Feinstein discovered animal issues after move from San Francisco politics to Washington D.C.
WASHINGTON D.C., SAN FRANCISCO, California––U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, who died on September 29, 2023 in Washington D.C., might have been more involved with animal issues than any other member of Congress, from her election to the Senate in 1992 until her demise.
Yet, though Feinstein claimed to have been “a lifelong lover of horses,” she had little involvement with animals or animal issues during the first 60 years of her life.
That included nine years on the San Francisco board of supervisors, 1969-1978, and ten years as San Francisco mayor, 1978-1988.
Golden Gate Park bison
The most visible exception came in 1983. A small bison herd kept at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco since 1891, part of the captive breeding program that saved North American bison from extinction, was in danger of dying out. Feinstein and her third husband, Richard Blum, bought bison from ranchers to replenish the herd, which was again replenished by the addition of several young bison cows bought from ranchers in 2011.
Feinstein’s tenure in the U.S. Senate, beginning a decade later, roughly coincided with the federal lobbying tenure of Wayne Pacelle, initially as national director of the Fund for Animals, then from 1994 to 2018 as director of legislation and later president for the Humane Society of the U.S, and since 2018 as president of both the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action.
“Worked with Feinstein on her first major bill”
Recalled Pacelle to ANIMALS 24-7, as arguably the animal advocate who knew Feinstein best and longest, “When I was just cutting my teeth on Capitol Hill, when I was with the Fund for Animals, I fell into a very small coalition, along with Aaron Medlock,” also then a Fund for Animals lobbyist and later also with the Humane Society of the U.S., “with a guy from the Sierra Club, a woman from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a very wonderful advocate from the Wilderness Society, and a fourth advocate from the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund,” which became EarthJustice.
“The six of us worked with Feinstein on her very first major bill – the California Desert Protection Act,” Pacelle said. “We got it done, but we did lose a key fight. We wanted a new Mojave National Park, but the House passed an amendment, in a close, contested vote that we just narrowly lost, to downgrade it to Mojave National Preserve, which would allow some hunting.
Mojave desert tortoise & animal fighting
“Feinstein won that battle in the Senate,” Pacelle allowed, “but in the end the House prevailed on that singular provision and we got a national preserve instead.”
Feinstein during the effort to establish the Mojave National Preserve became aware of the endangered Mojave desert tortoise, through Elden Hughes, “dubbed by many the ‘John Muir of the desert,’” Daniel Danelski of the Riverside Enterprise noted at his death in 2011, at age 80.
Feinstein subsequently used her U.S. Senate clout several times to block the expansion of military training exercises at Fort Irwin into 87,000 acres of Mojave desert tortoise critical habitat.
Feinstein, Pacelle continued, “was first in on all of five of the upgrades of federal legislation against animal fighting, in 2002, 2007, 2008, 2014, and 2018, the last of which extended all prohibitions to all U.S. territories,” including Puerto Rico and Guam, both notorious as strongholds of cockfighting.
Feinstein “was very involved after the 2008 Chino slaughterhouse investigation that broadcast the footage of the cow being pushed toward the slaughterhouse with a front-end loader,” Pacelle added.
After that incident, captured on video by a Humane Society of the U.S. undercover operative at the former Hallmark/Westland meatpacking plant, Feinstein urged then-U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer to authorize more frequent and stricter inspections to enforce the 1958 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
“This is further evidence that oversight to ensure the humane treatment of animals destined for our food supply is inadequate,” Feinstein wrote. “Food animals should never be subject to the kind of horrible acts as witnessed in these videos and reported by concerned citizens.”
Feinstein and Connecticut representative Rosa DeLauro introduced bills, in the Senate and House respectively, to ban all slaughter of downed cattle for human consumption.
Before either bill could come to the Senate or House floor, Schafer introduced such a ban through administrative rulemaking.
“Impose ban immediately!”
But Feinstein was still not satisfied.
“The department should impose the ban immediately, not wait months or years until the rule is finalized,” Feinstein told media.
Feinstein in July 2016 followed up by prevailing on the Barack Obama administration to explicitly ban the slaughter of downer calves, who had not been mentioned in the previous rulemaking.
