Most of these anti-animal welfare expenditures are authorized in long-running and often opaque laws, with programs seamlessly funded as directed by Congress and with special interests expecting these government handouts to subsidize their industries. The only response is to chip away at these programs and to ask that the government play more of a role as protector of animals rather than promoter of animal exploitation. In the end, it can only turn around when lawmakers and the president recognize that animal protection matters to average Americans – and that continuing subsidies and cruel programs won't win votes.
While that's our vision, we live in the here and now, and we deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Within the realm of limited expectations, there are indeed some good proposals. As such, here are key proposals for animals in the president's FY16 budget:
Department of Agriculture
- Horse Slaughter Defund: The 2016 budget once again defunds horse slaughter plant inspections. The language is included for the third year in a row. For nine of the last 11 years, including 2014 and 2015, we've been able to get this defund language in the federal spending bills, preventing new horse slaughter plants from opening on U.S. soil. The public overwhelmingly opposes horse slaughter and Americans do not eat horses, so this common sense proposal is critical to ensure that tax dollars are not wasted to fund this inhumane industry.
- Predator Control: We are thrilled to see the president cut over $9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program. Wildlife Services kills millions of wild animals every year as a subsidy to private ranchers and other resource users throughout the country. We think this is a great start and are glad that the administration is recognizing that the program needs to be reformed.
- Horse Protection Act/Animal Welfare Act Enforcement: While the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service's overall budget for 2016 decreased from 2015, funding for Horse Protection Act enforcement increased slightly, and funding for Animal Welfare Act enforcement remained stable. Effective enforcement of these laws is vital for animals at thousands of puppy mills, circuses, roadside zoos, laboratories, and horse shows. The HSUS will pursue legislation amending the Horse Protection Act to crack down on illegal horse soring and legislation amending the Animal Welfare Act to close loopholes that exclude oversight of farm animal research in federal facilities.
Department of the Interior
Wildlife Trafficking: The Obama administration has made combating wildlife trafficking a top priority and this is reflected in the budget. Wildlife trafficking not only poses a threat to some of our globe's most beloved wildlife-it also threatens U.S. national interests and security in fragile democracies around the world. Trafficking in ivory and other wildlife products has become a lucrative trade for terrorist organizations and crime syndicates that incentivizes poaching of many protected wildlife species. The budget provides for a $4 million increase for the Fish and Wildlife Service to fight illegal wildlife trafficking, and another $4 million increase to augment the FWS' wildlife forensics capacity, improving the agency's ability to provide evidence for prosecution of wildlife crimes. Additionally, funding for key conservation programs was increased from last year:The African Elephant Conservation Program, which provides technical and financial assistance to protect African elephants and their habitats, including anti-poaching activities, was increased by $1 million.The Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Program, which provides conservation grants to protect rhinoceros and tiger populations and their habitats within African and Asian countries, was also increased by $1 million.Wild Horses/Slaughter: The Wild Horse and Burro Program received a $3 million increase in its budget this year, which will allow the agency to aggressively implement the recommendation of the June 2013 National Academy of Science report, "Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Management Program - A Way Forward," including expanding research on population control methods. The HSUS is hopeful that the increase in funding will allow BLM to begin curbing reproduction of wild horses on the range, a necessary step to reduce costs and eliminate the need to remove animals from the range. As the budget makes clear, appropriations may not be used for destruction or sale of wild horses and burros for processing into commercial products (i.e., slaughter).Sage Grouse: The President's budget included $60 million, an increase of $45 million from last year's budget, to work on implementing the Sage Grouse Conservation Strategy. The HSUS is pleased that the Department of Interior has pledged to continue working towards developing a long-term conservation plan for the sage grouse. Department of StateWildlife Trafficking: Funding for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) at the Department of State will be used to support combatting wildlife trafficking.No less than $55,000,000 will be dedicated to combating wildlife trafficking, at least $10,000,000 of which will go towards fighting rhinoceros poaching. No funding will be provided to any foreign military unit if the Secretary of State determines that such unit was credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking (unless doing so is in the national security interest of the United States).Environmental Protection Agency