Wednesday, June 3, 2020

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

There is perhaps no one in the recent history of Congress who, during his term in office, has attempted to wreak more havoc on animals than Steve King. The Iowa Republican has supported killing horses for human consumption; opposed including pets in disaster planning; defended dogfighting and cockfighting, including  allowing children to attend such fights; and attempted to block states from making commonsense reforms for animals by repeatedly advocating for the infamous King amendment in the Farm Bills

He usually didn’t get his way on these matters, but it would be fair to say that if there was an animal welfare issue under consideration in Congress, King was most likely on the wrong side of it.

That’s why we couldn’t be happier that Iowa voters handed King a clear defeat in their state’s primary yesterday.

King was the worst kind of politician: one who worked against the interests of animals and the nation itself at the behest of special interests. His district included one of the highest concentrations of egg-laying hens in the country, and this may explain some of his hostility toward animal welfare issues. Over the years he launched multiple volleys against some of the most important reforms the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund championed—volleys we successfully deflected. 

Among his most vicious attacks were his proposed amendments to the Farm Bill, the omnibus bill that covers everything from farm safety nets to land conservation programs to nutrition programs for low-income citizens.  In 2014, and again in 2018, King tacked on to the Farm Bill the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, which came to be known as the King amendment, that threatened immeasurable harm to animals, by nullifying state and local laws that address, among other issues, the consumption of horse and dog meat, ending the slaughter of horses, the extreme confinement of farm animals, shark finning and animals in puppy mills.

The King amendment also threatened to undermine the work carried out by states and localities to protect their citizens in a broad range of policy areas, including food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, manure management and handling of diseased livestock. Fortunately, it was defeated both times, with HSLF leading the lobbying effort to defeat it.

To cite just a few more examples of his shameful efforts, King voted against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Prohibition Act, which was signed into law in 2007, and strengthened penalties for illegal dogfighting and cockfighting, making it a felony to transport animals across state lines for these gruesome and barbaric fights. He repeatedly voted for legislation that undermines the Endangered Species Act, removing critical protections for native American carnivores like grizzly bears and wolves. Last year he voted against the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, a bill to crack down on the practice of “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait for competitions. That bill passed the full House by a bipartisan majority of 333-96—a measure of just how out of step he is with his own colleagues.

King’s positions, especially in the proposed Farm Bill amendments, were often at odds with core Republican Party values, like respecting states’ rights and reinforcing local government, and it was a wonder he lasted as long as he did. As he limps through the final months of the 116th Congress and makes his ignominious exit, we couldn’t be more excited to see the last of him. With countless millions of Americans focusing on making the world a better place for animals and for all people, there is no room left for someone who has so consistently displayed the worst of human instincts. 

Goodbye, Steve King, and good riddance.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.