Feinstein returned to slaughterhouse procedures in July 2020, as an original sponsor of the unsuccessful “Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act,” which sought to prevent speed-ups ordered in response to a worker shortage.
Feinstein “was passionate about banning horse slaughter, very active against the round-up of wild horses, and called out abuses in the [Bureau of Land Management Adoption Incentive Program,” Pacelle recalled.
Agreed Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a subsidiary of the Humane Society of the U.S., “She was a staunch advocate to secure the horse slaughter defund amendment that we have championed year after year during the annual appropriations process.”
Horse slaughter for human consumption has been effectively prohibited in the U.S. since 2007 by annual Farm Bill amendments to prevent the USDA from inspecting U.S. horse slaughterhouses.
Horses are, however, still sold to be slaughtered in Mexico and Canada.
Among her last acts as a U.S. Senator, Feinstein in June 2023 signed on as an original cosponsor of a bill, S.2037, to prohibit the export of horses from the U.S. to be killed for human consumption abroad.
(A House companion bill is H.R. 3475.)
The Devil’s Garden
In October and November 2018 the U.S. Forest Service removed 932 horses from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in extreme northeastern California, proposing to sell those who were at least ten years old for $1.00 apiece “without limitation,” meaning that they could be sold to “killer buyers” for export to slaughter.
Feinstein led the Congressional opposition which, together with a successful Animal Legal Defense Fund lawsuit, stopped the scheme.
Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act
“The death of a single horse is a tragedy, but as a lifelong lover of horses, I’m appalled that almost two dozen horses have died in just four months,” Feinstein wrote in April 2019 to California Horse Racing Board chair Chuck Winner, midway through a string of more than 35 racehorse deaths at Santa Anita Park that year, and many more at other California tracks.
The November 2020 Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita were promoted by the horse racing industry as a demonstration that the industry had voluntarily adopted reforms sufficient to stop the carnage, without federal legislation.
But after a horse named Mongolian Groom suffered a broken leg in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the highlight event of the series, Feinstein pointed out that, “The horse racing industry was unable to make it through a single weekend without a critical injury and a euthanized horse.
“If the horse racing industry is unwilling to treat these magnificent creatures humanely, it has no business operating in the United States,” Feinstein told media.
Feinstein had already been an original cosponsor of the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act, passed in September 2020.
Continued Pacelle, “She and I were in a meeting with former California Member of the House of Representatives Ellen Tauscher (1951-2019), who was on the board of SeaWorld, and she told her friend Ellen that what SeaWorld was doing in keeping orcas as captives was wrong.”
That discussion led to a 2015 amendment to the U.S. Endangered Species Act enforcement regulations recognizing the southern resident orcas of Puget Sound as a distinct orca population segment.
This amendment brought orcas captured from the southern resident population under Endangered Species Act protection, in theory. It did not help Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium, however, because she was captured at Penn Cove, Washington, in 1970, three years before the Endangered Species Act was passed.
A year later, in September 2016, Feinstein with six other Senators and 14 members of the House of Representatives unsuccessfully urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to update the Animal Welfare Act regulations governing captive marine mammal tank sizes, last updated in 1984.
Battery caging debacle
Feinstein “endorsed California Proposition 2,” passed in 2008 on behalf of farmed chickens and pigs, Pacelle recalled, “and Proposition 12,” passed in 2018 to reinforce Proposition 2.
But this is where Feinstein’s record on behalf of animals became most controversial within the animal advocacy community.
Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller warned throughout the campaign to pass Proposition 2 that the language of the initiative was too vague to end battery caging of hens, as Pacelle promised it would.
Then, after the passage of Proposition 2, with efforts already underway in Ohio, Oregon, and Washington states to place similar initiatives on their state ballots, Pacelle, as Humane Society of the U.S. president, and Mike Markarian, as Humane Society Legislative Fund president, cut a deal with United Egg Producers, representing most of the U.S. egg industry.
The “Rotten Egg Bill”
The initiative campaigns were stopped in exchange for a promise that the United Egg Producers would endorse federal legislation establishing a uniform caging standard similar to the caging standard adopted by the European Union.
In effect, laying hens would remain in battery cages, albeit––after a five-year phase-in period––battery cages slightly bigger than those most often used in the U.S.
