Today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund endorses Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in their bid to lead the nation. Biden and Harris have established themselves as good faith actors in sponsoring and supporting animal protection legislation and policies through the years, and it’s easy to endorse them straight up on the basis of their records.
Acknowledging that our endorsement of Biden and Harris comes while President Donald Trump is recuperating from COVID-19, we want to wish him and the First Lady well in their recovery. We also want to thank the president for his decision to sign the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act and for his tacit or direct support for other measures.
No matter which side they took in the 2016 presidential election, most Americans did not vote to harm animals. Yet broadly speaking, that’s been the clear outcome of the Trump administration’s agenda during nearly four years. Its particular focus on streamlining regulatory processes has resulted in greatly diminished transparency and much greater threat to animals. This began early on with the purging of agency databases, an action that made it difficult and often impossible to find out who in any given industry was being a good steward of animals and who wasn’t. It has been evident in other ways too. The erosion of protections for threatened and endangered species. The endorsement of controversial killing practices on federal lands. The pandering to trophy hunters. The authorization of increased line speeds at slaughterhouses. The failure to adopt and enforce strong regulations against horse soring or to retain a rule strengthening and clarifying standards for animal welfare on organic farms. The sum is this: key federal agencies under the Trump administration have been the source of genuine misery to animals. Worse, these agencies continue to threaten hard-won animal protection gains that political allies on both sides of the aisle have helped us to secure over decades.
Those gains came about in both Republican and Democratic administrations, reflecting a shared social consensus about our responsibilities toward animals: Compassion for the vulnerable, kindness for the endangered, the protection of the defenseless from needless suffering. These are values that run deep in American life and they know no political affiliation. None. Conservatives, liberals, and independents have long seen eye-to-eye on this, and that goodwill has produced powerful working majorities in Congress for countless animal protection measures. For decades, no matter who held power in Washington, these ideals have taken root and grown stronger.
Until January 2017, that is, when the new administration began to populate agencies like the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior with extremists on issues like Big Agriculture, trophy hunting, wildlife killing practices, endangered species preservation, and the conservation and management of public lands. It’s been a downhill skid at those agencies ever since.
To speak out now is not partisan nor personal. At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we’ve built our brand on a rock-solid commitment to nonpartisanship. For years, we’ve made good on that in our political endorsements, our campaign contributions, and our day-to-day work. We get beat up about it frequently but it’s in our very DNA. We’re vocal and steadfast in our support for those elected officials who champion our cause of animal protection, and we always will be.
It should be said that the Trump administration has taken good steps in respect to minimizing the use of animals in research and testing, regulating puppy mills, and the punishment of basic individual cruelty. We’re grateful to officials and supporters of the president who have done their best to advance these measures.
But the big picture isn’t pretty. Through key federal agencies, this administration has unleashed an open season on animals. It’s been an ugly erosion of the benevolence toward animals that has long been a source of pride for Americans regardless of political affiliation.
The honest truth is this: The last four years have been difficult for us as animal advocates. Again and again, we’ve pressed the administration to take stronger pro-animal stances when it comes to endangered species preservation, trophy hunting, enforcement against roadside zoos, and the regulation of a variety of large-scale institutional cruelties. But it’s consistently done the opposite.
Nor could you find a more conspicuous example of the paradox of this administration when it comes to animal welfare than this. In the years since President Trump tweeted his disdain for trophy hunting, calling it “a horror show,” his administration has granted numerous trophy hunting permits for the slaughter of threatened and endangered animals across the globe while giving trophy hunters unprecedented influence over federal policy.
Everyone knows that animals don’t deserve this. They shouldn’t ever have to suffer as a result of partisan politics or industry capture of federal agencies. Animals depend upon us and they deserve our very best. Life or death, their interests will follow us all as we fill out our ballots in the weeks ahead. We cannot let them down.
HSLF is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates candidates based only on a single criterion: where they stand on animal welfare. HSLF does not judge candidates based on party affiliation or any other issue.
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