Animals may not get a vote in this election, but a group that represents their interests, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), has made its choice. Focused solely on animal-protection policies, without respect to party or other social issues, HSLF has endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket. HSLF says that the choice is clear for the humane-minded voter. This endorsement marks the first time HSLF has endorsed a presidential candidate, although the organization has endorsed hundreds of congressional candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, in the past.
The bipartisan board voted unanimously to endorse Obama, while acknowledging that Senator John McCain has not been altogether remiss in his defense of animals, voting in favor, for instance, of a bill to ban horse slaughter. His choice of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, however, has negated what credentials he does have regarding animal protection in the eyes of the organization, which says that her “retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures,” a pronouncement informed by such measures as her decision to file a lawsuit to reverse the Bush Administration’s classifcation of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Her potential to succeed a President McCain would, HSLF fears, pose the threat of rolling back decades of progress on animal issues.
HSLF has, alternatively, given Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden high marks for leadership on legislation serving the interests of animals. In addition to having supported hundreds of bills protecting animals, Senator Biden has also coauthored, with Senator Barbara Boxer of California, and helped pass a ban of the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen.
HSLF cites Barack Obama’s record on animal protection as reassuringly consistent to animal lovers. Senator Obama has cosponsored multiple bills in the Illinois and U.S. Senate to combat animal fighting, puppy mills, and horse slaughter, as well as voted to increase funding for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, among others.
Obama has also highlighted issues of animal protection on the campaign trail, speaking out against the mistreatment of downed cows, which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history earlier this year. And after originally stating that he and his wife were planning on purchasing a purebred dog for their daughters following the campaign, he has decided to adopt a shelter dog (thanks to some enthusiastic urging from animal groups such as Best Friends) instead.
HSLF keeps a Humane Score Card, which serves as a snapshot of politicians’ records on animal protection. Out of a possible 100 points, Obama scored a 75, while McCain scored a 25.