Obama administration re-elected, moves quickly to placate hunters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2012:

WASHINGTON D.C.–Barack Obama,  the first non-hunting U.S. president since Harry Truman, was re-elected on November 6,  2012 by a margin of 53% to 47% for opponent Mitt Romney–whose vice presidential running mate,  Wisconsin member of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan,  made much of his enthusiasm for bowhunting.

But,  while Obama probably owed no political debts to the hunting lobby,  the Obama administration on November 20,  2012 reiterated endorsement of the Sportsmen’s Act,  S. 3525, introduced before the election by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana),  incorporating 19 legislative goals of the National Rifle Association and the pro-hunting National Wildlife Federation.    

The Sportsmen’s Act would allow U.S. trophy hunters to import the remains of 41 polar bear carcasses shot in Canada before the U.S. in 2008 listed polar bears as a threatened species, halting all legal imports of polar bear parts. The Sportsmen’s Act would also expand hunting and fishing on federal lands,  exempt lead ammunition and tackle from federal environmental regulation, allow bowhunters to take their weapons across federal land where hunting is not allowed,  and encourage federal agencies to partner with state and local governments to maintain shooting ranges.

The U.S. Senate,  with a newly increased majority of Democrats,  on November 20,  2012 passed the Sportsmen’s Act,  92-5.  A companion bill cleared the Republican-dominated House of Representatives earlier in 2012.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) then moved to block amendments to the Sportsmen’s Act,  thwarting attempts by three Democratic Senators–Barbara Boxer of California, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey,  and John Kerry of Massachusetts–to introduce mitigating measures.

“Republicans had blocked the bill before the election,  fearing that passage would boost Tester’s re-election prospects,”  recalled Mary Clare Jalonick of Associated Press. “Tester ultimately won re-election,  narrowly defeating Republican Representative Denny Rehberg.”

Despite the election outcome,  Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) again stalled the Sportsmen’s Act on November 26,  2012 by arguing as a point of order that it includes $14 million in new federal spending,  in violation of the Budget Control Act,  passed in August 2011 as part of a deal to raise the federal debt limit. An attempt to waive the point of order failed mostly along party lines,  with Boxer and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) each voting opposite to their party’s positions.  Whether the Sportsmen’s Act would pass before the end of the 112th Congress remained unclear as  ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press on December 4,  2012. Why the Obama administration rushed to please the NRA was also unclear,  since the NRA spent $11.8 million to try to defeat Obama,  and $3.4 million to try to defeat six Democrats in the Senate,  all of whom won.

“When you look at all of the NRA’s endorsed federal candidates,”  said Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian,  “the gun lobby won only 45% of Senate races and 83.6 percent of House races.  HSLF won 83.3% of Senate races and 92% of House races. In the 34 races where the NRA and HSLF endorsed opposing candidates,  HSLF won 27 and NRA won only seven.”   The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a subsidiary of the Humane Society of the U.S.

Wild horse scandal

But the Obama administration has given animal advocates little to celebrate.  Obama was re-elected barely two weeks after Colorado Springs Gazette correspondent Dave Philipps revealed that the Bureau of Land Management has since 2008 sold at least 1,700 wild horses and burros to livestock hauler and would-be horse slaughterhouse entrepreneur Tom Davis,  64,  of La Jara,  Colorado.  Davis,  a neighbor and business associate of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,  bought about 70% of all the horses sold by the BLM since 2008,  at $10 apiece.  Brand inspection documents show that Davis trucked at least 765 of the horses to Texas towns near the Mexican border. Irate at being questioned about the horse-dealing at an Election Day get-out-the-vote rally,  Salazar was caught on video telling Philipps,  whose exposé  made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist,  “I’ll punch you out.” The Cloud Foundation,  a wild horse advocacy group,  posted audio of the incident on November 20,  2012.

Mitt Romney & dogs

But while the Obama administration has disappointed animal advocates,  most agreed that a Romney administration would have been worse. “Romney’s defeat gave me hope,”  Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi told ANIMAL PEOPLE.  Romney,  as head of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics organizing committee before being elected governor of Massachusetts later that year,  led Hindi to believe that calf-roping would be barred from the Olympic Command Perform-ance Rodeo,  held as part of the Cultural Olympiad.  Romney then allowed calf-roping to go on as scheduled.  Hindi responded by pursuing Romney during the last week of his gubernatorial campaign with a truck that aired graphic videos of calf-roping,  above banners explaining Romney’s connection to it. Hindi’s campaign was almost forgotten by the beginning of the 2012 election campaign,  but a 2007 Boston Globe article that described Romney hauling his family’s dog in a carrier on the roof of a car on a 1983 vacation trip to Ontario was not–and Scott Crider,  47,  of Gulf Shores, Alabama,  made sure it would not be.  Forming an organization called Dogs Against Romney,  Crider followed the Romney campaign through the primary election season with a dog dummy strapped to the roof of his car. Republicans countered by pointing out that Obama in his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father recalled having been “introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher),  and roasted grasshopper (crunchy),”  by his stepfather Lolo Soetaro while living in Indonesia,  1967-1971. Obama was at the time less than 10 years old. 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain on April 19,  2012 posted a photo of his son Jimmy’s bulldog Apollo on Twitter with the caption,  “I’m sorry Mr. President,  he’s not on the menu!” “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?”  asked Obama nine days later at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner,  citing metaphors used by 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to describe herself.  “A pit bull is delicious,”  Obama answered himself. Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King then reminded readers that–as King had exposed in 2006–Romney fundraiser Fred Malek was among five men who were arrested in August 1959 for allegedly killing and trying to cook a dog in a public park.  Cruelty charges were dismissed against Malek and three of the other men after the fifth defendant testified that he alone did the killing and attempted cooking.

