to cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients that have been tested on animals, representing 1.7 billion people.  Even China moved in the right direction in 2014, by revising its 20-year-old central cosmetics regulation to drop mandatory animal testing for most domestically manufactured cosmetic products. 

Global Movement Against Gestation Crates:

This was a huge year for the movement against gestation crates. Canada announced a phase-out of gestation crates, as did India, which shut down its only gestation crate facility for violating cruelty laws. BRF, Brazil’s largest pig producer, agreed in November to phase out the continual confinement of sows in gestation crates in both company-owned and contract farms. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA) signed formal agreements with the Brazilian Association of Pig Farmers (ABCS) and the European Union to support the transition to gestation-crate-free production systems in the country. Eurest, a leading food service provider in Mexico, and the Hyatt hotel chain in Mexico, both committed to eliminating gestation crates and battery cages from their pork and egg supply chains in the country by 2017.

Pushing WTO to Prohibit Trade in Seal Products:

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Photo: HSI

In May, the World Trade Organization, the international body that sets the rules of the road on global trade matters, upheld the European Union’s right to prohibit trade in the products of commercial seal hunts for public moral reasons based on animal welfare. Legal and political experts at HSI and The HSUS helped frame the legal arguments and provided video evidence during hearings to demonstrate the inherent cruelty of commercial sealing.  HSI drove passage of the 2009 regulation banning the imports, dealing a massive blow to the Canadian seal hunt.

 

Changing Animal Testing Regulations in Europe to Save Lives:

The European Union chemicals law, REACH, is being revised according to the following amendments brought forward by HSI: allowing exemptions for skin lethal dose tests, potentially sparing 15,000 or more rabbits or rats; replacing a wasteful animal test for reproductive toxicity, sparing up to 2.4 million rats; virtually eliminating rabbit eye and skin irritation testing through recognition of available alternatives, sparing approximately 21,000 rabbits; and paving the way for full replacement of mouse and guinea pig tests for skin allergy, potentially sparing as many as 218,000 animals.

International Court Calls for End to Japanese Whaling in the Southern Ocean:

Japan’s whaling activities in the Southern Ocean were dealt a huge blow in March when the International Court of Justice ruled that they are in breach of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling. At the International Whaling Commission meeting in Slovenia in September, nations voted resoundingly in favor of a resolution that scientific whaling must be held to a far higher standard of review and necessity. Japan has since been making efforts to resume whaling in the guise of “science” and “research” and recently advanced a new proposal.

Dramatically Reducing Rhino Horn Use in Vietnam:

We saw tremendous success in our rhino horn reduction campaign in Vietnam where HSI has been working hand-in-hand with the government. Rhino horn is used by people who believe it has medicinal properties. After one year, during which we partnered with women’s groups, children, university students, and scientists in Vietnam to spread the campaign messages, demand for rhino horn was reduced by 38 percent. In the United States, we passed legislation in New Jersey and New York to restrict the trade in ivory and rhino horn, as a means of helping elephants and rhinos in their native countries.

Working to End the Dog Meat Trade in China:

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Photo: AP Images for HSI

Since August 2014, nearly 7,000 dogs from more than 25 transport trucks were rescued and put into the care of local Chinese animal welfare organizations. Of the surviving dogs, more than three-quarters were quickly adopted by local Chinese residents who were compelled by the sad and well-publicized seizures. HSI has assisted in capacity building and support of the organizations in China leading this effort, and has directly funded the care of the remaining dogs awaiting adoption in China.

Helping Street Dogs:

During the 2014 Sochi Olympics, our team helped put a spotlight on the plight of street dogs in Russia and around the world. HSI learned of the government-hired extermination of street dogs leading up to the Olympic Games, and immediately reached out to the Russian government to offer humane and effective animal control alternatives. As a direct result of HSI efforts, dog culling was stopped in Mauritius and Dakha (Bangladesh) and we are conducting cutting edge street dog programs in Bhutan, India, and the Philippines and have launched or supported humane street dog management projects in Panama, Bolivia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, American Samoa, and Guam.

Ending Shark Finning Globally:

The Indian airline Jet Airways instituted a policy against the shipment of shark fins, joining a growing number of environmentally conscious airlines such as Emirates, Philippines Airlines, Korean Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Etihad Airways. China has seen a dramatic drop in shark-fin consumption with public awareness campaigns against the practice. The new CITES shark and ray listings took effect in September, and that means that the trade in those species including shark fins and manta ray gills will be strictly regulated on a global basis, thus significantly reducing the killing of a large portion of the millions of animals killed for this purpose. Hilton Worldwide announced it will stop serving shark fin dishes and stop accepting new orders for shark fins.

