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Ballot Measures

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 14 in ’14

As the year winds down to a close, I’m pleased to report that 136 new animal protection laws have been enacted this year at the state and local levels—the largest number of any year in the past decade. That continues the surge in animal protection policymaking by state legislatures, and in total, it makes more than 1,000 new policies in the states since 2005, across a broad range of subjects bearing upon the lives of pets, wildlife, animals in research and testing, and farm animals.

That is tremendous forward progress, closing the gaps in the legal framework for animals, and ushering in new standards in society for how animals are treated. I’d like to recap what I view as the top 14 state victories for animals in 2014.

Felony Cruelty
South Dakota became the 50th state with felony penalties for malicious animal cruelty. In the mid-1980s only four states had such laws, and it has long been a priority goal for The HSUS and HSLF to secure felony cruelty statutes in all 50 states. With South Dakota’s action, every state in the nation now treats animal abuse as more than just a slap on the wrist. The bill also made South Dakota the 41st state with felony cockfighting penalties, leaving only nine states with weak misdemeanor statutes for staged animal combat.

Ivory and Rhino Horn

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Paul Hilton/for HSI

New Jersey and New York became the first two states to ban the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns. The new policies will help to crack down on international wildlife traffickers and dry up the demand for illegal wildlife products in the northeast, which is the largest U.S. market for ivory and a main entry point for smuggled wildlife products.

The action by the states also helps build support for a proposed national policy in the U.S., the second largest retail ivory market in the world after China.

Exotic Pets
West Virginia became the 45th state to restrict the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals such as big cats, primates, bears, wolves, and large constricting and venomous snakes. The new policy is a major step forward for animal welfare and public safety, and it leaves just five states with virtually no restrictions on reckless individuals who keep dangerous predators in their bedrooms and basements and threaten the safety of the animals as well as the community at large.

Fox Penning
Virginia passed legislation restricting cruel fox pens—staged competitions in which wild-caught foxes are trapped and stocked inside fenced enclosures to be chased down by packs of dogs. Lawmakers reached a compromise to phase out existing pens and prohibit new ones from opening, laying the groundwork for an eventual end to this sick type of animal fighting between dogs and foxes.

Breed Discrimination

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Meredith Lee/for The HSUS

After the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that pit bulls were “inherently dangerous,” it ushered in a disgraceful era of canine profiling in which families with pit bull-type dogs were forced to choose between their homes and their beloved pets.

It took two years, but the Maryland legislature finally passed legislation to address the problem, agreeing that public safety is best served by holding dog owners equally liable if their dog injures someone, regardless of the dog’s breed. For their part, South Dakota and Utah prohibited any local government in those states from enacting breed-discriminatory legislation.

Veal Crates
The Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission was established to consider rules on animals in agriculture, and the panel decided to ban veal crates by 2018, making Kentucky the eighth state to end the cruel confinement of veal calves in small crates where they can’t turn around. While this is welcome progress, the commission unfortunately punted on other important issues such as gestation crates for breeding pigs and tail docking of dairy cows.

Greyhound Racing
Colorado banned greyhound racing, which hasn’t been active in the state since 2008, while Arizona passed legislation to require reporting of greyhound injuries at Tucson Greyhound Park, where a dog died in March after bumping an electrified inside rail. Iowa lawmakers passed a compromise bill to end or reduce greyhound racing at certain tracks, eliminate slot machine subsidies for dog racing, and set up a retirement fund for greyhound breeders.

Cockfighting
Louisiana, the last state to ban cockfighting, fortified its 2007 anti-cockfighting statute. The newly revised statute increases the first-offense penalties for cockfighting, tightens the definition of birds used for fighting, and bans the possession of cockfighting weapons and paraphernalia, to help law enforcement crack down on this staged animal combat. It’s a sign of the changing times that the last state to have legal cockfights now has one of the strongest anti-cockfighting laws on the books.

Pet Protective Orders
Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia strengthened their states’ protections for victims of domestic violence and their beloved family pets. The bills allow pets to be included in protective orders, helping to ensure that abusers do not succeed in controlling, manipulating, or keeping the human victims of their cruelty and violence in dangerous situations by threatening their pets with harm.

Puppy Mills
Minnesota, one of the top puppy mill states, passed long-overdue legislation to regulate large-scale commercial dog and cat breeders, requiring them to be inspected and meet standards of animal care. Virginia passed “Bailey’s Law”—named for a beagle puppy suffering from respiratory and intestinal infections after she was unknowingly purchased from a puppy mill—requiring that pet stores must inform consumers about the sources of their dogs. And Connecticut prohibited pet stores from purchasing dogs or cats from breeders with certain Animal Welfare Act violations.

Shark Finning

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Vanessa Mignon

Massachusetts became the ninth state (along with three U.S. territories) to ban the trade in shark fins. These state laws help to dry up consumer demand and crack down on the brutal practice of hacking off the fins of sharks, often while they’re still alive, and throwing the mutilated animals back overboard to die slowly in the ocean—just for a bowl of soup.

Cost of Animal Care
Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont strengthened their animal cruelty statutes by shifting the financial burden of caring for animals lawfully seized from situations of cruelty, abuse, and neglect from county governments and nonprofit shelters to the animals’ owner, saving animals and tax dollars. Instead of leaving local taxpayers and nonprofit organizations to foot the significant cost, the owner, who’s legally responsible for the animals’ care, is held accountable under these revised statutes.

Bestiality
Alabama passed legislation banning the sexual abuse of animals. It was previously one of 14 states with no laws on the books prohibiting bestiality.

Wolf Hunting
The citizens of Michigan voted by wide margins to reject two laws enacted by the legislature to open a hunting season on wolves. The ballot measures stopped the wolf hunt in 2014 pending the outcome of the election, and then 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. This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections in six states, and it sends a message to decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies about how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

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

 

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.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cast Your Ballot for Animals

On February 18, 1958, then-Senator John F. Kennedy told an audience of Loyola College alumni in Baltimore that we should “not seek the Republican answer or the Democrat answer but the right answer.”

Today, 56 years later and just 26 days shy of a crucial election, we at the Humane Society Legislative Fund are also after the right answers. The right answers for animals are the lawmakers who will fight animal cruelty and abuse, and stand up for the values of kindness and compassion.

This week we released our Animal Protection Voter Guide—a list of those humane-minded candidates endorsed by HSLF who need your support in three and a half weeks. You’ll see Democrats, Republicans, and Independents on the list—we make endorsements based on candidates’ records or positions on animal issues rather than on political party or affiliation.

We hope you’ll take the Voter Guide with you to the polls. Election Day is November 4, but early voting is already open in many places throughout the country. Check the guide to see if voting is open where you live.

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Julie Busch Branaman
Vote for humane candidates on or before Nov. 3

So, so much is at stake this year. Michigan residents: you’ll notice a slate of pro-animal candidates at the federal and state levels who need your support, and we’ve highlighted the important NO vote on Proposals 1 and 2.

There are fewer than 650 wolves in Michigan, and and the federal government recently took them off the endangered species list. Politicians and state officials didn’t waste a minute to try to open a trophy hunting season, fabricating stories about wolf encounters with residents to support their reckless idea. 

The use of painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves may all be in store if the Natural Resources Commission is given the unilateral power to decide on these cruel methods without any checks and balances from Michigan voters. Voters can say NO to the trophy hunting of wolves and say NO to this power grab by politicians, with a NO vote on Proposals 1 and 2.

November 4 will also be critical for Maine residents: You have the chance to ban the baiting, hounding, and trapping of bears, by voting YES on Question 1. Maine is the only state in the country to still allow all three of these cruel and unsporting practices. Hunters are not allowed to bait, hound, or trap deer or moose, and they shouldn’t be allowed to do it to bears. It's particularly cruel to trap a bear in a snare, and it’s unfair to shoot a bear out of a tree or over a dump site. Head to your city or town hall to cast your YES vote for Question 1 now—you don’t even have to wait until Election Day.

Along with these ballot measure campaigns, there are important candidate races from coast to coast. The pro-animal candidates need your help and your vote. In order to have humane laws, we must elect humane lawmakers. We need people in office who will stand up to puppy mills, factory farming, animal fighting, and other abuses, and support a positive agenda of animal welfare.

Your vote, combined with that of other humane voters who care about the fate of animals, can be the difference.

The animals are counting on us to participate in this election. Please grab your list, and make sure to vote early or on November 4.

Friday, September 05, 2014

100 Years of Solitude: Extinction Story Calls for Action Today

This week marked a dark centennial in our relationship with animals. On September 1, 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died alone in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.

It’s rare that we know the exact date a species became extinct, but in this case, we know it’s been 100 years since the extermination of passenger pigeons, which used to number in the billions in the United States.

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The passenger pigeon's extinction story has modern implications.
iStock.com

The birds were once so common that they would darken the skies for hours or even days at a time. Yet they were wiped out in just a few decades in the late 19th century, largely due to unregulated market hunting, even on their nesting grounds.

