Hot Legislative Issues dealing with Animals

A host of bipartisan measures have recently been introduced in the U.S. Congress and Senate covering animal safety, trade, and travel. We will detail the most notable ones, and explore their impacts on animals and animal rights.

H.R.1759–  Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (04/11/2017 Referred to the House Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture)
This bill, introduced in the US House seeks to regulate the transport and care of bmonkeys, elephants, big cats, and other ‘exotic’ animals by prohibiting their use in traveling shows such as circuses. Maybethe most famous circus of all – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey closed in May of 2017. ‘Zoochosis’ is seen as the primary driver of this legislation – the mental distress caused by the cramped and confined conditions that animals are housed in for these types of shows. This creates an environment where animals do not get the necessary exercise, diet, and stimulation they are used to in the wild, and have been known to act erratically, in some cases injuring pedestrians or onlookers.

H.R. 2790The Humane Cosmetics Act
(06/09/2017 Referred to the House Subcommittee on Health.)
This act seeks to effectively phase out testing cosmetic products on animals in the United States. You may have seen the “no animals were harmed in the testing of this product” label on many beauty products over the years.  The European Union voted in 2013 to ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, and now the US congress is following a similar approach. Frequent testing methods on animals include rubbing products on bare skin or putting drops in eyes of rabbits. These are seen as inhumane by animal rights advocates, and as an inevitable outcome given that over 500 cosmetics brands are currently “cruelty-free” and do not test on animals.

H.R. 909/S. 322 – Pet and Women Safety Act
(03/09/2017 Referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.)
The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) is an extension of domestic violence protections for spouses, partners, and children to their personal pets. It ensures that any threat of harm or damage to the pet is considered domestic violence. Pets are a tremendous amount of emotional support – especially in scary or tragic times. Unfortunately, many abusers manipulate their human victims through threats of violence to pets, which is why the PAWS act is widely supported among the animal care community and Congress, with many states having passed various forms of this legislation. Extending this protection federally is an important step to combating domestic violence in the United States.

H.R. 1584Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act
( 04/11/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.)
Orca Whales (Orcinus Orca) have been a controversial issue globally, especially with protests of Sea World in recent years, although they responded by ending their Orca breeding program and pledging that their current Orcas will be their last. In 2017, Adam Schiff (D-California 28) reintroduced the ORCA Act to prohibit the taking, importing, or exporting of the killer whale, or any product that contains that species, for public display purposes, which would effectively end their use in any similar program. The reason this is so significant for the Orca Whale is because of their reduced lifespan in captivity – most do not make it to 25 years old, while in the wild females live to around 50 and males 30. Their small confines in captivity also limit their innate abilities, since they can swim up to 100 miles a day.

H.R. 1817Chemical Poisons Reduction Act
(04/21/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations)
In order  to curb certain predators, the federal government uses livestock protection collars, and traps that contain poison meant to disrupt or kill animals like coyotes or foxes from preying on livestock. The compounds under scrutiny are Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide, both of which are extremely brutal to animals and have caused plenty of inadvertent animal deaths during various USDA Wildlife Service campaigns. This bipartisan effort hopes to end this practice and employ more humane ways to of predator control.

H.R. 1456/ S. 793 – Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017
(03/20/2017 Referred to the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.)
Shark Fins are used in a variety of products but most widely known for use in Shark Fin Soup. This bipartisan act aimed to eliminate shark fin trading in the United States. The practice of obtaining shark fins is seen as inhumane, as the fins are often cut off while they are still alive, they’re then thrown back into the water  but without the ability to swim where they die under duress. This law specifically limits the ability to legally possess a shark fin to only fins taken lawfully under a State, Territorial, or Federal license, which permits obtaining a shark fin if being discarded, used non commercially, or used for research. More and more sharks are becoming extinct, and this act will hopefully protect sharks from this industry and ensures fins are not imported from overseas.

H.R. 113/S.1706 – Safeguard American Food Exports Act
(01/25/2017 Referred to the House Subcommittee on Health)
Horse Meat has long been a controversial topic nationally and globally. In the past few years, we’ve seen horsemeat disguised as other types of meat in the U.K., and arrests made in Spain and Portugal for horsemeat unfit for consumption sold on the market. Support is gaining for a measure that would allow the direct export of horsemeat from the U.S. instead of through slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada as is current policy. This legislation seeks to ensure the safety of the horses that are being exported for meat production. Horses are often fed both legal and illegal substances during their lives, and are under-regulated in comparison to other forms of meat. Some chemicals, specifically , are poisonous and can cause death if consumed, such as phenylbutazone or nitrofurazone, the latter of which is typically in pain ointment and is illegal to have in horsemeat shipped to the European Union.

H.R. 3599 – Protect Interstate Commerce Act
(7/28/17 – Introduced)
According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund, this bill is the single greatest threat to animals in the United States. This bill would prohibit state and local municipalities from enacting legislation banning or regulating products or ingredients made in other states. Which essentially allows items made in other states to be sold in a state even if they have banned an ingredient or product. Common issues associated with animals that this legislation would impact include: allowing the sale of Foie Gras in California (The force-feeding of ducks to produce Foie-Gras is currently banned, as upheld by a recent District Court decision in the Fall of 2017) or forcing Massachusetts to allow the sale of eggs produced by hens in inhumane  quarters.

Trophy Hunting
Within the mid-2010s, trophy hunting was in the news for a lot of reasons, from President Trump’s reversal on retracting the ban on the importation of elephant trophies, to notorious hunting clips by his son and the Jimmy John’s CEO.  Trophy Hunting in other parts of the world has become quite accepted as it provides tourism revenue for communities, however, this income may sometimes be overstated. In terms of percentage of GDP, Botswana has the most hunting revenue in proportion to GDP with .13% of overall GDP being attributed to hunting (before a 2014 ban), while Tanzania and Namibia had .11% and .08% respectively. It is still debated as to whether trophy hunting is a significant source of revenue for nations, and consequently, it may be contributing to extinction for elephants and other species. It will be interesting to see in the near future how legislation shapes around this issue or if any other surprising initiatives arise pertaining to trophy hunting.

Sources: National Geographic, Animal Welfare Institute, Congress.Gov, BBC, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Africa Check, The Humane Society, Animal, Smithsonian Ocean Portal