A Game Plan to Help Domesticated and Wild Animals in ’24

Last week, I wrote an essay reflecting on some of our key accomplishments in 2023. Landmark gains for animals included Nike, Puma, and New Balance each pledging to halt sourcing of kangaroo skins for shoes; the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of Proposition 12 (farm animal welfare production and sales standards); the adoption of the first-ever federal legal welfare standards for farm animals (under the “organic seal”); and the creation of a new national authority to monitor horse safety at Thoroughbred tracks across the United States.

While we celebrate these recent gains, we also are turning with resolve and focus to the next set of battles. We’ve crafted campaigns to tackle many of the biggest problems for animals, whether halting the trophy hunting and trapping of mountain lions and bobcats, rehauling the federal government’s inhumane and fiscally reckless roundups of America’s wild horses and burros, or demanding rigorous application of horse-safety rules at American racetracks. Here are just some of the vital efforts we plan to win in 2024.

Halting Horse Abuse

Shutting the Door on Horse Slaughter, Finally 

If it’s wrong to slaughter American horses for human consumption in Illinois or Texas, it’s wrong to slaughter them in Quebec or Chihuahua. That’s the principle behind the Saving America’s Forgotten Equines Act. Animal Wellness Action released a national investigation into horse slaughter earlier this year that revealed appalling mistreatment of horses on their way to slaughter, including exposure to extreme temperatures, injuries, deaths, overcrowding, and high-stress environments that foster the onset and spread of disease.Earlier this month, New York State joined California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas in banning horse slaughter for human consumption, putting us in a position to win our Congressional offensive to end any live export of horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico.

Read more about our campaign here.

Protecting Wildlife

Pressuring Adidas and Ending Australia’s Mass Killing of Kangaroos

The slaughter of kangaroos is the largest commercial slaughter of mammals in the world. The body count, upon the launch of our Kangaroos Are Not Shoes campaign in 2020, was seven times larger than the killing of juvenile harped and hooded seals for their pelts in Atlantic Canada. Since that launch, we’ve gotten all but one of the biggest athletic shoe companies to halt sourcing skins. Adidas remains the outlier among global brands, and we won’t relent in our campaign to get Adidas to divorce itself from this mass commercial kill in the Outback.

Halting Trade in Bear Bile to China

The trade in bear parts — mainly for bile used in traditional Chinese medicine — is one of the least-understood wildlife trafficking problems. To supply the trade, thousands of bears in Asia are cruelly confined in small cages while bile is extracted from their gallbladders to be used in cosmetics and Chinese medicine, while in the United States, poaching rings target bears to extract their gallbladders. We should not kill sharks for their fins, elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, or bears for their gallbladders. We seek to take a bite out of this trade with the passage of national legislation in 2024.

Banning Trophy Hunting, Commercial Trapping of Big Cats in the West

Cats Aren’t Trophies (CATs), a new political committee we formed in Colorado, has filed 2024 ballot language to ban trophy hunting of mountain lions and trapping or hounding of bobcats or lynx. Mountain lion trophy hunters use a pack of dogs fitted with GPS collars to keep track of the pack as it chases a fleeing cat up into a tree. The “hunter” then finds the location with high-tech telemetry equipment, walks up, and shoots the cat off a tree limb. Guides “guarantee” a kill in lion hunts, collecting fees of up to $8,000 per dead cat. We want to give the people of Colorado a chance to stop these abuses by putting it on the November 2024 ballot.

Getting the Lead Out of Sport Hunting

More than 500 peer-reviewed studies showed detrimental effects of spent lead ammunition on wildlife, including a continent-wide effect on bald and golden eagles, revealing that 47 percent of eagles had “bone lead concentrations above thresholds for chronic poisoning” and a third of eagles had “acute [lead] poisoning.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rulemaking on the subject, indicating that the “best available science” shows that “lead ammunition and tackle have negative impacts on both wildlife and human health.”

The agency, however, is not taking practical actions consistent with that assessment of lead risks, limiting lead ammunition use on just eight of 500 national wildlife refuges. That’s why we’ll be pushing the states to lead on this issue to phase out the dangerous practice of leaving millions of tons of lead speckled in animal carcasses and dispersed on the land and in the water upon hundreds of millions of wildlife-occupied acres in the United States.

Read more about our campaign here.

Eliminating Spectator Sports Featuring Cruelty

Creating New Enforcement Tools to Wipe Out Animal Fighting

Despite a comprehensive legal framework designed to cripple their operations, thousands of dogfighting rings and cockfighting traffickers operate throughout the country, with an immense trade of fighting animals. They are shipped by ground and air transport, including through the U.S. mail. That’s why we’re putting our shoulder into the FIGHT Act in Congress to enhance enforcement authority and shut down these staged animal battles. Ten major outbreaks of virulent Newcastle Disease have been directly tied to the smuggling of fighting birds from Mexico into the U.S. Cockfighting and dogfighting are also associated with murder, money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and illegal gambling.