While Romney had little if any positive record on animal issues,  Ryan had a strongly negative record.  Recited  Markarian,  Ryan “voted to allow the use of federal tax dollars to kill Yellowstone bison;  to allow the trophy hunting of bears over piles of bait on federal lands;  to process meat from downed livestock; and to facilitate the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  Ryan has [also] voted to weaken the Endangered Species Act by preventing the listing of any new species or designation of critical habitat;  to allow the interstate commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade; to allow the carrying of loaded firearms in national parks;  to prevent the collection of greenhouse gas emissions data from factory farms; to allow the use of dolphin-deadly tuna fishing nets;  and to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  He has voted against legislation to protect sea otters, marine turtles,  and rare dog and cat species.”

Ryan’s ratings on the Humane Legislative Fund scorecard dropped from 50% in the 106th Congress to just 13% in the 111th and 112th Congresses.

Hen cages & Farm Bill

Animal charities are hoping that the Obama administration will not cut a deal with Congressional Republicans in year-ending budget negotiations to increase government revenue without raising taxes by limiting  deductions given for making charitable deductions. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle expressed hope that Obama in his second term “will focus more attention on animal welfare issues,” beginning with efforts in the closing days of the 112th Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill,  stalled since July. First on the HSUS wish list would be the passage,  as part of the Farm Bill,  of HR 3798 and a companion Senate bill,  which would add to the Egg Products Inspection Act of 1970 language requiring egg labeling to accurately describe the conditions under which eggs are produced, require “adequate environmental enrichments” in laying hen cages,  and phase in–over 18 years–new space requirements of 124 square inches for white laying hens,  and 144 square inches for brown laying hens,  who are somewhat larger. HR 3798 was introduced after HSUS withdrew initiatives in Washington and Oregon that sought to ban battery caging,  in exchange for the endorsement of HR 3798 by United Egg Producers,  the major egg industry trade organization. HR 3798 attracted 151 House cosponsors. The companion Senate bill drew 19 cosponsors. But HR 3798 was eventually stalled by the opposition of the American Farm Bureau Federation,  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,  and National Pork Producers Council to any extension of federal regulation of agribusiness.  HR 3798 is also opposed by the Humane Farming Association,  United Poultry Concerns,  and Friends of Animals,  among other animal advocacy organizations who argue that it will bring marginal improvements in chicken welfare,  at the expense of obstructing further progress at the state level.  The HSUS/UEP deal expires with the 112th Congress.  HSUS and UEP have not discussed extending it,  senior factory farming campaign director Paul Shapiro told Dan Wheat of Capital Press,  because they are focused on passing HR 3798 this year. Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller told Wheat that HSUS has no “face-saving option” other than renewing the deal,  if UEP wants to renew it.  “Wayne Pacelle can’t very well revive the aborted ballot measures,” Miller said. “He killed those in exchange for nothing but air.  Nor can he initiate a new campaign to outlaw egg factory cages,  because he’s now on record as endorsing them.” Animal advocates hoped for positive Obama administrative response on other possible Farm Bill topics including ending federal subsidies for the pig industry;  requiring that non-ambulatory calves be immediately and humanely euthanized;  prohibiting Animal Welfare Act-licensed exhibitors from allowing public contact with big cats,  bears, or primates; banning the use of sodium cyanide and sodium fluoracetate (Compound 1080) for control of predation on livestock;  and classifying horses for whom there is no completely documented veterinary history as unfit for human consumption,  due to possible treatment with drugs that are prohibited from use in other animals slaughtered for meat. Also under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  Pacelle asked the Obama administration to “issue two final rules to protect dogs in puppy mills,  to close a loophole which permits large-scale,  commercial breeders who sell puppies directly to consumers, including on the Internet,  to escape basic oversight under the Animal Welfare Act,”  and to “implement legislation passed by Congress in 2008 to prevent the import of sick young puppies from foreign puppy mills for resale in the United States.”