Such federal legislation would have stopped dead in its chicken tracks the rather erratic but promising progress toward the introduction of cage-free egg production systems, in part driven by Humane Society of the U.S. campaigning. Dozens of major egg-using companies had already pledged to go cage-free as soon as a sufficient supply of cage-free eggs became available.
“Rotten Egg Act” was defeated
Feinstein introduced the federal legislation backed by United Egg Producers in 2013 as S.820, promptly dubbed “The Rotten Egg Act” by Brad Miller, who was scarcely alone among animal advocates in rejecting it.
Aligned with the Humane Farming Association in opposing S.820 were Friends of Animals, United Poultry Concerns, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Last Chance for Animals, In Defense of Animals, Action for Animals, Green Vegans, the Northwest Animal Rights Network, Political Animals, the Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey, and at least 16 other state, regional, and local animal advocacy organizations.
S.820 was ultimately defeated, after which United Egg Producers withdrew from the agreement reached with the Humane Society of the U.S.
Observed Brad Miller to ANIMALS 24-7, “Although Feinstein still owns a house in San Francisco, her politics are often more aligned with central valley cities such as Fresno and Modesto. Keep in mind that, at the request of agribusiness and other anti-animal interest groups, Feinstein was an original sponsor of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). It’s no surprise that she sponsored the egg industry’s Rotten Egg Bill.”
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
Feinstein, as a former target of terrorism, had a strong reason rooted in personal experience for endorsing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act; for amending it to protect civil liberties as a condition of passage; and for announcing that it had passed on November 27, 2006, despite the opposition of almost every prominent pro-animal organization except ANIMALS 24-7 and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness.
Feinstein, as a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors 30 years before, became a target of the anti-capitalist New World Liberation Front, believed to have conducted at least 70 ideologically motivated bombings, shootings, and arsons around northern California.
The New World Liberation Front was loosely associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army, best remembered for kidnapping heiress Patty Hearst in 1974, and with the Emiliano Zapata Unit, associated with the Berkeley-based New Dawn Collective cult, busted in 1976 after bombing several Safeway supermarkets.
Ax murderer tried to bomb Feinstein’s home
The New World Liberation Front in 1976 tried to bomb Feinstein’s home, but the bomb did not explode. Later the New World Liberation Front claimed to have shot out the windows of a beach house that Feinstein and her husband owned.
The perpetrators of most of the New Liberation Front bombings and shootings are believed to have been Ronald “Revolutonary Ron” Huffman and his longtime partner Maureen Minton, whom Huffman ax-murdered in 1979, drawing a life prison sentence in 1983.
Feinstein recognized in an increasing number of arsons, vandalisms, and acts of personal intimidation carried out in the names of the “Animal Liberation Front,” “Earth Liberation Front,” and “Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty,” among others, a pattern of escalating violence paralleling the attacks by the New World Liberation Front.
Most such actions seemed to be less directed at helping animals, for instance by exposing cruel experiments and removing animals from laboratories, and more on venting indiscriminate sociopathy, such as by setting fires which in one case destroyed a laboratory that was developing alternatives to animal research, along with a mink research lab that was next door.
What AETA actually says
Essentially a consolidated sentencing act, the Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act extends to animal industry workers the provisions of the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which covered only property.
AETA provides that “Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or causes to be used the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and in connection with such purpose, shall be guilty of a federal crime,” but only:
“If the person intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise, or intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation; or conspires or attempts to do so.”
The term “animal enterprise” means, according to AETA, “a commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing; a zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event; or any fair or similar event intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences.”
AETA took effect with an amendment by Feinstein stipulating that “The term ‘economic damage’ does not include any lawful economic disruption (including a lawful boycott) that results from lawful public, governmental, or business reaction to the disclosure of information about an animal enterprise.”
In addition, Feinstein added language stating that “Nothing in this section shall be construed (1) to prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the First Amendment to the Constitution,” or “(2) to create new remedies for interference with activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution, regardless of the point of view expressed.”
“I don’t see where any of it applies to SHARK”
Said Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi of AETA, when passed after the Feinstein amendments, “I read the bill carefully, and since everything we do is legal, I don’t see where any of it applies to SHARK.”
