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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Secret Life of Class B Dealers

In honor of the 60th anniversary of The Humane Society of the United States, LIFE Magazine has revisited the classic Stan Wayman photo-essay, “Concentration Camps for Dogs.” The eight-page article and series of shocking photos, originally published in February 1966, built on a five-year HSUS investigation of dog dealing that brought to light the mistreatment of pets stolen and sold to medical research.

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Stan Wayman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The exposé generated more letters from LIFE readers than even the war in Vietnam, an attack on Civil Rights marchers by police, or the escalation of the Cold War. It spurred Congress to hold hearings on the issue, and just months later, after lobbying by The HSUS and others, to pass the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law in August 1966.

There has been much progress for animals over the past decades, but surprisingly, this shadowy and unsavory business of so-called Class B animal dealers rounding up pets and funneling them into research laboratories has not been completely rooted out—though it appears to be on its last legs.

Just a handful of these dealers still obtain dogs and cats from various “random sources,” including auctions, flea markets and animal shelters. Some Class B dealers have also been known to obtain animals from unregulated middlemen known as “bunchers,” who have been documented acquiring lost, stray and “free to a good home” pets, and even pets from neighborhood backyards.

As of September 2014, there are three active Class B dealers of live, “random source” dogs and cats licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell these animals to research facilities. During fiscal year 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), 2,863 Class B dogs and 276 Class B cats were sold for research.

Violations of the Animal Welfare Act continue to occur, including lack of veterinary care, food or water, inhumane handling, fraudulent paperwork associated with the requirement to prove that an animal is not a stolen pet. These dealers are now providing fewer than 3 percent of the dogs and cats used in research, yet our federal government spends significant time and money regulating them and trying to chase down the problems associated with the trade.

A 2009 National Academies report, examining the issue, stated that “in the more than forty years since the inception of the AWA (Animal Welfare Act), the USDA/APHIS (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has been unable to completely enforce the AWA in regard to activities of Class B dealers and that there are documented accounts of lost pets that have ended up in research institutions through Class B dealers.

For example, in June 2005, the University of Minnesota received a dog from a Class B dealer that through a microchip scan was identified as a missing pet named ‘Echo.’ Recent inspection reports for one Class B dealer revealed that two cats were purchased from a private individual that upon trace back investigation admitted that they were illegally acquired ‘strays.’" 

Fortunately policymakers are working to crack down on the problem. The National Institutes of Health instituted a phase out of funding for research involving acquisition of cats and dogs from random source dealers, with the cat policy taking effect in 2012 and the dog policy taking effect in 2014. Georgia Regents University announced it would stop buying dogs from Class B dealers after an HSUS undercover investigation in 2013, and the USDA revoked the license of the dealer involved in selling dogs for dental research.

Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., has introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, H.R.2224, which has 74 co-sponsors and would end the use of random source dogs and cats in research.

As LIFE looks back on a story that drove public awareness and policy reform for animals on a national level, it’s time to celebrate the progress that’s been made but also look at the remaining gaps in the legal framework and make sure we finish the job on these cruelties.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pentagon is on Active Duty for Animals

The Department of Defense recently announced that it will halt the use of live animals in a variety of medical training programs, beginning January 1. As the Boston Globe reported yesterday, “The military has been instructed to instead use substitutes such as a realistic human dummy developed by a research team from Boston. Such training is designed to teach medical personnel how to administer anesthesia, resuscitate an unconscious person, and practice other life-saving procedures.”

This is a major step forward for the Pentagon, bringing its policies into stronger alignment with the civilian medical community and most of our NATO allies. The Globe called it “the most significant effort to date to reduce the number of animals that critics say have been mistreated in military laboratories and on training bases—from the poisoning of monkeys to study the effects of chemical warfare agents, to forcing tubes down live cats’ and ferrets’ throats as part of pediatric care training for military medical personnel.”

And it continues the march of progress on humane issues for the military. In 2011, for example, the U.S. Army stopped using live monkeys in chemical casualty management training, in which the primates were given a chemical to simulate nerve gas exposure. After discussions with Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., the Army replaced the animal tests with computer programs and high-tech simulators.

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One of the casuality simulators that the military is using. Photo: SimGroup

The new announcement stops short of ending all animal tests in the military, such as combat trauma training that uses live pigs and goats to teach physicians, medics, and other personnel how to perform surgery or first aid on severely injured troops. In one such experiment, military researchers dressed live pigs in body armor and strapped them into Humvee simulators that were then blown up with explosives to study the link between roadside bomb blasts and brain injury.

When animals are used in experimentation and training, the protocols should be refined to minimize pain and distress to the animals, the number of animals used should be reduced to a minimum, and animal use should be replaced with non-animal methods when possible. Thankfully, there have been great strides in the development of human-based training methods, such as medical simulators, to teach management of hemorrhage, sucking chest wounds, airway compromise, and many other combat trauma injuries, as well as the management of patients exposed to biological and chemical agents.

That’s why members of Congress are pushing to accelerate the pace of the military’s adoption of such improved methods which are now widespread in the civilian sector, and its phase out the outdated and inefficient use of live animals. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have introduced the “Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act,” H.R. 3172 and S. 1550, which encourages innovation and modernization in this area. The legislation requires the Pentagon to develop, test, and validate human-based training methods for training in the treatment of combat trauma injuries by 2016, and to use only use human-based training methods by 2018.

“Using pigs and goats in live battlefield training is not the best option for our troops, and is inhumane treatment of animals,” said Representative Johnson.

We are grateful to the Department of Defense for taking these important steps, and to lawmakers for pressing the case to not only reduce and replace animal use, but also improve medical care for our service members and modernize the training programs. The fact that the Pentagon and Congress are giving such serious attention to this issue is a real marker for our cause, and a clear indicator that the welfare of animals can and should be considered even when the stakes are so high for people. Through innovation and technology, we can make sure we are doing the best we can for our soldiers and animals.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Focus on Enforcement of Dog and Cat Fur Law

Congress returns today for the lame-duck session, and one of the first items on the House agenda is final passage of H.R.4194, the Government Reports Elimination Act. In May, the Washington Post published a report titled “Unrequired reading,” on the thousands of agency reports mandated by Congress, some of which are as thick as “doorstops” and are just “gathering dust.”

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Liz Bergstrom

The argument is that the reports take agency time and resources away from other duties, and no one is actually reading or using them. Even in a dysfunctional Congress, it’s easy to generate bipartisan support for the idea of cutting pointless bureaucratic paperwork.

But caught up in this larger effort to make government more efficient is the elimination of one report that has value on an issue of concern to the American public: the sale of dog and cat fur.

When Congress passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act in 2000, banning the sale and import of dog and cat fur products, it also asked Customs and Border Protection to submit an annual report on its enforcement activities.

That agency is doing important work to crack down on the illegal sale of dog and cat fur in the United States. After a tip from The Humane Society of the United States in 2012, for example, Customs and Border Protection shut down a New York company that was selling dog fur.

We are still seeing real problems in the marketplace, including a website openly peddling cat fur products. Fourteen years after the passage of the federal law, it’s still in need of focused enforcement, and the brief annual report helps to ensure that the agency is focused on the issue. These efforts are valuable and consistent with the American values of protecting pets from cruelty.

In this case, if Congress does away with the annual reports, it should redirect those savings toward strengthening inspection and enforcement. Americans are horrified by the idea of dogs and cats being killed for fur trim and trinkets. Strong enforcement of the federal law reflects these values—whether it’s put into a report or not.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

2014 Election Wrap-Up: Mixed Results and Hope on the Horizon for Animals

Last night’s mid-term election saw a rising wave of red across our country, with Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate and winning a surprising number of gubernatorial, U.S. House, and state legislative seats. It was the second wave election in four years, and it cements Republican power throughout most of the nation.

There were important outcomes for animal protection, too, with humane lawmakers from both political parties in competitive races, and voters deciding ballot measures on animal issues. But the election again showed that continuing partisan divisions now plague the country. Such divisions are a reminder that HSLF must, more than ever, remain committed to a bipartisan approach if it is to be successful in its efforts to drive forward an animal protection agenda.

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Wolves won in the election.

A Win for Wolves

The citizens of Michigan voted by wide margins last night to reject two laws enacted by the legislature to open a hunting season on wolves. Both measures were expected to be close but in the end were trounced—Proposal 1 by a vote of 55 to 45 percent, and Proposal 2 by 64 to 36 percent—with the “no” side on Proposal 2 getting more votes than any statewide candidate.

This means voters not only repealed a pro-wolf hunting statute, but also repealed a measure that transfers authority to the Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting seasons on protected species.