Read more about our campaign here.

Retiring Greyhound Racing Once and For All

A generation ago, there were 60 greyhound racing tracks. Today, tracks hang on in just two small cities in West Virginia. The industry, battered by an unyielding movement to stop the mistreatment of these gentle dogs, has shed tracks one at a time and, after our effort to qualify and pass a winning greyhound-protection ballot measure in Florida in 2018, in bunches. That decline has been accelerated by an expansion of casino-style gambling and other games of chance that have proven far more alluring to wagerers than greyhounds making 30-second dashes in pursuit of a mechanical rabbit. The Greyhound Protection Act, also in Congress, will ban live racing and stop the broadcasting of greyhound races in the U.S. from foreign tracks.

Read more about our campaign here.

Combatting Factory Farming

Defeating the EATS Act

EATS is a federal legislative maneuver pushed by some foreign and domestic agribusiness operators to wipe out state farm animal welfare laws, starting with Prop 12 in California. But it’s a Trojan horse, with the EATS Act allowing China to expand its already massive pork production footprint in the U.S (the Wuhan Group purchased Smithfield with a multi-billion-dollar loan from the Bank of China in 2013, and now this China-controlled company controls 26% of U.S. pork production and produces 1 of every 6 pigs raised in the U.S. for slaughter). With no state or federal laws for farm animal welfare, we’d see Smithfield and other foreign-owned companies build unimaginably large confinement-style factory farms in our homeland. We must defeat EATS to protect animals, farmers who give animals space to move, and both states’ rights and national sovereignty. 

Dunking the U.S. milk mandate in schools and its disregard for cows

Half of all milk put on the 30 million trays in school lunchrooms daily is tossed in the trash or poured down the drain, adding up over a decade’s time to a $5 billion loss for Americans taxpayers. It’s shameful that cows endure so much stress and labor only to see this kind of colossal food waste. That waste happens perhaps 15 million of the 30 million kids in the school lunch program cannot safely or comfortably digest dairy, with between 70 and 95 percent of Black, Pacific Islander, Asian, Native American, and Latino individuals exhibiting signs of lactose intolerance. Our government isn’t paying attention to the needs of the kids. But there’s an easy fix: give kids a plant-based milk option, stop wasting tax dollars, and stop disregarding, for no good reason, the sacrifices of cows. 

Read more about our campaign here.

Ending Mink Farming

This small, declining, and fundamentally inhumane enterprise became a universal concern after the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic struck because mink are uniquely susceptible among nonhuman animals to COVID-19. At least five new variants spawned by mink on factory farms spilled over to people. There have been COVID-19 outbreaks at more than 450 farms from Spain to Sweden to the United States and Europe. Between June 2020 and January 2021, Denmark reported over 1,000 human cases of infection with a mink-related variant of the virus. There is now a risk of an Avian Influenza viral spillover from mink to humans after mink were found to have contracted the virus from birds. With gross revenues dropping from $291 million in 2012 to $39 million in 2022 — a decline of 87% — the U.S. mink industry does not bring substantial economic benefits that warrant these risks to human and animal health. Producers sell most pelts to China, meaning that U.S. communities face viral transmission threats to produce a luxury product for a tiny sliver of the Chinese population. These issues are all detailed in our exhaustive scientific report, Mink Farms & SARS-CoV-2. In 2024, we must end mink farming in the United States.

Read more about our campaign here.

Scaling Back Animal Testing

Modernizing Medical and Scientific Testing 

Last year, we formulated and shepherded to passage the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 — the most important bill ever enacted to curtail animal testing. The measure eliminated an 84-year-old mandate for animal testing to screen new drugs, and Congress passed it with uncommon unanimity. 

A year after the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 became law, however, there’s no sign that the FDA is implementing the law the way Congress dictated.  And while the biotech community and other scientists are calling the law a paradigmatic shift in both drug development and a dramatic turn away from animal testing, FDA is stonewalling. In fact, the agency has not initiated rulemaking to conform its regulations to the clear guidance from Congress to move away from animal testing and toward more efficient and effective drug development and screening methods. In 2024, we’ll be working to make sure that beagles, primates, and other animals get out of the labs in favor of 21st-century strategies grounded in human biology. 

Read more about our campaign here.

Now that you’ve read about this immense agenda for reform, can I count on you to invest in our life-saving work?

Dear reader: If you support substantive policy work to protect animals, please consider donating to Animal Wellness Action today. You can give any amount one time, or make it a monthly gift, as many of our supporters do. Thank you for helping us fight for all animals. Please go here to make your contribution.