America’s wild horses are being managed to extinction and Friends of Animals is fighting for their lives.
Six states have already lost their wild horse populations: Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. And since the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, wild horses have lost an additional 41 percent of their habitat.
In our fight to protect wild horses, FoA has secured 13 victories in court, ensuring that herds remain with their families on the range instead of being ripped from federal public lands through cruel roundups. All the cases have revealed that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which caters to cattle and sheep ranchers, is cutting corners and knowingly violating the National Environmental Policy Act. In addition, the agency has not been transparent about the impacts associated with forcibly drugging mares with the fertility pesticide PZP.
In 2020, the BLM quietly slipped another report to Congress outlining management and requested $116.8 million for the Wild Horse and Burro Program. The agency is calling for massive removals, permanent sterilization, sale without limitation and slaughter.
The truth is there is no evidence that there are too many wild horses on federal public lands. Upwards of 2 million cattle graze public lands, not to mention sheep, and the government has authorized thousands of oil, gas and mineral extraction projects on these areas as well, compared to a measly 79,568 wild horses. These activities, not wild horses, are damaging the environment, fragmenting wildlife habitat, and contributing to climate change.
Help us stop the BLM’s wild horse extinction plan and fight for freedom.
FLIP OFF FUR
Although historic legislation to ban the sale of fur in NYC—which Friends of Animals helped draft and get introduced—has yet to cross the finish line, there is much to be thankful for in terms of the demise of the fur industry.
While it can be a Herculean task to motivate legislatures, public backlash matters, and these days consumers want no part of the violence toward animals and the harm to the environment that is at the core of the fur industry thanks to our decades-long public awareness campaigns.
Since consumers keep designers and retailers in business, the biggest names in fashion have fallen like dominoes, one after the other, banning fur from their designs and shelves. Who can forget Donatella Versace’s quote heard round the world in 2018? “Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right,” the Italian designer said in an interview for The Economist’s 1843 magazine. Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga are the most recent to join the growing list of retailers and brands flipping off fur.
Even Canada Goose, whose parkas trimmed with coyote skins have become ubiquitous, announced in 2021 it will stop buying fur by the end of the year and cease manufacturing all fur products by the end of 2022. Macy’s became the biggest U.S. retailer to phase out the sale of animal fur in 2021.
Israel made history this summer by becoming first country to ban the fur trade and in 2019, California became the first U.S. state to enact a law banning the sale of fur products, which takes effect in 2023.
Stay tuned for our continued efforts to push NYC to flip off fur. In the meantime, you can support our anti-fur efforts by wearing our Flip off Fur t-shirt, our anti-fur buttons, sharing our brochure and making a donation.
BANNING TROPHY HUNTING
It is shameful that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to import the parts of lions, elephants, leopards, giraffes, rhinos and other species from Africa, where so-called conservation programs fail to meet accepted standards for transparency, scientific management and effectiveness.
At least 1.2 million animals were legally killed by American hunters and sent to the U.S. as trophies between 2005-2014. From 2005 to 2014, 159,144 animals were imported into New York as trophies—including 1,541 lions; 1,130 elephants and 83 pairs of tusks; 1,169 leopards, and 110 white rhinos. In Connecticut, where FoA is headquartered, hunters travelled to Africa and killed 39 lions and one giraffe between 2005-2016 and imported their trophies.
To protect these majestic species, FoA drafted legislation in Connecticut and New York, which is the largest importer of trophies in the nation, that would ban the possession, sale, or import of these trophies. Africa’s majestic animals are on the decline. The population of African elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinos, leopards and black and white rhinos are declining at an alarming rate and federal protections are not strong enough. States must step in to do more to save these majestic, sentient beings including banning the import and sale of hunting trophies of their body parts.
Because of our efforts, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed the Big 5 African Trophies Act into law in 2021, preventing Connecticut trophy hunters from selling the body parts of the Big 5. We worked for five years to deliver this setback to the trophy hunting industry and to help protect these magnificent ecosystem engineers. The legislation is working its way through the New York legislature.
Friends of Animals also filed a rulemaking petition with USFWS in 2021 to stop the importation of all sport-hunted “trophies” of threatened and endangered animals. FWS hasn’t responded yet. If the agency denies the petition, then FoA can challenge it in court.
If the goal of the Endangered Species Act is conservation of species, US regulations should not grant a loophole legalizing the slaughter of the most vulnerable among them and then add insult to injury by permitting the glorification of the killing through the importation of their dismembered body parts. Permitting individuals to display lion and leopard heads or mount elephant tusks on the walls of their homes undermines the message that we should be protecting these imperiled species.
