This year has seen incredible wins for animals despite a steady onslaught of Congressional threats and agency rollbacks.
On the one hand, there have been attempts to roll back protections for wild animals, like native carnivores in Alaska, and attacks on the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has continued its blackout of crucial information on puppy mills and horse soring — an action we are challenging in court.
On the other hand, we have won some crucial victories: we helped deal a body blow to greyhound racing in the United States when we won a ballot measure in Florida that ends this cruel sport. We delivered a powerful punch to agribusiness interests who want to keep locking farm animals in cramped, overcrowded cages, by passing the historic Prop 12 ballot measure in California — the strongest law for farm animals in the world. We helped pass a law in Ohio to crack down on cruel conditions in puppy mills, one of the strongest in the nation.
Globally, we made strides toward ending the dog meat trade in South Korea and other parts of the world where companion animals are eaten. We celebrated announcements from the United Kingdom and Taiwan to come down hard on commercial sales of elephant ivory, further strengthening the global campaign to save these gentle giants from poachers and wildlife traffickers.
I chronicled all of these developments and more as they happened on A Humane Nation to keep you informed of the important work we do for all animals. I am grateful to all of you for liking and sharing our posts, commenting and taking action to help.
Here are our top 10 blogs of 2018 — the blogs that were the most read by you.
In a shocking move that illustrates how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has, in recent months, increasingly been catering to trophy hunting interests, the agency in April said it will allow a Texas billionaire to import the trophy of a black rhino he killed in Namibia. The announcement came despite the fact that rhino poaching has increased dramatically in recent years and despite thousands of Americans weighing in during a 30-day FWS public comment period, opposing the import. Black rhinos are critically endangered, with fewer than 5,500 left in the wild, and just 1,946 left in Namibia.
This year, we won a key battle in our ongoing fight against commercial breeders who neglect and mistreat the animals in their care. In June 2017, the Humane Society of the United States assisted in an extraordinary rescue of 84 Great Danes from the custody of a New Hampshire breeder. The breeder was found guilty twice, once by a judge and again, in March this year, by a jury of her peers. In June a judge ruled that the dogs could be placed for adoption.
One of our most read blogs this year was about two historic and precedent-setting victories for animals in this year’s elections – one in California for farm animals and another for greyhounds in Florida. California voters approved — by a supermajority of 63 percent — Proposition 12, ushering in positive change for tens of millions of farm animals. The new law prohibits the confinement of egg-laying hens, pigs used for breeding, and calves raised for veal in cages or crates so small that they are essentially immobilized for their whole lives. It also requires that eggs, pork and veal sold in California meet this same standard. It’s now the most far-reaching law for farm animals in the world.
In Florida, voters passed – by a nearly 69 percent vote – a measure to ban greyhound racing. Since Florida has 11 of the remaining 17 racetracks in the country, the vote to end racing here is a major step toward sounding the death knell for this cruel “sport.”
Readers of A Humane Nation care deeply about puppy mills, and you cheered loud and proud when a new puppy mills law went into effect in Ohio in September. Under the new law, among other major improvements, commercial breeders in Ohio can no longer cram dogs into cages that are stacked on top of each other and deprive animals of basic necessities, like space to move, exercise and access to veterinary care. This is one of the strongest puppy mill laws on the books anywhere in the United States, and we hope it will set the trend for more states to pass similar legislation to stop some of the most abusive practices in puppy mills.
In May, the Department of the Interior announced a rule to roll back an Obama-era regulation that prohibits such controversial and scientifically unjustified methods of hunting as killing hibernating bears and their cubs with the aid of artificial light, shooting wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, using bait to attract brown and black bears, shooting vulnerable swimming caribou, and using dogs to hunt black bears. These practices are condemned by most Americans and the rule itself is unlawful because it conflicts with clear statutory directives from Congress that the National Park Service must conserve and protect wildlife in national preserves.
Our teams at Humane Society International and the HSUS have been at the forefront of the work to end the ivory trade. In April, we celebrated news that the United Kingdom and Taiwan had announced their decision to come down hard on commercial sales of elephant ivory. The United Kingdom said it would introduce “one of the toughest bans on ivory sales in the world,” and Taiwan announced its intention to ban all commercial sales of ivory products, starting 2020.
Each year, researchers in our puppy mill campaign spend hundreds of hours sifting through federal and state inspection records to bring you the annual Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy mills in the United States. This year’s report, released in May, was brought out amidst unprecedented challenges, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year redacted breeder names, kennel names and license numbers from its public inspection records. Our resourceful researchers identified more than half of the breeders and dealers who appear in this year’s report through state inspection records, news reports and other documents, creating a valuable resource both for those fighting to create better laws to end this mistreatment of companion animals, and for buyers who unknowingly buy dogs sourced from puppy mills.
Ending greyhound racing in Florida was one of our keystone victories this year, and pushing it across the finish line required a tremendous pooling of resources and effort. Along with our allies at GREY2K USA Worldwide, the Doris Day Animal League and others, we generated broad, bipartisan support from government, business leaders, civic organizations, animal welfare organizations, local animal shelters and veterinarians in Florida. As Election Day drew closer, Ellen DeGeneres, Pierce Brosnan and Owen Wilson joined 27 other celebrities in calling for an end to greyhound racing. Their support, and the backing of Lara Trump and Attorney General Pam Bondi, helped us get Amendment 13 across the finish line.
In mid-April, a father and son were charged with breaking Alaska state law when they allegedly killed a mother bear and her cubs on Esther Island in Prince William Sound. The details of their crime chilled most Americans who reacted with anger and outrage over this wanton killing of wildlife: the two defendants were captured on video as they approached a remote den, shot the mother bear twice, and listened for several minutes to the sounds of her shrieking cubs inside the den before one of the defendants moved closer to the den and shot the two orphaned cubs. After discovering an Alaska Department of Fish and Game collar on the bear, they attempted to cover up their illegal action by removing the collar, butchering the mother bear, and then returning to the den two days later to retrieve the bear cub carcasses. The duo now face charges from the Alaskan authorities, but this ghastly incident is a reminder of what’s at stake were the Department of the Interior to open up Alaska’s national preserve lands to trophy hunters.
HSI has been working in South Korea for four years now to end the rampant dog meat trade there, and we have made tremendous progress. Last month, we received news that South Korea is closing its largest dog slaughterhouse, and to date, HSI has closed 13 dog meat farms and transported nearly 1,600 dogs, who were fated for the butcher’s block, to shelter and rescue partners in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, for a chance at a new life as a beloved companion. More and more Koreans are shunning dog meat, but with thousands of farms raising dogs for human consumption, there is still a long road ahead in ending this scourge. The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang this year gave us an important opportunity to focus the global spotlight on the dog meat trade, and we were lucky to have the support of Olympian Gus Kenworthy. The U.S. freestyle skier joined the HSI team at a dog meat farm in the Gyeonggi-do province where we were working on rescuing more than 80 dogs. He was so moved that he decided to adopt one of the dogs, Beemo.
The end of the year gives us an opportunity to look back and reflect on all that has been achieved and all that remains to be done. Thanks to all of you who took action, shared my blog, and supported our various causes for animals this year. We face many challenges in 2019, but the HSUS, along with HSI, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and all our affiliates, stands poised and ready to continue the fight for all animals on all fronts.
If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to A Humane Nation to keep up with our work in the new year.