By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
The inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris heralds a new beginning. Most Americans are looking forward to putting the challenges of last year behind them. But many are still facing the difficulties of illness, unemployment and economic uncertainty because of the global pandemic. While resolving these problems will understandably be at the top of the administration’s priorities, we look forward, with great optimism, to advancing our animal protection goals with the federal government in the coming weeks and months.
Our program and public policy specialists have already been meeting with members of President Biden’s transition team to discuss our policy priorities. We have laid out a 100-day agenda that includes positive administration action on rules as well as enhanced funding for key animal welfare programs.
Here are 10 actions we’re encouraging the Biden administration to take in its first 100 days. In most cases, these requests are tied to longer-term priorities for us, so we’re urging the administration to direct federal agencies to:
- Slow down line speeds at slaughtering plants across the country in the interests of animal welfare, worker safety and public health (a subject on which President-elect Biden publicly commented in early January).
- Halt the import of trophies of ESA-listed species like the African elephant, lion and leopard, all currently threatened with extinction (a topic President-elect Biden discussed on the campaign trail).
- Reinstate a 2017 rule that strengthens Horse Protection Act enforcement to end horse soring.
- Redirect the Bureau of Land Management, Wild Horse and Burro Program’s focus toward humane, long term, sustainable management approaches with fertility control vaccines, an approach we have long championed.
- End direct and indirect federal support for legal challenges to Proposition 12, the groundbreaking 2018 California ballot initiative that established minimum requirements for confining certain farm animals and prohibit sales of meat and egg products from animals confined in noncompliant systems.
- Implement necessary protections to prevent fishing gear entanglement and vessel strikes from exacerbating the plight of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
- Support renewal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s commitment to ending all animal testing on mammals for chemicals and pesticides by 2035 through focus on non-animal technologies.
- Adopt the recommendations of the nation’s top science panel to stop most research on dogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Reissue a 2017 rule to strengthen housing, husbandry and management standards for animal welfare on organics farms.
- Declare an immediate commitment to increased enforcement efforts pertaining to puppy mills, roadside zoos, and research facilities that violate the Animal Welfare Act.
With respect to COVID-19, we’ll continue to emphasize the important connections we have been making between our work and the larger public interest. In July 2020 we released a policy report identifying specific actions that lawmakers and private sector interests can take, actions that are good for animals, people, and the planet. These include:
- Stricter regulation of wildlife imports and the closure of U.S. mink fur farms.
- An end to wildlife markets and the wildlife products trade.
- Incentives for farmers to transition away from intensive confinement of farm animals.
Our gains in Congress’s omnibus bill for 2021 offered powerful evidence of our expanding power to secure funding for key animal protection programs under federal agencies, and we intend to do still better the next time around. For the president’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, we’ll pursue the following priorities, among others:
- Increased support for enforcement of animal welfare laws.
- Largescale transition from intensive confinement systems to cage- and crate- free housing for farm animals.
- Program grants to assist domestic violence victims and their pets.
- Additional funding for combating wildlife trafficking initiatives.
- Development and implementation of non-animal testing methods.
- Research to further the progress of cultivated and plant-based meat alternatives.
We are excited about the prospect of working with a federal government more favorable to our goals for animal welfare, but we aren’t taking anything for granted. While President Biden and Vice President Harris have strong individual track records on animal protection issues, bringing about regulatory change is always a challenge. We’ll also be working with a new Congress and seeking to strengthen and expand the wonderful bipartisan support for animal welfare that we’ve helped build in recent years.
We hope you’ll join us in supporting those efforts. You can rest assured we will continue to bring our best energy, talent and resources to the mission of securing positive actions by our federal government—for all animals—in 2021 and beyond.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.