Yesterday, in honor of National Animal Advocacy Day, Congress put out the welcome mat for Bam Bam, a special dog whom the ASPCA rescued as a puppy from a dog fighting yard in Alabama. The Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC) had invited Bam Bam to the Capitol as an ambassador for dogs rescued from animal fighting operations. U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Co-Chairs of the CAPC, were on hand to welcome the ASPCA and congressional staff.
Bam Bam joined a panel of experts to educate congressional staff about the fiscal and welfare challenges of caring for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases. The ASPCA regularly works side-by-side with federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to rescue animals from animal fighting rings, as well as expend vast resources caring for these animals afterward.
Federal criminal cases take many months or even years to progress. While they slowly advance, rescued animals must be housed, fed, and provided with veterinary and behavioral care. They often can’t be re-homed until the cases conclude, which means a dog may spend over a year waiting for his or her fate to be determined by a court.
Once the ASPCA and law enforcement authorities come to the rescue, these animals should be able to start new, happy lives; but federal seizure laws weren’t written with animals in mind. Animals can’t be warehoused like cars, drugs or commonplace evidence—and while living in limbo in this way, seized animals often deteriorate psychologically and behaviorally. Meanwhile, animal-protection agencies rack up astronomical costs to safely shelter these animals on behalf of federal law enforcement.
Fortunately, on National Animal Advocacy Day, we’re grateful for the great animal allies we have in Congress and in the Department of Justice (DOJ) working to solve this problem through legislation and regulatory changes. Reform is needed to have the alleged abusers, rather than taxpayers or groups like the ASPCA, pay for the costs of caring for their seized animals or relinquish custody of the animals, allowing them to be re-homed much faster.
We’re also indebted to our amazing citizen advocates, who sent more than 13,000 emails to the Department of Justice over the past month thanking them for prosecuting animal fighters and urging them to get even tougher this year.
Last Tuesday the ASPCA’s farm animal welfare campaign testified to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the committee that advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its Organic rules.
The ASPCA asked the Board to examine the problem of fast, unhealthy growth among USDA Organic birds raised for meat (“broiler” chickens and turkeys). Like conventionally raised birds, most organic birds are bred for unsustainable growth that causes massive suffering (including difficulty standing and walking). You can read more on our Truth About Chicken website, which shines a spotlight on these horrendous and largely hidden problems.
The USDA looks to the NOSB for suggestions on how to improve to its rules, so it is critical that the NOSB encourages the USDA to restrict the use of fast-growing, unhealthy birds.
In the coming months, we will need your help in urging the NOSB to act. If you join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, we will let you know as soon as those opportunities arise. In the meantime, please spread the word about the need for better standards for USDA Organic animals!
Thursday, April 30, is National Animal Advocacy Day—a day to recognize a cause that’s very close to our hearts! We know that you, our wonderful ASPCA supporters, are fighting for stronger laws for animals all year long, but this is the perfect time for all of us to pause and ask ourselves how we can make our work together even more effective. Is your lobbying game on point? How do you know if your messages to legislators are getting through? We have some tips from insiders on being the best, strongest voice for animals you can be.
It’s all about becoming a known entity to your legislators. A staggering number of messages flow through legislative offices, and the way many offices handle and prioritize these communications is by sorting them by the perceived “value” of the sender. They want to see that you’re politically engaged: here’s what they’re looking for and how you can transform from a mere voice in the crowd to a valued constituent whose opinion is sought and respected!
1. Register to vote—and actually vote, especially in primary elections. Legislators want to stay in office, which means they want to hear from their constituents—not people who live outside their districts—and they really want to hear from the people who actually determine whether they get to keep their jobs: voters. When you email your elected official, staff will often cross-reference your information with district voting records to see if you’re a voter, and active voters have more value to them than someone who asks for things but who has no record of having voted. We’re sorry to say it, but if you’re not a voter, your message probably won’t be given as much consideration.