Working with International Banking Institutions to Adopt More Humane Policies in Europe:

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Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

We changed policies within international banking institutions, working towards an animal-friendly approach.  The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development incorporated animal welfare into its Social and Environmental Policy, requiring that “[c]lients involved in the farming, transport and slaughtering of animals for meat or by-products (e.g. milk, eggs, wool) will adopt and implement national regulatory requirements, relevant EU animal welfare standards and [Good International Practice], whichever is most stringent, in animal husbandry techniques.”

By no means is our work done in the United States – it is immensely challenging, and we fight on that field of battle every day. But we must address animal abuse and exploitation where it occurs, and that means operating on an international stage in our era of globalization. Your support for HSI is critical if we are to continue to make immense gains for animals throughout the world. 

November 26, 2014

Making Gains Against the World’s Biggest Spectacle of Animal Sacrifice

With our team on the ground, Humane Society International (HSI) and its partners are making pretty remarkable progress to halt the largest religious sacrifice spectacle in the world -- in the mountain nation of Nepal where nearly half a million animals could be hacked to death later this week.

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Buffaloes for sacrifice are collected in a pit at the site of the Gadhimai Festival in Nepal. Photo: Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for HSI

Participants in the sacrifice have been hauling and carrying water buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs, chicken, and pigeons to Nepal’s Bara district, just 100 miles outside the capital city of Kathmandu, for the Gadhimai festival.

This is how N.G. Jayasimha, who heads the HSI office in India, described the sacrifice in an op-ed this week for The Guardian: “One by one they have their roped heads yanked down, their kicking hind legs restrained, and then their heads sliced off with a machete. Others are so exhausted from travelling hundreds of miles to the festival without food or water, that they simply languish even as all around them buffaloes and goats are being decapitated. I have even seen calves trying to nuzzle comfort from the severed heads of their mothers lying on the ground.”

As Jayasimha goes on to write, the sights and sounds are unimaginable. Pools of blood, animals bellowing in pain and panic, wide-eyed children looking on, and devotees covered in animal blood.

The bloody spectacle has been repeated every five years for more than 250 years now, but surely it has no place in the 21st century.

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HSI board member Nanditha Krishna (left), and Manoj Gautam of Animal Welfare Network Nepal (right) try to convince Mangal Chaudhry, chief priest of the Gadhimai Temple. to stop the animal sacrifice. Photo: Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for HSI

Over the past months, HSI staff members, along with our partners, Animal Welfare Network Nepal and People for Animals in India, have adopted a multi-pronged approach to persuade the Nepalese and the Indian governments and religious leaders to stop the animal sacrifice and reduce the number of animals reaching the sacrificial site.

Estimating that 70 percent of the animals killed in Gadhimai are transported illegally across the border from neighboring India into Nepal, we successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of India on the issue. We won, and the high court issued an order directing the Government of India to stop animals being illegally transported across the border for sacrifice. The court also asked animal protection groups and others to devise an action plan to ensure the court order is implemented.

HSI worked with India’s Ministry of Home Affairs to issue a directive to the Indo-Nepal border forces, to stop and confiscate the animals, and to date 114 arrests have been made and more than 2,500 animals have been seized at the border, on their way to the festival. This is an incredible outcome given the long history of this spectacle.

The HSI/India team and its partners are working directly with the Department of Livestock Services in Nepal to build controlled zones and quarantine stations for each animal brought to the sacrifice. Our team has met with temple officials and the Nepal government, including a rare audience with Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, and members of parliament. We urged them to bring an end to the mass animal sacrifice at Gadhimai.

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Alokparna Sengupta (right) of HSI/India and Manoj Gautam of Animal Welfare Network Nepal talk to men taking buffaloes for sacrifice at the Gadhimai Festival. Photo: Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for HSI

We also requested that language promoting animal welfare and compassion towards all living creatures be added to Nepal’s constitution, similar to language in India’s constitution, and that legislation be introduced to tackle animal cruelty in the Kingdom.

We have a formidable group of people working for us, including HSI board member Dr Nanditha Krishna who has succeeded in banning animal sacrifice in 52 villages in India. Right now, in Gadhimai, our team is making one final attempt to persuade the temple priest to cancel the sacrifice. Meanwhile, our work to stop animals from getting to the sacrifice site in the first place continues full steam as Jayasimha and his team along with our partners patrol the India-Nepal border and the festival itself.