ENDING THE NYC CARRIAGE HORSE TRADE
Friends of Animals has monitored, criticized and agitated against the carriage horse trade in New York City for decades.
Owners, drivers and some tourists justify the industry because it’s “a tradition,” saying horses have been pulling carriages through Central Park since it opened in 1858.
Tradition doesn’t make animal abuse acceptable. FoA had a front-row seat to the nose-to-tailpipe existence of NYC carriage horses when we had a Columbus Circle office, and it our long-standing ties to NYC and to the many FoA members who live there continues to fuel our efforts to pass legislation that would abolish this inhumane practice industry for good.
While there have been lame attempts to regulate the industry, FoA has always remained steadfast that you cannot regulate atrocities. We have never wavered from calling for a full ban and for the horses to be released by their owners to accredited sanctuaries.
In 2019, New York City’s horse-drawn carriage lines were moved out of busy midtown traffic and restricted to Central Park, however the horses still must travel alongside vehicular traffic on busy streets to get to the park.
Horses are also prohibited from being worked when the air temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, or whenever the air temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or above and the equine heat index is 150 or above. Equine heat index is defined as the sum of the air temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, and the relative humidity at a particular point in time.
Still carriage horses are collapsing, spooking and getting into accidents in NYC.
Horses, who are prey animals and prone to spooking inside and outside Central Park, should not be forced to pull heavy carriages loaded with people among dense traffic, exhaust fumes, street construction and honking horns, with taxis and buses speeding by.
What’s more, NYC carriage horses are robbed of their so-called daily turnout, which horse experts deem necessary for their well-being. Studies link pasture time to stronger bones, better respiratory health, reduced colic risk and lower stress levels. Turnout gives horses a chance to fill their need for social contact with other horses—such as mutual grooming.
Horses exploited by the NYC carriage horse industry— who typically work for nine hours each working day and are unable to flourish in their own way—will never flourish until the industry is banned and they are released to a qualified sanctuary.
We support a transition of the industry to electric carriages without horses, as other metropolitan areas around the world have successfully done.
FoA is working on a local, state and national level to ban the use of pesticides, such as glyphosate and chlorpyrifos, on public lands and working to encourage organic methods on private property.
Pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides and rodenticides, put pollinators, birds, amphibians and other wildlife in harm’s way. Studies show that the use of professionally applied pesticides is associated with a 70 percent higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma. Many pesticides are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms as well as being toxic to bees, birds and other pollinators.
Roundup, the most popular weed killer in the world, has as its most active ingredients glyphosate and 2,4-D. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate in 2015 as a “probable carcinogenic to humans’’ and concluded that the chemical likely causes a range of cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, renal cancers, skin cancers and pancreatic cancer.
FoA supported the groundbreaking New York City bill that bans the use of toxic pesticides in city parks. We are grateful to NYC Council members Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera for introducing the bill and to our members who acted in 2020 when we asked them to support the legislation and help move it forward.
The bill authorizes the use of only biological pesticides (except in the case of some applicable exemptions) and bans all city agencies from spraying highly toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate, which was one of the city’s most heavily used liquid herbicide. Roundup was sprayed 1,365 times in 2013, according to a NYC Health Department report.
In 2019, a jury in Oakland, California awarded a couple $2 billion in damages after finding that sustained exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer led to their cancer diagnoses. Other juries have reached similar verdicts.
In 2021, FoA helped form the Connecticut Coalition to Protect Black Bears with a number of other prominent animal and environmental advocacy groups because of misleading information circulating about black bears, including that they need to be managed with a bear hunt.
Through educational outreach and legislative advocacy, the coalition promotes proven non-lethal strategies that allow people and Connecticut’s native black bears to co-exist. The group’s first webinar, “Becoming Bear Aware in Connecticut: Learn how to keep bears wild and people safe,” can be watched here.
Read FoA’s most recent op-ed about black bears here.
Learn about communities that manage residents’ behavior and prove that symbiotic relationships with these magnificent mammals are possible here.
You can purchase our black bear brochure here.
SAVING NATIONAL FORESTS
We have joined the Climate Forest campaign to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging across America’s public lands as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy. The older parts of our nation’s forests are climate and biodiversity champions — they sequester large amounts of carbon and can store that carbon for centuries, providing the foundation for a diversity of life.
In November, Friends of Animals stood with Standing Trees, Climate Forests Coalition and Save Public Forests Coalition to protest a massive timber sale in Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. The U.S. Forest Service has proposed logging up to 11,000 acres of mostly old trees in GMNF.
More than a hundred of us rallied outside the Rochester Ranger Station to show elected officials and FS staff that we want a ban on commercial logging and permanent protections for mature and old-growth forests on federal public lands.