2. Sign up to receive e-newsletters from your federal and state legislators. Another way that legislators see if you’re engaged is by checking your email address against their internal lists. Almost all of them send out periodic email blasts, which you can sign up to receive from their official websites. Find your federal and state legislators here, then visit their sites and opt in for emails! These emails will also inform you of opportunities to meet your legislators, which brings us to…
3. Attend “town hall” (in-person) forums in your community. Whether it’s a formal Q&A held at your local library or a more casual get-together at a coffee shop, municipal, state and federal lawmakers frequently host in-district events to take the pulse of their constituents. These events are the perfect chance to become a familiar face to your legislators and their staff and, of course, to bring up animal-protection issues. Public speaking is not easy for many people, but the more you do it, the easier it gets—and in this case, it’s often simply a conversation you’re having with someone who represents you.
4. Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade and act on our Advocacy Alerts. We’ll let you know when animal-friendly legislation is pending where you live, give you specific actions you can take and provide talking points to use with your elected officials. Taking action once enrolls you in the Advocacy Brigade. Get started right now:The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would ban horse slaughter and the export of American horses for slaughter, was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Our web alert lets you quickly and easily contact your members of Congress on the bill’s behalf. Help us make 2015 the year we eliminate this vile practice for good—email your legislators here.
We hope these tips have inspired you to get active in the policy-making process and become a stronger voice for the causes that matter to you. Please email [email protected] with any questions, and thank you for celebrating National Animal Advocacy Day with us!
Yesterday Tyson Foods, Inc. announced that it will phase out the practice of feeding antibiotics to the broiler chickens it produces when those antibiotics are also used for human medicine. Tyson joins other companies including Perdue, McDonald's, and Chick-fil-A that have recently made similar statements.
While it is great that companies are responding to consumer concerns about the very real public health issue of drug resistance, removing antibiotics without improving living conditions on farms is like taking off a bandage and leaving an open wound exposed.
Chicken companies have relied on antibiotics to counteract the disease that runs rampant in today’s crowded, filthy industrial farms. Bred to grow four times as fast as chickens grew 60 years ago, today’s chickens have weak immune systems, suffer from high rates of lameness and often spend most of their lives lying in their own waste. Removing antibiotics without addressing these animal welfare issues leaves animals vulnerable to disease and could increase consumers’ exposure to foodborne bacteria.
That is why the ASPCA has joined the Center for Food Safety to call on the chicken industry to fulfill its responsibility to consumers and animals by providing more space, better sanitation and lower stress for birds in tandem with this reduction of antibiotics. Consumers are demanding not just safer products but higher animal welfare on industrial farms, and the two are inextricably linked. If you want to demand more humanely raised chicken where you shop, fill out our supermarket request card today!
Do you wonder what happens on the farms that produce your food? Do you believe you have a right to know how animals raised for food are treated?
In the last few years, the farm industry has been driving the introduction of "ag-gag" or “whistleblower suppression” bills in state legislatures across the country. The purpose of these bills is to criminalize acts related to investigating the day-to-day activities of industrial farms, including the recording, possession or distribution of photos, video and/or audio at a farm. Such investigations have previously formed the basis of animal cruelty prosecutions and spurred reforms to protect the safety of our food supply.
If you want to know how ag-gag laws affect animals and consumers like you, join us and our panel of experts for our #OpenTheBarns Twitter chat on Thursday, April 23 from 1:00 to 2:00 P.M. ET to have your questions answered. Just follow the hashtag #OpenTheBarns and include it in your tweeted questions to have them answered!
Daisy Freund, Sr. Manager, Farm Animal Welfare, ASPCA Kendra Kimbirauskas, Chief Executive Officer, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project Cody Carlson, former undercover investigator, Humane Society of the United States & Mercy for Animals Patty Lovera, Assistant Director, Food and Water Watch
We’ll be discussing the dangers of ag-gag laws, how they impact animals and consumers alike, as well as what you can do to stop them in your state!