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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. 

November 06, 2014

Black Rhinos and African Lions in the Crosshairs

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published notice that it has received import permit applications for two individuals who want to shoot critically endangered black rhinos in Namibia and then import the trophies into the United States. One of the permits was auctioned for $350,000 at a Dallas Safari Club event and went to Corey Knowlton, who is trophy hunting consultant and TV personality. Michael Luzich, a certified member of NRA’s “golden ring of freedom” which requires a minimum donation of $1 million, also filed an import permit application.

It’s one thing to hunt for food, but a different matter just to shoot an animal for his head. It’s an even more significant moral problem to shoot a survivor among a very small population of a critically endangered species. No matter how the trophy hunting crowd dresses it up, the greatest need of these animals is to stay alive. This means securing additional protections for them, including space to live and protections from poachers. For that reason, we’ll be opposing the granting of these permit applications.

But we will be supporting the effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has responded to our petition for listing, to establish federal Endangered Species Act protection for the African lion. There were about 75,000 African lions in 1980, according to the best estimates of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Now there are between 32,000 and 33,000, most concentrated in 10 areas in eastern and southern Africa, and they are subject to killing by poachers, ranchers, trophy hunters, and other traffickers in wildlife parts, in a part of the world that is seeing significant human population growth. That’s why it’s critical to limit human-caused killing of the lions, including for trophies and parts.

After a 90-day comment period, if the Service takes action, the African lion would be the last big cat to be added to the list of protected species. Our team has been working on this issue for nearly four years, and I vividly remember the 60 Minutes piece where ranchers were poisoning lions in their range in extraordinary numbers. With so many threats, the last thing the lions need, just as with rhinos, are wealthy Americans going over to kill them just for bragging rights and the heads.

Aren’t we beyond this, especially when it comes to some of the rarest and most charismatic species on the planet?

 

November 05, 2014

Staying the Course, No Matter the Obstacles

National, state, and local elections are obvious pivot points in the task of governing, with changes that voters usher in signaling small or large course corrections. With the Republicans’ second wave election in four years – interrupted by the reelection of a Democratic president two years ago – we are likely to see more suspicion about attempts to place limits on the mistreatment of animals. The HSUS and its political affiliate, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, enjoy broad bipartisan support for our values with the broad swath of American voters. But we generally meet with more skepticism from Republican lawmakers, who are critical of some forms of regulatory oversight and in a number of cases are closely allied with our political adversaries at the NRA, the Farm Bureau, and other animal-use industries. Indeed, in the last few years, we’ve seen vigorous efforts to pass so-called “ag-gag” bills and even measures to limit citizen initiative rights, among other forms of obstructionism.

We are big believers in making representative government work, and The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund have helped pass more than 1,000 new laws in the last decade to help animals at the state level. But it was our frustration with both obstinate lawmakers and general gridlock, on some of the tougher reforms that led The HSUS to pursue ballot measures in a vigorous way about a quarter century ago. When legislatures failed to adopt popular reforms, we turned to the initiative and referendum process as a safety valve. Since then, we’ve passed a wide range of measures, outlawing cockfighting, extreme confinement of animals on factory farms, inhumane and unsporting hunting and trapping methods, and other harmful practices in the two dozen or so states that allow reforms through direct democracy.

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Michigan voters soundly rejected the two laws enacted by the legislature proposing hunting season on wolves.

Yesterday, we saw major ballot measure battles on wildlife issues come to a vote in two states. The citizens of Michigan voted by wide margins last night to reject two laws enacted by the legislature proposing a hunting season on wolves. Both measures were expected to be close, but in the end voters soundly rejected Proposal 1 by a vote of 55 to 45 percent, and Proposal 2 by 64 to 36 percent. This means voters not only repealed a wolf hunting statute, but also repealed a measure that transfers authority to the Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting seasons on just about any protected species.

Unfortunately, Question 1 in Maine, which sought to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of bear hounding, baiting, and trapping, suffered a narrow defeat at the polls, by a vote of 52 to 48 percent. It was very difficult to overcome the active involvement and spending by the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which caused so much confusion about the alleged necessity of hunting methods already forbidden in a wide range of bear hunting states. It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign, and that involvement was grounded in fear and scare tactics. Frankly, it was deeply disconcerting to see the hand of government intrude in an election, and something you’d much more likely see in a corrupt, developing nation than in our democracy.

While it’s easy to plot a course of action when you win, it’s tougher to rebound from a loss. Several people have asked me today, what’s next in Maine?

I tell people all the time, that winning is exciting and energizing and it comes with great frequency here at The HSUS. But losing is inevitable and frankly necessary given that effective advocacy requires risk-taking for animal protection. We don’t just take on the easy fights. We take on the toughest challenges, and that means staying the course and never relenting.

There’s almost nothing in our work that comes easily, and very few things come quickly. My colleague Heidi Prescott has been laboring for 25 years to ban live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania. She and The HSUS got within a whisker of prevailing this year. But the pigeon-shooting crowd and every lawmaker must know by now, that we will continue until we succeed. Heidi has my full support in her quest to end live pigeon shoots.

