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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Presidential Files: Evaluating the Elephants

With the Iowa caucuses tomorrow, and the New Hampshire primaries next week, I want to provide an overview of the Republican presidential candidates. I’ve already commented on Mike Huckabee’s terrible approach to animal cruelty issues and pandering to the sport hunting lobby, and Ron Paul’s philosophical opposition to even the most modest animal welfare policies in Congress. Here’s what we know about the other presidential hopefuls in the party of the elephants:

Republican_elephant_logo1 Rudy Giuliani: As mayor, Giuliani did not have as many opportunities to take a position on animal issues as those who served as governor or a member of Congress, but he did take some proactive measures in America's largest city.  In 2000, he proposed and signed a bill to promote the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats and open an animal shelter in each borough in order to help curb New York's pet overpopulation.  He is the first Republican candidate to release a public statement on animal issues, which is reproduced here in its entirety: "Animals play an important part in the lives of many Americans.  We should all work to reduce animal suffering by advocating for sensible public policies, investigating animal cruelty and strongly enforcing the laws that are already on the books. I will continue to support efforts to educate the public about animal issues, and work with corporations to develop animal-friendly policies."

Duncan Hunter: In the U.S. House of Representatives, Hunter’s record has been relatively poor but he’s been a supporter on some issues. He has earned scores ranging from zero to 42 percent on the Humane Scorecard over the years, having backed a few animal protection proposals, including those to stop animal fighting, horse slaughter, and the processing of “downer” livestock. He has been leading the fight to continue the trophy hunting of deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island, in a controversial battle over whether the animals will be exterminated from the island or allowed to remain in a canned hunt—either way a bad outcome for the animals.

John McCain: In the U.S. Senate, McCain has been a strong supporter of numerous animal welfare issues, earning scores of up to 75 percent on the Humane Scorecard. He has voted for and co-sponsored legislation to stop horse slaughter, and voted to eliminate a $2 million subsidy for the mink industry. He has co-sponsored bills to stop the interstate shipment of birds for cockfighting and to stop the poaching of bears by ending the trade in their gall bladders and other viscera. He took an anti-animal position by supporting an amendment to the California Desert Protection Act which would have allowed sport hunting in the Mojave National Park. Senator McCain has been a leader in the effort to stop global warming, and he opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to many wildlife species.

Mitt Romney: Romney attracted the ire of animal advocates when they learned that during a 1983 vacation, he put the family’s Irish setter, Seamus, in a carrier and strapped him to the roof rack of the station wagon. When the terrified dog urinated and defecated during the twelve-hour drive, Romney pulled over, hosed down the dog, and continued the voyage from Boston to Ontario. As chief executive of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney also came under fire from animal protection groups for allowing a rodeo exhibition that included calf roping. His term as governor didn't exactly inspire confidence in his judgment on animal issues, either.  He appointed a raft of animal-unfriendly people to the state Fisheries and Wildlife Board.  He did, however, leave the governor's mansion on a high note by signing a bill passed in 2006 to strengthen the Massachusetts animal fighting law and prevent a convicted animal abuser from getting the animal back. 

Fred Thompson: Thompson rarely supported animal protection issues in the U.S. Senate, but his highest score was 50 percent on the Humane Scorecard. On the positive side, he voted to eliminate a $2 million subsidy for the mink industry. On the negative side, he voted to continue spending tax dollars to allow the use of two particularly inhumane traps—steel-jawed leghold traps and wire neck snares—for commercial and recreational trapping on National Wildlife Refuges. And he opposed an amendment to protect dolphins from drowning in tuna fishing nets.

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