I have never been a single-issue voter. I like to think I am intelligent enough to look at the big picture and make my voting decision based on how a candidate stands on multiple issues. But I have to admit that animal welfare issues can weigh heavily on my choice of candidate.
We have come so far in the past few years: animal abuse is finally a felony in all fifty states, it is now a crime to even attend a dog or cock fighting event, many communities are passing laws to outlaw puppy mill dogs in pet stores, and even the White House has come out against breed discrimination. But we are far from where we need to be as a humane nation.
To help me make my voting decision in the upcoming presidential election, I went online to research the front-runner candidates. For some, those who have served in the US Senate or House, it was as easy as checking the ratings on the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Others required a little more digging.
I started by visiting each candidate’s website and reading through their issues page. Unfortunately, only one candidate mentioned animal issues: Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders dedicated an entire page to his stance on animal welfare.
For the rest of the field, I had to drill down deeper. I did newspaper searches to see how candidates had voted or what bills they had signed, which affected animals. I read opinion pieces. I looked at state websites and tracked local bills.
Here, in a nutshell, is the information I was able to find on each of the top Presidential Candidates:
Donald Trump (GOP): Trump has never held public office. There is no record of him every doing anything in favor of or against animals. Although both of his sons are trophy hunters, he is on record as saying he doesn’t understand their activities and doesn’t support hunting. However, he tweeted some disparaging comments on the Ringling Brothers Circus decision to retire their elephants early: “Ringling Brothers is phasing out their elephants. I, for one, will never go again. They probably used the animal rights stuff to reduce costs.”
Marco Rubio (GOP): Senator Rubio has a dismal average Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) rating of 12 (out of 100) for his voting record in the US Senate, although he did co-sponsor a bill to make “soring” a crime. Soring is a painful technique to make a gaited horse lift his feet as high as possible. It is a cruel and painful process. Senator Rubio’s campaign website does not address animals at all.
Ted Cruz (GOP): Senator Cruz’ HSLF rating is even lower. His average for the three years he has served in the Senate is a 4 (out of 100). The only piece of legislation that he supported that was in an animal’s best interest was a vote against allowing hunting in the National Parks. His campaign website does not address animals at all.
John Kasich (GOP): Governor Kaisch has a mixed record as far as animal welfare issues go. He signed into law a tough anti-puppy mill bill and a bill protecting pets in the event of domestic violence, but he did nothing to address factory farming, and some Ohio residents feel that he dragged his feet before signing the bill outlawing exotic animals (big cats). Although he does not address animal welfare issues on his campaign website, overall Governor Kasich has the best record of any GOP candidate.
Hillary Clinton (DEM): When Secretary Clinton was a US Senator, she had an excellent rating with the HSLF, even getting 100+ one year. Her average for her 4 years in the Senate is a 92. She voted for a positive outcome for animals almost every time. Since she left the Senate, she has little opportunity to influence animal legislation. Her campaign website does not address animal issues at all.
Bernie Sanders (DEM): Senator Sanders has the most extensive record of any of the candidates. I was able to obtain his HSLF rating for 11 years. His average rating is 97 out of 100, and there were multiple years he scored 100 and twice when he scored 100+. The only time I can find a vote that can be deemed not to be in an animal’s best interest, is a vote Senator Sanders made to support hunting in the National Parks. As I stated above, Senator Sanders has devoted an entire page on his website to his stand on animal welfare issues.
How a candidate stands on animal welfare issues cannot be the sole measure of who to vote for, but it does allow us a glimpse into what is personally important to each candidate. It is one piece in the puzzle of who should be the next Commander in Chief.
Some day in the future, a candidate might take the unlikely stance that animals should be granted sentient- being status (as opposed to property). The European Union took just that step this past year. Unfortunately, I think we are a few years away from anything that radical here in the US. I won’t be holding my breath.
Featured image via Donald Trump/US National Archives