High Paw For Farm Bill
WASHINGTON — For people who support the humane treatment of animals, including those that end up on America’s dinner plates, passage this week of the farm bill is a gift befitting the season — and a grand bipartisan gesture to close out the year. The Senate sent an earlier version of the bill, now expected to cost taxpayers $867 billion over 10 years, back to the House with amendments in June. Now that lawmakers have reached agreement, the bill has traveled to the White House for the president’s signature. The farm bill will do more for animal rights — and therefore for humanity — than any previous legislation in recent history. In large part, the pro-animal provisions are thanks to the unstoppable Wayne Pacelle, former CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and now part of Animal Wellness Action, a political action committee he co-created after leaving HSUS following allegations of sexual misconduct (which he has denied). Also due credit are Pacelle’s former HSUS colleagues Marty Irby, now Animal Wellness Action’s executive director, and Holly Gann, the PAC’s director of federal affairs. Whatever one thinks of the circumstances surrounding Pacelle’s resignation from HSUS, no one would argue that he wasn’t the hardest worker in the office and around the globe as he tried to reduce the number of suffering animals, whether among Africa’s wildlife, in puppy mills or in large-scale agricultural operations. (Disclaimer: One of my sons once worked for HSUS.) Driven by what Pacelle views as humans’ moral duty to protect animals, he hasn’t remained idle post-departure. Three reforms included in the farm bill bear his fingerprints and are testament to his dedication. One provision is a crackdown on dogfighting and cockfighting in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Although animal fighting is outlawed in all 50 states, such activities are permitted in the territories and are defended as cultural expressions. Phooey. It’s past time to acknowledge that cultural equivalency is a lie and all forms of animal cruelty should be outlawed. Another reform is a ban on dog and cat meat in the U.S.. Alas, there are those who kill dogs and cats and then sell the meat in a small yet horrific underground market. Globally, more than 30 million dogs and cats are victims of food purveyors and others who celebrate their consumption. Notorious is China’s annual Dog Meat Festival where man’s best friend is slaughtered and consumed to celebrate the summer solstice. Now, there’s some science for you. Why not sacrifice their first-born to the Man in the Moon? We who love our animals as nearly equal to (and sometimes greater than) family members can’t conceive of such an atrocity, nor should we try. For now, we can be grateful that the U.S. is poised to pursue a global ban on the consumption of dogs and cats. The bill also includes a provision — or rather a commitment — to add kennels and other animal shelters at domestic violence centers, reasoning that pets are also at risk in violent households. Moreover, abusers will often use pets as leverage to keep a spouse or partner in place, according to Animal Wellness Action. Washington is recognizing through legislation that America’s relationship with its animals is shifting to norms that President George H.W. Bush would describe as kinder and gentler. Kindness pays dividends in a culture of enlightened consumers. Perhaps the most important feature of the bill, not to exclude legalization of industrial hemp, is the elimination of the King Amendment. Named for Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the amendment would have allowed states to scrap regulations banning such cruel practices as confining an animal so that it can’t move or turn around — ever. Anyone who would seek to undo this minimal reduction of animal torture, for that is what it is, ought to be ashamed of himself. Those who vote “yay” on the farm bill deserve rose petals at their feet and a sustained Bravo! — and maybe a bow-wow here and a meow-meow there. KATHLEEN PARKER writes for The Washington Post.