The proponents of wolf hunting are already saying the voters didn’t know what they were doing, and in fact, they spent much of the campaign trying to disenfranchise voters and tell them their votes don’t matter. That’s because their political cronies in the legislature passed a third law that is a duplicate of Proposal 2, and they are expecting to get their way regardless of what the people think.

But so many people I talked to when I knocked on doors in Michigan knew exactly what the election was about. They understood it’s unnecessary to hunt wolves because people don’t eat the animals and because it’s already legal to kill problem wolves if they threaten livestock or safety.

The people of Michigan don’t want trophy hunting, trapping, or hounding of wolves; they don’t want more legislative tricks; and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees.

It’s now time that the lawmakers and the Natural Resources Commission heed the will of the people. The resounding rejection of Proposal 2 is an unmistakable signal to the NRC to terminate any plans it thinks it may be able to execute in 2015 for a wolf hunt.

The public does not accept its authority to make such a declaration. The people of Michigan don’t want the NRC setting a wolf hunting season and don’t want to give the NRC the authority to open new hunting seasons on other protected species, such as sandhill cranes. The NRC should honor the judgment rendered by voters come 2015. We’ll be continuing this fight in the legislature and in the courts.

This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections in six states. Decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should pay attention to this vote in Michigan and see how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

A Loss for Bears

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Bears suffered a loss on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Question 1 in Maine, which sought to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of bear hounding, baiting, and trapping, suffered a narrow defeat at the polls, by a vote of 53 to 47 percent. It was very difficult to overcome the active involvement and spending by the state of Maine itself against the measure.

It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign, and that involvement was grounded in fear and scare tactics. This caused so much confusion for voters despite Maine being the only state to rely on all these extreme hunting methods.

The close vote strongly suggests that the defeat of Question 1 is not a mandate to continue these inhumane, unfair and unsporting hunting methods. We sincerely hope that Maine officials will take a careful look at how controversial these methods are with the public and how every other state has, to one degree or another, set a difference course for dealing with bears.

The opponents of Question 1 will court continuing controversy and our focused campaign energy if they simply preserve the status quo.

The measure attracted national and global attention and succeeded in making the cruel practices of baiting, hounding, and trapping a subject of broad public debate—maybe for the first time ever. We are now also calling on the Maine legislature to take up the issue of state agencies funneling money and resources into political campaigns, which is needed if the state is to have clean elections in the future.

While there are divided views about baiting in Maine—as reflected by the vote on Question 1—there is, beneath the surface, an overwhelming sentiment that trapping and hounding of bears is unacceptable.

The state’s two largest papers—the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News—both opposed Question 1 but called for a ban on hounding and trapping of bears for sport. Lawmakers and the hunting lobby must address this, or they’ll be inviting another initiative in short order.

Other Ballot Measures

While Maine and Michigan were the main events, there were a number of other ballot measures around the country on animal issues. Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in a landslide vote of 75 to 25 percent; the measure, backed by HSLF and The HSUS, dedicates funds to the protection of wildlife habitat.

Voters in Pima County, Ariz., approved Prop 415 by a vote of 58 to 42 percent, providing important funding for the county’s animal care facility to shelter homeless dogs and cats and reduce euthanasia. Voters in Aurora, Colo., unfortunately rejected Proposition 2D, which would have repealed the city’s discriminatory ban on pit bull type dogs, by a lopsided margin of 66 to 34 percent. 

U.S. Senate

The big news of the night, of course, was that Republicans picked up enough seats to shift the balance of the U.S. Senate. Animal advocates should know that we helped to elect many of our leaders from both political parties, and we also lost some allies. In the top priority race for HSLF, Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., was the victor over Terri Lynn Land, by a resounding vote of 55 to 41 percent, in Michigan’s race for the open U.S. Senate seat.

Peters has long been a leading champion for animals in Congress, passing legislation to ban commerce in animal “crush” videos, and working to crack down on polar bear trophy hunting, animal fighting, and other cruelties. Here is the TV ad that HSLF ran in Michigan supporting his election to the Senate.

Overall, HSLF-endorsed Senate candidates won 12 of 15 races that have been decided so far, for a win rate of 80 percent, with three remaining contests still too close to call. A number of our leaders on animal protection legislation, backed by HSLF, will be coming back to the Senate, including Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

There will be some new faces in the Senate, including Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has supported animal protection bills in the House. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., both lost their bids for reelection, and Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who has a strong record on animal protection bills, lost his race for Iowa’s open Senate seat, to Joni Ernst, who as a state legislator has backed puppy mills, mourning dove hunting, and “ag-gag” legislation.

