Rats, mice, birds, Bush and Gore
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2000:
WASHINGTON D.C.––Rats, mice, and birds were
not a U.S. federal election issue, yet the fate of millions may
hang on the outcome of the lawsuits and ballot recounts underway
If U.S. Vice President Albert Gore gains the lead in
electoral votes to go with the popular vote lead that he won on
November 7, Gore will succeed President Bill Clinton in January.
Senator Joseph Lieberman would become Vice President.
Gore led the White House defense of the Endangered
Species Act after wise-use Republicans gained majorities in both
the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1994.
Lieberman, who as Vice President would break tie
votes in the Senate, could be depended upon to vigorously protect
both the ESA and the Animal Welfare Act. According to the legislative
scorecards kept by the Fund for Animals, Friends of
Animals, and Humane Society of the U.S., Lieberman in two
terms as U.S. Senator from Connecticut had one of the best
records on animal issues of any member of Congress.
Should Texas governor George W. Bush win the electoral
count, however, the U.S. President and Vice President will
both be avid hunters and outspoken opponents of strict endangered
species protection. Bush is the reigning Safari Club
International “Governor of the Year,” was endorsed by the
National Rifle Association, and was fined $130 in September
1994 for shooting a protected killdeer he had mistaken for a dove
during a Texas gubernatorial race photo opportunity.
Neither Bush nor running mate Dick Cheney have any
visible positive history on animal protection.
The Stephens kangaroo rat, Prebles jumping meadow
mouse, and California gnatcatcher are only a few of the endangered
rats, mice, and birds whose species might be put at risk of
extinction if a Bush/Cheney administration hampers ESA enforcement
as the Bush gubernatorial administration has done in Texas.
Neither would Bush interfere if the Republican majorities
still holding the House and Senate move to weaken the ESA.
Further, Bush is expected to appoint as his Interior
Secretary either of two notorious foes of the ESA: Alan Simpson,
former U.S. Senator from Wyoming, or Representative Don
Young (R-Alaska), the only licenced trapper in Congress.
A less controversial choice mentioned when Bush
appeared unlikely to win the presidency with the popular vote as
well as the electoral vote in his favor would be John Turner, who
headed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Bush’s father,
former U.S. President George H. Bush.
Less noticed than their endangered kin are the 20 million
or more rats, mice, and birds (mostly chickens) used each
year in U.S. laboratories. These rats, mice, and birds have officially
been considered non-animals under the Animal Welfare Act
enforcement regulations in effect since 1970.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
in early October agreed in settlement of a lawsuit brought by the
Alternatives Research & Development Foundation that the AWA
enforcement regulations should be extended to rats, mice, and
birds, but the apparent victory was soon deferred, and could even
be overturned by the 107th Congress. ARDF is an affiliate of the
Philadelphia-based American Anti-Vivisection Society
“We can expect the National Association for
Biomedical Research to make a run at the AWA,” ARDF president
John McArdle told ANIMAL PEOPLE on October 11.
Earlier that day a last-minute amendment to the
USDA appropriations bill submitted by Senate Appropriations
Committee chair Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) ordered the
USDA to spend no funds during the 2001 fiscal year “to issue a
notice of proposed rulemaking, to promulgate a proposed rule,
or to otherwise change or modify the definition of ‘animal’ in
existing regulations persuant to the Animal Welfare Act.”
The amendment postponed for at least a year and perhaps
nullified the ARDF-vs.-USDA-APHIS settlement.
The settlement was endorsed by the American
Association of Laboratory Animal Science, the Association for
Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care
International, and the Scientists’ Center for Animal Welfare.
However, the settlement was opposed not only by
NABR and the affiliated Foundation for Biomedical Research,
but also by the Association of Medical Colleges. AMC vice
president for research Anthony Mazzaschi told Rick Weiss of
the Washington Post that the paperwork cost of just tracking
use of rats, mice, and birds would cost researchers $200 million
per year, or $10 per animal.
Mazzaschi also contended that other existing regulations
already adequately protect rats, mice, and birds, even
though they are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act.
