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The HSUS Mourns Death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd

The HSUS awarded its highest honor to Byrd in 2008 for lifelong commitment to improving animal welfare

The Humane Society of the United States joins in mourning the death today of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who was a leader on animal protection issues and a man who spoke frequently on the topic on the Senate floor, grounding his concern for animals on a Christian conviction of stewardship and responsibility.

"There was no one in Congress ever like Senator Byrd, a man who used his seniority in the Senate and his gifts of oration to make a commanding moral and legal case for animal protection," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "He condemned the increasingly barbaric treatment of animals in industrialized agriculture, and spoke of a Christian responsibility to be decent and merciful to all of God's creatures. We are deeply saddened by the loss of this great champion and friend of animals."

He spoke on the Senate floor on many occasions about the need for improved moral consideration of animals.  In 2001, he said, "Let us strive to be good stewards and not defile God's creatures or ourselves by tolerating unnecessary, abhorrent and repulsive cruelty."  In that same year, he commented, "Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric."

He was the leading advocate for more vigorous enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and also a powerful voice to end the slaughter of "downed" animals too sick and injured to walk. He led the way on increased funding to ensure viable oversight of the Animal Welfare Act and other key laws. He won enactment of a measure to allow the adoption of horses no longer used by the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal agencies, and provisions calling on the Department of Defense to rethink its use of live primates for training related to chemical and biological agents. He was also a leader on efforts to end the cruel slaughter of horses for food, winning a decisive floor vote that aided in the closure of horse slaughterhouses, and introducing legislation to increase protections for wild horses from cruel roundups and commercial sale and slaughter.

In 2008, The HSUS presented Byrd with its highest honor, The Joseph Wood Krutch Medal, for his work to improve animal welfare. Other recipients have included U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, Jane Goodall, James Herriot and Richard Leakey. The award is named after Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970), a distinguished public intellectual who devoted his last years to defending nature and animals. The award recognizes individuals who have made a "significant contribution toward the improvement of life and the environment."


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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