Last night the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States hosted our annual congressional Humane Awards, where we honored a bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the way for animals during the last year. More than 50 Senators and Representatives plus staff members from dozens of additional offices attended the event in the U.S. Capitol, as we celebrated the federal lawmakers who are leading the way to make the world a better place for animals.
The top awards went to Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who were honored as the 2015 Humane Legislators of the Year. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced reform in the policy-making arena.
In 2015, Sen. Udall led the effort—with Sens. David Vitter and Cory Booker—to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, including provisions to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of animals in chemical testing. He successfully offered the amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore “defund” language that’s kept horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil. As the top Democrat on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, he helped fend off anti-wildlife riders that would have weakened the Endangered Species Act, stripped wolves of federal protections, and blocked efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. Udall is also a leading voice for reforms in the horse racing industry to crack down on rampant doping. He played a key role in obtaining strong provisions to require all federal agriculture research facilities to meet animal welfare standards, and he set the stage for the decision by the National Institutes of Health to end the use of all chimpanzees in laboratory experiments and retire them to sanctuaries. This is simply a breathtaking set of accomplishments and activities.
Rep. Buchanan also was active on such a diverse set of policy reforms. He led efforts to protect manatees from extinction, challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to downgrade the species from endangered to threatened status. He is the co-author of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act to stop horse slaughter for human consumption, and he voiced support for the appropriations “defund” language and opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s sale and transport of nearly 1,800 wild horses to slaughter. In the wake of the tragic killing of Cecil the lion, he urged the Department of Interior to list African lions as endangered, and the agency issued a strong final rule to prevent imports of most lion trophies. He co-authored the Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research (AWARE) Act to provide animal care standards for farm animals used in federal agricultural research. And he opposed repeated legislative attacks against the Endangered Species Act and against the proposed rule to crack down on illegal ivory trafficking.
In addition to the top awards for Sen. Udall and Rep. Buchanan, we honored four retiring lawmakers with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their career-long dedication and accomplishments on a wide range of animal protection issues. The awards went to Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. Sam Farr D-Calif.
Among the many issues these leaders spearheaded over the years, Sens. Boxer and Vitter teamed up annually securing needed funds for the enforcement of key animal welfare laws such as the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and implementation of programs to protect pets in disasters and ease the shortage of veterinarians in underserved areas.
They also co-authored the Captive Primate Safety Act to crack down on the trade in primates as exotic pets. Sen. Vitter and Rep. Farr were sponsors of the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public over the Internet, which set the stage for USDA regulation of Internet puppy sellers. With Sen. Mikulski as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Farr as the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, they both had outstanding pivotal roles on a host of animal protection concerns, including keeping horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil, requiring humane treatment of farm animals and compliance with Animal Welfare Act standards at federal facilities, significantly boosting USDA’s budget to oversee the AWA, and seeking to end the abhorrently cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses.
These lawmakers all led on a number of other issues over the years, including Sen. Boxer fighting tirelessly for wildlife and environmental protection through positive measures and fending off harmful legislation, Sen. Mikulski sponsoring the SAFE Act to stop exports of horses for slaughter and helping to ensure continued retirement of chimpanzees into sanctuary, Sen. Vitter advocating for TSCA reform to phase out chemical testing on animals and passing legislation to ban animal fighting spectators and to require labeling of fur-trimmed apparel, and Rep. Farr sponsoring bills to protect egg-laying hens in barren battery cages and performing elephants in traveling circuses. We are grateful to them for their service and their career-long dedication to animal protection.
Finally, we also recognized several other lawmakers based on their leadership on animal welfare legislation and their ratings on the 2015 Humane Scorecard. In total, 181 legislators – 39 in the Senate and 142 in the House (representing 37 states) – received awards for their work in 2015. We’re grateful to all of these members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership on animal protection legislation, and we congratulate them as recipients of the 2015 Humane Awards.