But Mazzaschi’s assurance came toward the end of a
year in which the USDA cited two of the 82 animal research
labs at the University of Connecticut main campus in Storrs for
“serious” and “disturbing” violations of the AWA; the
Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory
Animal Care International put the Health Science Center of the
University of Florida in Gainesville on a two-month probation
due to multiple failures to meet voluntary animal care standards;
and University of Kansas veterinarian James Bresnahan
and animal care and use committee chair Stephen Benedict
warned that the ventilation system in three laboratory buildings
is so decrepit that in one of them, “The failure that is likely to
occur will probably cause the loss of animals, loss of data, and
shut down most research involving animals.”
In short, even at major institutions and even where
the AWA covers the animals in custody, lab animals are not
always given adequate routine care and facilities.
Further, there are indications from institutions which
voluntarily report the numbers of rats, mice, and birds used in
experiments that their numbers have been going up, even as the
numbers of regulated species used come down. Mice have
become the preferred species for genetic research, for instance,
in part because the regulatory requirements involved in using
them are few and weak.
CAUGHT WITH PANTS DOWN
U.S. Federal Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on October
6 threw out an application by NABR and Johns Hopkins
University for an injunction against the USDA settlement with
the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation.
But NABR representatives apparently then enlisted
help from the University of Mississippi Medical Center to win
Representative Cochran’s immediate attention.
“We went through the system and followed the
rules,” complained McArdle to Dan Vergano of USA Today.
“They went through a sneaky back door way to put off a judicial
Added McArdle to Tom Abate of the San Francisco
Chronicle, “We got caught with our pants down. But we have
just as many friends in Congress as they do.”
Both the animal protection community and the biomedical
research community enjoy broad-based bipartisan support.
The 2001 federal budget, however, allocates nearly $19
billion to the National Institutes of Health to fund research,
which translates into hundreds and in some instances thousands
of highly paid jobs in the home districts of most U.S. Senators
Historically, researchers and other major animal use
industries easily get their way with legislation whenever either
the Republicans or the Democrats hold the House, Senate, and
White House. Humane concerns fare better when strong opposition
at one level forces legislation to go through extended discussion
Then, at request of particularly influential members
of key legislative committees, animal protection measures
such as the Pet Theft Act of 1990 may be incorporated into
omnibus bills to help ease compromise.
Relatively few animal protection bills have been
passed as stand-alone legislation.
PASSED INTO LAW
Animal protection bills passed by the 106th Congress
and signed into law by President Clinton include the Great Ape
Protection Act (see page 1), a ban on imports of dog and cat
fur which was accepted as an amendment to a trade bill ( s e e
page 7), and a bill by Senator Robert Smith (R-N.H.) and
Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) to provide adoptive
retirement as an alternative to euthanasia for trained dogs who
are taken out of federal service.
Previously, retired federal government dogs with
special skills were sometimes transferred to civilian law
enforcement agencies or to Lackland Air Force Base, in San
Antonio, for use in training human handlers. The old rules forbade
adoption into homes on the presumption that most government
dogs were trained for guarding or war-related duties.
That presumption became obsolete with the growing
use of sniffing dogs to detect contraband, fire hazards, and
even termites. Sniffing dogs are typically trained through play;
“sic ‘em” usually isn’t in their vocabulary.
Clinton signed the dog retirement bill on November 8
––just two months after dog lover Tom Johnston of Louisville,
Kentucky, persuaded Bartlett to introduce it.
Passed by both the Senate and the House, but needing
final Senate ratification before going to Clinton was a bill
by Representative Randy Cunningham (R-California) to prohibit
taking only the fins from sharks caught in Pacific waters.
Similar regulations have been in effect since 1993 in the
Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Two major appropriations bills adopted in the last two
weeks before the election pertain to wildlife habitat.
The much publicized Conservation and Reinvestment
Act of 2000, proposed by House Resources Committee chair
Don Young (R-Alaska) and Senator Frank Murkowski (RAlaska),
was dropped in favor of the less costly and less longreaching
Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
As passed and signed by Clinton, the Interior bill
provides $12 billion in mostly new funding over the next six
years for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Formed in 1964 to help states and the federal government
acquire property for recreation and conservation, the fund has
been considered chronically underendowed.
