A couple months ago, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura adopted a puppy from the SPCA of Texas. In a Facebook post announcing the arrival of Freddy Bush, the 43rd president advocated for adoption: “If you could use a little extra joy in your life, consider adopting a pet from an animal shelter or rescue group.”
The path for compassionate Americans wasn’t always so clear. It took decades of work to normalize the notion of spay/neuter and adoption as complementary strategies to reduce euthanasia and find homes for every animal in need. The HSUS led the way, but thousands of groups joined in advocating for these notions and made them not only part of the fiber of our movement but of the nation itself. Together, we’ve won the battle of ideas when it comes to the treatment of companion animals. Now it’s a matter of execution, continuing to deliver the message, and getting services to the people who can and want to act to affirm the human-animal bond.
But, as every animal advocate knows, there’s more to animal protection than the important notions of adoption and spay-and-neuter and access to pet care. There’s the matter of protecting all animals from cruelty, everywhere.
Republican U.S. Representative Ed Royce of California and Democrat Kilili Camacho Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands today introduced the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. Tomorrow, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, with Democrat Ted Deutch of Florida, intends to introduce a bill to create a federal anti-cruelty law. Earlier this week, I wrote about the introduction of the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act of 2017 by U.S. Representatives Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.
I could go on. The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund have about a dozen bills, and all of them are led by Republicans and Democrats.
Our cause is a non-partisan one, and that’s as it should be.
Clearly, there are partisan winds blowing hard in Washington, and some Republicans are taking aim at animal protection and the environment.
There have been some terrible actions, including President Trump nominating, and the Republican-led Senate approving, Scott Pruitt as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator. The take-down of inspection records and horse soring violation notices from the USDA website. The freezing of the anti-horse-soring rule, and the reversal of a director’s order at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to phase out the use of lead ammunition on national wildlife refuges.
And of course, we are horrified by the effort — led by Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young — to repeal a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule to stop the most inhumane forms of killing wolves and grizzly bears on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. While 10 House Republicans joined just about every House Democrat in opposing this vile idea, the vast majority of them favored it, to our great disappointment.
But we are working hard to kill a parallel measure in the Senate. And we will circle back with our Republican allies on other legislation, and continue to drive home the argument that cruelty should never find a defender among their ranks.
It’s never been more important for citizens to stand up and remind them of that. We should all expect that both Democrats and Republicans favor animal protection. Our cause must never be viewed as an alien one with Republicans or any other major party. In fact, writer Zach Carter of The Huffington Post wrote a remarkable profile, published today, about my colleague Joe Maxwell, who led the effort to defeat a “right to farm” measure last November in the Republican bastion of Oklahoma. While a supermajority of citizens there favored Donald Trump, they were thrashing the effort to deregulate agriculture on a go-forward basis.
Just as we worked so hard to normalize the notions of adoption of homeless animals and widespread spay-and-neuter as a basic responsibility of pet owners, we want to universalize broader notions about animal protection. To my mind, it boils down to these fundamental principles:
- Our nation should never tolerate cruelty, even if it’s conducted by big industries or in the most rural states.
- All animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food.
- We must embrace alternatives to animal exploitation where they exist.
- Hurting animals runs against our religious values and our legal traditions.
- Reducing cruelty and punishing perpetrators of cruelty reduces violence and builds a civil society.