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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 petition to support the efforts in New Jersey.

October 17, 2014

Tremendous News From Southeast Asia: Steep Drop in Rhino Horn Use in Vietnam

A new poll reveals that demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has declined, just within the last year, by a startling 38.1 percent, mainly as a result of a multi-faceted marketing campaign by Humane Society International and the government of the southeast Asian nation. The United Nations identified Vietnam as a top market for sales of rhino horns – a process that has driven the killing of more than 1,800 rhinos in South Africa over the last two years – and it was that information that caused us to swing into action. But the rapid shift in public attitude has been surprising even to us. 

Rhino Horn
The market for rhino horns in Vietnam has contributed to the killing of more than 1,800 rhinos in South Africa over the last two years. Photo: Uttam Saikia/Paul Hilton Photography

Nielsen polls – one conducted before the start of the HSI campaign and one conducted a year after it had started – reported a drop of 25.4 percent over a year in the number of Vietnamese who believe that rhino horn has medicinal properties. In the city of Hanoi, where most of the public information campaigns have been concentrated, there was a 77 percent decrease in the percentage of people who buy or use rhino horn.

The HSI’s three-year campaign, in partnership with Vietnam CITES Management Authority, used a variety of approaches to build awareness from the grassroots – and to drive home the message that it is illegal to buy, sell and transport rhino horn in Vietnam. These approaches include:

  • Working with the Hanoi Women’s Association to deliver campaign messages to its 800,000 members.
  • Getting out the message to business organizations and university students. Workshops were held at six universities in Hanoi, and were attended by 800 students and faculty. A national contest was held for students to design a rhino horn demand reduction campaign, and the winner received funding to conduct their campaign in September 2014.
  • Educating school-aged children. HSI designed a 16-page book, I Am a Little Rhino, with colorful drawings and Vietnamese text. The book was distributed to approximately 40,000 children in Hanoi.
  • Advertising on billboards in Hanoi and at the airport, and on the sides of city buses.
Vietnamese schoolchildren
The HSI marketing campaign included the distribution of 'I Am a Little Rhino' books to approximately 40,000 schoolchildren in Hanoi. Photo: HSI

All five of the world’s rhino species are now threatened with extinction, and poaching is the single greatest threat to their existence. While some animals are killed for their horns, a small number remain alive after the horns are hacked off their faces. Scientific studies show that this immense suffering to the animals comes for no reason: rhino horn has no curative properties and it is composed of keratin, the substance found in hair and fingernails.

The Nielsen poll found that a small number of Vietnamese—2.6 percent—continue to buy and use rhino horn. We’ll be working to continue to build awareness and to cause the whole of society to shame the people who persist in driving the consumption of this product, which is propelling a poaching crisis in Africa thousands of miles away. We must continue this campaign to stop the killing of these magnificent, prehistoric-looking creatures, since their very survival on this planet is at stake.

October 16, 2014

Pennsylvania Senate Takes Aim at Live Pigeon Shoots

Last night, the Pennsylvania Senate took a legislative action we’ve been pining to see for two decades: it passed a provision to ban live pigeon shoots as part of a larger anti-cruelty bill, which also includes a ban on the sale and consumption of dogs and cats for meat. The vote on HB 1750 was 36 to 12, with 21 Democrats and 15 Republicans coming together to stand against these forms of animal cruelty. The House has already passed a version of the animal cruelty bill that contained the ban on selling dog and cat meat, and the revised bill just needs to gain concurrence next week in the House before it goes to Governor Tom Corbett for his signature. 

After a pigeon shoot
Live pigeon shoots bear no resemblance to hunting, and the birds that are killed are not consumed. They suffer and die for no reason. Photo: The HSUS

Live pigeon shoots are a disgrace, and they bear no resemblance to hunting. There’s no consumption of the animal, no pretense of “wildlife management,” no hunting license, no bag limits, no fair chase. There’s only pain and suffering and death of innocent creatures, for no good reason. Instead, target shooters can take aim at inanimate targets, whether trap or skeet or clay pigeons. Millions of Americans participate in that legitimate sport every day.

For The HSUS and The Fund for Animals, this is a particularly exciting advance – one that we need to close out in the coming days or weeks. We’ve been working hard to end this cruelty since the mid-1980s. Long before I joined The HSUS, I joined protests against what was then the largest pigeon shoot, in Hegins, Penn., as did other colleagues. Trapped birds were brought in from all over the place in boxes, then released just yards away from the shooters who killed and maimed them.

