For Our Animals the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Reside in DC

News Bulletin from the Humane Society of the United States

Some good news, some bad news but NO news for the Horses

Photo by Tanya Ashani

On the up side, the U.S. Senate last night gave unanimous approval to legislation to crack down on animal crush videos—the vile depictions of staged scenes in which scantily clad women maim and torture animals for the sexual gratification of viewers. I’ve written about it several times before, and the first reaction of any decent person is shock that anyone could possibly be so cruel to participate in making or watching this perversion. All good people are rightly outraged and disgusted by the idea of someone torturing and killing animals just for the sexual titillation of others. The bill, pushed by Sens. Jon Kyl, R. Ariz., Jeff Merkley, D. Ore., and Richard Burr, R. N.C., must now go back to the House, and we hope that chamber approves it in rapid fashion.

The other good news is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev., not only allowed the crush video legislation to come up for a vote, but he also personally offered motions to pass five other bills that had already been approved by the House: S. 1748—Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act, S. 850—Shark Conservation Act, S. 859—Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Amendments, S. 529—Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, and H.R. 388—Crane Conservation Act.

The bad news is that Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blocked all of the bills, denying final congressional action on a series of humane measures that deserve approval. Coburn did so under the pretense of fiscal restraint. But these measures cost very little, and they were all advanced to protect wild creatures from cruelty and in some cases from extinction. It’s worth the very modest investment to prevent such awful outcomes.

One can understand Sen. Coburn’s interest in fiscal restraint. But in his case, it is an obsession, and it borders on a mania. Lawmakers serve the public to balance a variety of interests, and not to see any topic in isolation or to magnify it and distort it. Cautious spending is an important value, but so is the defense of animals from cruelty, the rescue of marine creatures injured by human actions, or the protection of wild species from extinction. Coburn has corrupted a laudable principle of fiscal conservatism, and used it to negate and nullify valuable initiatives designed to protect vulnerable species at serious risk. In that sense, his is a fanatical devotion to a principle, and a misuse of power.

There’s another principle at work, and that’s the subversion of democratic decision-making. The Senate is a body of 100 individuals, elected by the people of all 50 states. Though it generally operates by the principle of majority rule, the Senate has a tradition of allowing individual lawmakers to place “holds” on legislation, allowing a single lawmaker to block consideration even of an enormously popular and bipartisan measure. Sen. Coburn uses the “hold” like most of the rest of us drink water, going to the well time and again. He is abusing this Senate privilege, and in the process he is subverting democratic lawmaking. When 99 senators favor reform and one does not, it is wrong for the one to prevail because of the upside-down procedures of the Senate.

While Sen. Coburn’s action allows real harm of living creatures to continue, there are many other lawmakers of both parties who do care and want to see the responsible treatment of all of God’s creatures. Sens. John Kerry, Maria Cantwell, Jeff Merkley, David Vitter, Richard Burr, Barbara Boxer, and others backed the measures Sen. Reid advanced. They didn’t appreciate Sen. Coburn’s obstructionism, but were powerless to stop the naysaying of one man obsessively focused on one narrow belief.

Today, I am especially grateful to Sen. Reid for his leadership, and we hope he’ll work to get these measures enacted in the lame-duck session to follow the election. I am pasting below the speech he gave on the Senate floor last night.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, one piece of unfinished business we have here in the Senate is to move a series of good, commonsense bills that would benefit wildlife and domestic animals.

These wildlife conservation and animal welfare bills have already passed the House of Representatives, and for a good reason. They also have bipartisan support. Most importantly, all of these measures are supported by the American people. These aren’t Democratic or Republican issues; they are issues of good moral conscience.

I have worked over the years on many bills connected to animals and wildlife. Not long ago, Senator Cantwell and I worked with a number of our Republican colleagues to pass a felony level penalty bill for dog fighting and cock fighting. This was a bipartisan rejection of animal cruelty. Today, we have the opportunity to help a great number of species. One bill ready for action, the Shark Conservation Act, will improve Federal enforcement of an existing prohibition on the killing of sharks just for their fins. Because of a loophole in the existing law, animals are still caught, their fins are severed, and the dismembered shark is sent back into the ocean to die. But they don’t just die, they suffer a horrible and protracted death—all of that cruelty for a bowl of soup.

Another important bill is the Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Act, which will strengthen programs that provide emergency aid to seals, whales, and other marine creatures that get struck by boats or tangled in fishing lines. This happens all the time.