That’s my attitude about trophy hunting of wolves, hounding and trapping of bears, extreme confinement of animals on factory farms, horse slaughter, and every other indignity and form of cruelty that animals endure. If we don’t persist, what future do these animals have?  We are the biggest force for reform, and it’s our duty not only to take risks but to show unusual determination and resolve.

So wave elections come and go, the major parties hand off power to one another, lawmakers try to help at times and at other times, to stand in the way. We are still here, and growing stronger through it all. When you support The HSUS, or take us on, you get effective action, but you are also getting unwavering resolve. No one in any state, after we face a setback, should ever expect us to go away. Join us in these fights, especially when the going is toughest.

October 24, 2014

Maine State Agency Pushes Ideology, Not Biology, In Quest to Defend Reckless Bear Killing Practices

We don’t expect everyone to agree with us in our fight to pass Question 1 in Maine to stop the cruel and unsporting practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. But we do expect a fair election and a government that respects the will of the people, rather than one that attempts impose its will on the people. The ballot initiative process was established as a constitutional right in half the states to be used precisely when obdurate state lawmakers and a governor’s state agencies failed to heed the will of the people.  It’s a safety valve, and it has driven essential reforms in our society, including on animal protection – where we’ve seen gains to outlaw cockfighting, extreme confinement of farm animals, and captive hunts.  And, of course, baiting, hounding, and trapping. 

What’s happening in Maine is a vivid case example of an overreaching, unethical involvement by the state in elections. Specifically, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) is engaged in full-throated electioneering against Question 1, and new documents that we’ve obtained reveal an agency that’s used the full range of its assets to influence the election. For months, the agency has been publicly proffering the notion that it’s only providing the indisputable conclusions of sound wildlife management, as if the answers are as clear as a scientist offering details about gravity or the speed of light. In fact, they’ve confused their ideology with biology, and are trying to pull a fast one on the public.

The emails that a Maine court forced the IF&W to release this week reveal that over a year ago the agency made a political decision to oppose Question 1, possibly after meeting with hunting lobbyists and the state’s governor. Since then, the agency has used the public’s money to wage a covert and deceptive political campaign against the ballot initiative. The emails show:

  • IF&W made a “major commitment” to defeating Question 1, spending countless hours of paid staff time on campaigning and even setting aside “a few staff people dedicated to working on” it.

  • The agency spent tens of thousands of dollars of public money on campaign materials and outside consultants.

  • Agency staff made public and private campaign appearances across the state on work time, including hand-in-hand collaboration with the official opposition campaign and key lobbyists representing hunting and trapping interests.
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The IF&W is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban the extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. Photo: Alamy

Indeed, IF&W has apparently also cracked down on dissenting viewpoints within its own staff cohort. In one email, IF&W wildlife division leader Judy Camuso cautions, “All staff need to know what our position is, where we are coming from, and everyone needs to be on the same page.” Dissenting biologists are apparently not allowed to let science stand in the way of IF&W’s zeal to defeat Question 1. In 2003, an IF&W biologist was demoted after he issued a scientific report critical of the cruelty in coyote trapping practices allowed by the agency.

Given this manifest disregard for good government and democratic principles, it should come as no surprise that one employee even stated that he “would like to do away with all referendums.”

The emails also cast doubt on the sincerity of IF&W’s own messages. For months, the opposition has been running an ad featuring uniformed IF&W staff calling Question One “a serious threat to public safety.” Yet even IF&W chief bear biologist Randy Cross – himself a bear baiter and trapper -- notes in one email, “Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

At the federal level, the Hatch Act prohibits government agencies from spending the public’s money telling the public how to vote – as do mini-Hatch acts in many states. The New York Supreme Court has explained why: “It would be establishing a dangerous and untenable precedent to permit the government, or any agency thereof, to use public funds to disseminate propaganda in favor of or against any issue or candidate. This may be done by totalitarian, dictatorial or autocratic governments but cannot be tolerated, directly or indirectly, in these democratic United States of America.”

Maine law is less clear on the point, although that doesn’t change the principle. Imagine if, when Congress had been considering Wall Street reforms, financial regulators had run a covert campaign to undermine the regulations on behalf of big banks. Or imagine, for that matter, if IF&W had decided to campaign for Governor LePage directly, rather than just campaigning on his behalf against Question One.

IF&W’s electioneering against a citizen’s initiative is wrong – just like the three cruel practices it defends. We’ll be campaigning hard through Election Day to end these abusive practices in Maine. The fate of bears and good government hangs in the balance.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, PO Box 15367, Portland, ME 04112.

