Who enforces “victories” won by the Humane Society of the United States?
Stop Animal Exploitation Now, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, & the Humane Farming Association are trying.
SALT LAKE CITY, LEXINGTON, BOSTON––Some animal advocacy organizations with multi-million-dollar-a-year-plus incomes attract donors by the hundreds of thousands through winning passage of laws that they then appear to do little or nothing to enforce.
The Humane Society of the U.S. comes immediately to mind.
Other animal advocacy organizations with multi-million-dollar-a-year-plus incomes––the American SPCA and Massachusetts SPCA come immediately to mind––have in recent years surrendered the law enforcement authority they once had to cut expenses.
Asking law enforcement agencies to do their jobs
That leaves pushing for effective enforcement of laws already on the books largely to small, underfunded, relatively obscure organizations such as Stop Animal Exploitation Now, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, and the Humane Farming Association, whose current campaigns consist largely of just asking law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.
This tends to be much more difficult and at times downright dangerous than lobbying.
Simultaneously on February 8, 2021, both Stop Animal Exploitation Now and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness released documents to media reinforcing their contention that animal use-and-abuse industries are inadequately held to obeying the letter of the law, albeit in far different contexts.
Pursuing Animal Welfare Act violations
Stop Animal Exploitation Now, founded in Cincinnati in 1996 and led ever since by husband-and-wife Michael and Karen Budkie, monitors animal use in biomedical research. The Budkies do this chiefly by perusing documents filed by laboratories in compliance with the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Time and again they have discovered incidents which––despite having been documented though either self-reporting or visits by USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service personnel––have not resulted in penalties and/or prompt corrective action.
On February 8, 2021, charged a Stop Animal Exploitation Now media release, “A whistleblower complaint to a federal agency led to the suspension of a primate experiment, the University of Utah head veterinarian was ‘relieved of his duties,’ and multiple ‘critical’ citations [were issued] against the University of Utah research laboratories.”
Marmosets & rabbits
Stop Animal Exploitation Now detailed the alleged Animal Welfare Act violations in a complaint to USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service director of animal welfare operations Robert Gibbens, posted online with supporting documents at https://saenonline.org/University-of-Utah-Federal-complaint-2-8-21.html.
Explained the Budkies, “The controversy centers on neurological experiments on monkeys currently funded by the National Institutes of Health at roughly $1.2 million annually through three federal grants.
“An October 2020 USDA-APHIS inspection slapped the University of Utah with two rare ‘critical’ citations for inadequate veterinary care and improper enclosures in connection to the deaths of four marmosets, an injury to a fifth monkey, and a non-critical citation for unapproved procedures performed on eight rabbits.
“Whistleblower allegations for abuse of monkeys,” the Budkies continued, “reveal earlier occurrences of the same type of medical issues listed in the USDA inspection, as well as monkey burn injuries and deaths from pneumonia.
“Apparently, the University of Utah head veterinarian was aware of the incidents which led to the whistleblower complaint,” the Budkies said, “but failed to report them to the University of Utah research administration as required.
“The whistleblower also alleged that a monkey disappeared from the University of Utah facilities, procedures were not performed aseptically, and [there were] excessive experimental deaths,” the SAEN media release summarized.
The SAEN media release also mentioned that a USDA-APHIS inspection report “also discusses the unapproved and therefore illegal performance of surgeries on multiple rabbits.”
Seeking the max
Recalling that the University of Utah “was issued citations [for alleged Animal Welfare Act violations] annually from 2016 through 2018, as well as an official warning in 2016 for a monkey death,” Michael Budkie asked Robert Gibbons to “take the most severe action allowable under the Animal Welfare Act and immediately launch a full investigation and at the conclusion of the investigation issue the maximum fine allowable against University of Utah,” specifically an administrative penalty of $10,000 per infraction, per animal.
SAEN has often sought maximum penalties against other biomedical research institutions for Animal Welfare Act violations, and has sometimes won those penalties.
“Kentucky State Police lied to us”
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi, meanwhile, on February 8, 2021 alleged to Kentucky State Police commander Darren Stapleton that, “The Kentucky State Police have lied to us about their supposed efforts to shut down cockfighting pits in Pike County. I don’t know exactly where the corruption begins or ends,” Hindi said, “but there is no question that there is corruption.”
Hindi charged that “State police from Troop 9 have observed” an alleged cockfighting location called Blackberry, “but have not shut down the fights. They are well aware of the illegal cockfights, and all the attendant illegal activity, and they have chosen to do nothing.
“We have known about this for some time,” Hindi told Stapleton, “but wanted to see how deep the corruption runs. We hoped it was just one or two officers. Now we know it is more.”
“State police from Troop 9 failed to stop the event”
Hindi further objected that after Showing Animals Respect & Kindness representative Stu Chaifetz sent Stapleton information about an alleged cockfighting venue called Hawk’s Nest, Stapleton “forwarded that information to Troop 9, the same troop that oversees Blackberry.
“In spite of Stu including a schedule,” Hindi narrated, “and that schedule including phone numbers for the pit’s management, the state police from Troop 9 failed to stop the event. Instead, they stood by while the fights continued, almost like a security force.”
Hindi called this “Very reminiscent of Honest Abe’s cockfights not being shut down in McCreary County last June,” and the Pinemountain cockfights not being shut down in Harlan County last December.”
“Invitation for other pits to re-open”
“The continuation of cockfights at Blackberry and Hawk’s Nest is an invitation for other pits to re-open for cockfights and to continue their ongoing illegal activities,” Hindi told Stapleton, requesting a comprehensive investigation into Troop 9. If the investigation needs to dig deeper than Troop 9, so be it.”