Thankfully, we worked through the courts to shut the Hegins shoot down in 1999. But other shoots occur, more or less clandestinely, throughout the state at private gun clubs, and the law is ambiguous on their legality. HB 1750 is designed to end the ambiguity, and to help prevent the killing of dogs and cats for human consumption. There are millions of companion animals killed for food in Southeast Asia, and HSI is working in China and other countries in the region to stop this practice, even as we are working here in the United States to stop it in its tracks as newly arrived immigrants bring that practice to our country. 

Trapped birds are brought to the pigeon shoots and released just yards from shooters who kill and maim them. Photo: The HSUS

The HSUS’s Heidi Prescott attended her first shoot in the 1990s as a volunteer and a wildlife rehabilitator. She came across a wounded bird who had been suffering for hours and was gasping for breath. The bird’s injuries were so severe that she helped to humanely euthanize the animal. The experience resulted in her making a personal commitment to never relent in her quest to ban live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania, and she’s never turned away from that challenge, despite years of frustration and delays and adverse actions from lawmakers and from the National Rifle Association.

Today, Heidi, who has been making the rounds of Harrisburg for 20 years to push for ending pigeon shoots, was again in the state capitol, drumming up support for its final passage. “This is truly a momentous victory, and a day I have personally looked forward to for many years, from the day I held that injured pigeon in my hands and watched her die—all for no reason other than someone wanted to use her for target practice,” she said.

State Representative John Maher and State Senators Stewart GreenleafDominic PileggiPat Browne and Richard Alloway have been leading the charge to end pigeon shoots. Sen. Alloway, who helped get the anti-pigeon-shooting provision added to HB 1750 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a very avid hunter himself. Although a member of the NRA – which had threatened lawmakers with retribution if they supported the bill—Sen. Alloway and Majority Whip Pat Browne stood up to the lobby group, calling pigeon shoots indefensible.  A huge thank you also to Sens. Daylin Leach, Jay Costa and Andy Dinniman for speaking out in favor of this bill, and to every humane organization in Pennsylvania and many national groups that worked tirelessly to get this bill passed.

Finally, a salute today to all of the people who have so valiantly worked to end this form of cruelty and contacted their lawmakers to advance this policy goal. The march to end animal cruelty is often a long and strained and frustrating one, and that’s been the case in spades with this campaign. But now we are just steps away from an important advance for our movement, and we must finish this task. 

Ask your legislator to end live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania»

October 14, 2014

Victory: India Becomes a Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Nation

India will ban the import of cosmetics that have been tested on animals anywhere in the world after November 13th. Coming just months after India heeded our call to ban domestic animal testing for cosmetics, this latest move assures that cosmetics sold in the country will no longer be associated with animal suffering. With the European Union enacting a similar ban, two giant economic markets have adopted sweeping policies to usher in a new era in cosmetics testing.

India is now the first cruelty-free cosmetics zone in South Asia. Photo: iStockphoto

Humane Society International's Be Cruelty-Free campaigners played a decisive role in securing this victory. They worked closely with government agencies and, in June, met with India’s minister of health and family welfare to present a petition of more than 70,000 signatures from citizens supporting an import ban. Our campaigners also helped secure the support of more than 30 legislators for the ban with the help of Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, a longtime animal advocate, government minister, and founder of India's largest animal protection organization, People for Animals.

This victory is just the latest in a series of significant reforms in India. The Animal Welfare Board of India recently declared battery cages for hens inconsistent with the nation’s animal cruelty laws, and we’ve helped persuade the majority of state governments to follow suit. We’ve also worked with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to crack down on the trade in shark fins and other illegal wildlife products. India is fast joining the EU as a global leader in animal welfare.

HSI's Be Cruelty-Free campaign also helped convince Chinese authorities to drop animal testing requirements for some products sold there. Now our campaign is working with partner groups in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and Taiwan to secure bans on the sale of all cosmetics tested on animals. You can join our campaign and sign the global pledge to be cruelty free here.

It’s long past time for the United States to get with the program. Cruel tests for cosmetics are sadly still happening in America, even though cruelty-free alternatives exist. The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are leading the fight for the passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act in Congress, which would bring an end to animal testing for all cosmetics made or sold in America. Let your legislator know that you support it.

