Life isn’t fair for so many animals, who are often the victims of human custom, greed, entertainment, or simply a lack of ingenuity or moral understanding. Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Center for a Humane Economy (Center), and Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) work every day to address human-caused disruptions and threats to their lives. Here are some of the big gains we engineered or collaborated with others to achieve in 2021.
- End Cockfighting: Case closed on cockfighting in America
In 2021, the federal courts delivered a series of rulings – with AWA, AWF, and the Center in the thick of them – that affirm the authority of the United States to ban cockfighting in the territories, eliminating any ambiguity about our nation’s total ban on staged animal fights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for both the First Circuit and the Ninth Circuit each rendered opinions in 2021, affirming that cockfighting is illegal in Guam and Puerto Rico. The U.S. Supreme Court in October denied a challenge from Puerto Rico’s cockfighting community and the Commonwealth’s political leadership, cementing the rulings of the appellate court judge. Meanwhile, AWA investigations continued in California, New Mexico, and North Carolina, while ongoing investigations in Alabama, Guam, and Oklahomayielded exposes in the media. With information gleaned from one of those investigations, a grand jury indicted, and the federal government arrested one of our top targets, Brent Easterling of Alabama, and six of his family members, after AWA provided a dossier on him in 2020. To build capacity to combat cruelty, a key Senate Committee called for the creation of an Animal Cruelty Crimes section at the Department of Justice to crack down on animal fighting, while dozens of lawmakers wrote to the U.S. Postal Service and told the agency to crack down on shipments of live animals for fighting through the mail.
- Saving Wolves: A high-impact legal maneuver in Wisconsin in a tough year for wolves
A lawsuit led by AWA and the Center for a Humane Economy shut down Wisconsin’s fall and winter hunting season, which was to include the use of packs of dogs, neck snares, and leghold traps and would have claimed a large portion of the state’s surviving wolves. Our critical win restored temporary protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region from trophy hunters and trappers. Along with the decisions of governors in Michigan and Minnesota who decided not to open hunting seasons after federal de-listing, this was the best news of the year for wolves. Wolves are facing an ongoing massacre in Idaho and Montana, and we are asking the Interior Secretary to intervene.
- Rethink Mink: Policy makers and health policy experts shutter nearly half of global mink production, as U.S. dithers.
AWA’s Jim Keen, D.V.M., PhD., authored the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative report on mink farming and SARS-CoV-2. It was released in concert with bipartisan legislation in the Congress to ban mink farming in the U.S. – the MINKS Are Superspreaders Act. In 2021, several major jurisdictions banned mink farming, including British Columbia, France, and the Netherlands. Italy is poised to do so, as the EU gears up to ban all fur farming. This is our moment to dramatically shrink this industry globally.
- Kangaroos Are Not Shoes: Global effort to stop trade in kangaroo skins gains momentum
Our campaign, which included a viral video depicting the connection between Nike and Adidas soccer cleats and the killing of two million kangaroos annually, has gone global. We’ve strengthened the European and Australian movements to confront the largest terrestrial wildlife slaughter in the world. At home, we worked to enforce California’s ban on the sale of kangaroo products, shutting down sales at stores throughout the state, while we press for Congress to extend the California ban nationwide. Our study of European soccer championships revealed that synthetic shoes outperformed kangaroo skins by a country mile – proving there’s no practical need for the systemic, commercial slaughter of Australia’s global symbol.
- Tourism Without Trophy Hunting: Major pledges in South Africa to stop canned lion hunts
Calling for “the ending of certain inhumane and irresponsible practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa and the position of South Africa as a leader in conservation,” South Africa’s top environment official announced recommendations to end trophy hunting of captive lions and commercial cub petting in the nation’s hundreds of lion farms, which may contain more than 12,000 lions collectively. A major national panel affirmed the recommendations.
- In the Stable – Not on the Table: U.S. House passes anti-horse-slaughter measure, other major amendments
The House, for the first time in more than a decade, passed a ban on the shipment of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter with no vocal opposition. The Senate did not pick up the amendment, but we have cemented support on this issue to set us up for success in the near future. We also had winning amendments to challenge CDC’s ban on dog imports (including rescues) from 113 nations, including China where there is a robust effort to save dogs destined for the meat trade. A key Senate committee passed a shark fin ban, giving us a very real opportunity to pass this legislation in 2022 and get it signed into law.
- No Big Cats as Pets: Commercial cub petting in U.S. on the brink
It was a tough year for roadside zoos exploiting big cats as pets. Major cub petting operators and exhibitors were shut down, with federal enforcement actions against Jeff Lowe and Tim Stark. The Big Cat Public Safety Act has nearly 300 cosponsors and is poised for success in 2022.
- Modernize Testing: Movement and momentum to eliminate an archaic FDA mandate for animal testing
We led a powerful launch for the Senate version of the FDA Modernization Act, led by U.S. Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and John Kennedy, R-La., to eliminate a Depression-era requirement for animal testing for all new drug development protocols and to enable FDA to accept the most effective test methods, regardless of whether animals are used. We have a similarly strong alignment of House lawmakers with a companion bill, with 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats signed up as cosponsors.
- Remaking the National Agenda for Animal Welfare: AWA tees up a raft of new federal legislative measures
AWA has introduced 10 new legislative reforms within the last 18 months – from the Kangaroo Protection Act to the MINKS Are Superspreaders Act to the FDA Modernization Act. Two key reforms on that roster will be launched in 2022. These efforts constitute a remaking of the national agenda for animal welfare.
- Enactment of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act: The human-animal bond put to work
At AWA and the Center, our slogan is “Helping Animals Helps Us All,” and the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act is a perfect example of how we’re working to provide policy solutions that help both animals and humans alike. Signed into law in August – the seventh animal law enacted with AWA’s help since the organization’s inception in 2018 – the measure provides opportunities for dogs and veterans to be paired in an effort to heal both abused animals and veterans with PTSD and other disorders.
These are just some outcomes that result from your support.
It’s our species that’s created too much havoc and chaos and cruelty for animals. It’s our species that can solve those problems, too.
The challenges animals face are immense, but there’s no alternative but to fight for them. With your support, we’ll work every day for them in 2022!
Wayne Pacelle is a New York Times bestselling author and President of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. He has led efforts to pass 1,500 state laws for animals, more than 100 federal laws and amendments, 30 ballot initiatives, and 500 corporate agreements. He is a graduate of Yale University.