Opinion

OPINION: 2018’s Biggest Animal Rights Accomplishments

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Marty Irby Executive Director, Animal Wellness Action

Lawmakers in the 115th Congress got off to an awful start for animals, with Republicans reversing a key legal protection for wildlife in Alaska. But they ended their work nearly two years later by passing an unprecedented farm bill that included three key animal protection priorities, enacting some very consequential gains for animals.

Overall in 2017–18, there were a series of missed opportunities to advance a larger set of animal protection priorities, with committee chairs failing to move a raft of broadly popular, bipartisan bills to create a national anti-cruelty law, crack down on horse soring, ban shark finning and end cosmetic testing on animals.

The fault of establishment legislators who have marginalized Republican constituents and members of Congress that support animal protection reforms.

The good news is we were able to block, a series of outrageous maneuvers to roll back state and federal agriculture and animal protection laws, including the King amendment, federal de-listing efforts for wolves, and reopening of horse slaughter plants in the United States; all of these maneuvers are at odds with the spirit of true conservatism and care for all of God’s creation.

The Farm Bill was the key legislative vehicle for us this Congress, allowing us to append to it three very important gains for animals. We worked night and day with key Republican and Democrat legislators to successfully pass a farm bill that may just be the greatest farm bill for animal protection in American history.

The Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act — led by U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam and Earl Blumenauer and Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal — ensures that long-standing federal restrictions on dogfighting and cockfighting apply to U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Roskam engineered the key vote on the issue as an amendment to the Farm Bill and that resounding result proved pivotal to securing this provision in the end. These are the last bastions in the United States where animal fights are openly and brazenly staged, with Puerto Rico alone having more than 120 cockfighting arenas. There was a lot of great work on this provision, especially the work of House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway, who worked to make sure the measure was included in the final deal.

The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act — led by U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham and Katherine Clark and U.S. Sens. Dean Heller and Gary Peters — will provide protections for pets of domestic violence victims, and authorizes a grant program to allow domestic violence shelters to accommodate pets. Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow, the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, were key players in advocating for this provision as an amendment to the Farm Bill.

Currently, only three percent of shelters nationwide have the capacity to accept pets, presenting a significant barrier that prevents victims from fleeing an abuser. Abusers often harm or threaten to harm a pet to maintain control over a victim. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and his team did incredible work to include the PAWS Act in the original underlying Senate Farm Bill and ensure its inclusion in the final package.

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act bans the slaughter and import/export of dogs and cats for slaughter. The measure was included in both versions of the Farm Bill, led by U.S. Reps. Denham, Vern Buchanan and Alcee Hastings. In the Senate, the effort was led by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Passage of the legislation sends an important message condemning the practice and sets an example for the global community as we urge South Korea, Vietnam and other nations to end this practice. Following the ban, Members of Parliament have already begun raising this issue in the U.K., and hopefully, the momentum will end this terror on a global scale.

Republican leaders Mike Conaway and Pat Roberts hit a new high-water mark on animal welfare in a farm bill. They’ve set the stage for future animal protection reforms, and they’ve made us a better, more compassionate nation. They deserve plaudits and praise.

Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.