Sen. Robert Byrd, who died today at 92, is being remembered as a champion of animal welfare during his half-century in the U.S. Congress.
In one of many speeches devoted to animals on the Senate floor, Byrd in 2001 detailed the history of abuse of research animals that led to the passage of the Animal Welfare Act in 1966 and bemoaned the fact that inhumane treatment of pets and livestock continues:
It is because of my love for animals that I find it alarming to learn that inhumane treatment of pets, and livestock, is still widespread and becoming more barbaric...And while we have made progress, we cannot become apathetic to acts of cruelty, especially those aimed at our faithful and beloved pets. Respect for life, and the humane treatment of all creatures is something that must never be lost.
The Humane Society of the United States remembered Byrd in a press release as a "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."
HSUS also said Byrd 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 round ups and commercial sale and slaughter.
Among Bryd's most powerful speeches was one he delivered on the Senate floor in 2007 - shortly after Michael Vick was indicted on federal dog fighting charges - where he recalled the unconditional love of his own dogs and decried dog fighting as "inhuman."
Shame. Shame. Shame! Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars are often at stake in the breeding, the training, and the selling of fighting dogs. How inhuman! How dastardly!
Two dogs are placed in a pit and turned loose, turned loose, turned loose against each other. How inhuman, how cannibalistic, how sadistic! Let me read that again. Two dogs, two dogs. God created the dog...to be man's companion. Two dogs are placed in a pit. Think of that. Placed in a pit and turned loose against each other. And get this, the fight can go on for hours. The fight can go on for hours! Can you hear me? The fight can go on for hours!
The poor dogs literally bite and rip the flesh off one another and bets as high as fifty thousand dollars are placed. Bets as high as fifty thousand dollars are placed. The brutality goes on until one of the—of the poor dog died. Died, died! The dog died.
And for that reason, Mister President, dog-fighting is regarded as a blood sport. A blood sport. A blood sport. While bloody, Mister-Madame President, while bloody it is hardly a sport, hardly a sport. It is a brutal, sadistic event motivated by barbarism of the worst sort and cruelty of the worst, worst, worst sadistic kind. One is left wondering who are the real animals. Who are the real animals? Who are the real animals, the creatures inside the ring, or the creatures outside the ring?
The depravity of dog-fighting is also a multi-million dollar business that involves training innocent, innocent, innocent vulnerable creatures to kill, to kill, to kill and putting them in a ring to be killed or to kill for the entertainment and/or the profit of their owners and other spectators. Let me say Madame President I have seen one individual in my lifetime electrocuted in the electric chair in my time. It's not a, it's not a beautiful spectacle. But I can say, I could witness another one, if it witnesses—if it involves this cruel, sadistic, cannibalistic business of training innocent, vulnerable creatures to kill.
Undercover investigators who have infiltrated dog-fighting rings have found blood-soaked dogs with life-threatening injuries that are left to die as soon as they're no longer able to compete. Undercover investigators have found dogs with ripped ears, torn lips, genitals dangling from their bodies, eyes swollen shut, and faces riddled with punctures so severe that they were barely able to breathe. How inhuman! How inhuman, how sadistic!
Dogs who survive a fight often die days or even hours after the fight from blood loss, shock dehydration, exhaustion or infection. What a shame, what a shame, what a shame! If the losing dog survives the ordeal, get this, it is usually so mangled that it is no langer, no longer of any use and therefore it is put to death, put to death. I seen a human being put to death for killing another human being. But why put a poor dog, poor dog, poor dog. If the losing dog survives the ordeal it is usually so mangled that it is usually no longer of any use. How sad, sad, sad. It is put to death.
Even the winner of a dog-fight commonly suffers from massive bleeding, ruptured lungs, broken bones, or other life-threatening injuries. The training of these poor creatures, weigh those words, the training of these poor creatures, weigh them, the training of these poor creatures to turn themselves into fighting machines is simply barbaric, barbaric, BARBARIC! BARBARIC! Let that word resound from hill to hill, and from mountain to mountain, from valley to valley, across this broad land, barbaric, barbaric. May God help, those poor souls, who'd be so cruel. Barbaric! Hear me! Barbaric!
Such practices as starvation of the poor animal to encourage malice and beatings to build endurance are common. It involves teaching the dog to maul by using smaller animals such as cats or rabbits or small dogs as training bait. The results of this most cruel business reaches beyond the fighting ring itself. There are cases of dogs trained to kill that have broken loose and mauled human beings to death. It is reported that dog-fighters have often involved children in their bloody activities with severe damaging psychological impact. What a sin. What a sin! Studies have revealed that children exposed to dog-fighting activities develop a greater acceptance of aggressive activities and behavior. They are taught to believe that violence, violence is entertaining, and that it is okay to inflict the cruelties they have observed. Dog-fighting, reports the Houston Chronicle, simply breeds violence.
...I am confident that the hottest places in hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God's creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt.