Traveling home to their districts, members of Congress are hearing from riled-up constituents like never before – and right on the heels of a tremendously contentious election. On Capitol Hill, telephone lines are being overwhelmed repeatedly by the fresh concerns of Americans roused to action. In cities across the country, citizens are organizing, vowing to maintain vigilance on politics for a range of civic purposes.
These are welcome developments.
Political overreach in Washington, D.C. has come up against growing public insistence on common sense governance and resistance to dangerous ideas. Americans want to be heard.
For me the tipping point has been the scattershot assault on animal protection that seems to be gathering steam in Washington, D.C.
Animals don’t deserve this. Their needs aren’t partisan and shouldn’t be partisan. Dragging animal welfare into the R-vs-D fray is a source of shame – no matter what your political leanings.
I’m speaking of the near-party-line House vote recently to reopen Alaska’s national wildlife refuges to disgraceful practices – a de facto war against grizzly bears and wolves. Scientists and citizens alike stood against this terrible idea, as did so many Democrats in Congress. As I mentioned yesterday on this blog, it was the most disturbing runaway vote I’ve witnessed in a quarter century of advocacy for animal welfare.
And make no mistake, trophy hunters and NRA lobbyists have proven that their ambitions are much larger than just Alaska. They have long had their sights and sites on the wildlife that lives on our shared public lands throughout the United States. Yes, that’s national parks, too.
Election 2016 was not about ending compassion for those without voices. Americans in key swing states did not vote for a radical special interest rule – an unwinding of what 90 percent of Americans think is right. No way.
The victors insist that the election was about making things better. Well, putting animals in greater jeopardy is a thumb in the eye of “better” and takes us rapidly in the other direction.
Again, we are talking about killing wolf pups in their dens, scouting bears from airplanes in order to kill them, permitting the baiting of bears, trapping them with those frightful steel-jawed leghold traps and neck snares. All on land that belongs to all Americans. On places designated by Congress as “refuges.” What a mockery of language. As the president might tweet, “disgraceful.”
Add in the USDA’s purge of inspection reports under the Animal Welfare Act and violation notices under the Horse Protection Act. That’s nothing but a cover-up to benefit flagrant puppy mill operators, horse soring scofflaws, and other violators of the law. Talk about adding algae and silt to the swamp.
And then there’s the freezing of the USDA-approved anti-horse-soring rule. Burning chemicals onto the feet of beautiful animals used in shows. Or putting a sharp object between a metal shoe and the shaved-down front hooves of horses. That’s animal cruelty. Worthy of prosecution. More than 200 members of Congress from both parties called on the USDA to complete that rulemaking. Freezing that rule is like issuing a get-out-of-jail card for lawbreakers.
The HSUS has long advocated citizen advocacy on behalf of animals, and we want to see even more of it now. Now is the best possible time to join with friends, family, and neighbors and make yourself heard.
“Compassion” and “humane,” are words without the letters “R” or “D” in them. They are shared, unifying, and important values. They are recognized by the world’s great religions, and they are taught and practiced by our finest leaders. A great many citizens of both parties believe that how we treat animals is a measure of our own humanity.
And if we look at the issue another way, we know beyond doubt that cruelty to animals begets cruelty to humans.
Yet, special interests are blind to the world of difference between the Right and what’s truly right. On Alaska, a number of anti-animal lawmakers disguised their intentions by claiming their motivation was the protection of states’ rights.
Now, just watch those same shape-shifters argue that state laws to protect farm animals need to be preempted by the federal government – a sure-to-arise rebirth of what animal advocates know as the “King Amendment.” How about this for a tweet: “Outrageously inconsistent.”
There’ll be other important votes in this 115th Congress, of that you can be sure.
Animals cannot speak for themselves. But you can give voice to their interests – whether they are bears or horses or cows or puppies. Take it from me, the public has got the attention of the members of Congress. Whether that translates into wise action by Congress – well, that depends on you.