“It is a life-saving mission I know I must make,” Jayasimha wrote, “but I go back to Gadhimai full of dread and fear. I know it is going to be hard, but someone needs to help these animals.”

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Join HSI in the fight to protect animals around the world, from ending animal sacrifice to fighting puppy mills and the use of animals in research.

Ask Nepal to stop the Gadhimai sacrifice »

November 25, 2014

Brazil Adds Its Might to the Movement to End Gestation Crates

Brazil, the largest pork producer in Latin America, struck a body blow to inhumane sow gestation crates today with two major announcements. First, BRF, Brazil’s largest pork producer, announced that it will eliminate the lifelong confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates on company-owned and contract farms – a move expected to affect more than 300,000 animals. At the same time, the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply signed formal agreements with the Brazilian Association of Pig Farmers and the European Union (EU) to encourage the country’s pork producers to end the use of these pre-birthing crates. Under the agreements, Brazilian pork producers will be provided with research and training to facilitate their successful transition to more humane group housing systems.

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 HSI has been working for more than five years with pork producers, food retail companies, and the Brazilian government to shift away from gestation crates (above) and towards more humane group housing systems. Photo: The HSUS

The announcements by Brazil’s national government and by BRF, producer of the brands Sadia and Perdigão, come on the heels of 2014 announcements from other major pig-producing nations to phase out the crates.  The European Union’s ban on the continuous use of gestation crates came into effect in 2013. Australia’s phase-out ends in 2017, New Zealand’s ends next year, and Canada’s in 2024. The South African pork industry is considering a phase-out of crates by 2020.  This is nothing short of momentous movement in the global campaign to halt the use of crates, and The HSUS and Humane Society International have been catalysts for this action.

Gestation crates are barely larger than the animals’ bodies. Sows confined in them typically suffer from severe health problems, including infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, poor social interaction, lameness, and the psychological torment of being immobilized for months and years on end. Our team at HSI has been working for more than five years    with pork producers, food retail companies, and the government in Brazil - to shift away from gestation crates and towards more humane group housing systems.

HSI’s work in Latin America has already led Arcos Dorados, the largest McDonald’s franchisee in Latin America, to ask all of its pig suppliers in Latin America in April this year to present plans to promote group housing systems for breeding sows.

In August, Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, followed suit by committing to phase out crates throughout its global supply chain, including in Brazil. More than 60 multinational food companies – including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Sodexo, and Compass Group (GRSA in Brazil)—have agreed to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. Nine U.S. states have banned, or are phasing out the use of crates, and a bill is sitting on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s desk to ban them in the Garden State.

With every new corporation or country that turns away from crates, we get that much closer to the end of the era of extreme confinement of animals on factory farms.  Today’s move by global agricultural giant Brazil is a great cause for celebration, a symbol of hope, and a reminder of the universal appeal of our values of decency and compassion for all life.

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You can help end gestation crates too. Join us in this fight today! 

November 20, 2014

The Intersection of Gestation Crates and Presidential Politics

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces a threat to his brand of “straight talk” and “no nonsense” with the full-blown national controversy over his veto last year of a bill to ban gestation crates, and his apparent recent pledge to an Iowa pork producer to veto a revised version of that bill -- despite an extraordinary level of popular support for the measure in the state he was elected to serve. Last night, New Jersey native Jon Stewart focused on Christie and his inclination to again veto the legislation to ban the use of the two-foot-by-seven-foot immobilizing metal crates. You’ll be hard pressed to find a funnier and more cutting deconstruction of political maneuvering and posturing anywhere else on American television.

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An HSUS survey shows Republican caucus-goers are far more inclined to view Christie favorably if he signs the bill banning inhumane sow gestation crates. Photo: The HSUS

“My job is to stand up for the people of New Jersey and fight for them and that’s what I’m going to do regardless of the politics,” Christie says in one clip Stewart played to represent how the governor talks about his approach to policy making. In a second clip, the governor declares that he “always put the people of New Jersey and my oath ahead of petty personal politics.”

It’s the disconnect between that kind of talk and his actions on the gestation crate issue that’s causing the controversy for Christie – a chief executive who has a creditable record of signing pro-animal bills during his tenure, including measures to upgrade the state’s anti-cruelty law and to combat horse slaughter and the trade in ivory. Given that support for the gestation crate bill in New Jersey is as close to unanimous as it gets in American politics – with 93 percent of New Jersey voters favoring Senator Ray Lesniak’s bill – there’s just no compelling reason to veto the bill except for the perceived political assessment of how this issue plays in Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s top pig -producing state, with about a fifth of the nation’s pigs and an estimated one million sows in extreme confinement in gestation crates. But those numbers should not be confused with popular support, and The HSUS has released a survey that shows Republican caucus-goers are far more inclined to view Christie favorably than unfavorably if he signs the bill. 

Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad – who signed legislation to legalize mourning dove hunting after decades of protection for the song birds, signed an ag-gag bill into law two years ago, and is suing to strike down California’s ban on the sale of eggs from hens confined in small, barren battery cages – has urged Christie to veto the bill.  As the state’s top Republican, now entering his sixth term, Branstand’s endorsement is one of the most coveted in the state. 

In addition to Stewart’s riff, the pigs got an additional assist when Jessica Chastain, Stewart’s guest last night, was so moved by the gestation crate piece that she started talking about it and how cruel it is to keep the sows in confinement so severe that the animals cannot even turn around.

This morning the gestation crate legislation also got a boost from a major conservative voice for animal protection. Matthew Scully, a speechwriter for six Republican presidents and Republican nominees and a fan of Christie, wrote a 2000-word essay on the crates legislation for the conservative website, National Review Online, noting that “the governor of New Jersey is not a man to be pushed around” by the pork industry, and that he should sign the bill because it’s the right thing to do and is in his political interest. 

In his critically acclaimed book Dominion, Scully visited a pig factory farm in North Carolina, the second-largest pig -producing state, and that account remains one of the most moving narratives in contemporary writings about animal protection. Scully gave readers a feel for his powerful convictions and his observations in this piece where he calls cruelty as it is, regardless of who and how powerful the perpetrators are:  

Living creatures, every bit as intelligent and sensitive as dogs, lie trapped by the millions in a sunless hell of metal and concrete, for years unable to walk or turn around, afforded not even straw to lie on — because even that little kindness, like giving the pigs extra space, would throw off the miserly economics of the enterprise. All of this, we are emphatically assured, is right and necessary — not only for the sake of more cost-efficient production, holding down the all-important price of bacon, but also for the benefit of the animals themselves. Does anybody really believe this, even the people who insist that it is true?

You can help stand up for pigs who can’t turn around. If you live in New Jersey, contact Gov. Christie’s office today. If not, sign our petition to end the use of gestation crates.

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Watch Jon Stewart discuss Chris Christie's 'pig problem':

November 12, 2014

Virginia Pet Stores: Selling Puppies and a Pack of Lies

Our undercover investigations have proven time and time again that most pet stores purchase puppies from puppy mills. But that hasn’t stopped so many pet stores we’ve investigated from trying to deceive customers about the origin of the pups it sells. This year we sent an undercover investigator with a hidden camera into every pet store in Virginia we could find that sells puppies. Our researchers also traced the sources of more than 2,000 puppies shipped to Virginia pet stores over seven months of 2014. 

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This dirty, underweight boxer was photographed by USDA inspectors at the facility of Charlene and Darlene Koster in Kansas, which sells to Petland, one of the stores in Virginia found purchasing from puppy mills. Photo: USDA

The results of our investigation have only fortified our previous assessments. We found widespread deception and omissions -- all seemingly designed to provide false assurances or to dupe the public into buying expensive puppies from mills treating dogs deplorably.

Some of the most noteworthy findings:

  • A puppy in one store (Pet-Go-Round, Virginia Beach) was so sick that he was gasping for air and could barely stand: our investigator called law enforcement as soon as she left the store. The puppy had been shipped from a dealer in Missouri, the nation’s hotbed for mills.
  • One store (Family Pet, Chesapeake) told our investigator that they buy from a small breeder when really they buy from a Nebraskan with a long list of Animal Welfare Act violations.  That kennel was featured in our 101 Puppy Mills report along with other large-scale breeders that violate the minimal standards of care set by the federal government.
  • Another store (Dreamy Puppy in Chantilly) claims in online ads that it doesn’t buy from puppy mills, and its staff told us they get puppies only from “local breeders…small breeders in the area.” Yet we found that Dreamy Puppy received puppies from several notorious puppy mills in Arkansas and Missouri, including one that cited “.22 shot by owner” as its official form of euthanasia, and another that pleaded guilty to complicity in cruelty to animals charges last April.

Altogether, we found most of the stores purchasing from large breeders who have been cited for Animal Welfare Act violations, or major out-of-state brokers linked to puppy mills in the Midwest. Six of the pet stores had purchased puppies from puppy mills so substandard that we had identified them by name in our previous reports on problem puppy mills.  Most of the remaining stores refused to divulge much, if any, breeder information, apparently in violation of a Virginia law that requires them to post breeder information near each cage.