 

October 21, 2014

An Epidemic of Unprovoked Human Attacks on Wolves

If you want to understand why The HSUS and HSLF are working so hard to prevent the trophy hunting, commercial trapping, and hounding of wolves in Michigan, look no farther than the other states in the Great Lakes region and in the Northern Rockies that recently instituted seasons on wolves. Trophy hunters and trappers and hound hunters are taking a big toll, killing a third of the wolves in a single year in some of these states. If this is what “recovery” means, then I am sure the wolves don’t want any of it. Here are the numbers for the 2012 and 2013 alone:
 

  • Idaho: Of the 606 wolves killed in Idaho, 37 percent were trapped, 63 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 659
  • Minnesota: Of the 650 wolves killed in Minnesota, 54 percent were trapped, 46 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 2400
  • Montana: Of the 453 wolves killed in Montana, 40 percent were trapped, 60 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 627
  • Wisconsin: Of the 374 wolves killed in Wisconsin, 64 percent were trapped, 26 percent hunted and 9 percent hounded– leaving an estimated current  population of 658
  • Wyoming: Of the 133 wolves killed in Wyoming, 19 percent were trapped, 81 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 306

This is an extraordinary and ugly body count. The total number of wolves killed by sport hunters and trappers for these states is 2217 – for a species just taken off the endangered list!  
Right now, Wisconsin trophy hunters are in the woods for the third year in a row to harass and kill wolves with traps, bait, hounds, and electronic calls. Less than one week into the hunt, four of the six zones are already closed, with half of those zones over their quota (in one zone, hunters killed nearly twice the number of wolves allowed). Gray Wolf Snow Alamy
 
Hunters and trappers would be pounding away at wolves in Wyoming right now, but for a lawsuit that The HSUS and a number of environmental organizations brought to stop the killing. That suit, decided just weeks ago, resulted in a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to put wolves back on the endangered list, forbidding sport hunting and trapping of the wolves.

With these states consistently overreaching, and demonizing wolves, should we expect Michigan decision-makers to act any differently? Remember, leaders in the state legislature have passed three measures to kill wolves, and in the process, they are trying to trample the rights of voters to conduct the referendum process. Farmers, hunters, and the state Department of Natural Resources trumped up charges against wolves, with one farmer baiting wolves onto his land with cattle carcasses and then complaining that the wolves were there.

This is why it’s so critical to defeat Proposals 1 and 2 in Michigan two weeks from today. Voters there will have the first-ever opportunity to make their views known in a statewide election on the wolf hunting and trapping issue. If we can win, it will send a signal to politicians in all of these states that the people don’t like this needless and premature killing of wolves. Nobody eats wolves, and there are already allowances to control problem wolves. This is trophy hunting and commercial trapping in its purest form.
 
Please spread the word to friends in Michigan and underscore that it’s critical to get out and vote and to vote “no” on Proposal 1 and “no” on Proposal 2. And support all of our critical work to aid and protect wolves throughout the United States.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, 5859 W. Saginaw Hwy. #273, Lansing, MI 48917

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 20, 2014

Bill Maher, Danny DeVito Tell Chris Christie That Pigs Matter

Comedian Bill Maher made a special appeal to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – asking him, on the opinion pages of Saturday’s New York Times, to sign a bill banning gestation crates. Noting that polling shows that a rather astonishing 93 percent of New Jersey voters want him to sign the anti-confinement measure, Maher said Christie should make the Garden State the 10th in our country to establish rules that treat pigs better.

GestationcrateOn October 16th, the day S. 998 cleared the legislature, actor Danny DeVito, also urged Christie to do the right thing.  “Chris, please sign the ban on gestation crates –cages used to confine breeding pigs!,” wrote the fellow New Jersey native. “Man, that sounds like something we should do right away….You sign this ban and I think you go straight to heaven. Not for a long while of course, but, no question this kind of thing opens the gate!"

Christie has a total of 45 days to act on the bill -- championed by state Senator Raymond Lesniak with bipartisan supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly. The HSUS is leading a grassroots campaign in the state right now to urge residents there to let their governor know just how much they hope he’ll sign this anti-cruelty legislation.

Christie vetoed a similar bill last year, saying the state Department of Agriculture should play a lead role in shaping rules for the treatment of farm animals. This year’s bill takes that criticism into account, handing off to the department the task of promulgating the rules that stipulate that pigs have enough space to turn around and extend their limbs.

Many observers suggested that the governor’s veto last year had more to do with presidential politics given that Iowa—the nation’s biggest pork production state—hosts the Republican caucuses come 2016. However, a new Mason-Dixon poll of Iowa GOP caucus-goers shows that they’d think more highly, not less, of Christie if he signs this bill. A full 37 percent say they’d view Christie more favorably if he protects pigs, while only 2 percent said they’d view him less favorably.

In another context, Governor Christie stated, “I don't compromise my principles for politics.” Well, this is a case where he doesn’t have to test that principle. The politics and good policy are aligned in New Jersey (9 leading papers support the ban on gestation crates) and Iowa (where the state’s leading paper urged Iowa politicians to get on board with the campaign to ban barren battery cages).

If you live in New Jersey, please take a moment to contact the governor yourself and politely ask him to do the right thing. If you live in another state, join our growing efforts to end gestation crates across the country, and sign the change.org petition to support the efforts in New Jersey.