In the meantime, you are in a position to make a cruelty-free decision every time you shop for cosmetics. You can use the Leaping Bunny guide to find brands that don’t test on animals. Or you can shop at cruelty-free stores like LUSH and The Body Shop. You can also join the conversation on Twitter using #BeCrueltyFree.

It is a major moment when the world’s second most populous country gets on board with positive animal welfare reforms.  Now it’s time to redouble our efforts in other parts of the world to achieve a global ban on cosmetic testing on animals.

October 13, 2014

Cruelty and Ideology Masquerading as Science

Last week, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected a recommendation from its agency’s biologists to authorize a spring bear hunting season in the southern part of the state. Cubs orphaned during spring hunts have no hope of survival, so allowing the killing of mother bears effectively dooms the family. The vote was 4 to 2, with the commissioners rejecting the rationale from employees of the Department of Fish and Wildlife that the spring hunting season was needed to reduce bear impacts on trees on land selected for logging.

Black bear and cub
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife 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

I see this sort of reductionist thinking on a regular basis from state fish and game personnel. They are single-minded about reaching a specific kill total, and they subordinate other social, practical and scientific concerns to their one-dimensional goal.

For years, we’ve battled the biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game over wolf hunting. They have repeatedly authorized a host of cruel and vicious practices against wolves to reduce their numbers dramatically – by offering up a blend of aerial gunning, steel traps and neck snares, as well as by promotion of hunting on lands managed by the National Park Service. They are not serving wolves, but the people who have an irrational fear of wolves and who don’t want wolves killing moose or caribou that they themselves want to shoot for trophies. It’s not about biology – but about ideology and pandering to the whims of people who want to shoot a moose or caribou, regardless of the social or ecological costs.

This sort of reductionist thinking is also in evidence in Maine right now. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is using state resources to campaign against Question 1, a citizen initiative to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping.

The DIFW is not serving the people of Maine – it is serving Master Maine Guides who use a combination of bait, hounds and traps to essentially guarantee a kill for their fee-paying clients. The guides and outfitters buy up leases from private timber companies in northern Maine, and exclude all hunters who don’t pay them a fee. Then they strew garbage over the leased land and condition the bears to visit.

In the process, these guides are giving the shaft to the Maine hunter who cannot pay their fees, and therefore cannot access these hunting grounds. What’s more, the guides are drawing in so many bears to the bait sites, that they are depleting the neighboring lands of bears. So the out-of-state, fee-paying hunters get a guaranteed kill and the lunch-bucket hunter in Maine goes home empty-handed. 

This has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with a corrupting commerce that favors one class of hunters over another.

The HSUS has a great roster of scientists, who would be the first to tell you that true science demands a full and searching debate, and that is how we develop our programs and positions. Our scientists know, however, that there is more to debates about how to treat animals than one narrow scientific metric, and that science does not take place in a social or moral vacuum. The best scientists give us options, not answers, and the whole of society weights that information and layers over a broad set of value judgments to make a final policy determination. 

The history of American science is laced with cases of ideology masquerading as science.  Here are just a few examples. 


The courageous advocate Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, called public attention to the risks of indiscriminate pesticide use.  In the early 1960s, the pesticide industry attacked her and insisted that DDT and other pesticides were safe. 


We now know that smoking kills, but for decades tobacco industry researchers suppressed the facts and said the opposite. Misleading studies and disinformation campaigns received millions of dollars in tobacco money as the industry sought to fight restrictions on smoking. Big Tobacco targeted the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and other institutions studying the problem as bad science. But as time has revealed, it was tobacco science that was corrupt.

Ozone Depletion

The revelation that mundane household products like hair spray and deodorant could destroy the Earth’s ozone and increase cancer rates was one of the primary environmental stories of the 1970s. The $1 billion aerosol industry responded with its own research denying the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) effects of aerosols, and created a handful of scientific organizations to defend its products in the marketplace.  Fortunately, as a result of the negative publicity, the American people were already changing their habits, so that by the time the Food and Drug Administration announced strict regulations on CFC propellants in 1976, their use had already dropped by 75 percent. Even so, ozone deniers kept up their campaign for another 20 years.

Scientific Racism and Biological Determinism

The belief that social and economic differences between races, classes and sexes arise from inherited, inborn distinctions misshaped the study of human intelligence for decades. As noted by scientist Stephen Jay Gould and others, the “science” behind concepts of an intelligence quotient and the general intelligence factor was riddled with bias and falsification.