Wildlife

While the HSUS agenda pertaining to puppy mills enjoys near unanimous support from other animal advocacy organizations,   Pacelle somewhat more controversially  asked the Obama administration to “Improve the wild horse and burro program by increasing the number of mares treated with immunocontraceptive fertility control,”  along with “improving care and handling procedures to ensure humane treatment, and decreasing the number of horses removed from the range and held in costly federal facilities.” The Cloud Foundation,  American Wild Horse Preser-vation Campaign,  and Friends of Animals are critical of wild horse contraception in most contexts.  The Cloud Foundation and AWHPC oppose any contraceptive method,  including surgically spaying wild mares,  which may reduce genetic diversity among wild horse bands.  On November 2,  2012 the AWHPC claimed a victory when the Bureau of Land Management cancelled a place to treat 60 mares from the North Lander herd in Wyoming with SpayVac,  an immunocontraceptive based on porcine zona pellucida,  which may induce permanent sterility. The AWHPC and Cloud Foundation said they would accept some use of ZonaStat,  another PZP-based immunocontraceptive that does not cause permanent sterility. Pacelle also asked the Obama administration to “Reauthorize and expand an expiring rule that requires ships to slow in right whale hot spots,”  and to “extend critical habitat to protect key feeding and birthing areas and to reduce the risk of the whales being struck by ships and entangled in fishing gear.” In addition,  Pacelle hoped that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service might “list all chimpanzees as endangered,”  which might end laboratory use of chimps;  list all constricting snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act,  to prohibit the import of all pythons and constrictors by the pet trade;  and “Grant [an HSUS] petition to list the African lion as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.” The Fish & Wildlife Service on November 26,  2012 “issued a positive finding on a preliminary 90-day finding that the African lion may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act,”  summarized publicist Molly Battles. “Listing the African lion as ‘endangered’ would prohibit the import of lion trophies into the U.S.,”  explained Pacelle.  “The number of African lions has declined by more than 50 percent in the past three decades,”  with as few as 23,000 left in the wild.  “The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of African lion parts,” Pacelle continued.  “Between 1999 and 2008, 7,090 lion parts reported as being from a wild source, were traded internationally for recreational trophy hunting purposes, representing a minimum of 5,663 lions.”  From 58% to 64% of the lion trophies were imported into the U.S.,  Pacelle said.  “Safari Club International, the world’s most notorious trophy hunting organization,  is driving the killing,” Pacelle added,  “and it will fight the efforts we are making to protect the species.”

Candidates     

While the 113th Congress will not differ greatly from the 112th,  the Humane Society Legislative Fund hopes to have increased influence.  “We helped to elect strong supporters of animal protection from the House to open Senate seats in competitive states,”  Pacelle said,  “including Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico),  and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut).  We also helped to re-elect Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Washington),  Ben Cardin (D-Maryland),  Dianne Feinstein (D-California),  Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey),  Bill Nelson (D-Flordia),  and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan. “The alternatives in some of those races would have been hostile,”  Pacelle said,  citing former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson,  “who campaigned with hunting enthusiast and NRA board member Ted Nugent.” Candidates endorsed by the Humane Society Legislative Fund won in 161 of 176 House races, but HSLF failed to unseat Representative Steve King (R-Iowa),  despite spending more than $500,000 in the effort.  Earlier in 2012 King included language in the present House version of the Farm Bill that would prohibit states from enforcing their own hen caging standards against eggs imported from out of state.  The HSLF campaign against King emphasized his opposition to federal anti-dogfighting laws passed in 2007 and 2012. HSLF claimed success in 15 of 18 state races in which it endorsed candidates,  and may have been especially influential in helping to elect new Washington governor Jay Inslee by a 56,595-vote margin.  Other

HSLF-endorsed winners at the state level,  said Markarian,  included new Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane; Washington state representative Hans Dunshee, “who has led the effort to retain voter-approved prohibitions on bear baiting,  cougar hounding, and steel-jawed leghold traps; California assembly member Paul Fong,  “who led California’s effort to ban the trade in shark fins”;  and California state senator Fran Pavley,  “who authored a bill to prevent landlords from forcing tenants to de-claw cats and de-bark dogs,  and helped pass California’s ban on hound hunting of bears and bobcats as chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. A chief opponent of animal protection,”  Markarian added,  Colorado state representative Paul Brown,  “who had introduced a bill to allow sport hunting of bears during the spring when mother bears are nursing dependent cubs,  was defeated by 768 votes.”

Ballot measures

But HSLF was much less successful on ballot measures.  Nebraska,  Idaho,  and Kentucky joined 13 other states in enshrining a “right to hunt” in their state constitutions. North Dakota voters overwhelmingly defeated Measure 5,  which would have introduced a felony cruelty penalty,  and added a “right to farm” to the state constitution. “The amendment guarantees the right of farmers to engage in ‘modern’ agriculture and bars any law limiting their right ‘to employ agricultural technology,  modern livestock production and ranching practices,”  summarized Blake Nicholson of Associated Press.  “The North Dakota Farm Bureau collected signatures to get the amendment on the ballot after HSUS unsuccessfully pushed a measure two years ago to abolish fenced hunting preserves in North Dakota. Farm groups in other states also had become concerned about HSUS and other animal welfare organizations pushing laws to ban small crates for chickens and pregnant pigs.”

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