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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Presidential Files: Ron Paul and Michael Vick

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is on fire.  He broke records last week for raising more than $6 million online in a 24-hour period.  What was once a fringe campaign is now hiring more staff and opening more offices.  I suspect that some animal advocates have gravitated toward Paul because of his anti-war, populist rhetoric.

But they may not know about his terrible record in Congress—driven by an attitude that the federal government (and perhaps local or state government, too) should not play a role in protecting animals from cruelty.  Rep. Paul is one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted against every single animal protection measure that came up for a vote in 2007.  He voted in March to keep the federal penalties weak for dogfighting and cockfighting, providing some great pocket protection for would-be Michael Vicks.  He voted in April against restoring the decades-old protections for wild horses and burros, instead opting to allow these majestic creatures to be sold for commercial slaughter. And he voted in June to allow wealthy American trophy hunters to shoot polar bears in the Arctic and bring their heads and hides back home.  It doesn’t get much worse than that, and only 30 other lawmakers—the bottom 7 percent of Congress, you might say—have matched Ron Paul’s opposition to animal welfare in 2007.

It hasn’t always been this way for Ron Paul.  He did vote, several years ago, to cut funding for several government programs that harm animals, such as lethal predator control, trapping on national wildlife refuges, and trophy hunting programs in foreign countries.  But it seems the small-government, tax-cutting approach worked for him on those particular issues.  In general, libertarians like Paul don’t want to see laws enacted that restrict personal behavior, even if that behavior may involve dogfighting or eating mustangs.

There are people out there, unfortunately, who take advantage of animals for their own selfish motives—whether fun or profit or sadism—and we need strong laws to stop those individuals from doing harm. The Michael Vick case showed America why animal protection laws are needed, and how the justice system can work.  If animal advocates are jumping on the Ron Paul bandwagon, they might want to get off.

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