We are still awaiting results in Alaska, where Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is currently trailing by about 8,000 votes, and in Virginia, where Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has a 12,000 vote lead. Warner is a lead sponsor of legislation to strengthen the federal law against the “soring” of show horses—using caustic chemicals and other painful substances to injure the horses’ hooves and legs to induce a high-stepping gait.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has led the fight to prohibit the slaughter and export of horses for human consumption overseas, is headed to a runoff, and that race won’t be decided until December. HSLF plans to vigorously campaign for Landrieu in the runoff election.

U.S. House of Representatives

Across the country, HSLF-endorsed House candidates have been declared the victors in 181 of the 197 races that have been decided so far, for a 92 percent win rate, with six races still too close to call.

There were a number of competitive races this year for both Republicans and Democrats, and we are pleased that so many of the lawmakers whom HSLF helped with mailings, phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, and other get-out-the-vote efforts will be returning to Washington—including bipartisan leaders and strong supporters of animal protection such as Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Jeff Denham, R-Calif.; Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and others.

There will be a number of new animal advocates in the freshman class of the House, many of whom had strong records of leadership as previous officeholders at the state or local level. We welcome Reps.-elect Don Beyer, D-Va.; Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Barbara Comstock, R-Va.; Ryan Costello, R-Pa.; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif.; Gwen Graham, D-Fla.; Ted Lieu, D-Calif.; Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; and Norma Torres, D-Calif.; and we look forward to working with them in Congress.

We also welcome back returning Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., who had an outstanding record on animal protection when he previously served in the House, and congratulate all these lawmakers on their elections.

A number of animal protection supporters will not be returning next year, including Reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y.; Pete Gallego, D-Tex.; Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.; Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H. We thank them for their service and for their past work on animal protection policies. We are also anxiously awaiting results in a few remaining races that are neck and neck, and we are pulling for Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; John Delaney, D-Md.; Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.; as well as for challenger Martha McSally, R-Ariz. Some of these races are extremely close, with Slaughter currently leading by 582 votes, and McSally by just 36 votes.

State Races

Results were mixed for animals in state houses across the country. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., who signed both wolf hunting bills, won his reelection against former Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich., an animal protection supporter.

HSLF-backed Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who has signed more animal protection bills than any other governor, won his bid for reelection; HSLF-endorsed Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill., lost his bid for another term; and HSLF-endorsed Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., was declared the winner by about 30,000 votes after a long night of uncertainty in a tight race. HSLF-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., won his race in Arizona, and HSLF-backed Anthony Brown, D-Md., lost in an upset in the Maryland governor’s race.

Attorneys General Pam Bondi, R-Fla., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., both strong champions for animal protection laws, won their reelections decisively with the backing of HSLF—Bondi by a margin of 55 to 42 percent, and Harris by 56 to 44 percent. State Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Md., won his race for Attorney General in Maryland, where he was a leader in working to correct the state’s misguided policy discriminating against pit bull type dogs.

We are still analyzing the many state legislative races around the country, but some pieces of good news to share: In California, where HSLF has made a major investment in state politics, our endorsed candidates won three of three statewide races, eight of nine races for state Senate and 35 of 39 for state Assembly.

In Michigan, HSLF and its supporters in the state helped some pro-animal lawmakers in close House and Senate races, and we will need their help to backstop the legislature from doing another end-run around the people on wolf hunting.

In Kentucky, state Rep. Richard Henderson, who made headlines when he attended a pro-cockfighting rally with Matt Bevin, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Republican primary opponent, lost his reelection. At the time, Henderson had said, “I must admit I've been to more than a few chicken fights. I must admit I liked them.”

All in all, while the results were mixed for animals in races across the country, and some contests have yet to be decided, we have great hope and optimism that the cause of animal protection will continue to make gains in Congress, in state legislatures, and with regulatory agencies.

Animal protection issues are being discussed in every legislature like never before, and voters in every corner of our country—red states and blue states—are becoming aware of the challenges facing animals and the steps needed to protect them and prevent large-scale cruelty and abuse. Thank you to everyone who voted, volunteered, and got the word out for humane candidates across the country—your efforts continue to make a difference.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Today's the Day: Elect for Animals

Election Day is finally here, after months of debates, campaigning, and political ads by competing parties. Participation in the electoral process is an important responsibility that we all have in a civil society, and it has special urgency for those of us who have taken up the cause of the voiceless and voteless. Until animal advocates make elections a priority, we will never reach our high water mark when it comes to the reforms we're seeking.

