In the United States, we fight like cats and dogs during elections. But in their aftermath, we’re not nearly as forgiving as creatures who get into a scrape and then put the tussle behind them.
The nation has just gone through a tough battle, with half the country supporting one candidate and half backing the other.
Donald Trump is our president-elect. We congratulate him. To play politics at this level and to succeed requires real ability, and skill. I’ve long admired the prior winners – the Bushes, father and son, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama – and we admire Trump for amassing the votes needed for victory. He’s the second recent president to win in the electoral college but to lose the popular vote – an especially important reminder of responsibilities associated with governing in a divided nation.
When the nation is split as it is, a very capable political leader will gravitate to the issues that bind us together. There is no shortage of these issues, and animal protection is certainly one of them. That was on display this week, as voters overwhelmingly approved animal protection ballot measures to protect farm animals from extreme confinement in Massachusetts (passing Question 3 with 78 percent of the vote), and wildlife from poachers and traffickers (passing Measure 100 in Oregon with 70 percent of the vote). At the same time, they rejected an overreaching attempt to deregulate agriculture in Oklahoma (defeating Question 777 with more than 60 percent of the vote).
As those votes reinforce yet again, we have a mainstream agenda at The HSUS. And any good person – Democrat, Republican, or Independent – should support an agenda grounded on opposition to animal cruelty. Both Clinton and Trump voters lined up with us in these states on these issues. We invite President-elect Trump to embrace the core of our agenda because it’s good for the country. It also happens to unite so many of us, including our members and volunteer leaders who are devoted Republicans and conservatives. As a businessman, we hope Mr. Trump will embrace the principles of the humane economy – recognizing that an embrace of animal protection is good for business.
The table is set for him in Congress:
- The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act has a majority of the House as cosponsors. The Senate bill – led by Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., both re-elected on Tuesday – has broad bipartisan support in Congress and has been endorsed by more than 200 law enforcement agencies across the country. It should be first on the list for action.
- The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act has even more congressional support. It has more than 300 House and Senate cosponsors, and the practice of injuring horses’ feet to exaggerate their performance in competitions is disgraceful. Every legitimate horse industry organization and the equine veterinary community favors the bill.
- The Humane Cosmetics Act not only has strong bipartisan support, but it has dozens of major corporations behind it. Here again, animal welfare groups and businesses are aligned.
- The Pet and Women’s Safety Act is about stopping domestic violence to animals, children, and women. It provides federal help to equip women’s shelters with animal care facilities, so the women can get out of a dangerous relationship and take their animals with them. So many victims of domestic violence fear leaving their pets behind because they know the abuser will torment or kill the animal as an act of vengeance.
- The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act not only has The HSUS behind it, but also The Jockey Club, which consists of so many major horse owners, track owners, and other prominent leaders within the industry.
I must confess that we are alarmed by candidate Trump’s declared intentions to do away with Obama-era regulations. When it comes to regulations to stop cruelty, these are not onerous regulations for business. These are good for business and for the country, reflecting our values that cruelty to animals is never acceptable, as a personal matter or as a matter of business. Strip away the regulations, and you strip away our values.
It would be unthinkable to roll back important rules:
- USDA banned the use of downer cows in the food supply. Animals unable to walk have been dragged into slaughter plants or pushed with bulldozers. It’s unsafe for the animals, for the workers, and for consumers who eat meat from sick animals dragged in manure and waste.
- The Obama Administration banned the trade in ivory. Some of the poachers who kill elephants finance terrorist activities by selling ivory. These people are no friends to elephants or to the countries where the elephants live. They are no friends to the United States, either.
- The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted rules to stop aerial scouting and shooting of wolves and grizzly bears, trapping of grizzlies, and other inhumane and appalling hunting practices on federal lands. These lands were set aside to protect the animals, and Alaska generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tourist revenue because people come to these lands to view these animals in their native habitats.
A Trump Administration can also help advance important animal protection goals, with a proactive agenda, by:
- Enacting a regulation to fortify humane standards of care for dogs in commercial breeding operations. Puppy mills are notorious for mistreating dogs, and Americans will continue to turn away from dog breeders as long as the standards allow dogs to be kept in small wire cages for their entire lives.
- Expanding the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to include poultry. Americans don’t realize that there are no federal protections at slaughterhouses for 95 percent of animals whose carcasses are certified by USDA for consumption. Our federal humane slaughter laws exclude poultry.
- Reforming check-off programs that tax family farmers and amount to a political slush fund for commodity trade associations.
We welcome the opportunity to sit down with the president-elect and to elaborate on our agenda. And it’s our earnest hope he appoints to key positions within his administration people who represent the values of the nation. To select people from special interest groups who oppose mainstream animal welfare reforms and who would treat their appointment as an opportunity to serve narrow constituencies and do harm to animals, will get him off on the wrong foot on this set of issues. It will contradict a winning message of change that so many millions of voters embraced.