Practical Issues > Politics

Senator Speaks Out -- more details

Senator Robert Byrd

On Monday (07/09), Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), a living legend in the Senate now in his eighth term, delivered an extraordinary, pro-animal speech on the Senate floor in which he publicly acknowledged the rampant, institutionalized cruelty that is being inflicted upon animals today.  In a tribute to the virtues of companion animals, Senator Byrd started off proclaiming, "The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the dog." Byrd's pleas for compassion extended to farm animals, who are so often ignored by legislators as well as the general public:

"Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric. Six-hundred pound hogs. . . raised in 2-foot-wide metal cages called gestation crates, in which the poor beasts are unable to turn around or lie down in natural positions. . . veal calves are confined to dark wooden crates so small that they are prevented from lying down or scratching themselves. These creatures feel; they know pain. They suffer pain just as we humans suffer pain. Egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages. Unable to spread their wings, they are reduced to nothing more than an egg-laying machine."

Concluding his impassioned speech, Byrd condemned the widespread violations of the Humane Slaughter Act, calling upon the USDA to put an end to slaughterhouse cruelties:

"Last April, the Washington Post detailed the inhumane treatment of livestock in our Nation's slaughterhouses. . . . these animals are sometimes cut, skinned, and scalded while still able to feel pain. . . . The law clearly requires that these poor creatures be stunned and rendered insensitive to pain before this process begins. Federal law is being ignored. Animal cruelty abounds. It is sickening. It is infuriating. Barbaric treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated even if these animals are being raised for food-and even more so, more so. Such insensitivity is insidious and can spread and is dangerous. Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a civilized society."

Senator Byrd's statements are especially powerful because he is President Pro Tem of the Senate and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and they mark one of the first instances when a U.S. Senator has publicly acknowledged that all animals, including farm animals, "suffer pain just as we humans suffer pain," calling for "respect for life, all life, and for humane treatment of all creatures." His speech preceded his actions to amend the Supplemental Appropriations bill, providing an extra $3 million for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Contact Senator Byrd and THANK him for taking a strong stance to protect all animals. Let him know that his compassionate stance is meaningful, and urge him to pursue his commitment to ending cruelty against animals. Senator Byrd can be reached by writing to: The Honorable Robert Byrd, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510 / (202) 224-3954 / email: senator_byrd@byrd.senate.gov