A Florida congressman’s bill giving the U.S. State Department more power to crack down on international wildlife traffickers is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., was able to get his “Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act” (RAWR Act) through the House without opposition over the summer.
After the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the companion bill from Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Buchanan weighed in on the bill on Wednesday.
“Wildlife trafficking is a nefarious and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” Buchanan said. “The RAWR Act provides another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal activity. I was pleased to see this important measure take another critical step forward and urge Senate leaders to pass my bill and send it to the president’s desk for his signature.”
Buchanan also stressed that terrorist organizations, including Boko Haram, use funds from poaching to support their activities.
"It is imperative that we get this bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” Buchanan said. “Terrorist groups rely on funding derived from this illicit industry. We need to do all we can to discourage this type of criminal activity.”
“Terrorist organizations, including Boko Haram, use poaching as a main funding source to finance their other activities. Boko Haram alone has killed 25,000 elephants in a 10-year period,” the congressman’s office noted.
“Does anyone forget the magic on a child’s face seeing an elephant or giraffe or rhino for the first time?” Merkley said last week. “When the world loses these magnificent animals, we all lose a piece of our humanity and our shared history on this planet. The next generation shouldn’t be left just seeing these magnificent animals in pictures in a book, from before poachers, traffickers, and profiteers killed them all off. It’s good news for animal lovers around the world that the RAWR Act is moving forward, and I’ll keep pushing on all fronts to confront the scourge of wildlife poaching and trafficking.”
The bill now heads to the Senate floor.
Buchanan, who chairs the Animal Protection Caucus, has garnered national attention for his work on animal issues. The Humane Society of the United States named Buchanan as its legislator of the year in 2016, the first time a member of the Florida delegation has received the honor. Buchanan received a 100 score from the Humane Society and fought for some of the group’s top priorities. In 2016, Buchanan brought out the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act which bans exporting horses to Mexican slaughterhouses. Buchanan has also led the charge on Capitol Hill to stop domestic slaughterhouses from creating horse meat for human consumption. Back in December, President Donald Trump signed a proposal from Buchanan and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., banning the slaughter of cats and dogs for human consumption as part of the Farm Bill.