A few years ago, a group of very special citizens trekked from a number of states to Capitol Hill to lobby for a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters. Some of them had a bit of difficulty getting around, parts of their legs missing. Other took extra time to dress for the occasion, given the difficulties presented by such injuries as the loss of one arm.
Each one of these Americans had been a victim of a shark attack, and had lived to tell about it. Yet, in spite of their searing, life-changing experiences, they came to Washington to call upon other humans to stop maiming sharks.
It was an extraordinary expression of humanity. If even these folks – who had bitter experiences with animals – could advocate for protection, what about those of us who’ve known only joy and kinship with animals. Couldn’t we advocate for them, too, and with no troubling experience to overcome?
These citizen-lobbyists will now have an opportunity to dust off their talking points and get back to Capitol Hill, since Sens. Shelley Capito, R-W.V., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have introduced legislation to fortify the laws against finning by banning any sale of shark fins in the United States. That bill has very impressive support, with five Senate Republicans and six Senate Democrats backing it. With nearly a dozen states having enacted bans on the sale of fins, there’s fantastic momentum for this bill.
This was quite a week on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers introducing more than a half-dozen major pieces of animal protection legislation on a wide range of subjects of concern to animal advocates.
Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ryan Costello, R-Pa., introduced legislation to ban circuses from exploiting wild animals. With Ringling Bros. – long the political protector of wild animal acts – shutting down its business by May, there’s a new political environment and new opportunities to get this bill done.
In another bipartisan effort, Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., teamed up on Thursday to introduce the Big Cat Public Safety Act, to prohibit the possession and breeding of such animals by private individuals and other unqualified parties. There’s just no reason for private citizens to have tigers or lions in their backyards or basements.
Earlier this week, I wrote about Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Booker, and Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Dina Titus, D-Nev., introducing companion bills to address the diversion of tens of millions of dollars in government funds to salaries, lobbying, and other inappropriate and impermissible activities undertaken through commodity check-off programs. This legislation, which has brought The HSUS and HSLF together with the Heritage Foundation and the Organization of Competitive Markets, would prevent the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and other trade groups from diverting funds from check-off programs to fund their staff and lobbying efforts, especially when so many rank-and-file farmers oppose this tax in the first place and certainly don’t want the money spent to fight things they care about.
Yesterday, I wrote about an additional show of legislative horsepower, with U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introducing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Nearly half the lawmakers in the U.S. House joined Reps. Yoho and Schrader in a quest to close loopholes in the almost 50-year-old Horse Protection Act that have enabled the cruelty of horse soring to persist.
Also in the House, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced a bill to ban the use of sodium cyanide in M-44 devices and poisonous Compound 1080 in livestock collars for predator control by the USDA’s Wildlife Services program. Earlier this month, there were reports of three dogs killed by M-44s, deadly devices used by the program to kill wild animals.
These bills, varied in the reforms they seek, amount to a robust animal protection agenda, along with more than a half-dozen other major bills previously introduced in the House (including banning the sale of dog and cat meat, prohibiting the slaughter of horses, creating a new federal anti-cruelty law, and allowing domestic violence centers to add animal sheltering capacity). They’re all common-sense measures, with a diverse coalition of backers.
With Congress recently having taken adverse action against animals by opening up national wildlife refuges in Alaska to appalling and unsporting practices – by repealing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that stopped barbaric methods of killing – legislators now have a chance to show some heart for animals by passing these sensible reforms. The bills introduced this week are just part of a broader agenda that makes sense for our country and for animals.