This vast commercial slaughter was enabled by new technologies such as the telegraph, which helped to lead hunters to their flock locations, and railroads, which transported box cars of pigeon carcasses to buyers in urban cities.

The plight of the passenger pigeon is a reminder 100 years later that we must redouble our efforts to protect imperiled species and do all that we can to crack down on the commercial killing of wild animals.

The Endangered Species Act is now under attack by members of Congress who want to roll back protections for rare creatures on the brink of extinction. The House has passed H.R. 4315, which would undermine the work of professional wildlife scientists and obstruct their efforts to list species as threatened or endangered. And it's considering a raft of other bills next week to continue gutting the ESA.

The Senate is considering S. 2363, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” seeking to punch holes in our federal conservation laws by encouraging the trophy killing of threatened polar bears and the pumping of toxic lead ammo into the environment which poisons eagles, condors, and other birds.

A century later, we still have commercial killing of wild animals for profit, although it’s sometimes dressed up as "wildlife management." Elephants and rhinos are butchered for their tusks and horns. But fortunately states are taking action to ban the trade in these products, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to tighten the rules on ivory sale.

Wolves, just recently stripped of their Endangered Species Act protections, are killed for trophies and fur pelts, but Michigan voters are fighting back and working to stop the abuse by politicians and special interests. Black bears are lured to piles of jelly doughnuts and rotting meat and caught in traps so professional guides can sell an easy kill at point-blank range to rich trophy hunters. Maine voters are working to end those cruel and unsporting practices and will vote on the issue this November.

As we take on these critical fights to end the slaughter of elephants, rhinos, wolves, bears, and other wildlife, let’s remember Martha, the last passenger pigeon, and a symbol of our past errors. Our nation can do better for these creatures and help ensure their humane treatment and their survival for future generations.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Movement for Hens to Move

KPBS of San Diego reported this weekend on Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs in Lakeside converting its battery cage egg facility to cage-free housing for hens. Owner Frank Hilliker says the birds appear to be happier and are producing more. He says he was against the cage-free idea for 40 years, especially in 2008 when California voters decided Proposition 2 in November of that year.

But after voters emphatically said they want more humane treatment of laying hens, Hilliker has invested $200,000 to convert one hen house and has four more to go.

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The HSUS
California farmers are moving birds out of cages.

Prop 2, approved with 63.5 percent of the statewide vote, has already had a big impact even though its does not go into legal effect until January 2015.

Throughout the state—fifth largest in the nation in egg production—farmers are moving birds from small wire cages, where they are crammed 12 to a cage and are virtually immobilized for their entire lives.

Hens are living new lives in cage-free barns, where they can spread their wings, scratch, nest, and engage in natural behaviors.

In addition to Hilliker’s, other egg producers such as Hidden Villa Ranch and Opal Foods are expanding their cage-free operations. And major food service providers, grocery stores, and restaurant chains are driving the market to put more cage-free eggs in front of consumers.

Several Midwestern attorneys general, led by Missouri’s Chris Koster, have filed a federal lawsuit to overturn California’s humane law—arguing that it will be too costly for farmers. But the standards are clearly workable, and that’s made plain by the producers who are shifting their production methods and realizing that the outcome is better for them, for consumers, and for the hens.

The outliers who want to continue to cram birds into tiny wire cages that are filthy breeding grounds for Salmonella are falling increasingly out of step with consumers and with the standards of decency in our society. And government officials shouldn’t pander to them.

Why should California consumers be forced to buy products that are unsafe and inhumane, such as eggs from cruel battery cages in Iowa? That state was the epicenter of a massive Salmonella outbreak in 2010, resulting in more than 1,000 people being sickened across the country and prompting the recall of a half-billion eggs. If producers from Iowa, Missouri, or any other state want to sell eggs to California, they should meet California’s reasonable animal welfare and food safety standards.

There are still some who complain about states having different rules on egg production. Congress had an opportunity to do something about it, by passing legislation backed by animal welfare groups and the egg industry to establish comprehensive national standards for the housing of laying hens—improving the treatment of not only the 20 million hens in California, but all 285 million in the United States.

Unfortunately, that legislation has been blocked, for the time being, by the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which oppose all state and federal standards to improve animal welfare on farms and slaughterhouses. 

Kudos to the California egg producers who are transitioning their operations in the run-up to Prop 2 taking effect next year and providing the birds with more space and better lives.

This kind of progress shouldn’t be slowed by Midwestern attorneys general trying to curry favor with Big Ag. It should be an example that good farmers are capable of making a transition that’s aligned with animal welfare principles and the wants of consumers.

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