Other bills, such as the Crane Conservation Act, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, and the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Act, will protect some of the most rare and remarkable creatures anyplace on Earth. Without our help, many of these creatures could disappear within a generation.

I also wish to draw attention to the efforts of Senators Merkley and Kyl today to clear an important bill that will end the appalling practice of animal crush videos. It is hard for me to comprehend what some people do. They torture animals and take pictures of them and sometimes sell those pictures. There are people sick enough to want to watch a little animal or a big animal be crushed and killed. They call them animal crush videos. The law we passed in 1999 outlawing these videos was struck down by the Supreme Court in April of this year. Senators Kyl and Merkley have worked to write a more narrowly tailored bill that respects the first amendment while still punishing those who seek to profit from the torture of puppies, kittens, and other helpless animals.

As I understand it, the Supreme Court said you can’t stop people from buying these videos to watch. But we can stop people from doing these terrible things that people want to watch.

I hope we can work these out and pass these by unanimous consent. Why do we need debate on these issues? These are good bipartisan bills that deserve to be passed.

25 comments on “For Our Animals the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Reside in DC

  1. As one of our advocates has urged us to do, we need to contact members of the Appropriations Committee and insist that funding be cut. Taxpayers cannot afford the kind of wasteful spending that goes into these round-ups and the subsequent incarceration of our Wild Mustangs and Burros.

    HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTE
    About the Subcommittee: Interior and Environment
    Jurisdiction
    Department of the Interior (Except Bureau of Reclamation and Central Utah Project)
    Forest Service (USDA) enciesSubcommittee

  2. Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Issues:

    Democrat Subcommittee Members
    Senator Dianne Feinstein (Chairman) (CA)
    Senator Patrick Leahy (VT)
    Senator Byron Dorgan (ND)
    Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD)
    Senator Herb Kohl (WI)
    Senator Tim Johnson (SD)
    Senator Jack Reed (RI)
    Senator Ben Nelson (NE)
    Senator Jon Tester (MT)
    Senator Sherrod Brown (OH)
    Republican Subcommittee Members
    Senator Lamar Alexander (Ranking) (TN)
    Senator Thad Cochran (MS)
    Senator Robert Bennett (UT)
    Senator Judd Gregg (NH)
    Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK)
    Senator Susan Collins (ME)

  3. Our domestic animals and wildlife need more compassionate and exacting legislation. It is a sign of the times despite our involvement in wars and our apparent belief that global warming is still a myth we need not act upon. If these issues will get the attention they need and deserve, will the wild horses last long enough for their turn to come?

    Please prepare to inform your legislators and the Appropriations Committee that you do not want any money given to BLM and the WH&B Program for roundups in the future as the American people are asking for a Moratorium and if BLM is seeking a scientific study they must stop stirring the herds up as if they can be removed during a study; they must not be. It will ruin any studies ability to observe the wild ones in their natural state and activities.

    Also ask that no money be allowed for the brutal spaying of our wild mares by BLM in the field. Recovery is over a month long per individual under less than ideal conditions. This is experimental, also. This shows the intent to have non reproducing horses who will soon die off and free up even more of their lands to the depravations of BLM/DOI. We must be effective and tell our people what is going on and get them to acknowledge what we tell them. They need to address this, think and respond to this. Ask them to form opinions from what you have to tell/show them.

    Keep using the letter from those whom Simone has gotten to sign onto. Show them who is listening. Use all you can in our arsenal of Videos and researched articles. Tell them what you think and feel and what you want! mar

    • What I don’t understand is why are they spaying mares when gelding the studs? Geez, if you geld all the studs the mares can’t get pregnant–unless someone has suddenly figured out a way that a gelding can father offspring.

      Besides which if you have “sustaining” gelding herds which a total misnomer you are breeding for extinction. There is no such thing as a “sustaining” gelding herd.

      I don’t know maybe in the land of BLM these biological facts are somehow reversed maybe?????

      Oh fun, the BLM is again running test experiements on OUR wild horses. First it was PZP now its some kind new fangled spaying? Don’t these dumbbells realize that if you do an C-section on a mare it generally has a BAD OUTCOME??? Why should we believe that spaying would have any different outcome.

      As well as when you do surgery you have to be in a sterile envioronment. You get systemic bacterial infections otherwise. Do I really believe that BLM would run a wild mare into some sterile surgical room, dart her and then proceed with some kind of insane surgery? Hell No.

      God, I can only imagine what the outcome wouldda been last spring if my doctor had done my shoulder surgery out in the middle of my parking space. Care to guess how bad that outcome wouldda been????