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Vote today for animal protection!

So please get out to vote today, if you haven’t done so already. You can find your polling place here, or just text VOTE to 69520.

And be sure to check out the HSLF Voter Guide, with information and recommendations on humane-minded candidates and animal protection ballot measures, as well as links to state and local political groups working for animals.

We have the opportunity today to send compassionate, humane-minded leaders to office to fight for animal protection and stand up against cruelty, but that's not all.

Maine citizens have the chance to finally put an end to the cruel and extreme baiting, trapping, and hounding of bears in that state by voting YES on Question 1.

And in Michigan, animal lovers and those who care about good government and voting rights can put a stop to the trophy hunting of wolves and an outrageous power grab by politicians and special interests by voting NO on Proposals 1 and 2.

To have humane laws, we must elect humane lawmakers. We can all show up big for animals just by showing up in the voting booth. Please share the HSLF Voter Guide with friends and family, for polling information and a list of the pro-animal candidates and ballot measures to support where you live. And I hope to see you at the polls.

 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Feeding Garbage to Bears and Voters in Maine

I’ve been involved in dozens of political campaigns around the country over two decades, and the brazen lies and scare tactics used by state officials working in collusion with the bear baiting, hounding, and trapping crowd in Maine are among the worst I’ve ever seen. The Bangor Daily News, which doesn’t even support Question 1, has published editorials calling the opponents of the measure “dishonest” and judging their claims “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test,” with the wrong compounded by the fact they are spending state tax dollars telling people how to vote.

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The opponents of a ban on baiting keep saying “trust the experts,” but a court-ordered release of internal documents demonstrates that the experts don’t believe their own alarmist rhetoric. The “Yes on 1” campaign today released two new videos highlighting the other side’s hypocrisy and the hollowness of their claims.

The first video shows three uniformed staff members of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife — all but working full-time, it would seem, to defeat the baiting ban — saying “it’s a serious threat to public safety.” But their own words prove their claim to be false: DIF&W’s Randy Cross said in a 2012 email to a constituent, “I think your fear of bears is exaggerated and is not rational…Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

Moreover, in a recent op-ed, George Smith, the former director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the guy who led the campaign against a similar initiative a decade ago, concedes that “you do not need to be scared of bears. I will admit that scaring you about bears was an important part of our strategy…If you see a bear in the woods, you are most likely to see its rear end as it flees.”

What’s worse, their TV ads feature a sensational bear attack in Florida, which has no relevance to baiting, hounding, and trapping. Except that the bear in this case was “baited” into an open garage with food in a trash can, and the people involved were charged by state wildlife officers for illegally feeding bears. That’s right, the opponents invoke this bear attack, from 1,500 miles away, involving people in a Florida neighborhood who were feeding this bear.  

Precisely in order to avoid incidents like this, every reputable wildlife agency in the country says “Don’t feed the bears” — except the outliers in Maine and a small number of other states who support using Twinkies and Dunkin Donuts as a “wildlife management tool.” Good wildlife managers know that “garbaging for bears” is the worst thing you can do, because it swells the bear population and teaches them to look for human junk food.

The second video features DIF&W staff saying bears don’t struggle but “just sit there,” and that all of these tools are “necessary, safe, and kind.” With images of bears struggling to free themselves from wire snares, and being torn apart by packs of dogs, does the idea that these practices are “kind” really pass the straight-face test? It’s terror, not kindness. You have to wonder how detached and desensitized these people at the agency are, and shake your head at how far off of the rails they’ve gone in their public capacities. Of course, the head biologist for the state is a bear baiter and recreational trapper, so it should not come as a huge surprise.

Maine is in a sad class by itself as the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme methods of killing bears. And the apologists for shooting fed, treed, and trapped bears will apparently say and do just about anything to get their way. Please share these videos and make sure Maine voters and all concerned people know the truth about these false and dishonest claims.

Paid for with regulated funds by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. P.O. Box 15367, Portland, ME, 04112

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Countdown to Election Day

We’re just days from the November 4th election, and there are critical races for humane candidates and animal protection issues all over the country. I want to provide a rundown of several key updates as we enter the final stretch.