Awaiting Clinton’s signature, or veto, is the Water
Resources Development Act, introduced in the Senate as funding
for a $1.4 billion restoration of the Everglades, to occur in
stages over 36 years. By the time the bill cleared both the
House and the Senate, it called for spending $7.8 billion on
various water projects around the U.S., including $400 million
on items favored by House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee chair Bud Shuster (R-Pennsylvania).
A potentially problematic rider to the USDA appropriation
bill, signed by Clinton on October 28, orders the
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to “intensify efforts
in both research and operations to control migratory fish-eating
birds, such as the double crested cormorant, which are causing
serious problems to the Southeastern aquaculture industry.”
The rider also funds a USDA Wildlife Services plan
to “experimentally” poison two million blackbirds in the
Dakotas to benefit sunflower growers. USDA Wildlife
Services has already poisoned about 750,000 blackbirds per
year in the Dakotas since 1994. The expanded plan was thwarted
in the year 2000 because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
refused to grant USDA Wildlife Services a required permit.
USDA Wildlife Services deputy administrator Bill
Clay told Washington Post staff writer Ben White [not to be
confused with Animal Welfare Institute staffer Ben White] that
the funding would be used “to further study and analyze the
birds’ movements, particularly what they do after being rousted
from their nests.”
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press on November
15, Senate Appropriations Committee chair Ted Stevens (RAlaska)
was reportedly pushing a rider to the Commerce
Department appropriation bill which would suspend
Endangered Species Act protection of Stellar sea lions in the
waters surrounding the Aleutian Islands. The rider, if accepted,
would overturn an August order by U.S. District Judge Thomas
Zilly that halted fishing for pollock in areas where Stellar sea
lions are in rapid decline due to apparently inability to compete
for pollock successfully against trawlers.
Half the fish caught by Alaskan vessels are pollock,
according to Stevens––and since the advent of big trawlers in
the 1970s, the Stellar sea lion population has fallen by 80%.
The Stevens rider was just one of 26 that were expected
to be grafted to last-minute spending bills if the post-election
political climate favored wise-use, according to the Endangered
Species Coalition electronic newsletter.
A rider by Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming), for
instance, would attempt to prohibit the National Park Service
from keeping snowmobiles out of wildlife habitat.
A worrisome rider from a less familiar direction was
expected from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and
Representative Jerry Lewis (R-California), who seek to enable
Fort Irwin to expand military training exercises into 87,000
acres of habitat for the endangered Mojave desert tortoise.
But the election results were unclear, in part because
Congressional voting on animal and habitat issues rarely follows
party lines. In general, Republicans are less likely to vote
in an animal-friendly pattern; however, many Democrats vote
in a less animal-friendly pattern than most Republicans.
The balance of power in the Senate and perhaps for
animal issues appeared to depend on the outcome of the
Presidential race and––almost as much––upon the outcome of
the also too-close-to-call race between incumbent Senator Slade
Gorton (R-Washington) and challenger Maria Cantwell.
The Washington Senate race is particularly important
because Gorton has historically favored the timber, fishing,
mining, and biomedical research industries, and has been a
ringleader of efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
Cantwell has relatively little public history on animal
issues, but––opposite to Gorton––did support Washington
Initiative 713, which banned the recreational or commercial
use of body-gripping traps and two especially deadly poisons.
If the Presidency goes to Albert Gore, Lieberman as
vice president would preside over the Senate, but the
Republican governor of Connecticut would appoint a
Republican to Lieberman’s Senate seat.
If Gorton retained a narrow edge over Cantwell in the
final count, not due until December 7, Republicans could then
have a two-vote majority.
If Gore loses, Lieberman would return to the Senate,
cutting the Republican lead to one vote in the event of a Gorton
victory, or creating an even balance if Cantwell picked up the
4,500 extra absentee votes she needed to edge Gorton.