      BLM–Bulls Lies and Menegle

  4. I concur with many of the comments previously stated. It still baffles me that the Senator Coburn’s lack of empathy for living creatures other than humans is confusing to say the least. I wonder if his lack of sympathy towards animals would be exhibited towards humans? A pity that one such person can stall the impending progress of helping those less fortunate.

    • Coburn is “off the charts” when it comes to stalling legislation. Much of it finally passes, but he succeeds in holding it up until he gets concessions and allot more than his “15 minutes of fame”. Can you say “self-aggrandizing”? He gets mega press for his stance against “earmarks”, but Oklahoma still managed to get $3 billion in direct government contracts in 2008.

      I looked up his voting record/positions and was shocked by the things he opposes and supports. His list of PAC campaign contibutors is quite telling. I’d say he’s a nutcase, but he’s obviously a sly political operator.

  5. Makes me wish I had never moved to OK. Senator Colburn is also pro slaughter. He will not get my vote at any time, nor hubby’s. Grrr

  6. Remember, last appropriations FY2010…DOI whined about not enough money to pay for holding and were asking another $80 mil. Adovocates started raising hell about that request and instead, the White House gave the killers $300 mil(?) in STIMULUS FUNDS!!!!!! It wouldn’t have mattered is the appropriations/budget committees disapproved or not…the scum got funding to expedite, enlarge schedule of roundups, sterilizations, roundup populations and holding.

    Write? Absolutely…just remember that the human piece of garbage Slaughterczar knows how to play with the process AND money!

  7. Its only too obvious that they need to remove the abused privilege of putting holds on legislation. There is little good and much harm that comes from that motion. I noticed S727 was not one of the acts mentioned, oh yea its Reid. To say that it is irresponsible to allow money to be spent on protecting animals is,. to me, the same as if I put a hold on buying food. Food nourishes me just as animals enrich the actual earth and the souls of everyone on it. I fear by man’s manipulations into that which we do not understand the balance will become too far tipped to recover.

  8. There are certain Senators of the republican ilk that are blocking every single bill that is brought forward. It doesn’t matter if it is a no-brainer and costs no money, they are doing so purely for political reasons to thwart the administration. Congress is broken. One man can stop bills from passing that the people, the House and Senate want. This is how broken our system is. No one Senator should have this power. Boot his ass from office.

    • There are some Democrat Senators that when it comes to a bill that has the interest of special interest, especially animal/ag related do the very same thing.

      Corruption and selfish interests are an equal opportunity employer…they all do it.

    • I thought the idea of 3 beauracracies (is that the right word) Supreme Court, the Senate and the Pres was so NO ONE person had more power than another.

      This little bitty piece of manipulation is abhorrent almost as bad as Bulls Lies and Menegle.

      So how do we get this piece of filth rule repealed?

      • I think the word you meant to use is branches rather than bureaucracies (although within the braches there are plenty of bureaucracies) with the press as the Fourth Estate to keep a watchful eye and inform the citizenry of government activities.

  9. WE DO NOT HAVE A GOVERNMENT ANYMORE THAT IS FOR AMERICA. MOST OF THE GOVERNMENT TODAY IS MADE UP OF THE POWER ELETE THAT CARES NOTHING FOR THE PEOPLE MUCH LESS THE ANIMALS. THEY LOOK AT THE HORSES AS MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS NOT AS A BEUATIFUL SYMBOL OF OUR COUNTRY. WE MUST GET A NEW GROUP OF MEN INTO OFFICE YOUNGER MEN THAT CARE FOR THIS COUNTRY THERE ARE TO MANY OLD MEN IN OFFICE. A AGE LIMIT SHOULD BE PUT ON CONGRESS AND THE SENATE. IN THE MEANTIME WE MUST DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO PROTECT OUR HORSES.

    • Democracy is ugly…not the ugliest, but all the same, still ugly. Factor in an eligible voting population that either chooses not to vote or is happy with 1 minute soundbites via any special interest or candidate and this Nation has a recipe of disaster.

      One example: The tea party is angry about spending. I agree. But ask them if they want their social security or medicare cut and you’ll have a riot on your hands. And of course, they despise the Health Care Bill…..but…….

      • And ask them if it is ok to raise taxes on the richest 1% in this country who have gotten a sale on their taxes for the past 9 years under Bush and they will say no. They haven’t a clue what the rich and corporate America are doing to our democracy and middle class.