So when state biologists tell you they know better, and when they wade into ideology and not biology, give them a few of the examples above. 

It should be telling that Maine is the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. That alone suggests that the Maine DIFW and the biologists it employs do not represent the mainstream of thought in bear biology. Rather they are the champions of an outlier opinion dressed up as science.

October 10, 2014

Enduring Challenges, Quantum Progress Through First Three Quarters

The HSUS and its affiliates drive transformational change for animals. We don’t measure our success based on how many press releases we issue, bills we sponsor, or policy papers we write. We measure our success based on animals rescued from distress, corporations that change their policies for the better, laws enforced and bills enacted, and awareness generated by our communications efforts. We know you expect us to achieve concrete results for animals, and that’s what we aim to deliver every day. Today, I provide a few highlights of some of the biggest changes that The HSUS has achieved so far this year with your support.

  • puppy mill dog
    This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule to prohibit the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries. Photo: Jason Miczek/AP Images for The HSUS
    We secured commitments from three of the nation’s largest pork producers – Cargill, Clemens and Tyson Foods – to phase out cruel gestation crates. We persuaded Smithfield Foods to extend its commitment for a crate-free future to all of its contract farms. We worked with Unilever on its historic commitment to stop the killing of male chicks by the egg industry, and with Heinz to switch a fifth of its North American egg purchases away from cage operations. 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. We helped persuade the Canadian government to phase out gestation crates, and convinced the courts in India to hear a case against battery cages. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule to prohibit the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries. (Last year, the USDA closed the loophole that allowed breeders who sell online or directly to the public, sight-unseen, to operate without federal licenses or inspections.) We also helped to pass anti-puppy mill measures in Connecticut and Minnesota, a very big mill state.
  • With many partners, The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund have had the second best year, in numerical terms, for enacting state animal welfare laws – a total of 117 and counting. This includes South Dakota becoming the 50th state to enact felony-level penalties for animal cruelty and fighting, West Virginia becoming one of the last to restrict the ownership of wild animals as pets, and California banning many classes of rodenticides. We also helped defeat 47 bills that would have been bad for animals, including several “ag-gag” bills. We led the effort to pass federal bills to make it a crime to be a spectator at an animal fight and to facilitate the transfer of the vast majority of government-owned chimps from labs to sanctuaries.

  • Our litigators and our program departments helped secure a landmark court ruling dismissing a challenge to California's farm animal welfare laws against extreme confinement of farm animals. They helped uphold a regulation that bans the imports of seal skins to the European Union against a challenge at the World Trade Organization; engineered a ruling from the International Court of Justice against Japan’s commercial killing of whales in the Southern Ocean; won a federal appeals court ruling upholding the federal law against the sale of videos depicting malicious cruelty; and banned wolf hunting in Wyoming.  (We also blocked the trophy hunting of wolves in Michigan by qualifying two referendums to stay measures enacted by lawmakers in Michigan.)

  • We persuaded India to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients—the first country in South Asia to do so. We also helped China repeal its requirement that domestically-produced cosmetics be tested on animals, and scored another victory in January when Merck pledged to stop testing on chimpanzees.

  • Horse
    In January, we helped reinstate a ban on domestic horse slaughter. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS
    We helped reinstate a ban on domestic horse slaughter in January when Congress approved the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, which included language that prohibits the USDA from spending taxpayer dollars to inspect prospective horse slaughter plants. This prevented three horse slaughter plants, in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico, from opening – and we got an assist in blocking the openings of kill plants from our legal staff. Two Congressional committees voted to retain this defund language in the FY 2015 spending bill, so chances are good that the no-slaughter policy will be extended at least through next September 30th.

  • We helped enact a ban on the sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, while our litigators helped secure a U.S. District Court ruling upholding California's ban on the possession or sale of shark fins, which we helped pass in 2011. Both New Jersey and New York enacted HSUS-led bans on ivory and rhino horn, the first such comprehensive state-based restrictions in the United States. We partnered with the Vietnamese government to reduce demand for rhino horns through a public education campaign. Because of our successful efforts to close global markets for seal products, most sealers chose not to participate in the seal hunt again this year, with the sealers falling 340,000 seals short of their kill quota.   

