By Kitty Block
Today, as the Winter Games begin in Pyeongchang, my colleagues in Humane Society International are on the ground in South Korea, extending their important work against the dog meat trade. Three years ago, The HSUS and HSI embarked on an important campaign in that nation, the only one in the world where dogs are raised on commercial farms to be slaughtered for their meat. There are thousands of such farms, with millions of dogs trapped in them. We’ve helped to transition a number of farmers to humane livelihoods, and relocated dogs for adoption. So far, we’ve closed down 10 dog meat farms and rescued more than 1,200 animals. Through this approach, we have sought not simply to stop cruelty on a few farms, but to give the dog farmers and the Korean government a pathway to phase them out altogether.
This holistic approach to effecting change for animals within the context of our global work in diverse nations and cultures has special relevance for me. This week, in an especially trying time, I accepted the challenge of leading The HSUS as its acting president and CEO.
I have worked at The HSUS for the last 26 years in a number of leadership positions, and I am the first woman CEO in the organization’s 60-year history. Although the events of the past two weeks have been deeply trying, they have not prevented us from carrying on our mission of protecting animals. I have promised my colleagues at The HSUS that I will champion high standards of professional conduct, a compassionate work culture, and an atmosphere of trust built on transparency as well as shared values, behaviors, and accountability. As we continue to move ahead, I want to make you a promise, too. We will continue our work with the same dedication and compassion that we have always had toward the animals we love, and also with respect toward our fellow human beings.
This is one of the most hopeful times in the history of animal protection. The progress we’ve made as a movement has been tremendous, and The HSUS and its affiliates have, over six decades, taken on – and won — the toughest battles for all animals around the globe.
But these are also some of the most threatening times for animals. In the past year, we have seen attacks against animals grow, as federal agencies have taken steps to reverse protections for animals we together won after long, difficult fights. Wealthy lobbies for industries that use animals cruelly continue to undermine our efforts to protect them.
That is why I am so grateful for the dedication and determination of my staff colleagues who work hard each day to make sure that the march of progress for animals does not take a moment’s break.
The HSUS employs some of the finest people active in the field of animal protection today. Our Animal Protection Litigation team, a group of skilled attorneys aided by pro bono lawyers around the country, are fighting to keep federal protections for grizzly bears, right whales, and farm animals, and to lift the blackout of information from the U.S Department of Agriculture website relating to puppy mills and horse soring. Our legislative team is working to promote animal protection laws at both the federal and state levels. Our Nine Billion Lives campaign – calling for a set of major improvements in the standards for the care of broiler chickens – has brought on board more than 70 companies, including Burger King, Sonic, Jack in the Box, and Subway, and we’ll continue to build partnerships with many more. We are working on a number of fronts to protect wildlife: ending trophy hunting and trapping of native carnivores like mountain lions, bears, wolves, and bobcats, stopping wildlife killing contests, ending the use of wild animals in circuses and other travelling shows, as well as working within communities across the country to end the use of lethal and inhumane methods to manage wildlife conflicts. We are working to stop cruel practices like horse soring and puppy mill abuse, and to end the slaughter of American equines. And with our affiliates, we are providing more direct care to animals than any other group in our field. In 2017 alone, we helped more than 125,000 animals.
I am counting on you, our supporters, and our allies, to continue with us on this march of progress for animal protection, just as you have for all these years. You can stay updated on our work by following this blog, and by checking in at the HSUS website.