Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Humane Society Legislative Fund was the only politically active national animal protection organization to endorse Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in their bid to lead this nation as President and Vice President. We were proud to do so, and we could not be happier to see them prevail. 

We feel the same way about the countless officials, both Republicans and Democrats, that we publicly supported through endorsements, independent expenditures and other investments of time, energy, and resources. We were active in nearly two dozen congressional races with more than 300,000 pieces of mail, 125,000 text messages and a slew of digital advertisements, many of which featured HSLF volunteers who stated the reasons for our support of both Democrats and Republicans. Even in these partisan and challenging times, HSLF continues its mission to keep animal protection policies nonpartisan—basing our electoral support for candidates solely based on those positions.

Our October 6 endorsement of the Biden/Harris ticket was a straightforward choice. In nearly 45 years as a U.S. Senator and Vice President, Biden was a consistent friend to animal protection concerns, and as Attorney General of California and as a U.S. Senator, Harris distinguished herself as a supporter, too. We have every reason to believe that their administration will demonstrate a much stronger commitment to animal welfare than President Trump’s did over the course of the last four years.

But it is also true that the animal welfare record of the incumbent administration was alarming to us. The administration showed its hand early on, with a blunt hammer approach to overturning animal welfare regulations that had come about through broad bipartisan support that we helped to build. In a heartbeat, valuable rules concerning horse soring, organics standards for meat production, and the use of lead ammunition were gone. It just got worse after that. The most bracing disappointments and undesirable outcomes came through the errant policies of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior, both of which have substantial animal welfare responsibilities. Special interest capture of those agencies, reinforced by the appointment of administrators indifferent or antagonistic toward the missions and functions of those agencies, produced some grim results for animals. The signing of the PACT Act and several provisions in the larger, overarching Farm Bill in 2018 cannot obviate the destructive policies.

There were some especially low moments. Even as COVID-19 swept through meatpacking plants, infecting tens of thousands of workers and killing several hundred, President Trump signed an executive order that categorized meat and poultry as “critical” to “national defense.” The USDA allowed pork plants to operate their slaughter lines with no speed limits and reduced the number of government inspectors assigned to them. The National Park Service weakened trophy hunting restrictions in Alaska’s national preserves and the Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew federal protections for gray wolves

In these and other instances, the administration ignored our pleas as well as those of Senators and Congressmen on both sides of the aisle and took positions inimical to many Americans. The prospect of a second term with more setbacks, more losses, and more harm to animals looked both ominous and unpromising. We could not be silent in the face of such worrisome possibilities.

It will not be a simple task for Mr. Biden and his administration to identify, unwind and undo four years’ worth of highly damaging policies and actions embraced by the USDA, Interior and other agencies. There have sure been a lot of them. But we’re committed to helping the President-elect and his transition team with suggestions for a coherent animal protection agenda. We’re already working on a comprehensive plan concerning all federal agencies with a remit that includes animals. We have our 2021 legislative priorities locked in, too. Finally, we’ll be offering our thoughts on the kinds of people the Biden administration should appoint to lead some of these agencies. We hope to see the new administration appoint high-level leaders who take animal welfare seriously, who have established records of concern and achievement, and who will work tirelessly to win the trust of the millions of Americans who care for them and want to see them protected and safe under our laws. Many of those who voted in this election did so with animals, the environment, and related issues in mind. For our part, we’re going to do everything we can to advance a sweeping political agenda for animals. In this election cycle, we showed that we were not bystanders, and in the coming weeks and months we’ll intensify our efforts to shape a new future for animals with energy, conviction, and purpose.