There is a group of silent Americans that will be harmed if Donald Trump is elected president. This group has been known to make bedfellows of liberals and conservatives, depends 100 percent on the advocacy of Americans, and a member of said group may be snoozing on your couch right at this very moment.
I’m talking about animals. All creatures great and small. From your loyal lap dog to the cow that becomes your hamburger, the welfare of all animals is at stake if Trump is elected.
Some might say America’s very humanity is at stake.
Breaking with the tradition of not endorsing a presidential candidate, the Humane Society’s political arm, the nonpartisan Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) has come out as staunchly pro-Clinton and anti-Trump.
Calling a Trump presidency “a threat to animals everywhere”, the HSLF points to Trump’s dismal track record in animal welfare issues, as well as those who would advise him in matters related to the humane treatment of animals. Unlike Secretary Clinton, who has made significant and aggressive strides in protecting animals both domestically and internationally, Trump seems to view animal rights only in terms of entertainment or profit.
When Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus decided to stop using endangered Asian elephants in their shows due to public outcry and pressure from the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Trump took to Twitter to voice his disappointment and contempt for the decision.
.@RinglingBros is retiring their elephants– the circus will never be the same.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2016
Ringling Brothers is phasing out their elephants. I,for one, will never go again. They probably used the animal rights stuff to reduce costs
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2015
The elephants in question exhibited behaviors in keeping with physical abuse and mental trauma – not to mention they were of an endangered breed. To many people on both sides of political party lines, the removal of the elephants to a conservation park was a small victory in the face of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s history of questionable animal practices.
Yet it was after such a victory that Trump decided he’d “never go again”, putting an elephant’s entertainment value and his disgust at his assumption that the circus was attempting to “reduce costs” over the health and well-being of animals.
Trump has also voiced criticism over the FDA’s regulation of dog food, at one point expressing the intention to eliminate much of the FDA’s jurisdiction.
In September of this year, Trump’s website stated:
The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food. The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures, and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It also greatly increased inspections of food “facilities,” and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.
Oddly, mention of the “FDA Food Police” have been pulled from the site, with no comment since.
Trump taking issue with the FDA would obviously affect more than dogs, with human food being impacted if such inspection “overkills” are done away with. As Dr. Douglas Powell told The Daily Beast, “Regulations and the ‘food police’ are there to set minimal standards. The best companies will go above and beyond those minimal standards.”
Powell also stated, “Just like we regulate the nutritional content of vitamins that we add to breakfast cereal or bread, dogs also need proper nutrition, we should use science to improve the lives of not only humans but our four-legged companions.”
Proper pet nutrition is not an absurdity reserved for the uber liberal, the uber rich, or radical animal rights activists. Americans depend on the FDA to ensure that the food they are feeding their pet — at all price points — can offer, at the very least, the basic biologically appropriate nutrition required for an animal’s survival. Every year dozens of dog foods are recalled because of e. coli, salmonella, listeria, or an imbalance of nutrients that could negatively affect the biology of an animal down the road.
Most Americans are not privy to the finer points of animal nutritional needs, let alone the knowledge of how to test for salmonella in their pet’s food. If in a Trump presidency, Trump decides to follow through with the elimination of the “FDA Food Police”, then there’s no telling how many dogs (and cats, and horses, and rabbits, and…) could die horrible deaths — not to mention how many humans.
Domesticated animals affect the health of the humans they live with, mentally and physically. Trump might know that if he shared his home with an animal. To date, if Trump were to be president, he would be the first since Truman not to have a pet in the White House (the Clintons have two dogs, Maisie and Tally).
Of course the Trumps are not exactly strangers to animals, at least for sport — both of Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are avid hunters who proudly show off their endangered, exotic game kills on social media. Despite the public outrage over the Trump boys’ hunting, Trump’s only comments have been about his sons’ marksmanship skills and how much they love to hunt. It is especially Donald Jr.’s devotion to hunting and his inability to see the problem with hunting endangered game that is especially troubling, as he has expressed interest in heading the Interior Department in a Trump administration.
However, what may be even more disturbing than Donald Jr. being in charge of wildlife refuges, national parks, and endangered species conservation, are the cast of characters Trump has advising him on agricultural matters. Namely Forrest Lucas.
Lucas founded Protect the Harvest, a folksy sounding organization that has aggressively opposed almost all animal rights legislation in the past few years.
A billionaire whose fortune was made through oil, Lucas claims that he is fighting in the name of America’s “tradition” and “heritage” associated with animals for companionship, food, and sport. Lucas and Protect the Harvest claim to be protecting an American way of life that is being threatened by animal rights activists who endeavor to destroy pet ownership, farming, and hunting/animal entertainment.
Their motto is “Keeping America free, fed, & fun!”
But what is “fun” to Protect the Harvest? Apparently it includes: cockfighting, puppy mills, “extreme confinement” and other cruel factory farming practices, big agribusiness, “malicious cruelty against dogs, cats, and horses” (Lucas opposed felony-level penalties for such abusers), animal overpopulation due to a lack of spay/neuter resources, and substandard care for shelter animals, to name a few.
In fact, Lucas was having so much “fun” he threw even more of his wealth behind forming a Super PAC that fights animal advocates and their causes. What many Republicans and Democrats have called “common sense” animal protection laws, Lucas and Protect the Harvest fight in the name of AMERICA.
But among Trump’s advisors, Lucas is in good company. Along with Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, who signed into law “ag-gag” measures that punish those who report inhumane practices in factory farms, battery cage and gestation crate defender Dave Heineman, and factory farmer Bruce Rastetter, whose brother is the CEO of a gestation crate manufacturer, Trump’s advisers are a perfect storm of anti-animal welfare leaders.
One could argue that in the face of such issues of racism, immigration, and sexism among others, animal rights may fall low on the list of reasons to not vote for Trump. But how we treat animals reflects us as a nation. How we respect and protect our animals, be they food or companions, speaks to our capacity for compassion.
Though a candidate’s ability to be compassionate may not be a measurable issue to poll, it is undoubtedly something that we are aware of, we respond to, we judge our candidates by. We want a president that represents the best in us, the best in America; someone we can trust to guide us through national questions of right and wrong.
We are not voting for machines that we will plug-in, mechanically run our country. We are voting for humans that will look after our best interests with wisdom and sensitivity. It is their job to look out for the most helpless, the most silent members of our communities.
So while it’s possible to say that animals are inconsequential in this presidential election, seeing how Trump and his advisors treat those dependent, powerless numbers could be indicative of how they might treat us all.
Photo: Mohamed Aymen Bettaieb/Creative Commons