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USDA inspectors found many Animal Welfare Act violations at a facility owned by Judy and Jeffrey Gray in Missouri, including puppies with their legs dangling through wire flooring. This puppy mill sold a puppy to Savita Pets in Deltaville, Virginia. Photo: USDA

Our findings underscore what HSUS undercover investigations have proven time and time again, including our prior pet store investigations in New York, Chicago and Texas: the vast majority of pet stores are supplied by puppy mills, regardless of the assurances offered up by the stores’ sales teams.

Virginia has a strong law to regulate large-scale breeders in the state. This is a much-needed policy, but alone, it is incomplete.  The state needs to consider laws that even the playing field by ensuring that out-of-state substandard puppy mills can’t enter the same market. State lawmakers can address this problem by passing laws to require pet stores to purchase only from breeders that meet the same Virginia standards of care already on the books. The state should ask more of these pet stores and the breeders who supply them. 

Whether you’re in Virginia or any other state, you can help end the cycle of misery for dogs in puppy mills. Make the next member of your family a shelter pet, adopt from a rescue or find a responsible breeder whom you can visit in person and see first-hand how the dogs are treated. 

Take the pledge to help stop puppy mills»

November 07, 2014

REACHing Beyond Animal Testing

Our global #BeCrueltyFree campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics grows each day. Last month we celebrated a landmark move by India to close its borders to newly animal-tested cosmetics, becoming the first cruelty-free cosmetics market in South Asia. And our #BeCrueltyFree teams are on the ground in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States, working with lawmakers, regulators, and companies to make similar progress toward an end to cosmetics animal testing worldwide.

But we’re not stopping there. HSI and HSUS scientists and policy experts are also working behind-the-scenes with stakeholders in other product sectors — chemicals, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals — changing laws and regulations across the globe to replace decades-old animal tests with modern alternatives.

One of HSI’s top areas of focus has been on reforming Europe’s chemicals law, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals). REACH requires a variety of animal test data for upwards of 30,000 substances, which means horrific suffering from chemical poisoning and death for potentially millions of rats, mice, rabbits, and other creatures. But REACH also requires the use of animal testing alternatives where available, including measures to revise the law itself to reflect scientific progress on alternatives.

Back in 2012, HSI proposed substantial changes to REACH testing requirements to spare millions of animals while providing the same level of regulatory scrutiny of chemicals. Last week we celebrated a long overdue victory as the EU took steps to adopt several of HSI’s life-saving proposals into law. These include:

  • Allowing exemptions for skin lethal dose tests, potentially sparing 15,000 or more rabbits or rats.
  • Replacing a wasteful animal test for reproductive toxicity, sparing up to 2.4 million rats.
  • Virtually eliminating rabbit eye and skin irritation testing through recognition of available alternatives, sparing approximately 21,000 rabbits.
  • Paving the way for full replacement of mouse and guinea pig tests for skin allergy, potentially sparing as many as 218,000 animals.

But our work on REACH isn’t done yet — not until the EU adopts all available animal testing alternatives identified by HSI. You can help by taking action here.

Between 2010-12, we worked with European institutions and companies to revise testing requirements for pesticides, prior to which many redundant animal poisoning tests were required by law, subjecting 10,000 or more rodents, rabbits, dogs, and other animals to suffering and death for every new pesticide chemical registered for sale. Imagine row upon row of dogs in cages, forced to consume toxin-laced food every day for a year, growing sicker over time, until they are killed for dissection, or rabbits locked in neck restraints while a pesticide chemical is dripped into their eyes or on to the shaved skin on their backs. So archaic, so horrifying.

But our scientists successfully argued for deletion of the one-year dog test, for adoption of reconstructed human skin and other validated alternative methods in place of obsolete rabbit tests, and for nearly 100 other life-saving changes, which together have the potential to reduce pesticide animal testing by as much as half in Europe.

We have already had some success with Canadian and U.S. pesticide authorities, and our teams on the ground are actively engaged with regulators in Australia, Brazil, and India, and through international regulatory cooperation agreements, to update testing requirements to incorporate the most modern and humane testing tools.

In the near-term, these regulatory changes will save millions of gentle creatures from ever becoming “laboratory animals.” And as the toolbox of animal-free test methods continues to grow, the foundations we lay today will pave the way for closing the sad era of animal testing for cosmetics, pesticides, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.