  • We conducted deployments of our Animal Rescue team in states across the nation, saving animals from puppy mills, animal fighting rings and hoarding operations. We operate our Pets for Life program, or conducting mentoring for it, in more than 20 cities. Our Rural Area Veterinary Services program provides free veterinary services in rural communities. Our wildlife team rehomed more than 4,100 wild animals this year – from gopher tortoises to tigers to prairie dogs.
  • We opened our new Big Cat Habitat at the Fund for Animals’ Black Beauty Ranch in Texas and also opened a new Wildlife Clinic at The Fund for Animals center in California, and continued to expand and improve our affiliated animal care facilities across the nation. Together with our affiliates, we provided direct care to more than 100,000 animals. 

In the coming months, I’ll blog with more details about each of these victories, and the many others that you’ve helped us to achieve this year. Today, though, I just want to thank you for all you do to make this incredible progress for animals possible. I hope you take pride in it, reflecting on all the good that you help us to do for animals – and the progress we can achieve together in the year ahead.

October 09, 2014

Talking to Main Street Mainers About Bear Baiting

On Tuesday, I was canvassing with Question 1 supporters in Augusta, Maine, and today I am door-knocking in Waterville, another central Maine community. Last night I was with our state director, Katie Hansberry, in Caribou and Presque Isle, small towns in the far north and east of Maine, near the border with Canada. Both are considered to be rural communities that might have suspicions about the motives of Question 1, the ballot initiative to ban baiting, hounding and trapping of bears for sport or trophies. Yet, as we’ve found, there are so many wonderful, caring people working on the ballot measure, motivated solely by their interest in protecting bears and Maine’s reputation of animal welfare and sportsmanlike hunting. And they are all over the state.

Maine black bear
Maine's bear hunt has been structured to benefit a small number of guides and outfitters who offer guaranteed kills of bears to fee-paying trophy hunters from out of state. Photo: Frank Loftus/The HSUS

I feel quite comfortable reaching people anywhere and everywhere in Maine with our message of compassion and our convictions about setting reasonable restrictions on cruel and unsporting methods of bear hunting. There’s nothing extreme about our message or goals, but there is something extreme and distressing about a bear-hunting program that allows trophy hunters to shoot fed, trapped or treed bears. These practices stack the deck so badly in favor of trophy hunting that the animals have very little chance. 

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is waging an overreaching, illegal campaign to defeat Question 1, bringing into sharp focus the issue of whether state governments should be using public resources to influence elections. The state’s bear biologists at the DIFW have developed the nation’s most reckless, unsporting and inhumane bear-hunting program, and they are fighting tooth and claw to defend their decision to do what no other state does: allow all three of these extreme hunting methods. 

Their hunting program has generally been a dud with hunters in the state. The number of Maine hunters pursuing bears has been declining, and only three percent of them buy bear licenses.  The hunt has mainly been structured to benefit a small number of guides and outfitters who offer guaranteed kills of bears to fee-paying trophy hunters from out of state. For example, these quotes are straight from Maine trophy-hunting websites:

Wayne Caribou Group (2)
I am meeting so many wonderful, caring Mainers working on Question 1, motivated solely by their interest in protecting bears and Maine’s reputation of animal welfare and sportsmanlike hunting.

“GUARANTEED MAINE BLACK BEAR HUNT … The kill rate has been 80% in recent years.” – Powderhook Outfitters

“‘Guaranteed Hunt’ – If you schedule this hunt and don’t see a bear to shoot, you can return next season for free.” – PB Guide Service

“We strongly encourage youth hunting - children are always welcome at Cedar Ridge.” – Cedar Ridge Outfitters

It’s amazing that even as beech bark disease has claimed so many trees that produce mast that bears need to thrive, the bear population has increased 30 percent in the last decade. The only logical explanation is that the state allows these guides to set up perhaps upwards of 5,000 bait sites (mounds of jelly doughnuts, pizza, molasses and meat scraps) throughout the Maine woods, supplementing the natural foods for bears and artificially growing their population.

Just as Louisiana citizens said no to cockfighting and South Dakotans said it’s time to adopt felony-level penalties for animal cruelty, making them the last states to get on board with those reforms, it’s time for Mainers to end the Pine Tree State’s ignominious distinction of being the last state in the nation to tolerate all three of these unfair, inhumane bear-hunting methods. They benefit a small number of guides at the expense of rank-and-file Maine hunters, wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, animal advocates, and all other residents of Maine who want to see animals treated responsibly, fairly and humanely.

