After an animal rights group staged a rather odd and misguided protest at a recent Hillary Clinton rally, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the candidates in this race and how they compare on the issue of animal rights and welfare. While I am not a single-issue voter and would never base my vote solely on this topic, I am an animal-loving vegetarian that works in the animal industry and sees the effects of animal neglect and abuse every single day. Much like a teacher that values education as a high priority when voting, it is important to me to see how my candidate stacks up on the issues that I’m immersed in all day due to my career and lifestyle. As Paul McCartney once said, “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats animals.” I could not agree more.
So how do the candidates in this election compare?
Let’s start off with the republican nominee himself. You’d think that without any voting records or legislative history, it’d be difficult to find any information on Donald Trump’s stance on this issue. Nope. Trump has been well-known and outspoken for so long that his words and actions speak for themselves. Now I know this is unexpected, but I’m actually going to start this off with a semi-positive Trump story. In 1994, he had a high-diving mule act scheduled to perform at the Trump-owned Steel Pier in Atlantic City. As you’d expect, there were many activists who opposed the act, which Peta describes as “exceedingly cruel and dangerous”. Though it was Donald himself that booked the act, he did eventually cancel the event due to the protests after coming to agree that “it was not right”, so I’ll give him some points for that one.
Now that I got that out of the way, I have to point out that the rest of Trump’s actions & words actually prove him to be a horrible ally to animals & wildlife. And it’s not just him. The entire Trump family is problematic in this regard. Ivanka Trump proudly wears fur, shows off her massive collection of pricey fur coats and hats, and has been profiting off of this cruel practice with her clothing line that features real rabbit fur imported from Chinese rabbit slaughterhouses. Eric and Donald Jr are even worse. They are both trophy hunters who pay to kill elephants/giraffes/wild cats/etc in Africa. Usually I’d say that candidates shouldn’t be held accountable for all of their kids’ choices, but Donald’s record has proven to be no better than those of the younger Trumps. Like Ivanka, he has also worn fur in the past, has been known to gift fur coats to his wives, and has attended openings of fur stores & fur-based fashion shows. Like Eric & Donald Jr, he defends hunting, claims to have hunted as well, and seems to use the hunting/fishing thing to pander to his demographic, once stating “My sons love to hunt. They are members of the NRA, very proudly. I am a big believer in the Second Amendment… They’re great marksman, great shots, they love it.” When Trump was asked if he would hunt with his kids while serving as president, he answered “I would do that with both my sons… It would be something I’d love to do. I’ve done it before, but I’d love to do it.” He was also the only candidate in this election to speak at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual trade show where he pledged to fight for the rights of hunters.
He’s also no stranger to the exploitation of animals. While Mayor DeBlasio advocates against forcing horses to carry tourists in carriage rides, Trump turned those same carriage rides into a money making challenge for his reality show. And again, though he eventually cancelled that mule diving act, it was still Trump who scheduled it in the first place. For me, the most disturbing part of this pattern has to be his record on elephants (and no – I’m not talking about the wild elephant pictured here with Donald Jr). Activists like myself have protested the circus’ treatment of elephants for decades. Training baby elephants for commercial entertainment like circuses generally begins by “breaking their spirits”, the term often used to describe how trainers terrorize them into complete submission followed by harsh & often abusive training methods and a very sad life spent confined in cages practically 24/7. In 1994, when The Great Moscow Circus was based out of the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel during their circus’ stint in Atlantic City, it wasn’t just animal activists who were up in arms. The local SPCA was equally unhappy with the poor living conditions of the exotic animals residing in the Taj Mahal parking garage. Among them were two leopards in crates, thirteen horses packed too tightly to even turn around, nine bears that were locked in wire cages too small for them to stand up in, and four elephants shackled to the concrete floor and chained in place for over 22 hours of the day. While the SPCA president threatened to file animal cruelty charges if the circus did not get their facility up to code, Donald Trump defended the circus and referred to the animals’ living conditions in his hotel’s parking garage as a “perfect” and “beautiful place”. “What do these animal rights people want me to do?”, Trump asked an interviewer, “Put the animals in a suite? … Do they want the elephants to be able to run around on the beach?” It was a criticism Trump could not take seriously and had no interest in. Over the next few years, the public’s concern for circus animals drastically increased. So when Ringling Bros finally announced that they would be retiring elephants from their shows and allowing them to live the remainder of their lives freely in a sanctuary, almost everybody was relieved and overjoyed. Except for Donald Trump of course, who came out against freeing the elephants, claiming that Ringling Bros were “using animal rights stuff to cut costs”, that the circus “will never be the same”, and that he “will never go again”. A few months later, this pattern continued when Donald borrowed a circus elephant of his own for entertainment at his rally. Annette, an Asian elephant with “Trump: Make America Great Again” painted on her back, was donated for the event by her owner, a Trump supporter named Frank Murray who profited off of renting out Annette and a second elephant named Topsey to various events and worked as a professional trainer until he was blacklisted by several circuses after he was criminally charged with 4 different counts of “inflicting unnecessary cruelty towards a living animal”.
