Seattle City Council Refuses to Hear Appeal for Watoto

Elephants.waiting to see mayorUpdate July 15, 2015: Members of the public that support retiring the Woodland Park Zoo elephants to a sanctuary filled Seattle’s City Council hearing room yesterday.

The supporters of the elephants were there to voice concern, in particular, for Watoto, the elephant the zoo intends to move to another zoo by the end of the year. A zoo official on hand was adamant that Watoto would not be allowed to go to a sanctuary and instead would be sent to another zoo. The city council refused to allow anyone to speak on behalf of the elephants even during the public comment period, claiming that the matter was “not on the agenda”.

Supporters of the elephants then went to the mayor’s office, but he was not available.

Please help by contacting city council members at the addresses below and urge them to support retiring all elephants to a sanctuary and closing the elephant exhibit at the zoo. Please be polite. You can find more information at

Original report: You may have heard about the growing debate involving the three elephants held at the Woodland Park Zoo. For decades, Watoto, Chai, and Bamboo have languished in a cramped, barren, antiquated exhibit that harms their physical and psychological health.

Facing increased criticism over its elephant program, the Zoo recently announced a plan to send Watoto (the Zoo’s sole African elephant) to another zoo and bring in two additional elephants; one of breeding age.

Time is of the essence. The Woodland Park Zoo intends to rid itself of Watoto by the end of the year.

Elephants on Kasenyl Plains by Tobias Seiderer
Elephants on Kasenyl Plains
From the Community Coalition for Elephant Retirement and Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants: we won’t give up on Chai and Bamboo, Watoto needs your support now to ensure that her future is secure at a sanctuary, not another zoo where she will be forced to endure more of the same. The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), an elephant sanctuary in California, is available to talk if and when the zoo considers retiring the elephants. To date, the Zoo has not responded.

TWO things you can do to help Watoto:

1) Write to the Seattle City Council and Mayor Ed Murray today (email addresses below). Please keep your comments brief and polite, mention whether you are a Seattle and/or King County resident , and include the following suggested points:
• Urge the Council and Mayor to champion community values and retire Watoto to a sanctuary.
• Let the Council and Mayor know that as a concerned Seattle or King County resident, you care about Watoto’s future. The Zoo receives millions in taxpayer money every year, making the welfare of Watoto all of our responsibility, not just the Zoo’s.
• Let the Council and Mayor know that you agree with the super majority of Seattle residents who support retiring Watoto to a sanctuary.
• Twenty-seven zoos have closed or will close their elephant exhibits; it is time that the Woodland Park Zoo follows this progressive lead. After 45 years of service at the Zoo, Watoto deserves a secure future at a sanctuary, not more of the same at another zoo.


2) Attend an upcoming City Council meeting on July 14th to show your support for Watoto. Children are strongly encouraged to attend. Free T-shirts will be provided at the 4th and Cherry entrance to City Hall starting at 1:30 pm. We will head up to the City Hall chambers on the second floor at 1:45 pm.
What: Seattle City Council meeting
When: Monday, July 14th, 1:30 pm
Where: 600 4th Ave, Second Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104

Please contact Alyne Fortgang of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants if you have questions: Please also confirm with Alyne that you plan to attend the City Council meeting.
For more information on Watoto, Chai, and Bamboo, please visit:
Thank you for your help and support!

Photo by Tobias Seiderer

Evidence shows GAO Horse Welfare report fraudulent

horses touching facesThe Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) and the Animal Law Coalition (ALC) announced today that they have irrefutable evidence showing that the Government Accountability Office fraudulently misrepresented horse abuse and neglect data in their report GAO 11-228.

The GAO report blamed falling horse prices and increased abuse and neglect on the closing of the domestic slaughter plants in 2007. Shortly after GAO issued the report, a conference committee reinstated funding for horse slaughter inspections, opening the way for slaughter to return to the US. Widely quoted in the media, the report is also provided as evidence in the lawsuit filed by Valley Meats against the USDA.

The EWA and ALC have provided both a video and a white paper showing how the fraud was committed. The ten minute video, How the GAO deceived Congress about horse slaughter was released on YouTube, and shows step by step how the GAO hid information in its possession showing abuse and neglect was in decline and misrepresented the data as showing it was increasing.

The fraud was discovered by the EWA while collecting data for equine abuse and neglect rates across the country. “We were looking for the correlation between various factors such as unemployment, slaughter and hay prices on a state by state basis,” explained EWA’s John Holland, “and when we looked at the Colorado data, we were reminded of its mention in the GAO report.”

The GAO claimed in the report to have contacted state veterinarians across the country and to have been told that abuse and neglect was increasing everywhere in the wake of the closing of the US plants in 2007. These were the same officials EWA contacted looking for states that kept records.

The EWA found data from six states; Oregon, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Georgia and Colorado. The records showed that abuse and neglect had been in decline between 2008 and 2010 (the last year of the GAO study), and that the GAO had used the wrong dates on the Colorado data to make it appear abuse had increased 60%.

“We had accepted that abuse was probably increasing as the result of the bad economy,” says Holland, “so imagine our surprise when we found it had been decreasing.” The EWA study finally showed the reason: drought. Drought and the subsequent increases in hay prices correlated tightly with the abuse and neglect numbers, and outweighed the influence of the recession and other factors.

“Not only did the GAO misrepresent the data, they completely missed the importance of hay prices and availability.” said Holland. The EWA filed a FOIA request for the data used by the GAO and the request was denied. The EWA also filed an IG complaint, and finally had a conference call with the GAO to request the report be withdrawn. The GAO refused any response except to say that their reports were flawlessly cross checked.

Victoria McCullough, owner of Chesapeake Petroleum and internationally known equestrian, said “Acceptance of lower standards results in failed policies and most significantly failures of public interest. Special Interest encroachment within Washington must not be allowed to erode public trust.”

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Watch the video: How the GAO deceived Congress about horse slaughter


Call on your U.S. representative and senators to pass the SAFE Act to ban slaughter of American horses for human consumption and, in the meantime, support defunding of ante-mortem equine inspections that will at least stop slaughter of horses in the U.S. for human consumption.

Don’t stop there! Pres. Obama supports defunding of equine inspections, and the president can also end horse slaughter for human consumption now. Call the White House:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Urge the president to stop horse slaughter for human consumption now!

House Passes King Amendment

NewChickens109HiUpdate July 16, 2013:On July 11, 2013 by a vote of 216-208, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the King amendment as part of H.R. 2642, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, now the Farm bill. Section 11312 contains the King amendment. The bill now goes to the Senate. For more on what this amendment means, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: An amendment by U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to the House Agriculture Committee version of the FARRM bill would threaten the ability of state and local governments to regulate animal welfare within their borders. Congressman King’s amendment provides “one state cannot deny the trade of an agricultural product from another state based on that product’s means of production.”

The King amendment was approved as part of the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) of 2013, H.R. 1947, on May 15, 2013 by a vote of 36-10.

King’s amendment would target, for example, the 2010 California law that prohibits sale of eggs in the state that are from hens kept in conditions inconsistent with Cal Health & Saf Code Sec. 25990. That law, known as California’s anti-confinement law for farm animals, requires that “for all or the majority of any day”, egg laying hens must be able to lay down, stand up and fully extend their limbs or wings without touching the sides of an enclosure or other hens, and also turn around freely. See further Cal Health & Saf Code Section 25991.

Under Congressman King’s amendment this California law could not be applied to foreign egg producers that want to sell eggs in the state. Other jurisdictions could sell eggs from hens cruelly crammed into battery cages and likely undercut the prices of local egg producers that must meet state humane standards.

Mr. King’s amendment would wreak havoc with efforts of local citizens to stop animal cruelty and threaten protections not only for egg laying hens and other farm animals, but also laws that prohibit or regulate puppy and cat mills and other animal breeders, ban horse slaughter and protect wildlife. The King amendment would threaten state and local standards for food safety, environmental protection and worker safety. Rep. King would force every state and locale to open its markets to those producers with the worst standards. Don’t let Congressman King undermine state’s rights and turn the clock back centuries on standards for animal welfare, the environment, and food and worker safety.


Find your U.S. Senators here. Contact them (letters or calls are best) and urge your senators to offer or support an amendment to repeal the King amendment and to vote NO to H.R. 2642, the 2013 FARRM bill unless the King amendment is removed.

Both House and Senate Committees Approve Defunding of Horse Inspections

wild horse 3Update June 20, 2013:The Senate Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote today the Landrieu amendment which would defund in the FY 2014 appropriations bill the required ante-mortem inspections of horses sent to slaughter for human consumption. The House Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment last week. President Obama has recommended defunding in the administration’s proposed budget for FY 2014.

Without funding of these required inspections, horses cannot be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption. Both the full House of Representatives and Senate must approved the measure. For more on defunding, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Update June 18, 2013: This Thursday, June 20, 2013 the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the Agriculture Appropriations bill for FY 2014. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has proposed an amendment similar to the Moran amendment approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee to defund horse inspections. For more on the Moran amendment to defund horse inspections, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier reports below.

Update June 13, 2013: The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee approved today by voice vote an amendment to the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill that defunds ante-mortem inspections for horses sent for slaughter for human consumption. If approved by the full House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president, it would mean horses and other equines could not be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and had been recommended by the Obama Administration in its proposed budget. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for approval. For more on this and how you can help pass defunding of horse inspections, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.

Original report: While a bill to ban horse slaughter for human consumption is pending in Congress, the Obama administration has agreed to support defunding of ante-mortem inspections required for equines slaughtered for human food. This means no funds could be used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for inspectors to conduct these inspections. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. Sec. 603, without the inspections, equines cannot be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption.

The USDA has proposed the defunding of equine inspections in its FY 2014 budget:
p. 197, Sec. 725:
None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to—(1) inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603); (2) inspect horses under section 903 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104127); or (3) implement or enforce section 352.19 of title 9, Code of Federal Regulations.

Find your one U.S. representative. Find your 2 U.S. senators here. Call your U.S. rep and senators now and urge them to support the Agriculture Committee bill with defunding of horse inspections and stop horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S.

Defunding ante-mortem inspections for equines in a FY 2006 appropriations act led to the shuttering of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. that could not as a result operate legally. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Appropriations Act, 2006, Pub. L. 109-97, § 794, 119 Stat. 2120, 2164 which became law on November 10, 2005, contained a provision that de-funded ante-mortem inspections of equines. The de-funding of the ante-mortem inspections continued until 2011.

In that year the House of Representatives voted to continue de-funding, but the Senate version of the agriculture appropriations bill did not contain any language de-funding the ante-mortem inspections. In the Conference Committee formed to reconcile the House of Representatives and Senate versions of the appropriations bills, Conference Committee Chair Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) voted to reject de-funding of inspections for horses for slaughter for human consumption. Only Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) voted to support continued de-funding of the inspections. The Conference Report, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. Law No. 112-55, H.R. 2112, became law on November 18, 2011.

Since then it has been legal to operate horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. where it is not prohibited by state law. A USDA permit or approval is required, however. To date, only one facility appears set to obtain such approval. That facility owned by Valley Meat Co. is located in southern New Mexico. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the facility will be approved to begin slaughtering horses unless Congress acts to defund the required ante-mortem inspections.


Call President Obama at and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at 202-720-3631, and urge them to take the lead in assuring the appropriations law for FY 2014 defunds ante-mortem inspections for equines.