MICHIGAN SENATE:  This week the Humane Society Legislative Fund is running this TV ad in Michigan urging voters across the state to support Gary Peters for U.S. Senate. Peters is a leading champion for animals, and it’s powerful ads like this one that let voters know where the candidates stand on animal protection. We’re telling voters that Gary Peters led the fight to ban disgusting, cruel crush videos (where small animals are filmed literally being crushed, just for the sexual pleasure of viewers). And we’re making sure they know he worked to crack down on puppy mills, illegal animal fighting, and other cruelties.  

MICHIGAN WOLVES:  Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is running two TV ads (here and here) urging Michigan voters to say “No” to the trophy hunting of wolves and “No” to the power grab by politicians, by voting “No” on Proposals 1 and 2. No one eats wolf meat, and it’s already legal to kill problem wolves. Voters shouldn’t lose their right to have a say on wildlife policy issues, and shouldn’t hand the unilateral power to a committee of seven unelected, politically appointed bureaucrats. Visit NoOn1and2.com for more information, and spread the word by sending email to your friends and family in Michigan.

MAINE BEARS:  Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is working across the state to get out the “Yes” vote on Question 1, to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of hounding, baiting, and trapping bears. Maine is the only state to allow all three of these extreme methods. The opponents are running sensational and alarmist scare ads, which a Bangor Daily News editorial called “dishonest” and “the lowest common denominator in campaigns.” The polls show a dead heat, and every vote will count. If you live in Maine, and are not yet registered to vote, you can register up until Election Day: Just visit YesOnQuestion1.com/vote for more information on voter registration and where to find your polling place. You can also spread the word by sending email to your friends and family in Maine.

Vote2VOTER GUIDE:  We've been working around the clock to get the word out about humane candidates. Running TV and online ads, sending mail, making phone calls, going door-to-door—you name it. As you know, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is the leading political advocacy organization for animals. We endorse and support candidates who have a proven record of being pro-animal—not because of political party, affiliation, or their position on any other issue. We're hitting the ground hard for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in dozens of races around the country. Check out our Voter Guide to find HSLF-endorsed candidates in your state. In addition to the Maine and Michigan proposals, there’s also information on other statewide ballot measures affecting animals, such as a Florida amendment to protect wildlife habitat, and local measures to fund the Pima County, Arizona, animal shelter, and to repeal Aurora, Colorado’s ban on pit bull type dogs.

We need humane leaders in office who will fight for common-sense policies to crack down on the wildlife trade, inhumane factory farming practices, horse slaughter, and so much more. Please consider making a last-minute gift to HSLF to keep our boots on the ground and our message on the air. No amount is too small. Your generous gift will help us support humane candidates for office and advance critical animal protection legislation long after Election Day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bears, Snares, and Scares in Maine

The opponents of fair bear hunting in Maine are taking outrageous liberties with their misleading campaign rhetoric. One of their constant refrains is that Question 1—which would ban the cruel and unsporting hounding, trapping, and baiting of bears in the last state to allow all three extreme methods—is largely funded by out-of-state groups, including The HSUS and HSLF. Never mind that those groups have tens of thousands of members who are Maine residents, and who want to rid their state of this terrible cruelty.

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Voters in Maine will decide the fate of bears next Tuesday.

But the biggest omission is that the opponents of the measure, themselves, are mostly financed by out of state cash. According to their most recent campaign finance reports, the opponents’ campaign has amassed a war chest of more than $2.3 million, and 53 percent of reported donations have come from outside Maine.

That includes more than $150,000 from the Ohio-based U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, about $40,000 from the Virginia-based National Rifle Association, more than $60,000 from the Arizona-based Safari Club International, and $65,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based “Ballot Issues Coalition” made up of several national hunting organizations. It also includes $400,000 from one individual who lives in Vermont.

Maine is the only state to allow trapping of bears for sport, and it’s no surprise that trappers’ groups around the country are rallying to keep Maine as a virtual do-as-you-please zone, the one place where they can snare bears in wire nooses and allow them to suffer and struggle to free themselves for hours or even days. Trapping organizations have pumped more than $187,000 into the campaign—that includes donations from the Indiana-based National Trappers Association, and from individual trappers associations not only in Maine but also in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.

