Prepared by Tamara Matheson (email@example.com) and Adam Weissman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On July 12, Patricia Forkan, President of Humane Society International, the global arm of the Humane Society of the United States testified before the Ways and Means Committee of the US House of Representatives in support of the environmental provisions of the Peru Free Trade Agreement (PFTA). Global Justice for Animals finds this deeply troubling. We believe this agreement will be a disaster for animals, and urge HSUS/HSI to reconsider their position. In the following paragraphs we quote Ms. Forkan's testimony (indicated in bold italics) and respond to her points to illustrate the fundamental problems with the PeruFTA from a humane perspective.
“Parties have agreed to set up an independent secretariat to accept information from the public concerning environmental enforcement activities.”
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club & Defenders of Wildlife actually believe that this FTA may be even more detrimental than previous free trade agreements like the Central America Free Trade Agreement passed in 2005.. HSI commends the environmental section for having a plan for enforcing existing environmental laws, but that means little when many groups already consider Peru’s environmental protections to be insufficient. HSI also openly praises the plan’s provisions for proposing environmental laws. However, the actual trade agreement states that the laws must be “voluntary, flexible & incentive based” as well as not be perceived as one country enforcing laws in another, which is practically a disclaimer. The Center for International Environmental Law and other environmental groups say this means little because the provisions lack institutional structure or funds to oversee their implementation and call the environmental section “weak and unenforceable” much like previous free trade agreements.
“the Environment Chapter includes the obligation for Parties to effectively enforce their environmental laws -- including Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) such as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).”
A coalition of environmental groups have claimed that this will do the opposite. Organizations like EarthJustice and Friends of the Earth say that the FTA does not require that the U.S. or Peruvian governments fully implement international agreements including biodiversity and species protection, particularly CITES. In particular, the U.S. continues to accept illegally harvested mahogany from protected forests in Peru where they have not implemented laws to stop the illegal logging and trading. U.S. companies such as Newman Lumber have been found evading forest regulations and the passage of this agreement may assist companies like Newman Lumber by expanding investor rights of natural resource contracts. The agreement will also give foreign investors even greater rights to challenge environmental laws that previous agreements. This is done by defining natural resource contracts to include extractive, productive and marketing processes, according to The Sierra Club. The investment chapter of the FTA will allow companies to sue governments for compensation if they believe environmental laws have unfairly compromised their profits and these decisions will be made before international tribunals, bypassing domestic courts. The incidence of this is known to hinder third world countries from passing strong environmental protection out of fear of financial reprisal.
“the United States included a commitment to protect and conserve biodiversity.”
However, environmental groups say the actual language of the agreement does not coincide with the Convention on Biological Diversity which protects the rights of indigenous people’s knowledge of medicines and seeds. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the main purchaser of endangered mahogany forests where thousands of primates and birds are being killed for subsistence hunting while their irreplaceable habitats are being destroyed. U.S. analysis expects the greatest benefit to the U.S. will be foreign investment in Peru especially in the mining industry. Toxic runoff from mining pollutes waterways in Peru and has been documented poisoning the local people and animals. How can a group whose stated purpose is to protect animals justify supporting an international trade agreement that will directly result in the destruction of habitats, weakening of environmental protection, and the strengthening of foreign investors to claim wild lands for their own profit? This will be done at the expense of the forests, the rivers and streams, the wild animals, and the indigenous people living there. Humane Society’s International’s support of this bill runs directly in the face of well established environmental groups that are attempting to preserve what ecologists consider a biological hotspot under threat by agreements like the PFTA.
Unmentioned by HSUS, there are several expected impacts in a variety of animal industries. Pork and poultry exports from the United States to Peru are expected to jump, providing profits to U.S. factory farmers who are busily polluting our environment and confining animals in sickly and cruel conditions. Most meat in Peru is small-scale and local in comparison to large producers in the U.S. The U.S. Grains Council is working with Peruvian companies on advertising campaigns in an effort to increase their consumption of poultry and eggs.
“I do not propose to testify today that each and every aspect of the PTPA will further the aims most important to my organization -- protecting the environment and promoting the protection and humane treatment of all animals.”
In this regard, we are in full agreement. Most animal rights organizations and environmental groups would find that the Peru FTA actually works in direct opposition to those goals. What then is the benefit to animals in supporting an agreement that will increase factory farmed exports, provide profit to animal industries, and protect investors who want to increase mining and logging of endangered forests?
HSUS has a commendable history of opposing free trade agreements. While many mainstream environmental organizations were supporting NAFTA, HSUS had the wisdom and the integrity to oppose this disastrous trade deal. HSUS played a vital role in opposing the WTO in the late nineties. In a recent conversation of Pattrice Jones of the Global Hunger Alliance, Patricia Forkan admitted that she still sees free trade agreements as detrimental to the welfare of animals, but feels that supporting these deals affords HSI greater access to the Bush administration and the governments of the countries included in the agreements. While some of these programs may be helpful, it's hard to see how they can justify support for trade agreements that will cause so much suffering and death to farmed animals and wildlife.
Forkan argues that these agreements will pass whether or not HSUS opposes them, and that supporting odious, yet inevitable legislation is a worthwhile price to pay to win "a seat at the table." Yet the passage of these agreements is anything but inevitable.
In 2005, the Central America Free Trade Agreement, which HSI also supported, passed Congress--- by one vote. Some elected officials remained undecided on how they would vote until the 11th hour, and were regarded by opponents of the deal as "swing voters." One of these was Rep. Elton Gallegly, a California Republican with a record of supporting pro-animal legislation like the federal horse slaughter ban. Gallegly was endorsed by HumaneUSA PAC, a political action committee with close ties to HSUS (HSUS Exec. VP Mike Markarian is its Chair) in his 2004 reelection bid. Like PeruFTA, CAFTA was and is a major threat to animals. With 9.5 million members and constituents, HSUS could have been the critical voice needed to push just one more Congressmember to oppose CAFTA, saving countless animal lives in the process. Instead, HSUS told legislators that a vote for CAFTA was a vote for animals, allowing legislators to defend their vote for CAFTA to animal-friendly constituents, and undermining years of efforts by grassroots animal advocates to prevent the passage of this animal-deadly trade deal.
This grave mistake must not be repeated. HSUS/HSI must OPPOSE the PeruFTA, the impending ColombiaFTA, and all trade deals that endanger the lives and welfare of animals.
Patricia Forkan's Testimony Before the House Ways and Means Committee
Sierra Club Alert on Peru FTA
Global Justice for Animals' Full Analysis of the Peru FTA