Ousted in the November election were three
Republican Senators with completely negative voting records
on animal issues: Rod Grams of Minnesota, Spencer Abraham
of Michigan, and John Ashcroft of Missouri.
But Representative Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Atlanta) survived
$10,000 worth of television advertisements placed by the
Humane USA political action committee, headed by Humane
Society of the U.S. vice president Wayne Pacelle.
The ads targeted Barr’s opposition to a federal law
banning the interstate sale of videotapes which pornographically
depict humans in the act of killing or torturing animals. The
ads featured a clip from such a pornographic video. After they
aired in October, one Atlanta cable station was reportedly
warned by National Republican Congressional Committee general
counsel Donald F. McGahn that, “By continuing to air this
ad, your network is placing footage of animal cruelty in interstate
commerce, which appears to be illegal. You may be held
criminally liable,” under the statute that Barr fought against.
At press time the Republican edge in the House of
Representatives appeared to have declined slightly, to 221-212
over the Democrats, with two independents.
Don Young (R-Alaska), stepping down as chair of
the Resources Committee, was according to the Salt Lake
Tribune “99% certain” to be succeeded by Representative Jim
Hansen (R-Utah), who declared that if appointed his first priority
would be weakening the Endangered Species Act.
The outcome of voting on animal-related state initiative
petitions was approximately the same as the outcome of the
races for President and control of the Senate: almost a deadeven
split, with mostly favorable results in the big-population
states but mostly negative results in rural regions.
Humane USA called the initiative results a 5-3 split in
favor of animals, discounting the passage of Oregon Measure 3
by 66% of the voters and Utah Initiative B by 70%.
Neither Measure 3 nor Initiative B directly addressed
animal protection. Both asked voters to strengthen property
rights by preventing the seizure and sale of property in advance
of a criminal conviction. Neither initiative drew national attention,
but both were opposed by humane organizations.
Animal Legal Defense Fund director Stephan Otto
explained to Judy Fahys of the Salt Lake Tribune before the
election that Oregon Measure 3 might force animal shelters to
sell animals seized in cruelty cases at auction, or oblige the
return of animals to abusive homes––or bankrupt shelters by
forcing them to hold animals throughout long legal processes
instead of putting them up for adoption.
Utah Humane Society executive director Gene
Baierschmidt feared similar consequences from Initiative
B––although Janet Jenson, who drafted it, said it would not
affect the Utah Animal Protection Act.
While overwhelmingly approving Measure 3,
Oregon voters crushed a proposed ban on body-gripping traps
called Measure 97 by almost as lopsided a margin: 39% in
favor, 61% against.
Measure 97 was almost identical to the anti-trapping
initiatives approved by the voters of neighbor states California
in 1998 and Washington this year. Washington Initiative 713
drew 54% of the vote, even though one of the two biggest television
stations in the state, KING-TV of Seattle, refused to air
advertisements for the trapping ban which showed a coyote
with his head in a Conibear beaver trap.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department
objected that the Conibear trap could only be legally set underwater
under the existing state trapping rules––as if the injured
coyote could not have been caught when he dipped his face into
a pond to drink.
In any event, the water levels of ponds, streams, and
ditches frequently fluctuate during the winter trapping season,
depending on the volume of snowmelt and runoff, and a trap
set a foot underwater at dusk can easily be a foot above the
water level by dawn.
The Washington and Oregon anti-trapping initiative
campaigns both involved infusions of out-of-state money.
Preliminary estimates were that outside money funded as much
as 75% of the pro-trap ban advertising, and about 60% of the
anti-trap ban ads.
The anti-trap ban efforts were led by the Virginia-based Ballot Issues Coalition, headed by Steve Boynton.
“An attorney, Boynton became a minor figure in the Whitewater scandal when he was hired by National Spectator magazine to seek evidence of misbehavior by President Clinton,” Spokane Spokesman Review writer Dan Hansen reported. “Boynton in the past has represented the National Trappers Association, foreign whaling interests, and hunters who feel persecuted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. USFWS fined Boynton $190 in 1993 for hunting doves drawn to bait in Maryland. Boynton argued that the grain was sowed to grow wheat, not birds, and successfully lobbied Congress for changes to the law,” Hansen added.
