The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) adopts positions on policy issues based principally on the animal welfare implications of the policies. Any suggestion that The HSUS modified its position on the U.S. Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) based on receipt of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grant is false and entirely groundless.
The HSUS will cooperate without hesitation with congressional calls for an accounting of the USAID grant to support animal welfare projects in Central America. In a letter to the General Accountability Office, several members of Congress have called for an investigation "as to the appropriateness of these government funds, as they appear to have been illegally used to directly lobby the United States government for passage of pending federal legislation." This claim is baseless, and any examination of our use of funds will support that fact.
Our activities in Congress related to DR-CAFTA have been extremely limited and took place in 2005. We have not assigned our lobbyists to work on the issue; we have issued no position papers for Congress; and we have not activated our membership. We have generally steered clear of the political fight on DR-CAFTA. Our only actions have been meetings with two U.S. Senate staff members to outline our trade capacity building programs, and the submission of invited testimony to a Senate committee, which as a legal matter is not considered a "lobbying" activity. In addition, Humane Society International (HSI) staff member Andres Riggioni sent a letter concerning DR-CAFTA to U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick. We have fully reported our activity related to DR-CAFTA in accordance with IRS regulations.
The HSUS's efforts to help animals in Central America date to the early 1990s, well before the advent of DR-CAFTA or the remit of any USAID funding to HSUS or its affiliates. The HSUS has not taken a position on the overall agreement but supports the environmental chapter because it includes provisions for environmental protection likely to benefit animals.
The HSUS has a record of supporting Administration policies when they promote animal welfare, and strongly opposing policies inimical to animal welfare. Beyond legislative affairs, it is important to note that our litigation caseload includes more than two dozen lawsuits challenging Administration policies.
The HSUS has sharply criticized prior international trade agreements such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) because they threatened to strike down domestic animal protection laws. After the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, and in light of the strong support for free trade agreements both in Congress and within the Clinton and Bush Administrations, we reexamined this approach with regard to DR-CAFTA by choosing to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to incorporate strong provisions that protect endangered species and natural resources that benefit animal welfare. The HSUS's position did not change after receipt of the USAID grant; we supported the environment chapter of DR-CAFTA because negotiators were successful in incorporating environmental provisions into the agreement that have benefited animals.
Central America Animal Welfare Projects
On October 1, 2003, HSUS and HSI received a USAID grant. We were obligated to invest matching funds, which we did in cash and other resources, to expand our ongoing efforts to protect animals in Central America. We subcontracted with Counterpart International (which received the matching grant from USAID) to fulfill the requirements of the grant.
The USAID funding has been used for a number of projects that protect animals.
HSI is helping countries improve enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in order to protect rare species in need of immediate assistance.
HSI is working with a private company and small cacao farmers in each of the Central American countries to increase their ability to obtain organic certification and sell their products in the United States. Shade grown cacao, also known as cocoa, provides habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
HSI is working with the livestock and pork associations in Central America to make their industries safer, more environmentally friendly, and more humane.
HSI has also provided veterinary services to rural communities in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala.
American taxpayers have been served well by this grant, which is supporting animal welfare programs in Central America, advancing sound policies, and fostering humane values among our neighbors.