October 31, 2018

Animal Wellness Action Takes on America’s Most Anti-Animal Lawmakers

Some of the nation’s worst anti-animal lawmakers – including Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) and Don Young (R-Alaska-At Large) – appear to be vulnerable in national mid-term elections that conclude next week.

Recent polls show King clinging to a single-point lead in the conservative, agriculturally oriented 4th Congressional District of Iowa over former minor league baseball player and attorney J.D. Scholten. And in Alaska, Don Young, who has been serving in the House since 1971, is clinging to two-point lead over Independent Alyse Galvin for the At-Large seat. Meanwhile, three other races – Pete Sessions (R-TX-32) v. Colin Allred, Mike Bost (R-IL-12) v. Brendan Kelly, and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-48) v. Harley Rouda – are all considered toss-ups, with polling showing that the races can tilt either way. In Tennessee, where Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) is taking on former Governor Phil Bredesen for the open U.S. Senate seat, Blackburn has a very narrow lead according to most polls.

It would be an extraordinary moment for animal protection to see one or more of these extreme anti-animal lawmakers defeated. King has led efforts to preempt state laws to protect farm animals and puppy mill dogs, while Young has led efforts to roll back protections for predators on national wildlife refuges and national preserves in Alaska. Sessions has used his post as Rules Committee chairman to block a raft of bipartisan, broadly supported measures from coming to the House floor for a vote. Blackburn has shilled for the horse “soring” industry.

In recent years, animal issues have played a big role in helping elect pro-animal candidates and to oust anti-animal lawmakers. For example, animal advocates played a key role in ousting Rep. Joe Knollenberg in 2008, while animal issues proved the undoing of U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo in 2006. In 2004, David Vitter won a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana after the Democrat running against him was exposed for his pro-cockfighting, pro-trophy hunting bent.

Animal protection is a mainstream, broadly supported movement in our nation. In the last decade, many of the nation’s major corporations have embraced animal protection ideals, from McDonald’s committing to go cage-free in its egg purchases to Huge Boss ending its use of fur to major cosmetics makers going fur-free to SeaWorld stopping the breeding of orcas in captivity.  The states have passed hundreds of new animal protection laws, and voters have approved ballot measures outlawing cockfighting, stopping extreme confinement of farm animals, and ending inhumane trophy hunting practices such as canned hunting and bear baiting. There are a raft of animal protection bills with bipartisan support in the Congress, with six bills now having more than a major of House members signed up as cosponsors.

Yet there remain a small number of Members of Congress who are outliers on animal protection issues, and these six are among the worst. Their defeat would change the national dynamics on animal welfare policy.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa (seeking re-election to Congressional District 4).
King’s efforts to strip state authority to regulate agriculture is an enterprise-level threat to the animal welfare movement and to advocates of food safety, family farming, and sustainable agriculture. He’s never voted in favor of a bill to strengthen federal standards against dogfighting and cockfighting or enforcement of those laws. He even opposed disaster planning legislation to account for the needs of pets and the people who care about them. He’s led the fight to bring horse slaughter plants back to the U.S. and to tribal lands, promoted the trophy hunting of endangered wolves and polar bears, and fought to allow slaughter plants to process downer cows and serve up the ground beef to American schoolchildren. He brags about his consistent “0” score with animal protection organizations. King has never been more vulnerable, facing off against a tough candidate and facing other headwinds; the Sioux City Journal, the largest in-district newspaper, for the first time has endorsed King’s opponent. And even more alarming for king, Congressman Steve Stivers, the head of the Republican’s national campaign operation, denounced King this week for his white nationalist rhetoric.

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska (seeking re-election at At-Large District).
For most of his adult life, Young has been a licensed commercial trapper, and he’s opposed animal welfare efforts throughout next five decades in Congress. Most recently, he led efforts to unwind federal protections for wolves, bears, and other species on national wildlife refuges and national parks in Alaska. We’re not talking hunting here, but unthinkable acts like killing wolf pups in their dens or shooting grizzly bears with the aid of aircraft. He’s voted against every bill to strengthen our federal laws against dogfighting and cockfighting (including the original law in 1976) and to allow the slaughter of ailing and sick cows too sick to walk into a slaughterhouse on their own. Young has a grizzly bear pinned over his reception desk when you walk into his Capitol Hill office.

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas (seeking re-election to Congressional District 32).
Sessions has sided against animal welfare advocates and with special interests promoting horse slaughter; the trade in ivory; the trophy hunting of polar bears and the killing of bears and wolves in their dens on refuges and preserves in Alaska; the slaughter of “downer” cows too sick or injured to walk on their own; and the trade in primates kept in people’s basements or backyards as pets.

As chairman of the Rules Committee, he blocked consideration of bipartisan amendments to stop the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, to stop the injuring of the feet of Tennessee Walking horses, and to block a debate on a compromise bill negotiated by animal welfare groups and the egg industry to provide more space and better living conditions for laying hens and safer food for consumers.

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California (seeking reelection to Congressional District 48).
Rohrabacher spoke out earlier this year in favor of the dog meat trade. He’s voted against efforts to stop the abuse of cows too sick or injured to walk and then dragged into slaughter houses, putting consumers at risk of consuming diseased animals; he’s opposed efforts to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption, even though horses are fed a cocktail or drugs unfit for human consumption; and he voted against efforts to stop dogfighting and cockfighting in U.S. territories, even though we know that animal fighters often are involved in narcotics trafficking, human violence, and illegal gambling. He’s voted to block the Fish and Wildlife Service from cracking down on the ivory trade and he voted against efforts to stop the trade in primates for the pet trade.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee (competing for open U.S. Senate seat).
Blackburn has opposed nearly all animal welfare efforts, like the lawmakers named above, but she’s been zealous in working to thwart the advance of legislation to crack down on the barbaric practice of injuring the front legs or feet of Tennessee Walking Horses to inflict a painful, exaggerated gait – a practice known as “horse soring” that is rampant among a class of Walking horse owners and trainers in the Southeast. Like King, she even opposed disaster planning legislation to account for the needs of pets and the people who care about them. Animal protection advocates across the country commonly refer to her as Marsha “Blackheart” because of her lack of caring for God’s creatures.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Illinois.
Bost fought efforts as a state legislator to ban horse slaughter in Illinois and helped lead efforts to open up a trophy hunting and trapping season on bobcats. When he came to Congress, he picked up where he left off. Bost supported Young’s efforts to overturn federal policies and allow cruel hunting methods to be used on 100 million acres of preserves and refuges that we fund with our tax dollars. Bost even shot a neighbor’s dog some years ago in a defining incident for him.

There are more than 250 Republicans serving in the House and Senate, and these are the worst of them. There are a larger number of pro-animal Congressional Republicans, including Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Jeff Denham, Vern Buchanan, Matt Gaetz, and others, and there is nothing about animal protection that is at odds with Republican political philosophy. Animal Wellness Action calls out anti-animal lawmakers not because of their party but solely because of their legislative performance. Voters have an incredible set of opportunities to turn them out on November 6th.

Leave a Reply