Remember, Maine was the first state in the nation to adopt an anti-cruelty law. And it had a great governor, Percival Baxter, who was a friend to all animals and a model for enlightened action by elected officials when it comes to animal welfare policy. It’s time for the state to reclaim its leadership position on the proper and decent care of animals, including the wild ones.

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

October 08, 2014

N.C. Puppy Mill Rescue Highlights Deception, Dangers of Internet Sales of Dogs, Cats

As our animal rescue team entered a trash- and feces-filled house last Friday to rescue more than 50 dogs and cats from an Internet pet seller in Rutherford County, N.C., they nearly stumbled over a kitten. The tiny Himalayan was weaving her way between their legs, as if trying to make sure she wouldn’t be left behind. One of our team members who picked her up noticed that her baby blue eyes were encrusted with brownish debris and likely infected. And, like five other cats and dozens of dogs in that puppy mill, she was struggling to breathe in a room that reeked of urine.

Sassafras is now in caring hands, but thousands of other animals are still suffering because of irresponsible breeders who supply puppies and kittens to Internet mega stores. Photo: Chris Keane/AP Images for The HSUS

Sassafras, as the rescue team named the kitten, is now in the caring hands of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville, N.C., where many people have expressed interest in adopting her. But thousands of other animals are suffering just like she was, sight unseen, at the hands of irresponsible breeders who provide puppies and kittens to Internet mega stores.

Mills like this one are financially enabled by an unsuspecting public – people who buy pets online, often never knowing the reality behind the soft, brown noses and warm bellies of the puppies and kittens. This North Carolina puppy mill was apparently selling puppies and kittens through a number of legitimate-looking websites. The sellers are extremely slick, often posing as groups of local prescreened breeders, and offering misleading guarantees.

North Carolina in particular has become something of a hotbed for some of the worst puppy mill operators in the country, because there are no specific laws in the state to protect dogs sold directly to the public or online by commercial breeding facilities. This is, astonishingly, the 21st rescue that The HSUS has assisted with in the state since June 2011 -- this time with help from the Humane Society of Charlotte, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, Cashiers Highlands Humane Society and Iredell County Animal Shelter. There’s something very wrong in the Tarheel state on this issue.

The HSUS has been making steady progress in fighting the puppy mill scourge across the United States. Last year, we won a major victory when the Obama administration agreed to extend federal oversight to thousands of puppy mills and kitten mills that do business online. This year we scored another victory when the administration imposed a ban on the import of puppies from abroad.

Moreover, as our 101 Puppy Mills report released earlier this year pointed out, there are approximately 10,000 puppy mills operating in the United States and many of these sell puppies online. We have a long way to go before we can ensure that animals like Sassafras are never again raised in the kind of horrific circumstances that our rescuers encountered at that North Carolina puppy mill.

You can rest assured that we’ll keep up the fight to stamp out puppy mills. We’ll continue to pass state laws to regulate puppy mills, and push the Obama administration for further regulation. We’ll also keep working to transition pet shops from selling puppies from puppy mills into adopting out rescued dogs in need of loving homes. But we need your help.

With the approaching winter holidays – the busiest puppy-buying season of the year—business is about to pick up for Internet pet sellers. If you are looking to add a new, four-legged family member, make sure you visit the breeder in person to see how and where the animal was born and raised, or better yet, adopt from a shelter or rescue group. You and other highly attuned members of the public are the greatest bulwark against the mills and the Internet sellers that do business with them.

October 07, 2014

The HSUS Launches Video Series Featuring Faith and Animal Welfare

Our Faith Outreach program at The HSUS partners with people of faith to fight animal cruelty, spread kindness, and highlight the rich history of compassion for animals in all the world’s major religious traditions. From the Dalai Lama to the Episcopal Bishop of Washington to Dada Vaswani, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many remarkable people of faith who share my deep conviction that it’s our human responsibility to be merciful toward all of God’s creatures.

The world's major religions all share the conviction that it's our human responsibility to be merciful toward all of God's creatures. Photo: Julie Busch Branaman

Reaching into the past, to those people whose faith drove them to protect animals from cruelty, can be just as inspiring. Some of the most notable names that come to mind are 19th-century reformer William Wilberforce, evangelical author and social activist Hannah More, and 20th-century writer C.S. Lewis. That is why I am pleased to announce that we are releasing this week a 12-part video series, Living Legacy: Faith Voices on Animal Welfare, to honor these three pioneers. 