Among the most tactically aggressive U.S. animal advocates since 1991, and a pioneer of both undercover video and drone video investigation, Hindi has often conflicted with local law enforcement, especially while documenting cockfighting, pigeon shoots, rodeos, and animal suffering in connection with hunting and fishing.
But Hindi’s perspective was that the clear definitions of “animal enterprise terrorism” stated in AETA would help law enforcement agencies to distinguish between his work, which is done openly and within the law, and practitioners of violent covert actions.
Hindi was also unconcerned when Feinstein in September 2015 urged that federal legislation be passed pertaining to drones, including “regulation of size and type for private use, certification, and “specific regulation on the kinds of uses drones can be put to.”
Hindi pointed out to ANIMALS 24-7 that uniform national standards for drones, similar to those in effect for other aircraft, would be far less difficult for Showing Animals Respect & Kindness than complying with the present higgledy-piggledy of inconsistent state laws.
Why ANIMALS 24-7 endorses AETA
ANIMALS 24-7 endorses AETA for four reasons: AETA applies specifically to crimes which were almost universally recognized as crimes even before the Ten Commandments were codified nearly 4,000 years ago; advancing the cause of animals requires that animal advocates must be recognized as agents of morality, which criminals by definition are not; the crimes AETA addresses can easily have innocent victims; and even a vivisector or slaughterhouse worker who is killed or injured by an action undertaken in the name of animal advocacy is himself or herself an animal.
In their capacity to suffer, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” even if the latter is wearing a lab coat or hunting camouflage vest. Effectively and lastingly stopping cruelty must be done by persuasion, not terror.
AETA, now in effect for 17 years, has figured in at least a dozen convictions, chiefly by plea bargains to burglary and arson charges.
The King Amendment
The passage of California Proposition 2, which forbade importing into California any pork or poultry products produced by methods not meeting the state standards it created, eventually led to Iowa member of the House of Representatives Steve King repeatedly introducing a Farm Bill amendment, beginning in 2013, which would have prohibited any state from enforcing standards pertaining to goods imported from out of state stronger than the applicable federal standards.
“The King amendment threatened countless duly-enacted state and local laws,” recalled Pacelle, “including laws addressing horse and dog meat, extreme confinement of farm animals, shark finning, and puppy mills, as well as a range of other concerns such as food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, manure management, and handling of diseased livestock.”
Feinstein repeatedly led the successful Congressional opposition to the King amendment.
King amendment would not have pre-empted Proposition 2
Brad Miller, however, noted hypocrisy in her position, and that of Pacelle.
“United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the U.S. claimed ‘states’ rights’ as their reason for opposing the King amendment,” Miller told ANIMALS 24-7. “But they argued against states’ rights – and for the federal preemption of state anti-cruelty laws – when it came to promoting the Rotten Egg Bill.
“As bad as it was,” Miller said, “the King amendment would not have pre-empted California’s Proposition 2. Only S. 820 would have done that.”
The EATS Act
King has been out of Congress since 2021, but ten U.S. Senators and eleven state governors have repeatedly introduced an “Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act,” described by Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson as “virtually identical” to the King amendment. The current edition of the EATS Act is still awaiting Congressional action.
Amundson recalled Feinstein as “a stalwart champion on humane issues across the board, a 100 percenter on our Humane Scorecard year after year, our Legislator of the Year in 2016 and most recently, a leader in the fight to uphold California’s Proposition 12 and defeat the EATS Act.
“Dianne Feinstein was never one to stand on the sidelines for an important fight,” Amundson said. “Even as her health declined, she came through strong on the campaign to stop EATS.”
Antibiotics & “meat animal research”
Amundson also credited Feinstein with having “pushed for appropriations language to curb the reckless misuse of antibiotics on factory farms that contributes to antibiotic resistance and props up inhumane conditions, fought against agricultural subsidies for fat cat millionaires, and advocated for the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from intensive confinement factory farms.
“Serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee since 1993,” Amundson recalled, “Senator Feinstein played a critical role in securing funding and directing policies that improve animal welfare across the federal government,” for example in “requiring inspections at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and other USDA facilities to bring them into compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, following a New York Times investigation that exposed shocking instances of animal mistreatment in experiments conducted on farm animals.
