More than 400 legislators endorsed by animal groups were elected or re-elected on November 3, 2020
WASHINGTON D.C.––President-elect and new First Lady Joe and Jill Biden, to be inaugurated on January 20, 2021, will bring to the White House with them their two German shepherds, Champ and Major, ending the only four-year dog-less stretch in U.S. presidential history.
Champ, the elder German shepherd, was a gift to Joe from Jill Biden after the 2008 election, when Joe became vice president to Barack Obama, U.S. president 2009-2017. Major was adopted in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association, after daughter Ashley Biden, 37, then executive director of the Delaware Center for Justice, sent her parents his photograph.
The electoral vote count that finally confirmed Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice-president elect took four days. Most legislative races, however, were long since decided, leaving the Humane Society Legislative Fund subsidiary of the Humane Society of the United States and the independent New York state organization Voters for Animal Rights with quite a lot to celebrate.
Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsements
Besides endorsing the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket for U.S. President and Vice President, the Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed 258 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, of whom at least 204 were elected.
With just a bit of luck, the Humane Society Legislative Fund record in House races might have been one win better. While 13 of the 15 candidates the Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed in Illinois were elected, incumbent Representative Lauren Underwood lost in the 14th congressional district by just 606 votes.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund also endorsed 12 candidates for the U.S. Senate in races that were decided, of whom 11 were elected.
Sonny Perdue falls from grace
Georgia might elect one more U.S. Senate candidate currently favored by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, if Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff prevails in a runoff against incumbent David Perdue.
David Perdue is first cousin of Sonny Perdue, a former darling of the Humane Society Legislative Fund who fell out of favor as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture throughout the Trump administration.
Humane Society Legislative Fund founding president Mike Markarian, who left the organization in mid-2018, on January 4, 2017 blogged that Perdue, as Georgia governor 2003-2011, “signed a law in 2008 to make dogfighting a felony and close loopholes on owning fighting dogs and being a dogfighting spectator. Perdue is a licensed veterinarian,” Markarian continued, “who a few years ago volunteered his time to perform a surgery at the Atlanta Humane Society to raise awareness for the spaying and neutering of pets and a special dog and cat license plate that supports Georgia’s statewide spay and neuter program.
“In 2010,” Markarian added, “Perdue signed a bill banning the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter pets.”
Hid Animal Welfare Act enforcement data
Under Perdue, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has conspicuously done less to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act than under any previous administration.
Further, three weeks after Perdue was appointed, the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service on February 3, 2017––without prior public notice––abruptly purged thousands of pages of Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act data from the USDA-APHIS web site.
Congress later mandated that much of the information be restored to accessibility, but searching the USDA-APHIS web site to find details of the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service enforcement actions remains much more difficult than formerly, and some categories of information are reportedly still not available at all.
Neither Ossoff, winning about 48% of the vote, nor Perdue, at just under 49%, polled a majority in the 2020 general election.
One Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate, Arizona Republican incumbent Martha McSally, raised eyebrows and question marks among animal-aware voters.
McSally, U.S. Representative for the Arizona Second Congressional district from 2015 to 2019, initially ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018, but was defeated by Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat who is now the senior U.S. Senator from Arizona.
In 2019, however, Arizona governor Doug Ducey appointed McSally to replace the former Senator John McCain, who had died in August 2018, after interim replacement Jon Kyl resigned.
McSally had a history of co-sponsoring bills advanced by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, including a “Humane Cosmetics Act,” originally introduced in 2015, and a “Horseracing Integrity Act,” passed by the House of Representatives on September 29, 2020, which is also favored by Senate president Mitch McConnell, and therefore has some chance of passage before the 2020 legislative session ends.
Trumpism conflicted with pro-animal positions
McSally was also one of only ten House Republicans who in 2017 opposed H.J. Resolution 69, by Don Young, the sole U.S. Representative from Alaska since 1973, which reauthorized killing wolf pups and hibernating bears in their dens, and trapping grizzly bears and black bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and snares within 16 National Wildlife Refuges located within Alaska.
McSally, on the other hand, also had a history of unreserved enthusiastic support of Donald Trump, even after the Trump administration, desperate to remain in the White House and to keep a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, took a series of actions during the 2020 election campaign which, among other things, expanded the sweep of H.J. Resolution 69.
McSally failed to distance herself
The Trump administration further capped the worst four years for animals of any U.S. presidential tenure since the 19th century with a string of other concessions to hunters, fishers, loggers, miners, and the oil and gas extraction industries. Victims of those concessions included gray wolves, grizzly bears, wolverines, and North Atlantic right whales, among others, in numbers ranging from the hundreds to perhaps the last remnants of the wolverine in the Lower 48 states and North Atlantic right whale species.
