The Trump administration has been openly hostile towards many, from women to people of color to the LGBTQ+ community to immigrants. What a lot of people might not know is that it’s also been horrible for animals.
In fact, since Trump took office in early 2017, he’s waged a full-scale war on animals. Doesn’t matter if they’re wild, endangered, or exploited on factory farms, the Trump administration is making sure animals’ lives are that much worse.
Maybe we should’ve seen this coming. In 2012, Trump’s despicable sons Eric and Don Jr., who are currently a part of his administration, were globally ridiculed when photos of them surfaced after a big game hunt in Africa. The gruesome images showed, among other things, the two brothers as they held the dead body of a leopard they’d just shot. Another image showed Don Jr. holding up the tail of a murdered elephant in one hand and the knife he used to cut it off in the other.
Now, I don’t know what kind of sick fuck pays thousands of dollars to travel to Africa just so they can kill innocent, endangered animals – but I do know that these two are in the White House and have the President’s ear.
So how bad has it been for animals under Donald Trump? Keep reading.
Speeding Up Slaughter
More than 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote his iconic work, The Jungle. The book, which detailed the gore and filth rife in Chicago’s meat packing industry, caused such a national outcry it resulted in Congress passing the first-ever laws formally regulating the meat industry – the first precursor to the formation of the USDA.
Sadly, the lessons Sinclair taught us a century ago are now being ignored in the name of corporate greed.
Just this month, the Trump administration announced they are rolling out a nationwide plan to decrease the number of USDA inspectors at slaughter facilities by 40 percent, while also lifting the cap on slaughter line speeds at pork production facilities (there are plans in the works to expand this to beef production as well).
This makes an already horrific situation for animals, and pigs specifically, even worse. We already know from undercover footage that countless animals are not stunned prior to having their throats slit on the slaughterhouse floor because workers already have to move at breakneck speeds. This means that fully conscious animals are regularly hung upside down and bleed out as they writhe in pain. Isn’t it enough that up to a million birds (the USDA’s numbers, not mine) end up being boiled alive in defeathering tanks because they miss the kill blade on the slaughter lines completely?
This new rollback of regulations, which lets meat producers set their own rules and do their own oversight, is a grave mistake. It does nothing but create more suffering for animals who are already mercilessly abused.
Gutting the Endangered Species Act
Last month, the Trump administration dealt a devastating blow to the Endangered Species Act, a law that has been in place for nearly 50 years and is credited for saving many species, including the California condor and the bald eagle.
Similar to how the deregulation of pig slaughter facilities favors big business over animals, new rules announced by the administration allow for a cost-benefit analysis of saving endangered wildlife versus corporate interests. The changes are expected to lead to drilling, mining, and building in areas that were previously protected.
Additionally, Trump rolled back protections for threatened species. In the past, species that were considered threatened (one step less serious than endangered) were automatically given the same protections unless a specific exception was created. Under Trump’s new regulations, threatened species are no longer automatically protected.
Trump’s new rules also attempt to limit protections for endangered species with regards to climate change.
Allowing “Trophies” Into the US
In 2018, Trump’s federal Fish and Wildlife Service announced they were overturning an Obama-era ban on the importation of “trophies” from African big game hunts, including things like elephant tusks and lion hides.
The decision to overturn the ban was defended with the dubious claim that millionaires who want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoot endangered animals put money into local economies that then help with conservation efforts. Can someone please explain the twisted logic of how we supposedly protect endangered animals by shooting them to death? Never mind the psychotic impulse one must have to actually want to kill an animal like a giraffe or an elephant just so they can mount heads on their wall. It’s truly sick.
Just this month, the Trump administration allowed a Michigan millionaire animal serial killer to import the severed parts of a black rhino he paid $400,000 to kill in Namibia – where there are less than 2,000 black rhinos left.
The Hits Keep Coming
It’s maddening to listen to some people talk about “the environment” and not get that the environment also includes animals. Indeed, animals are vital for entire eco-systems to thrive. That’s why it’s been so disheartening to watch Trump undo so much of what Obama put in place to help protect our planet and the animals we share it with.
For example, back in May the Trump administration announced rollbacks of offshore drilling regulations put into effect under Obama aimed at helping prevent disasters like the devastating Deepwater Horizon explosion. We all remember the heartbreaking photos of sea birds and other marine wildlife choked in oil. If anything, we should be abandoning practices like oil drilling in favor of clean, sustainable energy such as solar and wind. The new rollbacks again unnecessarily put wildlife at risk.
The Trump administration also recently announced the repeal of Obama’s clean water initiative. This setback allows heavily polluting companies, such as those in the fossil fuel industry, to use toxic chemicals near rivers, streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water. Furthermore, it opens the door for ranchers and farmers to pollute waterways with pesticides, fertilizers, and possibly even manure and urine from the billions of animals exploited for food.
While no administration has been necessarily great for animals, some have definitely been better than others. Those of us who care about animals have an obligation to not only vote with our dollars, but also at the ballot box.
I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, there is no question that another four years of Donald Trump will put even more animals at risk.
Some of Trump’s would-be Democratic challengers actually have animal welfare platforms and many have also written and supported pro-animal legislation in Congress. For a ranking of where the Democratic candidates stand on animal issues, click here.
UPDATE: In November, Trump signed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act into law. While heralded by many in the animal welfare community, this law is mostly symbolic and still leaves nearly all animals who are victims of systemic animal cruelty completely vulnerable. You can read more here.