The HSUS and the animal issues we work on are in the news every day, but there are times when I am especially reminded of the relevance of our animal welfare work to other important matters in society, and to the lives of regular Americans. The last several days have produced striking examples.
- My colleague Joanne Bourbeau had a column in today’s Manchester Union-Leader that criticized a bill in the New Hampshire state legislature that seeks to criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms. In recent years, a series of undercover investigations – focused on extreme confinement and abuse of animals on industrial farms, the illegal soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, other puppy mill cruelty – has resulted in perpetrators being arrested and, in some cases, important food safety issues being brought to the fore. Remarkably, this year, we are fighting bills in more than a dozen states – thanks to the machinations of agribusiness lobby groups – to make it a crime to ban picture-taking of animals on factory farms or to place restrictions on investigations that make it impossible to conduct this kind of work.
- On Saturday, the New York Times ran a story about humane ways of dealing with wildlife conflicts, and it featured our own John Griffin and his work with our Humane Wildlife Services program. At The HSUS, we recognize that animals can sometimes be a nuisance or cause us inconvenience. But there’s no reason to kill a living creature for that reason alone, especially when we can settle the conflicts through non-lethal means. This was also brought home to me by the first in a series of pieces put out by Fox News about the barbaric mistreatment of wild animals by federal hunters and trappers working for the USDA’s Wildlife Services unit. This little-known agency kills more than four million animals a year, mainly for the benefit of private ranchers. This report, along with a series written by Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee, continues to throw back the curtain on an agency that has veered badly from a legitimate mission.
- In California, legislation was introduced this week to ban the use of lead ammunition in hunting. These are bullets that keep on killing long after they are fired, and if we have non-toxic ammunition that hunters can use, we have a moral imperative to use it instead. The Associated Press and other news outlets are covering the story, and we’ll want all of our California supporters to contact their lawmakers in support of the effort. We hope that this California legislation kick starts the national discussion about finding ammunition that doesn’t leave such a trail of destruction.
- Europe continues to be roiled by the discovery of horse meat masquerading as beef, and that’s part of the focus of my column in today’s International Herald Tribune. I express skepticism about the food safety standards in Europe since they are allowing so much North American horse meat onto the continent, given that horses on this side of the Atlantic are not raised for food and they are typically fed or injected with a cocktail of drugs throughout their lives that are banned in the human food chain. Horse slaughter is an issue here, with legislation in Oklahoma to allow horse slaughter and a site selected by a slaughter interest set up in New Mexico, and only awaiting USDA approval. It’s time to put an end to the global trade in horse meat, and it’s appalling to me that our nation – which was settled on the back of a horse – would treat horses like nothing more than a throw-away commodity.
- On Monday, the European Union became the largest cruelty-free cosmetics marketplace by implementing a ban on new cosmetics products tested on animals. American companies and their suppliers who are testing new cosmetics products on animals are now banned from selling in the European market. According to a public opinion poll conducted by Lake Research Partners, 67 percent of American voters are opposed to the use of animals to test the safety of cosmetics. Among women, the major consumers of cosmetics, that number goes up to 72 percent. The poll also found that 3 in 4 American voters would feel safer, or as safe, if non-animal methods were used to test the safety of a cosmetic instead of animal testing.
We are working on so many other issues – from street dog programs, to tail docking of dairy cows, to wildlife trade matters being debated at a CITES gathering on wildlife trade in Thailand. On those subjects, and dozens more, we will drive the national and international debate on animal protection and to seek transformational change for all animals.