Wilberforce was an English Parliamentarian best known for his heroic efforts to end slavery. He was passionately committed to animal welfare and instrumental in establishing the RSPCA, the world’s first animal welfare charity. More, an evangelical and writer, wrote stories that combined biblical themes with popular entertainment – stories that included kindness to animals. Lewis was an academic, a force of nature, and the author of dozens of popular books, including the beloved Narnia series. For him, pain, including animal pain, was understood best from a biblical perspective, and the videos reveal that he became an anti-vivisectionist because he believed that God makes every living creature for a purpose. 

In the videos, these striking historic personalities are discussed by three influential voices: Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University and author of Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More, and Dr. Jerry Root, associate professor at Wheaton College, director of the Wheaton Evangelism Initiative and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and a C.S. Lewis Scholar.

The Faith Outreach program at The HSUS has now been active for nearly eight years, and during that time we have engaged thousands of faith leaders and community members from all major religions in our work. Our multi-faith council, the HSUS Faith Advisory Council, was created in 2012 and includes leading scholars and representatives from a range of religious denominations, faiths and backgrounds. We’ve now just formed an HSUS Dharmic Leadership Council comprising leaders within the Hindu and Jain traditions, and they are deeply committed to the principle of Ahimsa, or dynamic non-violence towards animals. And we have a thriving Faith Outreach Volunteer Program comprised of advocates who host film screenings and pet-food drives, and create safe havens for wildlife at places of worship throughout the country.

We hope these videos will give animal lovers a historical perspective into the long relationship between faith and animal welfare, and the widespread support that exists for animal protection among people of faith . You can view them by clicking here or on the embedded video playlist below.

October 06, 2014

Centerplate Says Farm Animals Deserve to Be Center of Attention

National Football League running back Ray Rice made national news when an elevator camera recorded him knocking out his then fiancée with a vicious punch, bringing to light the scourge of domestic violence in our society and specifically in the world of professional sports. The Baltimore Ravens terminated him, and rightly so. 

Gestation crate
Centerplate's commitment to eliminate gestation crate pork from within its supply chain and to switch all of its shell eggs to cage-free is the latest major advance in our effort to fight intensive confinement of animals on factory farms. Photo: The HSUS

One other violent incident, also recorded in an elevator around the same time, featured the CEO of Centerplate, one of the nation’s largest food service companies, kicking a dog. Violence toward pets is another all-too-common form of domestic violence in our society, and one that also deserves no tolerance.

Once the incident came to light, Centerplate’s board of directors took action, and let the CEO go.

I am happy to report that Centerplate will now be known for a more positive action when it comes to animal welfare.

The HSUS has been working with Centerplate to create a new animal welfare policy. And last week, Centerplate announced its commitment to eliminate gestation crate pork from within its supply chain and to switch all of its shell (whole) eggs to cage-free. This is just the latest major advance in our effort to fight intensive confinement of animals on factory farms, with dozens of companies getting on board with our call for more humane supply chains for the animal products they sell. 

Last week’s victory in a federal court, dismissing an attack on California’s animal welfare and food safety laws by several Midwest state attorneys general and the governor of Iowa, is sure to add to that momentum, especially when it comes to our campaign to promote the welfare of laying hens. California’s Prop 2 stipulates that laying hens be allowed to “stand up, lie down, turn around, and freely extend their limbs,” and it takes effect January 1st.  So does the state’s requirement that all shell eggs sold in the state must also meet that same animal welfare and housing standard. These reforms should send a clear message to retailers and producers that consumer demand for more humane products is growing every day.

Other big names in food service – including Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo – have already switched hundreds of millions of eggs to cage-free over the past several years, as well collaborating with us on anti-gestation crate policies and national meat reduction campaigns, including “Meatless Monday” and “Be a Flexitarian.”  Other major companies – from Whole Foods Market to Burger King – have also adopted policies to sell no eggs from caged hens.

At the same time that so many retailers are moving toward cage-free egg purchasing, many big names in egg production are converting their housing systems to cage-free as well. For them, it’s an investment in the future, in a world where consumers will be less inclined over time to accept extreme confinement of any animals on factory farms. For them, why build more confinement systems, which might last two or three decades, when the landscape is so likely to change in the next few years? 

By building and developing cage-free production facilities, these producers are positioning themselves for the decades ahead and beyond, and it’s a credit to them and their foresight. We look forward to helping them down that path, to make it a win for producers, food retailers, consumers, and, of course, for the hens themselves.