With the presidential election less than four months away, a review of the major candidates’ animal welfare records is warranted. As with every election, for every office, the Humane Society Legislative Fund evaluates candidates based on their records and commitments concerning animal welfare. We do not judge candidates based on their party or positions on any other issues. As the nation’s leading voice in animal protection politics, our goal is to provide an objective, unbiased analysis of candidates.
Joe Biden has a strong overall record when it comes to animal protection, something he demonstrated during his long tenure in the Senate and as vice president under President Barack Obama, whose administration may have been the most pro-animal government in U.S. history.
Animal fighting: In 2004, Senator Biden cosponsored the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (S. 736) to provide felony penalties for violations of the federal law prohibiting interstate and foreign commerce in animals for fighting and to make other strengthening changes. Biden sponsored similar legislation in the 109th Congress (S. 382 / H.R. 817) which passed the Senate unanimously. In the 107th Congress, he cosponsored S. 345, to close the loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act that allowed interstate shipment of birds for fighting and undermined enforcement of state cockfighting bans.
Farm Animals: Biden cosponsored the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (S. 394) in the 110th Congress. Congress included language in the FY ‘09 omnibus appropriations bill urging USDA to immediately finalize its pending rule to prohibit the slaughter of downed cattle for human consumption. The Obama-Biden Administration did so in 2009, and in 2016, USDA finalized a rule to close a loophole by prohibiting the slaughter of downer calves.
Horse slaughter: In 2005, Senator Biden voted for an amendment to the FY06 Ag Appropriations bill (H.R. 2744) to stop horse slaughter by prohibiting the use of tax dollars to fund USDA inspection and approval of meat at horse slaughterhouses and approval of horses to be exported for slaughter. In a subsequent session, after the USDA undermined this enacted amendment by allowing the industry to privately fund inspections of horsemeat, Biden cosponsored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1915) to bar transport, possession, purchase, or sale of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. As Vice President, Biden worked to include language in the federal budget to prohibit the USDA from inspecting horse slaughterhouses, effectively ending the practice of horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States.
Wildlife: In the Senate, Biden was the co-author of the Truth in Tuna Labeling Act (S. 130) to amend the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act to declare that a tuna product labeled "dolphin safe" violates the Federal Trade Commission Act unless it is accompanied by a certificate stating that no dolphins were intentionally chased or harassed during the particular voyage on which the tuna were caught using purse seine nets. In advance of the 2001 International Whaling Commission meeting, Biden cosponsored S.Res. 121, to recommend that the IWC oppose commercial whaling and oppose the trade in whale meat.
Biden also worked to end cruel and unsporting hunting practices. In 2001, he was the lead sponsor of the Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act (S. 1655) to prohibit trophy hunting of captive exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he successfully shepherded the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden also supported efforts to bar taxpayer funding used to administer or promote the use of steel-jaw leghold traps and neck snares for commercial or recreational trapping on National Wildlife Refuges.
Habitat: Biden has shown strong support for the protection of habitat critical to protecting wildlife and endangered species. In 1994, he voted against an amendment to the California Desert Protection Act (S.21) that would designate a large portion of the Mojave Desert as a monument on which hunting would have been permitted. In the 107th Congress, Biden voted against an amendment which would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. Again in the 108th Congress, Biden voted for an amendment to S. Con. Res 23 to prevent consideration of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In this and every year, we ask our supporters to make their votes count for animals.
And we promise you this: you'll hear more from the Humane Society Legislative Fund about the presidential race and other races at the federal and state level as Election Day 2020 approaches. Keep checking the blog for updates and more information.