And what are they doing with all that cash from trappers and other states? They’re footing the bill for state-sponsored scare tactics and fear-mongering. The TV ads run by the opponents focus on bear attacks in Florida, and all but tell voters that bears will overrun the streets of downtown Portland and eat your children if they can’t be hounded, baited, and trapped. It turns out even their own biologists, outdoor writers, and hunting organization leaders don’t believe this alarmist claptrap about bears.

Randy Cross is one of the state bear biologists who appears in a TV ad calling Question 1 a “serious threat to public safety.” But in an email released under court order last week, Cross admits, “I think your fear of bears is exaggerated and is not rational…Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

So much for logical consistency.

In a recent op-ed, George Smith, the former director of the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine, concedes that “you do not need to be scared of bears.”  Smith, who ran the campaign to defeat a similar initiative a decade ago, conceded he resorted to these unethical tactics. “I will admit that scaring you about bears,” Smith said, “was an important part of our strategy in 2004, and remains a powerful issue for those opposing the referendum. If you see a bear in the woods, you are most likely to see its rear end as it flees. I have had quite a few encounters with bears in the woods and never had a problem.”

Hunting writer and Question 1 opponent John Holyoke made a similar claim in a recent column: “The more alarmist among them have suggested that bears will attack people, eat their babies and terrorize us all. That’s just hyperbole, and has no place in the upcoming debate.”

Exaggerated. Not rational. Hyperbole. It’s no wonder a Bangor Daily News editorial said the opponents’ claims are “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test.” Maine voters should reject these false scare tactics, and say “Yes” to decency by voting “Yes” on Question 1.   And the rest of us should remember the pitiful low to which defenders of these cruel practices have sunk in Maine.

Paid for with regulated funds by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. P.O. Box 15367, Portland, ME, 04112

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Attorneys General

When advocating for the enactment of humane laws, we're sometimes reminded that getting a bill passed by the legislature and signed by the governor means we are “up at halftime going into the locker room.” Before we can have confidence that a new law will have impact, we often have to defend against legal challenges and ensure that it is properly enforced. We rely on all sorts of law enforcement personnel to do this work. But often a key second-half player is the state’s chief law enforcement officer—the attorney general.

Hens-hslf
The HSUS
AG Harris stood up for the humane treatment of hens.

Take Missouri AG Chris Koster, for example. He stumped for Missouri’s “right to farm” amendment which passed by just 0.2 percent of the statewide vote and could allow puppy mills and corporate factory farms to harm animals with impunity.

And, as another sop to Big Ag, he led a group of states that filed suit in federal court, trying to tell California it didn't have the right to ban the sale of eggs from hens crammed in tiny battery cages so small that they can’t even flap their wings—animals who were more likely to carry Salmonella, too.

The failed lawsuit, which Koster said would cost less than $10,000, ended up bilking Missouri taxpayers for more than $83,000, and he far overshot his promised ceiling.

Thankfully, there are attorneys general who are standing up for animals and consumers, not for Big Ag and special interests. California AG Kamala Harris successfully defended the state law on the sale of inhumane and unsafe battery cage eggs. A federal judge in Sacramento accepted the argument advanced by her office and by HSUS attorneys that Koster and his cronies lacked standing to challenge California’s law, going so far as to disallow any attempt to re-file the case.

In fact, because California is a leader on animal protection policy, AG Harris has faced an unprecedented set of challenges to state laws. Other states, egg producers, shark fin traders and foie gras factory farms have all sued California over wildly popular laws aimed at protecting animals from abuse and cruelty. And in each case, AG Harris and her office were successful in defending and upholding these important policies.

In addition to the Koster suit, Harris helped defeat three separate challenges to Proposition 2, the pioneering ballot initiative that will require by January 1, 2015 that breeding pigs, veal calves, and laying hens in California have enough space to turn around, stand up, lie down, and extend their limbs. One of those challenges remains pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where AG Harris continues to defend the farm animal protection measure.

General Harris and her team were also critical in defending California’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fins, aimed at cracking down on the brutal practice of shark finning, which is contributing to the widespread decimation in shark species worldwide. In the face of a lawsuit brought by shark fin traders, AG Harris and HSUS attorneys argued successfully that California’s law is neither discriminatory nor preempted by federal fisheries management laws. The law stands and will help stem the tide of shark fins and prevent sharks from being butchered alive at sea.

