How our presidential aspirants feel about animal rights is a subject rarely addressed on the campaign trail. Five of the presidential candidates, however, have voting records on the humane legislation that came before the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congresses. The annual scorecard compiled by the Humane Society Legislative Fund tells us this about the Republican senators running for president: They are no friends to animals.
Three of the Republican senators were members of all three Congresses. Senator Rubio’s average score for the three Congresses was 13, Senator Paul’s 13, and Senator Graham’s 46. Senator Bernie Sanders average score, by contrast, was 95.
Senator Cruz was around for only the 113th and 114th Congresses. Cruz’s average score for the four years was 6.
Three of the four Republican senators score even lower than the Senate Republicans’ average of 29. Sanders’ 95 was considerably higher than the Democrats’ average of 63.
Why are Republican senators so anti-animal compared to the Democrats? Democrats registered 32 perfect scores of 100 and only two scores of zero on the Humane Society’s three scorecards, while Republicans managed only seven 100s while ringing up 20 zeros.
What is behind these statistics?
For companies in animal-exploitation industries, animal cruelty is just a cost of doing business. Cruel practices are often a way to save money. And the Republican party is, after all, the party of business, including businesses that derive their profits from exploiting animals. How else to explain why no Republican senator running for president cosponsored or voted for any bill to ease overcrowding for chickens in factory farms, to crack down on puppy mills, to prohibit interstate trade in monkeys sold as exotic pets, and to outlaw cruelty and torture of animals in obscene “crush” sex videos? (Sanders co-sponsored all these bills.)
Republican Lindsey Graham was the least animal-abusive of the Republican senators in the presidential race. He actually sponsored a bill to outlaw transport or export of horses for human consumption, and Sanders co-sponsored it. But Rubio and Cruz chose to take no position on this issue related to interstate commerce.
So relieving businesses of costs related to treating animals humanely is one explanation for the Republicans’ lack of compassion. But why would Rubio, Paul, and Graham also vote against a 112th congressional bill that would make it a misdemeanor to attend an illegal dog or cock fight? (This was another bill co-sponsored by Sanders.) Why would Paul and Cruz support a bill to allow big game hunters to bring endangered polar bear parts back home as trophies? (Sanders voted against it.) Sanders sponsored a bill to end the use of chimpanzees in research and to relocate them to sanctuaries. The Republicans took no position regarding the chimps, declining to co-sponsor the bill.
These three bills were not anti-business, so why the lack of Republican support? One answer is the agricultural lobby. It opposes all humane legislation for fear of the “slippery slope,” opposing even legislation written to benefit house pets. The agricultural lobby opposes all legislation to benefit animals the way the gun lobby opposes all legislation restricting gun rights.
But the GOP candidates also come off as personally insensitive and even hostile to animals. Marco Rubio enjoys watching the slaughter of the pigs used for his family’s pig roast every Christmas. Ted Cruz was photographed kneeling on a friend’s tiger skin rug, joking that he might buy one for the family home.
The most egregious of congressional anti-animal operatives is the Co-Chair of Ted Cruz’s campaign, Iowa Rep. Steve King. King’s amendment to the Farm Bill threatens to strip all protections for animals enacted by state legislatures in the last few years, including allowing chickens in battery cages enough room to stand and spread their wings, and animals in crates enough room to turn around. It would also invalidate state and local laws enacted to regulate puppy mills, to ban the sale of cat and dog meat, and to outlaw animal-fighting events.
King’s explanation for his support for dog- and cock-fighting is that to permit humans to attend boxing matches, but to ban people from attending animal fights, is to place animals above humans. It’s something to which he is morally opposed. (He also opposed a law making it illegal to bring a child to a dog- or cock-fight.)
King is emblematic of the GOP’s war on animals. The GOP’s troubling blind spot puts it at odds with most people in a nation of animal lovers. Until it addresses its lack of compassion for animals, Republicans will not be receiving the support of America’s animal-friendly “Moral Majority.”
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