October 25, 2006
By Michael Satchell
The 2006 Congressional election campaign is in the home stretch and the votes you cast on November 7 will have a critical impact on animal welfare laws that the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and our friends in the House and Senate, are seeking to strengthen or enact. This election looms as one of the most politically divisive in modern history. The breach between Democrats and Republicans is wide and—with the exception of a handful of issues—bipartisanship is little more than a fond memory. One of those issues, however, is animal welfare. Fortunately, our cause continues to draw strong support from both sides of the aisle in both chambers.
In the 109th Congress, we campaigned with our Capitol Hill allies on some 15 major pieces of legislation, including horse slaughter, downer livestock, wild horses, exotic pets, animal fighting, trophy hunting, Canadian seal hunt, pet microchip scanners, school lunches and antibiotics, species conservation, factory farming, and others.
The animals won some important victories, the stage was set for others, and we also tasted defeat. As the 109th session draws to a close, the Humane Society Legislative Fund nominates the single best and worst members of Congress on animal welfare issues. Both are Republicans.
None of our friends in the House and Senate is stronger or more effective than Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut’s 4th District, a dedicated humanitarian and co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus. Among our enemies, none has a more repugnant record than Rep. Richard Pombo of California’s 11th District, an anti-animal, anti-environment zealot named by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress.
What Rep. Pombo Did Wrong
Pombo’s record of graft, sleaze, and conflict of interest has been well documented by the national media, but there’s a cruel and shameful side to his legislative history that few outside of Washington are aware of: His abominable record on animal welfare issues. Pombo may or may not beat his dog, but he accepts money from almost every political action committee that fosters animal abuse, and in return, he supports their sorry agendas.
Pombo has voted against funding for enforcement of existing laws to combat cruel and illegal activities like dogfighting and cockfighting. He has also refused to join with 324 House colleagues in a bipartisan attempt to write new legislation increasing penalties for this heinous bloodsport.
In 1998, Californians voted by statewide ballot initiative to outlaw horse slaughter for meat exports. In this odious business, more than 100,000 horses a year are crammed into cattle trucks and shipped long distances from anywhere in the U.S. to foreign-owned abattoirs in Illinois or Texas. Their throats are cut. In the current congress, Pombo has voted five times in favor of this brutal trade for French and Belgian gourmands.
Pombo also likes to spend taxpayer dollars to underwrite animal abuse. He supported federal subsidies for shooting African elephants and other magnificent big game by wealthy Safari Club members and other great white trophy hunters. That’s no surprise, since Safari Club has given $40,260 to Pombo’s campaign. In another example of government welfare for the rich, he voted for federal dollars to help the luxury mink coat industry.
He supports cruel and unsporting practices shunned by many ethical hunters such as setting piles of grease and jelly doughnuts for bears and shooting them for trophies as they feed on federal lands, and the use of cruel, steel-jawed leghold traps and neck snares on national wildlife refuges—two more practices prohibited in California. For good measure, he also wants to open our national parks to hunting and trapping.
Even marine mammals aren’t safe. In return for large contributions from the hunting, seafood, and whaling lobbies, he’s voted in favor of killing dolphins, seals, and polar bears. He’s also the only member of Congress to advocate a resumption of whaling by Japan and Norway. Hard to believe, but it’s fully documented in the Congressional Record.
Pombo currently controls the House Resources Committee which oversees all legislation related to wildlife and public lands. If re-elected on November 7, he’s next in line to head the House Agriculture Committee which oversees almost all of the nation’s federal animal protection laws including the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. His return to Washington would be a disaster: For the animals, for the environment, and for the nation.
What Rep. Shays Did Right
Rep. Chris Shays, who will hopefully be returned to Capitol Hill for his 11th term, will continue to fight for the animals with every political skill he can muster, and with every fiber of his being.
He is currently a lead sponsor of three key pieces of animal protection legislation. He championed the successful passage of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, H.R. 3858, which he introduced with Rep. Tom Lantos of California. Written in response to the tragedy of tens of thousands of animals being lost or abandoned during Hurricane Katrina, the PETS Act requires state and local communities to have disaster plans for pets and service animals.
Shays also introduced legislation, with Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, to protect millions of animals in factory farms. His Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act, H.R. 5557, would require that producers of meat, eggs, and dairy meet a basic set of humane standards if they want to do business with the federal government. Since our tax dollars are spent on food for federal prisons, the military, school lunches, and other programs, the federal government can have a major impact on the treatment of farm animals.
The ten-term Connecticut member also worked with Rep. Sam Farr of California to author the Sportsmanship in Hunting Act, H.R. 1688, which seeks to halt the interstate traffic of exotic mammals for the purpose of shooting them within fenced enclosures. Several states, including Connecticut, have banned these cruel and unsporting “canned hunts,” and Shays’ bill will crack down on the supply of trophy animals for this drive-thru killing.
In addition to his leadership on animal welfare legislation, Rep. Shays is also supporting bills to strengthen the penalties for illegal dogfighting and cockfighting, and to end the slaughter of tens of thousands of American horses for food exports. He is seeking to stop the sale of sick and injured farm animals who cannot stand and walk to slaughter, and to increase funding for improved enforcement of animal welfare laws. Laws to require the addition of a bittering agent to sweet-tasting engine coolant and antifreeze to prevent poisoning of pets and children, and to stop unscrupulous “Class B” dealers from trafficking in stolen pets for animal research, are also part of his proposed legislative package to protect the animals.
Shays has consistently scored a perfect 100 percent on our Humane Scorecard. Pombo, unsurprisingly, is a zero.
In the 435-member House, for the 109th Congress, Shays is one of 86 who scored 100 percent, with 15 members languishing in the cellar. In the Senate, 18 members rank at the top and 19 at the bottom.
Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. HSLF, 519 C Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.