      • Actually THEY DO KNOW! Not sure if the details are finalized but part of the election preadjournment legislation/activity included continuing or giving new tax breaks to companies/coporations that are outsourcing jobs. Don’t know if it passed, but it was discussed as part of the current day activities yesterday on CNN and Fox and the Daily Show/Colbert Report.

        The Senate is a House of Lords and needs to go. House reshuffles every 2 years; Senate every 6….not good!

    • It is not a matter of age. But I do believe we need a new set of Congressmen. One of the very oldest who just passed on, Congressman Byrd, was working for the horses.
      We just have to take it case by case, and when we find the “good old boys” mentality, sweep it out.

  10. It is obscene that we need to debate issues like this in the first place, then for action to take years to happen. In the mean time defenceless animals die in this truly gruesome manner while people sit around talking about the rights of the perverts!! Crush videos are a pestilence and there should be a permanent record of any person who buys this filth. These, are very sick individuals and we need to know who they are!

  11. Crush videos (thank you Supreme Court) are bad enough as there was some point of law that allows their contiuation.

    When it comes to the wild equines THERE IS A FREAKING LAW!!!!!!! And the entire (not all…West Douglas for one) suports the abortion that is amendments and revisions like Burns all the while wiping herds, land and the animals themselves out.

    The amendments allow too much interpretation and basically a disolving of the basic 1971 Act. That, in and of itself should be suspect, illegal, etc.

  12. It is good to know which senators were particularly supportive of this legislation. One of them is one of my state’s senators. NC is particularly riled up about animal cruelty. There have been several high profile cases.

    It is my opinion that the President could call these round-ups off with a phone call. I could be wrong about this, but he appointed the Secretary to his position and referred to him as a friend. The President received contributions from the extractable and green energy industries for his run for office, and as we are seeing these industries emerge to expand their presence in the West thus crowding the livestock and farming lands, we see horses being removed from their legally protected lands. The President is a lawyer, and he used to say, “We are a nation of laws.” I believe that the President has allowed Mr. Salazar to stay in office, so that the negative press and ugly spotlight would focus on Mr. Salazar rather than the President. Mr. Salazar is directly wildly unpopular, counter-intuitive, environmentally destructive policies that will expand the energy industries at a breath taking rate. It is almost as if a directive has been made to do the most damage in the fastest time possible before the American people have time to figure out what is going on. The previous administration started us down this road, but this administration has thrown all restraint to the wind.

    Having given my opinion, everyone who has been watching this story evolve over the years or has come to it lately and studied the history knows that the wild horse issue is not a partison issue. Both parties are equal opportunity destructors, but someone has to step up to the plate for these wild horses and go to bat for them. The representatives and the late Senator Byrd who sponsored the ROAM Act are Deocrats from West Virginia.

    No one is unredeemable in this struggle, but for redemption, someone has to step up and say, “I made a very bad mistake, and for that I am very sorry. I am going to spend the rest of my life focusing on never making this mistake again. Though I can not undo the damage I have done, I will do whatever I need to do to atone for the wrong I have done.” Then we watch as the person sucks it up and pays his penance. We watch and we wait, and if the person’s actions indicate that he is truly sorry and he makes what reparations he can, we have the capacity to forgive. If any of these steps is missing, it’s not a deal. So if anyone out there needs a blue print to fix this with the American people, this is it. Say you’re sorry, you blew it, and then do whatever it takes to fix it.

    I am willing to forgive anyone who is willing to make that phone call, sponsor SB 1579, or step in and stop these merciless “round-ups”, return our wild horses to their families and the range, launch studies to determine the best practices for managing our wild horses and burros and our public lands. Eradicate the culture where corruption and gaming the public has been elevated to an art form. Educate employees. Work with ranchers to make their land more productive, so they don’t need quite so much of the public lands.

    Martin Luther King, whom I thought the President would be more familiar with than his actions demonstrate, wrote that all it takes for evil to survive is for good people to watch it and do nothing. In this case, good people watched very carefully and everyone did what he could to stop it. Ghandi said that you can judge the character of a nation by how it treats its animals. We know this, but how do these truths expounded upon by such great minds escape the great mind the American people elected? The one who could pick up the phone and stop this tomorrow.

  13. The President COULD put a stop to these round-ups and the fact that he hasn’t has turned many against him and his administration. He, at this point, looks to be just another puppet for the corporate powers. It is going to take a STRONG leader to really step up to the plate–still waiting.

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