Since then FoA’s Wildlife Law Program staff has submitted comments to the U.S. Forest Service opposing the project.
You can read more about our efforts to protect climate-saving national forests in our Action Line cover story here:
TOP TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR NATIONAL FORESTS
PROTECTING HORSESHOE CRABS
The Connecticut General Assembly has voted to save the state’s horseshoe crabs and the wildlife who depend on them for survival. On May 30, 2023 the Senate passed HB 6484 35-0. The legislation prohibits the hand capture and killing of horseshoe crabs from the waters and shoreline of the state. It passed the House unanimously 146-0 on April 27.
The bill, which Friends of Animals helped draft, has been signed by the governor will go into effect Oct. 1. It is the strongest bill of its type in the nation because it does not include a carve-out for the biomedical industry as New Jersey’s ban does.
“Hope has arrived. Finally, Connecticut is drawing a line in the sand to stop the seasonal killing of horseshoe crabs along our shoreline,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Darien-based Friends of Animals. “CT’s quota for chopping up horseshoe crabs only to bait eel and whelk pots is a staggering 48,689 crabs each summer. The success of this legislation gives horseshoe crabs a fighting chance to recover from decades of exploitation.”
Feral pointed out that it’s gratifying to see a wildlife protection bill remain intact, have such overwhelming support and move so quickly through the legislature.
“It’s a testament to state Rep. Joe Gresko, who introduced the clear, concise bill and whose genuine love for these ancient mariners gave the bill the energy it needed,” she said. “We worked together to make the General Assembly understand that horseshoe crabs are already functionally extinct in Long Island Sound, which means they no longer play an effective role in their ecosystem, and that Connecticut needed to stop the reckless, unnecessary killing of horseshoe crabs for bait so people could eat smoked eel and conch fritters.”
On the House floor, Rep. Gresko, who first became enamored by horseshoe crabs as a kid while watching them “right” themselves with their tails at Short Beach in Stratford, dedicated the legislation to the late Dr. Jennifer Mattei. Mattei was a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Horseshoe Crab Specialist Group, who Connecticut was lucky to have as a biology professor at Sacred Heart University. Mattei founded Project Limulus, a citizen-science project examining the ecology of the Long Island Sound horseshoe crab population. Her work over the past two decades led us to this point, Gresko said.
Mattei’s work showed that the horseshoe crab is already “functionally extinct” in Long Island Sound. That means horseshoe crabs no longer play an effective role in their ecosystem and that negatively affects many other species.
“As Connecticut continues to make improvements to Long Island Sound, the wellbeing of horseshoe crabs is a benchmark that will hopefully now improve with the passage H.B. 6484. These living fossils have survived millions of years, so left alone, I’m confident they will return in numbers,” said Rep. Gresko. “By safeguarding horseshoe crabs, we strengthen our marine food web for generations to come.”
CT DEEP had revised regulations during the 2022 season, which still allowed approximately 15 permit holders to kill 150 horseshoe crabs per day from May 22-July 7, excluding weekends and five days around the full moon in June. That means theoretically that each license holder could still kill a staggering 4,350 individuals each summer.
Bolstered by this victory the state where its headquartered, Friends of Animals plans to get similar legislation introduced and passed in New York in 2024. FoA was founded in NY in 1957.
The Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission downgraded the stocks of horseshoe crabs in the NY region, which includes Connecticut and the Long Island Sound, from Neutral to Poor in 2019.
Migratory birds need to eat horseshoe crabs’ eggs, especially the threatened red knot. In 2021, fewer than 7,000 red knots were found in the Delaware Bay, a key spring stopover habitat. That’s less than a third found in 2020. And red knot numbers remained at historically low levels in 2022. New Jersey banned the killing of horseshoe crabs in 2008.
Without sufficient horseshoe crab eggs to feed on, migratory birds run out of energy and die before reaching their breeding grounds. Horseshoe crabs are also an important source of food for other wildlife such as sea turtles, and species such as anemones, barnacles, oysters and seaweed use horseshoe crab shells as homes.
Horseshoe crabs have figured out how to harmonize with the environment to last half a billion years. Humans can really learn a thing or two from them.
Horseshoe crabs spawn in mid May and early June, during the high tides three days before and three days after the new moon and the full moon. Female horseshoe crabs come ashore, where the males are waiting. Time to lay the eggs—20,000 or more a night and as many as 80,000 in each mating season.
If you find a horseshoe crab on the beach this summer flipped over, offer this ancient mariner a hand by turning it over (not by the tail) so they can fulfill their vital role as a dominant species of the Long Island Sound ecosystem.