Ringling Bros. Retires Circus Elephants

Seth Victor

As many of you may have already heard, Ringling Bros. is retiring elephants from its act and focusing on caring for elephants in a conservation center. Wayne Pacelles of HSUS described this move as a “Berlin Wall moment for animal protection,” and attributed the change to the evolving public opinion surrounding animal welfare, including the outcry that came on the heels of Blackfish and the treatment of orcas at Sea World. The termination of elephant performances has been long-sought by PETA.Photography-Elephant-Wallpapers

The media reaction, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a bit divided regarding Ringling Bros’s decision. An op-ed in the New York Post believes that the circus’s “craven capitulation to PETA will only embolden zealots to agitate for elimination of all circus animals — if not eventually to bestow upon all living creatures the same “inalienable rights” as humans,” and goes on to state that without exposure to animals via a circus, most people will not form a connection with the animals, and will thus not care to save them in the wild. The L.A. Times also notes that many people feel the elephants are an iconic part of the joy of the circus. Meanwhile op-eds in the New York Times range from echoing the Post to refuting the sentiments of the circus sympathizers. Continue reading

Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California, asking the federal court to overturn a 2010 California law requiring the same standards for in-state chickens be applied to out-of-state chickens. In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot measure that increased the standards for egg-layers, providing that such chickens must have enough space to spread their wings without touching another chicken, and be able to stand up and lay down. Animal producers in California, however, complained that because they couldn’t stuff as many birds into the same space, they are at an economic disadvantage when competing with out-of-state producers selling in California. In response the state legislature passed a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be held to the same standards required under Proposition 2. The law will take effect in 2015. While California maintains that the additional law was enacted for health safety given the atrocious conditions of battery cages, Missouri counters that the law is an unlawful attempt to regulate conduct outside of California’s boarders, and an impermissible protection against out-of-state competition, both of which are in violation of the Commerce Clause. Continue reading

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

Continue reading

“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages. Continue reading

The Agribusiness Lobby Wins Again

Jacqueline McMahon

Well, there go the rights of farmed animals and whistleblowers in Iowa.  On March 17, 2011, the Republican-dominated Iowa House of Representative voted 65-27 to approve a bill criminalizing secretly recording factory farm practices.  Under the bill, House File 589 § 9, drolly named “Animal Facility Interference,” any person who produces, possesses or distributes an audio or visual recording of an animal facility without the consent of the owner is guilty of either a class D felony or aggravated misdemeanor.  The bill still has to pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate before officially becoming Iowa law, but with similar proposals popping up in other states including Florida, the idea of prohibiting these exposé recordings is picking up steam. Continue reading

North Dakota Measure 2 — Canned Hunting Contextualized

David Cassuto

There’s an odd debate going on within the North Dakota agriculture industry over Measure 2, which would ban canned hunting in the state.  On the one hand are those who support the measure because they believe canned hunts  reflect badly on the animal industry and also bring the threat of disease to livestock.  On the other side are those who say canned hunting is no different than other types of animal agriculture in that both businesses raise the animals for meat.   According to one measure opponent, “It would seem to me that the animal there is private property.  This (ban) is one step away from banning the slaughter of cattle, hogs and sheep, what have you.”      Continue reading