February 27, 2006
By Grace Markarian
HSLF President Michael Markarian, HSUS Farm Animal
Welfare V.P. Miyun Park, and Moby at Washington, D.C.'s
Party Animals event on February 26. (Photo: Kate Schrader)
A little competition, as the old saying goes, never hurt anyone—and in the case of the latest Party Animals event, it actually helped farm animals around the country.
A fundraising competition emerged between a pair of Party Animal events, which were two of the 180 grassroots parties held nationwide on February 26 to support the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) and its efforts to pass new and better farm animal welfare laws. A Party Animals host in Long Beach, California, sensing that a rivalry could be good for farm animals, threw down the gauntlet to her party colleagues in Washington, D.C. "I know we're on the same side for the animals, but I'm still going to beat the pants off of you," she wrote in an email to the D.C. hosts.
"Hey, if that's the kind of friendly competition that Party Animals inspires, I say bring it on," HSLF President Mike Markarian said. "With this kind of boundless enthusiasm and commitment from our grassroots advocates, there's no telling what we can do for animals."
With the checks still coming in, it would appear that the Long Beach party did out-fundraise the D.C. one, by about $600. But in the end, the winners were farm animals, whose very suffering these parties were designed to stop. Through those 180 parties in 47 states and the District of Columbia, more than $42,000 was raised for the HSLF, the new lobbying arm of The Humane Society of the United Sates.
Calling Someone Who Cares (About Animals)
But no matter how much each party raised, every one of them dialed into a nationwide conference call to hear the inspired words of Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), HSLF's Markarian, and Grammy-nominated musician Moby. Each guest shared his perspective on the terrible suffering of animals raised for food, most in factory farm settings where the animals can be so confined they're unable to move or engage in natural behaviors.
Moby has been an animal advocate for more than two decades. Addressing the nearly 2,000 people on the nationwide call, he said that, "The real heroes are the people who work on animal rights on a day-to-day basis…people at The HSUS and all the grassroots lobbyists on this call."
Moby and his new friend,
Louie. (Photo: Julia Bailey)
A strict vegan, Moby shared his belief that each person can make a difference for animals through his or her daily choices. "What I found is very effective is to encourage my friends that if they choose to consume animal products, at least eat meat, dairy, and eggs that have been humanely farmed." After the call, Moby joined partygoers at the HSLF's office in Washington, D.C., circulating through the crowd and making friends with "Louie," a dog rescued from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina who was at the party with his new mom.
Senator Byrd is also a long-time friend to the animals. He has worked tirelessly to pass a Congressional ban on horse slaughter and has fought hard against the inhumane treatment of animals, constantly pressing for better enforcement of existing laws, more inspectors, and tougher penalties for violators. The senator, who was first elected in 1958, quipped during the party, "Now, I didn't know Noah, and I didn't help him put those animals on the ark, but like Noah and like each of you, I share a passion to protect animals."
Rep. Ackerman recalled that, "It was about 15 years ago that I learned about one of the nasty secrets of the American stockyards, and that is the abuse of sick and crippled farm animals." He asked for the help "of each and every person who is on this 'party line' tonight" to ramp up his or her efforts to urge Congress to pass the Downed Animal Protection Act. For more than decade, Rep. Ackerman has led the fight to pass this legislation, which will permanently ban the slaughter of any downed animals, including cows, pigs, and lambs. The law would spare these animals the torment of being dragged by chains or hauled by bulldozers to slaughter.
HSLF's Markarian highlighted a few of the many pending state actions that seek to improve animal welfare. In Delaware, a bill in the state Senate would give more space to caged laying hens so they could spread their wings. Legislators in New York, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, and Massachusetts have all introduced legislation to ban the cruel force feeding of birds for foie gras production. In Arizona, animal advocates are working to get a measure on the 2006 ballot to ban the intensive confinement of pregnant pigs and young calves raised for veal while at the same time defending this measure from a preemptive strike in the legislature that would prevent it from being enacted.
"The Humane Society Legislative Fund has a bold and aggressive agenda and we need every animal advocate out there to help us," Markarian told the Party Animals. "We've done a lot for animals, but together we can do so much more."
Organizers are already planning the next series of Party Animals events for May or June. "We were so fortunate this time to have such great support from national sponsors like Turtle Mountain," says Jake Oster, a grassroots coordinator with The HSUS. "I'm already hearing from hosts who are planning their next Party Animals event."
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.