Funded by the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, “and other groups that represent hunters and gun and bow manufacturers, ” according to Hansen, Boynton and the Ballot Issues Coalition also pushed initiatives in Alaska, Arizona, North Dakota, and Virginia. The Alaska and Arizona initiatives sought to amend the state constitutions to require that future initiatives about wildlife management to pass with at least two-thirds of the vote to take effect. Utah voters approved a similar amendment in 1998. HSUS, the Initiative & Referendum Institute, and indi- vidual coplaintiffs on October 23 filed a feder- al court suit in Salt Lake City, seeking to overturn the amendment for allegedly violating First Amendment rights.
There won’t be such a suit in either Arizona or Alaska. Only 38% of Arizona vot- ers favored the proposed supermajority requirement, and just 36% of Alaska voters favored it.
Alaskans also dumped the attempt of the state legislature to overturn a 1996 initia- tive ban on so-called land-and-shoot wolf hunting, 53% for the wolves to 47% against them.
As the results became apparent on election eve, the Alaska Board of Game voted 5-2 to close 29 square miles of state land around Denali National Park to wolf hunting and trapping for the next two years, to protect the Toklat pack, who are viewed and pho- tographed by an estimated 20,000 tourists per year. One negative vote came from Chip Dennerlein, who sought to make the closure permanent.
The Ballot Issues Coalition won lop- sided victories for right-to-hunt state constitu- tional language in North Dakota (77%, against no organized opposition) and Virginia (60%).
However, many Virginia voters may not have known what they were favoring. The ballot asked only, “Shall the constitution of Virginia be amended by adding a provision concerning the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest game?” Not stipulated was the nature of the provision.
The Fund for Animals and HSUS on October 19 unsuccessfully sought an injunc- tion against either putting the question before voters or counting the outcome, depending on what was feasible. Circuit Judge Melvin R.
Hughes Jr. ruled on October 27 that such an injunction could not be issued without over- whelming evidence in support of the plaintiffs’ contention that the question would eventually be found illegally vague.
Neither the Ballot Issues Coalition nor national animal advocacy groups actively campaigned in Montana, where Initiative 143 banned new game farms, the transfer of exist- ing game farm licenses, and so-called canned hunts. It passed 53% to 47%, in a fight seen essentially as wilderness hunting outfitters against proprietors of hunting ranches.
GREY 2K VS. MSPCA
A major disappointment for animal defenders was the loss of a proposed ban on greyhound racing in Massachusetts, 51% to 49%.
National humane organizations and the Massachusetts SPCA refused to back the petition drive by a grassroots coalition of grey- hound rescuers called Grey2K when it began, judging the cause unwinnable. However, the petitioners did gain substantial support from the Animal Rescue League of Boston and got the question onto the ballot after many observers had already called the effort dead.
Even then, Grey2K was a distinct underdog, raising just $712,000 to fight against the Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere and the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park in Rayham, which spent $1.7 million to beat them.
The Massachusetts SPCA, with $77 million in cash and securities reserves, did almost nothing visible until nearly a month after ballots were printed with summary argu- ments in which the greyhound industry claimed, “animal welfare regulations [at tracks] are enforced by…police as well as state-approved veterinarians and the MSPCA.”
On October 30, MSPCA president Gus Thornton finally did endorse the Grey2K initiative, in a joint statement coauthored by Animal Rescue League of Boston president Arthur G. Slade, published in the B o s t o n Globe .
But if the MSPCA ever put signifi- cant resources into the struggle, Grey2K back- ers agreed, they never saw any evidence of it.
Splitting from Grey2K after the elec- tion, National Coalition of Greyhound Advocates founder Kitty Granquist told Scott Van Voorhis of the Boston Herald that she would challenge the election results in court, on unspecified grounds. If that failed, she said, she hopes to push a similar initiative to be considered on the next state ballot.