I am in Orlando today, at The HSUS’s Animal Care Expo. It’s one of our signature events, and attracts animal sheltering professionals from throughout the nation and the world, though it’s a treasure trove of information and instruction for any animal advocate. We are 1,700 strong at the conference, and had a great opening session this morning with MUTTS cartoonist and HSUS board member Patrick McDonnell and Outland cartoonist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Berkeley Breathed, who both gave humorous and emotionally powerful presentations. Also this morning, Zootoo.com’s Richard Thompson, in a joint project with The HSUS, handed out more than $100,000 in contributions to 20 shelters, and next week the winner of the $1 million Shelter Makeover will be announced on Fox News and in USA Today.
It’s great to be down here, with so many caring animal advocates who are hungry for information on becoming better advocates and organizations.
This morning, I updated the crowd on the immense amount of activity that happened yesterday and today, and I want to share some of this information with you, too. Yesterday, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation to phase out the use of veal crates and gestation crates, after The HSUS engaged in a seven-month negotiation with leaders in the animal agriculture industry and the Governor, Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp, and key lawmakers. We’re very pleased with this outcome, and it’s a model for future action to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture.
In Washington, D.C. yesterday, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would list the polar bear as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. This is a generally positive outcome and an acknowledgment of the long-term threats faced by the bears because of climate change. One consequence of the listing, which takes effect immediately, is to halt the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada into the United States. The United States does not allow sport hunting of polar bears in Alaska, but Canada does and most of the people who kill the bears are U.S. trophy hunters who have been allowed to import the heads in our country. The HSUS has been campaigning in this Congress for a policy to end the imports made by American trophy hunters. Last year, we prevailed on a Senate amendment to stop this killing of polar bears, but failed on a similar House amendment after the NRA, Safari Club, and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance argued for more killing of the beleaguered and declining bear populations. The Administration’s action should take care of the issue, and we’ll be watching for maneuvering by trophy hunting extremists to continue their terrible behavior.
The other good news from yesterday was the House passed the conference report on the Farm Bill. It did so with what appears to be a veto-proof majority—the vote was 318-106. And today, the Senate passed the Farm Bill 81-15. So if the President vetoes it, both chambers should have enough votes to override the veto and that will mean three major new reforms for animals, which I wrote about earlier in the week: 1) sweeping new animal fighting legislation that will make all animal fighting and training and possession of fighting animals a federal felony, assuming it affects interstate or foreign commerce in some way; 2) legislation to ban the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills, which will save tens of thousands of dogs each year from misery and suffering; and 3) an upgrade in penalties from $2,500 to $10,000 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. All in all, perhaps the biggest legislative achievements for animals for the entire Congress, and all in one bill!
I am sorry to report that there was also a dose of bad news yesterday, too. At the insistence of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the Chicago City Council reversed the city’s ban on the sale of foie gras—a product that comes from the diseased livers of ducks and geese force-fed so much that their livers swell to ten times their normal size. It’s a cruel and degrading practice, all done for a table treat. Mayor Daley has shamed Chicago with his action, and the City Council exhibited not only a lack of compassion, but also a failure of resolve and fortitude. We’ll be following up and urge you to contact the Mayor, who has certainly demonstrated he’s no friend of animal protection. Polite, professional phone calls can be directed to his office at 312-744-3300.