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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How Have Your Lawmakers Scored So Far?

As we close in on the final couple months of 2013, HSLF is posting a preview of our 2013 Humane Scorecard. I hope you will check it out and see how your U.S. senators and U.S. representative have performed so far this year on animal protection issues. If they did well, please thank them; if they have room for improvement, please let them know you’re paying attention and there is still time for them to do better before the final scorecard is wrapped up at the end of the year.

CapitolIn this preliminary report, we evaluate lawmakers’ performance on animal protection issues by scoring a number of key votes, but also their support for adequate funding for the enforcement of animal welfare laws, and their cosponsorship of priority bills. We provided extra credit for legislators who took the lead on an animal protection issue, or who signed a letter opposing the dangerous King amendment in the Farm Bill, because that radical and overreaching provision is such an urgent threat. Building the number of cosponsors on a bill is an important way to show that there is a critical mass of bipartisan support for the policy, and help push the legislation over the finish line. Already in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in the cosponsor counts for each of these bills, and we need to keep the momentum going with your help.

The bill to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 209 cosponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate; the egg industry reform bill has 141 cosponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate; the animal fighting spectator bill has 211 cosponsors in the House and 33 in the Senate; and the horse slaughter bill has 156 cosponsors in the House and 28 in the Senate. These are impressive numbers, and they show the strength of our cause and our grassroots support.

Please check the scorecard charts and call your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Thank each of them for their support of the bills that they’re already on and urge them to cosponsor any of the four animal protection bills being counted on the 2013 Humane Scorecard that they’re not yet cosponsoring. If they decide to join on before the end of the 2013 session, they’ll receive credit on the final Humane Scorecard published at the end of the year.

You can look up your federal legislators here, and then call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to each of your legislators. Here are the four animal protection bills whose cosponsors are being counted on the scorecard:

HorseHorse Soring—S. 1406 and H.R. 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.—to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to exaggerate their high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas. More than 40 years ago, Congress tried to rein in this abuse by enacting the Horse Protection Act, but rampant soring continues, according to a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General that recommended reforms incorporated in the PAST Act. The PAST Act will amend the Horse Protection Act to end the failed industry self-policing system, strengthen penalties, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and make the actual soring of a horse for the purpose of showing or selling it illegal, as well as directing another to do so. This legislation is endorsed by the American Horse Council and more than 30 other national and state horse groups, as well as by the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practioners, and many others. The PAST Act is not expected to add costs to the federal government; it will simply enable USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way.

Eggs and Hen Housing—S. 820 and H.R. 1731, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.—to provide for a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens, phased in over a period of 15-16 years (during the normal course of replacing aged equipment for many producers), which will significantly improve animal welfare and provide a stable and secure future for U.S. egg farmers. The legislation is supported by the egg industry and animal welfare groups, and expressly does not affect any other livestock sector or food product other than eggs. Under this legislation, each laying hen will ultimately be provided nearly double the amount of current space, along with enrichments such as nest boxes and perches that permit hens to better express natural behaviors. Egg farmers will be able to invest in these enriched colony cage systems with the assurance that they will face regulatory certainty and not a patchwork of conflicting state laws—helping industry at no cost to the federal government (the preliminary CBO score on this legislation is zero). Studies have shown higher productivity for hens in enriched colony cage systems—i.e., more eggs and lower hen mortality. An economic study by the independent research group Agralytica concluded that the bill’s reforms are expected to increase consumer prices by less than 1 penny per egg, spread out over the lengthy phase-in period. Consumers support this legislation by a margin of 4-to-1, and it has been endorsed by leading consumer organizations, as well as by the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 1,000 individual family farms across the country, and many others. Cage-free and free-range systems, as well as operations with fewer than 3,000 laying hens, will be unaffected by the legislation, except that they may see increased sales as consumers are able to more clearly distinguish what’s available on store shelves, thanks to the bill’s labeling provisions. View responses to frequently asked questions here.

PitbullAnimal Fighting Spectators—S. 666 and H.R. 366, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. Introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La, and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.—to establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for knowingly bringing a minor to such a fight. Members also receive credit if they voted in favor of a related amendment, offered by Rep. McGovern during markup of the Farm Bill in the House Agriculture Committee (markup Roll Call #10 to H.R. 1947). While Congress has strengthened federal animal fighting law in recent years, this bill will close a remaining gap: prohibiting spectating and helping take the profit out of animal fighting.  Spectators are more than mere observers at animal fights. They are participants and accomplices who enable the crime, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling wagers, and helping conceal organizers and handlers who try to blend into the crowd when a raid occurs. This legislation is widely supported by nearly 300 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. The preliminary CBO estimate on this legislation is zero.  Related language is in the House-passed Farm Bill (H.R. 2642), as it was in last year’s House Agriculture Committee bill. This legislation has also been approved three times by the full Senate—in June as part of its Farm Bill (S. 954), and last year as a Farm Bill floor amendment and as free-standing legislation (S. 1947) on a vote of 88-11.

Horse Slaughter—S. 541 and H.R. 1094, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. Introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.—to protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. The shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in the U.K. underscores the potential threat to American health if horse slaughter plants were to open here. Horse slaughter is cruel and cannot be made humane, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight-or-flight response, and the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They don’t “euthanize” old horses—but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility.

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