In addition, Mr. Trump sees climate change as a hoax, aims to de-fund our country’s environmental protection programs, and plans to build a wall that according to scientists will threaten at least 111 endangered species. Time and time again, Trump has shown us that he sees animals solely as entertainment, clothing, and slaves for him to profit off of.
The voting record of the republican’s VP nominee does little to sway me and my fur babies to the right wing either. While I commend Mike Pence for signing into action H.B. 1201 to decrease stray/homeless pets by requiring all cats/dogs be spayed or neutered before adoption and for co-sponsoring the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act which called for harsher penalties for those convicted of fighting dogs or roosters, I don’t agree with the New York Post’s description of him as “an animal lover”. Despite those two domestic pet protection votes, animals that aren’t cute fluffy puppies have been shown no concern or empathy from Mike Pence. It’s probably not his fault though. How could we expect Pence to find an extra minute to defend the rights of animals when he is sooo busy defending his right to kill those animals? As Governor, Pence signed into action H.B. 1231 which greatly expanded Indiana’s deer hunting rights, worked on the ballot language for S.B. 57 which aims to preserve Indiana’s right to hunt forever, and S.B. 109 – a truly bizarre and ethically questionable bill that legalized the practice of canned hunting. What is “canned hunting”, you ask? Think of it this way: Let’s say you really want to catch a big fish to brag to your friends about and post pictures of on facebook, but also you’re lazy, impatient, really bad at fishing, and don’t feel like getting a fishing license. So instead of going out on a lake and waiting for a bite like every actual fisherman does, you decide to just walk into the Chinese restaurant down the street and drop a hook right into their fishtank full of koi where you know you’ll definitely catch one of them. Canned hunting is essentially that exact concept except the target is deer. Canned hunting takes place in privately owned woodlands closed off by tall walls and labeled “hunting preserves” where property owners stock the fenced in area with captive-bred deer. Since these preserves are private property, no hunting license is required and anybody can pay a fee to the owners for the right to hunt in the confined area. Why is canned hunting actually popular? Because snagging a deer is a sure thing in these caged preserves since unlike normal hunting trips, there is literally nowhere for the caged in deer to go and no possible way for them to escape the entitled manbabies that shoot the cornered animals execution-style to feed their fragile baby egos. (Okay, okay I’m sorry. I’ll go back to speaking professionally now. But really though, the concept of canned hunting makes my eyes roll every time I think about it). It’s not all about hunting though. Pence doesn’t discriminate against any animals. He voted against the Restore Our American Mustangs Act, which would have protected our wild horses, ensured they had enough land to live off of, and saved 30,000 of them from federal-planned slaughter. In all, it isn’t hard to see that Mike Pence is no friend to animals.
And then there’s Secretary Clinton. Why has she earned the support of me and my furbabies? Just look at her record. In this election, she was the only candidate with animal rights included among the issues on her website. On the campaign trail, she took the time to meet with multiple animal rights activists and organizations and sought their help & expertise in crafting that part of her platform with her. As a senator, Hillary had an average rating of 92% from the Humane Society Legislative Fund and she got a 100% rating on their annual scorecard 3 different times. In the senate, Hillary voted for almost every single pro-animal rights bill that was proposed and co-sponsored many of them herself. Among those bills she co-sponsored, one required humane euthanasia for injured/suffering farm animals, one imposed stricter laws for the treatment of livestock, one mandated felony-level punishments for anyone that fought dogs/roosters/etc., and one stopped the exportation of horses for slaughter. She also took action to try to ban antibiotic injected meat from all US school systems and voted against drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in addition to being one of the senators who took part in sending & co-signing letters to the Dept of Agriculture requesting more funds to use towards expanding & enforcing the Animal Welfare Act.
As Secretary of State, she spoke at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking where she called for an end to poaching & trafficking and pledged $100,000 towards a new proactive wildlife protection system. Her passion for elephants is a stark contrast to her opponent’s indifference. She stated that if she had a spirit animal, it would be the elephant. “I really like elephants. It just breaks my heart that they’re being poached and murdered and babies are being left to defend themselves,” said Clinton, “I just want to do everything I can to stop all the murdering of elephants.” And the efforts of Hillary and Chelsea’s foundation are helping to do just that.
Her dedication to household pets is also well-documented. Previously, she published a book of all the letters children had written over the years to her famous “first pets”, Buddy and Socks, and then donated all of the proceeds to the National Park Foundation. She also co-sponsored a bill that cracked down on puppy mills. “They really are terrible places for any animal, particularly for dogs and cats,” she stated in 2015, “We need to do more.” She also worked on a bill that imposed stricter regulations on the living conditions and healthcare of breeders’ dogs, citing animal abuse as a major concern and one she will take very seriously if elected.
If Sir Paul is correct, and I believe he is, then the true character of these candidates cannot even be compared. Secretary Clinton has gone above and beyond to earn the four-legged vote. And for her efforts and work on this issue, I cannot thank her enough.