RANKED: This Is Where the Democratic Candidates Stand on Animal Issues

There should be no question on anyone’s mind that in addition to its many other outrages, the Trump administration has also been a colossal disaster for animals. First off, any administration that both denies the facts of climate change and actively works to roll back environmental protections is setting the stage for millions of animals to perish. Period.

But sadly, the damage inflicted by the Trump administration does not stop there. Its officials have also attemped to speed up slaughter lines, making an already horrifying situation for animals exploited for food even worse. Additionally, the administration has gutted the Endangered Species Act and allowed trophy hunters to bring severed pieces of endangered mammals back to the US. Like I said above, a colossal fucking disaster.

The good news is that we’re now just over a year away from the 2020 presidential election. Seriously, it can’t come quick enough. And while there are plenty of issues for Americans to ponder, from gun control to healthcare to the mounting climate crisis, many of us also care about the many immediate plights facing animals.

Tonight, ABC is hosting the third Democratic debate, but I can almost guarantee you no one will ask where these candidates stand on animal issues. So, I decided to go through the top ten people vying for the nomination and rank them as best I could on who stands up the most for animals.

Here goes!

1. Julián Castro

The former Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Obama, Julián Castro came out very strongly for animals when he released the most comprehensive animal welfare policy ever announced by a major presidential candidate. This 19-page document outlines his plan to improve many of the dire situations animals face today. His plan includes:

  • An end to the euthanasia of dogs and cats in shelters.
  • Allotment of $40 million in federal funding to offset the costs of spaying and neutering and to promote animal adoption.
  • Signing the PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act into law. This law would make animal cruelty a federal crime when a person commits cruelty to animals on federal lands or across state lines. Sadly, hunting is exempted from this law. The bill is currently stalled in Congress.
  • Passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would ban cosmetic testing on animals in all 50 states and ban the sale of cosmetics in the United States that have been tested on animals.
  • Passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would ban the private, unlicensed ownership of big cats such as lions and tigers.
  • Expanding to all 50 states what states like California and Massachusetts have already done for farmed animals: creating a federal mandate for increased space for egg-laying hens, mother pigs, and other animals exploited for food.
  • Improvements in federal housing laws for companion animals, including making sure homeless people are not turned away from shelters because they have companion animals with them.

And more! Seriously, when it comes to standing up for animals, Julián Castro is leading the pack.

2. Cory Booker

A senator from New Jersey and an outspoken vegan, Cory Booker has a 100 percent score from the Humane Society Legislative Fund and is a leading sponsor for bills that would make animal fighting a federal crime, strengthen federal legislation against shark finning, and improve animal welfare for animals exploited for food.

Additionally, Booker published his own animal welfare platform on his campaign website. While not as comprehensive as Castro’s, Booker does state that, as president, he’d shut down puppy mills nationwide, prohibit the import of “trophies” from lions, elephants, and other endangered animals, end all animal testing by 2025, and more.

3. Bernie Sanders

Sanders is the only candidate to my knowledge that has openly slammed factory farming a number of times for its environmental destruction. As senator, he’s also received a 100 percent score from the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Additionally, Sanders also has an animal welfare platform on his campaign website – thought it’s much more vague than Castro and Booker’s.

4. Joe Biden

While Vice President, Biden worked to effectively end horse slaughter in the United States. During his years in Congress, he consistently received high scores from animal welfare groups and co-authored legislation that banned the netting of dolphins by commercial fishermen. He also authored legislation that banned trophy of hunting of captive exotic animals in fenced enclosures.

5. Kamala Harris

Senator Harris has been strong on animal welfare issues both as California’s Attorney General and since being elected to Congress in 2016. While Attorney General, Harris defended the state’s laws banning battery cages, shark finning, and the production and sale of foie gras. In Congress, she co-sponsored legislation that combats horse soring and would make malicious animal abuse a felony. She also has a 100 percent score from the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

6. Beto O’Rourke

As a congressman, Beto O’Rourke has received pretty favorable reviews from animal welfare and conservation groups. Most recently, he voted against a bill that would require the US Secretary of Interior to eradicate the gray wolf (as in kill them) in the lower 48 states. He also signed a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, urging him not to speed up slaughter lines for pigs.

7. Elizabeth Warren

Senator Warren received a 100 percent score from the Humane Society Legislative Fund and recently co-sponsored a bill that would stop federal funds from being used to lobby against animal welfare reforms for animals exploited for food. However, she co-sponsored the Dairy Pride Act in 2017, a bill that directly attacked vegan businesses who produce plant-based alternatives to dairy. The Dairy Pride Act was re-introduced this year, but Warren is no longer a sponsor. While I love her in almost all other areas of policy, it was disappointing to see Warren, in the most recent CNN town hall on climate change, tell viewers that cheeseburgers were just a “distraction” from more urgent problems. In reality, the catastrophic effect of meat and dairy production on the the climate crisis is well-documented.  

8. Andrew Yang

Since Andrew Yang is not a politician, he has no prior voting record from which to gauge his stance on animal issues. He did, however, speak truth to power in the CNN town hall on climate change, when he urged the audience to consider vegetarianism and acknowledged meat production’s harmful effects on the environment.

9. Pete Buttigieg

Much like Andrew Yang, there’s just not much history to let us know how Buttigieg feels about animals. I did come across reports criticizing Buttigieg for not taking more action to curtail the number of dogs and cats euthanized in South Bend’s shelters. Also, as a millennial candidate who’s spoken about climate change and “generational justice,” it’s both surprising and disappointing to not see Buttigieg speak out against factory farming and meat production, let alone release an animal welfare platform. I would expect more from someone who’s supposed to be so in touch with younger generations.

10. Amy Klobuchar

Finally, if you care about animals, Amy Klobuchar is not your candidate. Sorry, but it’s true. In 2018, she received an appalling 38 percent from the Humane Society Legislative Fund and actually worked against the legislation Warren co-sponsored that would’ve stopped federal funds from being used to lobby against animal welfare reforms. She also only received a 25 percent on the Animal Welfare Institute’s “Compassion Index” for the 2017-2018 legislative year. I’m not even sure what that is, but it sounds pretty dreadful.