Over the laboratory animal research industry's great hue and cry, an amendment to the federal Animal Welfare Act was passed to require "a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being" of primates used for experimentation, the pet trade and exhibition. In the intervening years since this legal mandate, the industry has erected roadblocks to the improvement of housing and care for non-human primates.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) learned that many facilities using primates did not understand what they were required to do for primates in their care, and even many of its own inspectors were unclear on what was required. To improve compliance with and enforcement of the law, the agency prepared a "primate policy" based on scientific data that detailed the animals' needs. Unfortunately, continued industry pressure has thwarted its finalization.
At long last, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and three individual plaintiffs have prevailed in our lawsuit in support of the primate policy. On Nov. 22, 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided our case should go forward. The judges were particularly concerned about primates who, despite being social animals, are forced to endure lives spent in isolation.
Maine's Archaic Trapping Regulations Must Change
In recent months, two bald eagles and four Canada lynx in Maine have been reported as the accidental victims of traps. One eagle had to be euthanized due to leg injuries that would not heal, and the other eagle and lynx were re-released into the wild. A lawsuit filed by the Animal Protection Institute seeks a court order to end any trapping that could inadvertently capture, injure or kill eagles, lynx or gray wolves in parts of the state inhabited by the species, which are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act. It has documented over two dozen trapping incidents since 2001.
Maine is also the only state in the country that still allows bear trapping. The Wildlife Alliance of Maine is pushing to end the practice entirely, but the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has only proposed a ban on the use of the steel-jaw leghold trap. The agency is currently seeking public comment on the issue; please email Andrea Erskine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Texas Anti-Horse Slaughter Law Upheld
As the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act remains pending in the US Congress, there is good news for horses in Texas—the home to two of the three remaining slaughterhouses in the country. In late January, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that both Beltex Corporation and Dallas Crown, Inc. could be prosecuted for slaughtering horses under Chapter 149 of the Texas Agriculture Code. Amended in 1949 and several times thereafter, the law makes it illegal to sell, possess and transport horsemeat for sale for human consumption.
This decision overruled the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruling that permanently enjoined Tarrant County Distict Attorney Tim Curry from pursuing legal action against the slaughterhouses. Previously, Beltex and Dallas Crown had filed for this injunction, claiming that Chapter 149 had been repealed, was preempted by federal law, and violated the dormant Commerce Clause. Though the district court agreed, the Fifth Circuit called its reasoning "backward" and "flawed." The judge stated, "Neither the district court nor the slaughterhouses could point to a single burden that Chapter 149 places on interstate commerce that does not equally befall intrastatecommerce."
In the end, the federal court declared that Chapter 149 is still in effect and that it survives the constitutional challenges raised by the slaughterhouses. Additionally, the Court stated that ending horse slaughter would protect horses and help prevent the problem of horse theftinAmerica.
Meanwhile, Beltex and Dallas Crown are pursuing their options. Horse slaughter has stopped in the two plants for now because American and Delta Airlines have refused to transport horsemeat out of the state, in accordance with the law. The permanent injunction has not yet been lifted because the plant's attorney is seeking a rehearing.
The Fifth Circuit ruling is expected to be upheld, and from there on, the slaughterhouses' options are limited. If the facilities can no longer process horses, they may expand their operations for slaughtering other animals, or worse, they may move their slaughter plants to Mexico, a move that would subject horses to even greater cruelty. Therefore, despite this excellent news from Texas, a federal ban on horse slaughter and the transport of live horses for the same purpose is needed urgently. Please see News From Capitol Hill (page 13) for more on what you can do to help America's horses.
Farm Owners and Worker Charged with Animal Cruelty
In January of this year, city prosecutor Frank Forchione charged the owners and an employee of an Ohio farm with a total of 10 counts of animal cruelty, including abandoning sick sows without food or water and beating piglets. The Wiles Farm owners and employee pleaded not guilty in their Jan. 30 arraignment and are currently free on their own recognizance. If they are convicted, each count carries a potential penalty of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
Forchione was not permitted on the grounds of the farm, located in the town of Creston, but after reviewing footage taken by its employees and hearing accounts from witnesses, he decided that "somebody has to speak up for the voiceless." Pigs were particularly mistreated, living in crowded conditions and deprived of adequate food, water and veterinary treatment. According to complaints, they were beaten to death with hammers, shot with guns and hung from a forklift until they finally died.
The abuse was exposed by the Humane Farming Association (HFA), which publicized the cruelty in a series of full-page newspaper advertisements and petitioned local authorities to search the premises in November. The farm continues to operate while the charges are pending, but employees are working with the local Humane Society in an effort to comply with the law.