As a vegan and animal rights advocate for many years, I believe that all living creatures are deserving of certain rights, dignity, and protection by the law. For too long we have allowed big animal agriculture companies to profit off of the abuse, exploitation, and commodification of animals. We can create a state where human beings and animals safely coexist without exploitation and abuse. To do this we must enact legislation that establishes legal rights, safety and protections for wildlife, farm animals, and domestic animals.
This past legislative session we passed legislation to shut down puppy mills, ending the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits (S1130). We also passed legislation banning the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals (S4839B). Both are inhumane and unnecessary practices, and we need the Governor to sign these bills.
As State Senator, I will continue to fight for:
- End wildlife-killing contests. Wildlife-killing contests are organized events where participants kill animals for a prize. These contests are legal, unregulated, and unless a law specifies otherwise, impose no limits on the total number of animals that may be killed. Competitions such as these are inhumane and provide incentive to needlessly killing animals for glory, prizes, or titles. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that nearly 600 wildlife killing contests have been held nationwide in the past five years, with dozens held in New York State. Wildlife killing contests are counter-productive to modern, science-based wildlife management principles because they are ineffective and there are no studies to support claims that these contests are an effective way to control populations. We must pass S6643 to put an end to this cruel and inhumane practice.
- Require schools to serve plant-based options. Plant-based diets (PBD) are those free of animal products such as meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. A 2016 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report recommended PBD as beneficial both for health and the environment. In 2017, the American Medical Association called on hospitals to provide a variety of healthful food, including plant-based meals, alongside recommendations to eliminate processed meats from hospital menus. Passing S1726 would mean schools must provide a PBD option upon student or parent request, an option that ensures respect for children’s dietary, religious, or ethical needs. This legislation would not mandate schools to fully change menus for all students, but rather provide PBD for any students who request or whose parental relations request PBD.
- Prohibit the use of psychoactive drugs on animals in zoos to force mating. The practice of using confined spaces in modern zoos can be disorienting and harmful. Many zoos in the United States have resorted to using psychoactive drugs and antidepressants to alter the mood and behavior of their captive animals in order to achieve certain results. One particularly troubling incident, raised in the New York Times in 2021, concerns a female gorilla named Johari who kept fighting off the male she was placed with. Rather than separating the animals, or allowing Johari to defend herself, her zoo dosed her with Prozac until the other gorilla could overpower and mate with her. This practice of drugging animals is particularly troubling when such captive breeding techniques are used to maintain the stock of animals as attractions to be exploited in modern zoos. Passing S7284 would prohibit the use of psychoactive drugs on animals in zoos in order to force them to engage in sexual intercourse.
- Ban on the sale and manufacture of new fur apparel. Fur farms across the United States raise animals like raccoons, foxes, minks, and chinchillas to kill for their fur, often using cruel and inhumane methods. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that over 100 million animals are killed each year for the fur industry. As animal cruelty laws have progressed, more and more people have chosen to stop supporting the fur industry and turn to faux-fur products or other alternatives. Major luxury fashion brands have recently announced plans to become fur-free, while some retailers and magazines have also announced they will no longer carry or feature clothing and accessories using animal fur. Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and many other countries have also banned fur production. It is time for New York to pass similar legislation by enacting S5439.
- Prohibit the importation or sale of animal products produced in a manner that violates New York’s animal cruelty laws. New York law already prohibits agricultural entities from engaging in acts of cruelty to farm animals within New York State. S7616 would simply prohibit the knowing sale of any animal products that have been produced through acts of cruelty, as defined under New York’s animal cruelty laws in order to protect New York’s farmers from unfair competition and to protect animals from cruelty.
- Ban the use of leg-gripping traps. Wildlife trapping is an activity licensed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Despite the availability of more humane alternatives, such as box or cage traps, many trappers still use steel leg-gripping traps, also known as foothold traps. These traps are triggered by springs once an animal steps onto the trap, quickly clamping onto their limb and holding them in place until they are discovered by the trapper. In some regions of New York State, it may be up to 48 hours before a trapper checks on a trap. Animals caught in leg-gripping traps are immobilized, and therefore are unable to move, eat, drink, care for their young, or defend themselves from predators. In some cases, animals have even been discovered chewing off their trapped limb in order to escape. The American Veterinary Medical Association is opposed to their use. New York can and must pass S4459 to ban the use of these cruel devices.
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