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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

A Hard Hill to Climb

Published 04/21/08
By Adam M. Roberts, Senior Vice President

“You know what you should do?” I often joke that these are the worst six words that we animal advocates ever hear. Everyone has an idea of what we should do to help animals, but few understand just how hard it actually is!

The U.S. Congress provides a perfect example. About 40 young faces stared back at me when I spoke on Capitol Hill last week at a Congressional staff briefing on the Bear Protection Act. And while staffers in the offices of America’s decision-makers come and go, younger every year, I get increasingly grizzled with each Congressional session, trying desperately to do right by animals at the federal level.

It’s sometimes disheartening to think of the many years we’ve spent trying to pass simple legislation to end the trade in bear gallbladders and bile. After all, who in their right mind could support poaching of American wildlife by opposing a bill to create a uniform national prohibition on the trade in the internal organs of bears?

It is, perhaps, our biggest mistake in working with legislatures at any level: local, state, or federal. The mistake is thinking that our sensible animal protection initiatives will pass smoothly. That what should be done is what will be done.

I remember when I first started working in Washington, DC nearly two decades ago I was told about legislation to end the use of barbaric steel-jaw leghold traps. Who could possibly oppose getting rid of these archaic, barbaric devices that cause so much pain, fear, and suffering?

Turns out that the trapping industry is pretty darn powerful at times ...

It is desperately difficult to reconcile the fact that not everyone sees things the way I do, or the way Born Free USA united with API does. Why can’t all compassionate American citizens and their elected officials in Congress be inspired to act by the image of the bear carcass left in the woods with her abdomen sliced open and the gallbladder removed? Why don’t they all shed a tear for the lion slaughtered for “sport,” or the elephant forced to stand alone on concrete, or the tiger languishing in a cage waiting to be killed for his bones and skin?

But we keep going, don’t we? We work year after year in venues small and large to try to effect positive change for animals everywhere. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Sometimes legislators hear our sensible arguments and passionate pleas and sometimes they turn a deaf ear. We all know what should be done, and we all know that these hills are hard to climb — especially the Hill in Washington, DC.

In the long run I think compassion will prevail. I think people will listen. And I think a new generation of Hill staffers will come to Congress wondering, like me, who on earth could oppose bills to protect animals from suffering.

Blogging off,


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