“Pets on Trains”
“Senator Feinstein also supported legislation to improve the lives of countless companion animals,” Feinstein said, “including the Pets on Trains bill to enable passengers to bring cats and dogs onboard with them, joined Senator Dick Durbin in calling on USDA to update its animal care standards for commercial dog breeding facilities, and consistently cosponsored the Puppy Protection Act to upgrade standards of care for commercial breeders.”
After Congress in 2021 renewed legislation directing the Veterans Administration to phase out testing on cats, dogs and primates by 2025, Amundson remembered, Feinstein in a letter to constituents wrote, “As a pet owner, I am outraged by cruel experiments animals are forced to suffer through. I would certainly support ending the VA’s testing on cats, dogs, and primates sooner.”
Wolves & trophy hunting
“On wildlife issues,” Amundson continued, “she was a strong champion of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, of Endangered Species Act protections for African elephants, lions and leopards, of prohibitions on ivory imports, and of marine mammal protection.”
Feinstein in 2008 insisted on revision of a $2.6 billion U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project in the Joaquin Valley of California that the U.S. Geological Survey warned might jeopardize shore birds.
In August 2009 Feinstein introduced legislation to stop the Alaskan practice of shooting wolves from aircraft to try to reduce predation on caribou and other “game” species. Despite several temporary halts since then, the Alaska Board of Game continues to authorize shooting wolves from aircraft.
Santa Rosa Island
Feinstein “was outspoken in her efforts to end the National Park Service’s shooting of deer on Point Reyes National Seashore,” Amundson said.
But Feinstein’s record on Point Reyes was actually strikingly inconsistent.
For Feinstein, the issue actually began in 2007, when she helped to lead a successful effort to repeal a 2006 law that as summarized by Erica Werner of Associated Press, “would have allowed trophy hunts opposed by the National Park Service to continue” on Santa Rosa Island, part of Channel Islands National Park, 390 miles south.
Before the 2006 law passed, non-native deer and elk, introduced to be hunted, were to have been removed from the island by 2011.
“Language included in this year’s omnibus [federal budget] package,” Feinstein told media, “will ensure that the court-approved settlement [requiring removal of the deer and elk] will be carried out and the public will have full, year-round access to the island,” which had been closed during hunting season.
Simultaneously, responding to “animal rights groups and some ranchers in the area who complained about finding deer carcasses near residences and trails,” Feinstein, fellow California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, and then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “called for a halt in the killing of non-native deer at the Point Reyes National Seashore,” San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Peter Fimrite reported.
“A Connecticut company, White Buffalo Inc., has shot 670 fallow and axis deer in the park since last summer,” Fimrite explained.
Feinstein a year later “secured language in the Interior appropriations bill banning any expenditure of money to reduce the deer population” at Point Reyes National Seashore,” then-Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian exulted in December 2009.
Tule elk vs. cattle ranching
A decade after that, in 2018, Feinstein pushed a bill authored by U.S. Representative Jared Huffman, a Democrat from San Rafael, California, which allowed the National Park Service to order culling the Drakes Beach tule elk herd at Point Reyes to reduce conflicts with cattle ranchers over access to grass and water.
Feinstein was also instrumental in allowing cattle ranching to continue at Point Reyes National Seashore, long after it was supposed to have ended by 1987, under the legislation that created the National Seashore in 1962.
“Since 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Jared Huffman have pressured the National Park Service to prioritize the preservation of private ranching profits over environmental concerns,” charged Pacific Sun investigative reporter Peter Byrne on July 17, 2021.
Despite her inconsistencies, offered former Humane Society of the U.S. and Animal Wellness Action lobbyist Marty Irby, now president and chief executive of Capitol South & Competitive Markets Action, “Diane Feinstein was a titan who cared deeply about animals and the environment. She reached across the aisle on more occasions than most to find common ground in championing justice in a world that has lost its way. We are all better off because of her work and her life, may she rest in peace.”
California governor Gavin Newsom on October 2, 2023 appointed Laphonza Butler, 45, to complete Feinstein’s term of office. Laphonza, a former member of the University of California board of regents, has most recently headed Emily’s List, a political action committee formed to promote female pro-choice Democratic candidates for public office.