McSally was not critical of any of that, nor did she speak out for the animals indirectly sacrificed to Trump administration climate change denial.
“Poll after poll warned that the appointed senator was about to earn the distinction of becoming the first Arizona Republican to lose not one but two Senate seats to Democrats. To win, McSally needed to show she was her own woman,” assessed Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Robert.
Mark Kelly & family pit bull Shiner
“Instead, she demonstrated that she wasn’t. She sucked up to Trump at every turn. McSally may have been a combat pilot,” Robert wrote, before entering politics, “but Mark Kelly,” the Democrat who defeated McSally by more than 100,000 votes, “was both a combat pilot and an astronaut––and the husband of one of Arizona’s most beloved figures, former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords.”
All Arizona voters “really knew about McSally,” Robert suggested, “was that she walks around in her Air Force duds, she lives in Trump’s pocket and she loves her dog, Boomer.”
It may be said, however, that Boomer, a golden retriever, is much better behaved than the Kelly family pit bull Shiner, who in March 2013 killed a baby sea lion at Goff Island Beach, California.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed 140 candidates for various state legislatures, of whom at least 101 were elected. That included all 48 state-level candidates endorsed in Tennessee and all 15 endorsed in Florida, but just four of 19 endorsed in Michigan.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed only 11 candidates for New York state senate and assembly seats, where Voters for Animal Rights endorsed 52 candidates.
Of the 11 candidates that the Humane Society Legislative Fund favored, only five were elected.
“For ten of our candidates, the races are still too close to call,” Voters for Animal Rights founder and president Allie Feldman Taylor posted to social media. “We won’t know the results until all of the mail-in ballots are counted, which could take weeks.”
But Feldman did acknowledge having endorsed 32 winning candidates.
“We look forward to working with them to pass animal rights legislation in 2021,” Feldman said.
Fishing industry funded candidates
The Humane Society Legislative Fund and Voters for Animal Rights were scarcely the only animal interest groups closely watching the 2020 election outcome.
Many of the others, however, represented animal use industries.
“Undercurrent News,” an online periodical serving the commercial fishing industry, “recently pored through U.S. campaign finance records and calculated that individuals linked to the seafood sector made nearly 4,700 separate campaign contributions totaling more than $768,000 between January 1, 2019, and October 14, 2020,” reported Undercurrent writers Jason Smith and Jason Huffman on November 4, 2020.
The fishing industry was concerned, Smith and Huffman explained, that a “’blue wave’ of Democrats winning control of the White House and Senate could result in stricter conservation measures, more conservation advocates in important [Congressional and Administration] roles, and a potentially more conservative approach to U.S. aquaculture policy.”
And fishing industry won their slate
But the candidates receiving the most fishing industry largesse fared well in the election. Among them were Don Young and Alaska senator Dan Sullivan, “the biggest lawmaker recipient of campaign contributions from the U.S. seafood industry during the 2019-2020 election cycle,” Smith and Huffman said, collecting $87,800.
“Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington state Republican representative supported by the seafood industry,” Smith and Huffman noted, “received contributions of both $7,500 from individuals employed in the seafood industry and $12,300 from multiple seafood industry-related political action committees.”
Beutler easily won re-election in the Washington state Third Congressional District.
Jeff Van Drew, identified by Undercurrent as “another Republican lawmaker who was supported by the U.S. seafood industry,” appeared to have won re-election in the New Jersey Second Congressional district.
Utah voters establish “right to hunt & fish”
Utah state constitutional Amendment E, to establish a right to hunt and fish, within existing state laws and policies, was approved by nearly 75% of the electorate.
Amendment E, parallel to constitutional amendments already adopted in 22 other states, declares that hunting and fishing are the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife in Utah.
Said Utah state representative Casey Snider, who led the campaign to pass Amendment E,
“It is not unforeseeable, and history bears this out, that 30 or 40 or 50 years from now, those participating in [hunting and fishing] will be a very significant minority, more so than they already are,” possibly meaning that “these sort of activities will be eliminated from the public sphere and from conservation generally and at large.”
Orange County, Florida, adopts “rights of nature” law
Florida Rights of Nature Network chair Chuck O’Neal and Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights senior legal counsel Thomas Linzey, meanwhile, alerted media that “Orange County, Florida,” population nearly 1.4 million, “has become the largest municipality in the United States to adopt a ‘rights of nature’ law,” after voters overwhelmingly approved a “Right to Clean Water Initiative.”
The Orange County ordinance recognizes “rights of Orange County rivers and streams, along with a right to clean water for the residents.”
The ordinance may help to protect Orange County aquatic wildlife.