And finally, in news that broke last week, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal brought by foie gras producers, aimed at upending California’s ban on the sale of the fatty, diseased liver from cruelly force-fed ducks and geese. General Harris defended the law at the district court and on appeal, and filed a brief opposing Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit opinion, while Koster joined 12 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning the foie gras ban.

The attorney general is a statewide, elected office in California, Missouri, and most other states. Attorneys general like Koster use their office as a hammer to drive their political ambitions.

But there are other lawmakers not only committed to the rule of law, but also to the values of mercy and humane treatment for animals, even those raised for food. California voters should be proud that Kamala Harris is standing up for what’s right and that she's fighting to protect abused animals and the will of the people. HSLF is proud to endorse her for reelection.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Newspapers Urge YES on Maine's Question 1 to Protect Bears

Whenever we’ve confronted terrible cruelty, there’s always been a fierce effort to defend it. I think of tough fights in Louisiana to ban cockfighting, in California on Prop 2 and extreme confinement, and on bear baying in South Carolina.

Seldom do we see unanimous support for reform. There are always opinion leaders who don’t accept the real meaning of animal protection, or others who excuse cruelty or think it’s too much, too fast.

That’s certainly the case in Maine, where there is a looming ballot initiative to ban bear baiting, hounding, and trapping. There, some opinion leaders defend this sort of cruelty and unfair treatment. But I’m struck by so many people calling cruelty for what it is.

Bear_maine_blog
istock.com

The Journal Tribune says, “It’s hard to imagine a self-respecting, lifelong, traditional Maine woodsman calling himself a hunter when all he does is shoot a feeding, treed or trapped animal point-blank.”

The paper gives readers a clear picture of what these practices involve:“Traps only need to be checked once every 24 hours, which can leave an animal tormented for a lengthy period of time, and even though the snares no longer have cutting teeth, they can still result in the loss of a paw or digits as the animal attempts to escape. Hounding, while it requires significant time commitment in training dogs, places both the hunting dogs and the bear in danger as they confront one another.”


Further, the York County Coast Star says, “Maine is one of a last handful of states where baiting is allowed, and for good reason. The practice, akin to shooting fish in a barrel, is simply inhumane, and we see nothing sportsmanlike in shooting bears that have been lulled into a near sugar coma by stale doughnuts.”

The group of community papers including the Penobscot Bay Press, Castine Patriot, Island Ad-Vantages, and the Weekly Packet have also rendered their judgment, stating, “It is time that Maine joins the 21st century by showing respect and compassion for a species that shares our land and resources by stopping these unnecessarily cruel and harmful practices. We recommend a strong and unequivocal yes vote.”

And Current Publishing’s chain of newspapers across southern Maine emphatically states, “It’s cruel on many levels…We believe that the act of luring and killing snared bears just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t even seem like hunting. And we’re not sure why a hunter would feel satisfied with such a kill. Instead of allowing this method of hunting to continue, bring back bear hunting the way it should be.”

Even the papers that oppose Question 1 couldn’t find a lot of favorable things to say about these practices or those who defend them. The Portland Press Herald says, “A bear that’s chased by hounds has to run for its life and spends its last minutes terrified. A bear that steps in a cable snare can spend as long as 24 hours tethered to a tree before a hunter returns to shoot it.”

The Press Herald acknowledges that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife “overreached” in its public campaign against Question 1 and judged that the TV ads “featuring uniformed state employees warning of a public safety crisis that could occur if the referendum passes were unnecessarily alarmist.”

The Bangor Daily News, too, says the state agency opposing Question 1 is making “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test.” The paper also calls on politicians and state officials to do away with bear hounding and trapping: “If it fails at the polls, the Legislature and IF&W need to ban recreational bear trapping and hounding, or risk having this costly fight again.”

That doesn’t inspire much confidence in the decision makers who have made Maine an outlier, as the only state to still allow these three extreme bear hunting methods. They’ve had years to get it right, but they continue to allow bears to struggle and suffer in wire traps for hours or even a day, or to be chased by packs of GPS-collared hounds and shot off a tree branch. And they allow garbage dumps to be set up in the woods, with 7 million pounds of Twinkies and jelly doughnuts every year swelling the bear population and creating nuisance bears.

When the politicians and state officials are unresponsive to the wishes of the public, it’s time for the public to weigh in. Mainers can do just that in two weeks—and can end cruel and unsporting bear baiting, hounding, and trapping—by voting “YES” on Question 1.

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