On the issue of animal protection, both parties must work together

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to outlaw the sale and distribution of graphic videos depicting the murder or abuse of animals by an overwhelming margin, passing the Prevention of Interstate Commerce in Crush Videos Act, 416 to 3. 

While these videos showcase behavior that would be considered animal cruelty under most state and federal law, it is nearly impossible to prove who produces the videos, making a ban on their sale through interstate commerce a critical tool for prosecutors.  The recent Supreme Court decision, Stevens vs. U.S., struck down the decade old law that banned the videos on the grounds that its broad scope could unduly restrict free speech.

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While the bill is an important animal cruelty and violence prevention measure in its own right, it’s also an indication of the progress that can be achieved through bipartisan cooperation.  

Following the Stevens ruling, the 88 Democratic and Republican members of the Animal Protection Caucus moved quickly to mobilize support for a narrower bill focused solely on prohibiting the sale of crush videos. Members of the House Judiciary Committee from both parties worked together to refine the legislation to ensure it addressed constitutional concerns raised by the court. 

Of particular concern was the impact the bill could have on legitimate hunting and fishing videos, so explicit language was added to exempt those materials. Through this process, the bill was improved considerably, and the final product is one that we believe will both stop the proliferation of crush videos and withstand further constitutional scrutiny.

There are many bills pending before Congress that attempt to take a similarly measured, bipartisan approach to animal protection issues. While we are co-sponsors of many of these bills, we want to highlight two that are especially deserving of broad, bipartisan support.

The Truth in Fur Labeling Act (H.R. 2480) would close a loophole in current law that allows wearable products with less than $150 in fur to forgo labeling requirements.  

For example, you might buy a pair of gloves trimmed in colorful fur under the assumption that the fur is not real, as the gloves are relatively cheap and there is no label to indicate otherwise. Unfortunately, you could be wrong. Your new winter gloves could be made with real animal pelt derived from domesticated animals such as dogs and cats. 

H.R. 2480 would give people with allergies or ethical objections to fur the information they need to make educated purchasing decisions. It has 170 bipartisan cosponsors and was unanimously reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month after being amended to address legitimate concerns raised by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) regarding the bill’s impact on hunters and trappers who sell small quantities of homemade products.  We are hopeful this improved bill will come to the House floor very soon.

The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (H.R. 4733) is another measured attempt to address animal welfare. The bill would require agricultural producers that supply food to the federal government to give egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves enough room in their cages to turn around and stretch their legs.  Polls indicate this basic level of humane treatment for farm animals is supported by an overwhelmingly majority of Americans, and many food retailers and fast-food companies are already demanding this level of care from their suppliers. Supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, this bill is yet another example of how targeted legislation can help put an end to some of the most egregious forms of animal suffering.

Consensus building on animal protection issues is also taking place outside of Washington. Consider the recent compromise between the State of Ohio and the Humane Society of the Unites States: rather than fight a costly and contentious referendum battle, both sides agreed to support changes in Ohio’s agricultural system to ensure the humane treatment of animals, including a ban on strangling animals on the farm and transporting downer cattle, the phasing out of veal and gestation crates, and a moratorium on new battery cage facilities. The agreement also tightened state laws related to cockfighting, puppy mills and the sale of exotic animals as pets. The ability of agricultural interests and animal protection advocates, two groups traditionally viewed as adversaries, to reach an amicable resolution to these issues is an encouraging development. 

As demonstrated by the passage of the animal crush video bill, Congress squarely rejects senseless violence towards animals. But even on more contentious animal welfare issues, partisanship should not be a roadblock to engaging in constructive dialogue. We encourage members who are interested in participating in this process to join the Animal Protection Caucus, because protecting animals from cruelty should not be a partisan issue.

Reps. Moran and Gallegly are chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.