Along with his letter of complaint to Stapleton, Hindi distributed a recording of a telephone conversation between Chaifetz and Troop 9 operations lieutenant Chris Hicks, one day before the most recent alleged cockfights at Hawk’s Nest.
Hicks assured Chaifetz that he would “make sure we’ll have a group of troopers go out there tomorrow and see what they can find out, see if they can hopefully catch them in the act.”
After the alleged cockfights, a Sergeant Kenneth Saylor told Chaifetz that a patrol detachment was sent to the Hawk’s Nest vicinity, but––without a search warrant––was unable to gain access to the property beyond a metal gate two miles from the purported location.
The troopers, did, however, write an undisclosed number of traffic citations, Saylor said.
ANIMALS 24-7 pointed out that the cockfighting schedule Showing Animals Respect & Kindness sent to Stapleton would not have been sufficient for Troop 9 to have obtained a search warrant, since anyone could have produced it with basic digital composition software, and no one at Troop 9 could truthfully vouch for where it originated, since there was no documentation of the chain of custody of the claimed evidence.
Writing traffic citations to identify possible cockfighting participants might accordingly have been all that Troop 9 could do, unless the traffic stops produced evidence sufficient to get a warrant.
“They have known about this place forever”
Responded Hindi, “First, they have known about this place forever. Second, there are phone numbers on the schedule that could be run, which would indicate prior cockfighting activity,” but only if those numbers traced to people with prior cockfighting arrests.
Moreover, a prior history of a person having committed a crime is seldom sufficient evidence to persuade a judge to issue a search warrant in absence of other strong evidence that the person is committing the crime here and now.
“I have little doubt that there are powerful higher ups involved in this specific location, because it is a big operation,” Hindi said, “but someone has to take a stand. If not the state police, then who? We’d love to have the feds involved, but we cannot compel them. In any case, our approach is the same, which is to shine a hot, bright light on the whole rotten bunch. That’s just what they’re going to get.”
Feds not yet involved
The alleged Kentucky cockfighting venues, and a location in Waterloo, Ohio, at which Hindi was badly beaten on January 3, 2021 while trying to do drone surveillance of a suspected cockfight, are believed to attract participants and gamblers from multiple surrounding states and perhaps even some Caribbean nations and Mexico.
The involvement of out-of-state individuals should bring these alleged cockfighting locations under USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service and FBI jurisdiction under the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007.
The passage of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007 appears to have been the “victory” most often claimed by the Humane Society of the U.S. during the tenure of former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, 2014-2018.
Pacelle, who resigned after publication of allegations of sexual harassment, now heads Animal Wellness Action.
The Showing Animals Respect & Kindness anti-cockfighting campaign is partially funded the by Humane Farming Association.
The legislative “victory” claimed second most often by the Humane Society of the U.S. was California Proposition 2, in 2008, which promised to introduce “free range” confinement of egg-laying hens in place of battery cages.
Though this promise went largely unfulfilled, the Humane Society of the U.S. claimed “victory” at least eleven times in the next 53 days after Massachusetts voters approved a similar measure in 2016, Question 3, by a margin of 78% to 22%.
“Victory” would “free” egg-laying hens
Pacelle, then-Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian, and then-HSUS farmed animal campaigns manager Paul Shapiro each repeatedly blogged that the 2016 “victory” would “free” egg-laying hens in Massachusetts by 2020, after a four-year phase-in interval to allow farmers to adapt their facilities.
Shapiro left the Humane Society of the U.S. shortly before Pacelle did; Markarian left several months afterward.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2019 declined to hear a lawsuit brought by 13 states whose attorney generals objected that Massachusetts should not be allowed to enforce the Question 3 prohibition on the import of eggs that were not produced in compliance with Question 3.
HSUS claimed “victory” again
Current Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block on January 7, 2019 claimed “victory” for the U.S. Supreme Court position.
But if the Humane Society of the U.S. had ever effectively followed up to ensure that Question 3 took effect on schedule, the Humane Farming Association [HFA] would not have had to sue Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey on January 12, 2021 for, as HFA explained in a media release, “her failure to promulgate regulations to improve conditions for egg-laying hens as required by the farm animal protection ballot measure that was approved by Massachusetts voters in 2016.”
“Flagrant violation of her legal duties”
Charged the Humane Farming Association, “The law required the Attorney General to adopt implementing regulations by January 1, 2020. However, Healey has neither issued nor even proposed to issue the legally-mandated regulations, which is in flagrant violation of her legal duties. Instead, Healey’s office is working with lobbyists, including those from the egg industry, to pass legislation that would reduce the allotted space requirement provided to hens to a mere one square foot per bird, which would allow the egg industry to crowd 50% more hens into a given space.
“The attorney general’s office is also seeking to shift [her]regulatory responsibilities to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.”
Explained the Humane Farming Association, “On October 14, 2020, HFA through Boston counsel Brown Rudnick LLP sent a letter to attorney general Healey demanding that the required regulations be promulgated in short order. The letter stated that if no action was taken on this matter by November 14, 2020, HFA would initiate enforcement litigation in state court.
“To date, no action has been taken; hence, the organization is filing suit.”
United Egg Producers
Massachusetts Food Association senior vice president for governmental affairs and communications Brian Houghton, representing grocers and supermarkets, warned three days after the Humane Farming Association lawsuit was filed that, “There will be shortages and higher prices for consumers who depend on eggs and other sources of protein,” if Question 3 is implemented.
However, the one-square-foot-per-hen space standard prescribed by Question 3 was recommended nationally by the United Egg Producers in 2006, the leading egg industry trade association. This was another “victory” claimed for the Humane Society of the U.S. by Pacelle and Shapiro, but never actually brought into effect.
(The Humane Farming Association complaint is posted at https://www.hfa.org/pdf/HFA-ag-complaint.pdf.)