Animal Interests Win In Farm Bill
By: Patti Strand Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation |
Dog breeders and owners, scientific researchers, those who benefit from animal-based research, and wildlife scientists won several victories in the 421-page Farm Bill recently passed by Congress.
Dog breeders and owners won when the House-Senate conference committee dropped the Puppy Protection Act from the bill.
Researchers and the beneficiaries of animal-based research won when rodents and birds were permanently excluded from the Animal Welfare Act through the Helms Amendment.
Wildlife scientists and hunters won when the misleading Bear Protection Act was deleted from the final version of the bill.
Gamefowl breeders and enthusiasts lost big when the amendment to ban interstate shipment of animals for fighting purposes was upheld.
Rats, mice, and birds
Animal rights activists have tried for more than a decade to get research rats, mice, and birds covered under the federal AWA even though use of these animals is governed under professional and federal guidelines administered by scientific societies and federal agencies. Several groups filed suit to force the change after USDA declined to write regulations including these animals, and a court settlement in 2001 paved the way for new rules.
Researchers objected, saying the burden of additional paperwork to satisfy yet another agency would cost scarce money and time. Congress declined to provide money for the rulemaking process, and, several months later during debate on the Farm Bill, Senator Jesse Helms introduced the amendment that negated the court settlement.
According to the American Association of Anatomists: “Rats, mice, and birds represent some 95 percent of the animals used in research. Many in the research community oppose USDA regulation of these species because the vast majority of these animals already fall under one or more of the other animal welfare oversight systems1. USDA regulation would not improve the quality of care provided to these animals, but new record keeping and inspection requirements would be costly and burdensome to implement.”
Furthermore, AAA asserted: “The USDA’s record keeping, reporting, and inspection requirements are also burdensome. It would cost institutions an additional $80-280 million more per year to meet these requirements for rats, mice, and birds. This would also create burdens for the USDA itself. Furthermore, these administrative requirements do nothing to improve animal welfare. Rather, staff would end up spending more time on paperwork and less time on animal care.”
Safari Club International led the battle to delete the so-called Bear Protection Act from the Farm Bill. Like its cousin the PPA, the bear amendment was slipped into the bill in the Senate without the benefit of hearings or scientific testimony from experts in the field. Also like the PPA, the bear amendment was heavily promoted by the Humane Society of the US, the Fund for Animals, and other anti-hunting animal rights organizations.
The bear amendment would have prohibited trade in bear parts to curb an alleged slaughter of the animals for their gall bladders and bile, two ingredients used in traditional Oriental medicine. It was based in part on a claim that wild Asian bears are declining in population because of poaching to meet the demand for viscera to be used in medical concoctions and that American black bears might face the same fate. Proponents of the act claimed variously that bear populations are stable now but might be threatened without this legislation and that bear populations are declining.
SCI noted in its opposition to the amendment that there are more than one million black bears in the US, that they are becoming a nuisance in some populated areas, and that activists’ declarations about poaching are unsubstantiated.
“The gross misrepresentations about bear poaching made by HSUS and Fund for Animals simply do not equate with the field survey results done by game and fish officials in state after state,” said SCI lobbyist Ron Marlenee, a former US Congressman from Montana.
US Representative Don Young (R-AK), a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee on the Farm Bill, concurred. “This proposal has so many flaws and is so riddled with misrepresentation that it does not even merit consideration. It was a wildlife issue and as such should have had hearings in the Resources Committee,” Young said.
Shipping fighting birds and dogs
The PPA and bear amendments were added to the Farm Bill in the Senate without debate. The amendment banning interstate and international shipment of animals for fighting were part of the bill in both the House and Senate and therefore faced an uphill battle for modification or elimination. This amendment was left intact with only one change – a doubling of the jail penalty from one year to two years was dropped.
As a result, the shipment of animals across state lines or international borders for the purposes of fighting or the use of any animal so shipped has become illegal. Fines for violation of the law were increased from $5000 to $15,000.
Cockfighting is still legal in three states: New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. With the passage of the Farm Bill, participants in cockfighting ventures will no longer be able to legally import birds from other states or countries, ship birds to countries where cockfighting remains a traditional sport, or use imported birds at their events.
1. Federal Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Animals, the Federal Drug Administration’s Good Laboratory Practices Act, and guidelines of the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |