Back in September, I wrote a piece ranking the Democratic candidates regarding where they stood on issues facing animals. Since then, the playing field has changed. Some vying for the Democratic nomination have dropped out of the race. Others still in the fight have gotten bolder, recently introducing or supporting groundbreaking policies that take aim at factory farms, where an overwhelming majority of animal abuse takes place in the United States.
Let’s start with Cory Booker. Being that he’s the only vegan in the race, I think most of us who care about animals were surprised that his initial stance on the issues fell short. It was Julián Castro who had the most impressive animal welfare plan back in September. Then came Booker’s unfortunate flub at the debates when he was questioned about his veganism.
But this week, Booker stepped up big time. On Monday he unveiled The Farm System Reform Act of 2019, legislation that could change the game for animals exploited for food. If passed, the law would put an immediate moratorium on the construction of new factory farms. It would also prevent current factory farms from expanding their operations. Additionally, Booker’s legislation would allot $100 billion to buy out farmers who want to exit the business. This bill has the potential to not only spare, but save millions of animals from the hell of factory farming.
Though Booker’s legislation falls short of actually closing factory farms – something that should be a moral imperative – it would stop billion-dollar companies like Tyson and Smithfield from torturing additional animals in the future. This is important because, despite the recent success of plant-based meats like the Impossible Burger, meat consumption in the United States is actually on the rise; so much, in fact, that 2020 is expected be a record-breaking year for meat sales.
While other Democratic candidates like Castro and Warren support Booker’s idea for a moratorium on new factory farms, only Bernie Sanders has indicated that he also wants to set aside funds to get farmers out of the CAFO business.
Now, I do want to note that though I love Elizabeth Warren for her progressive values, her record on animal issues is more mixed. She actually sponsored the Dairy Pride Act in 2017, a bill that seeks to crush the success of vegan businesses by making it illegal for them to use words like “milk,” “butter,” and “cheese.” Warren also downplayed the truly catastrophic effects of meat and dairy on climate change in one debate, joking that cheeseburgers were just a “distraction” but essentially not a real problem.
Sanders and Booker both have animal welfare platforms on their campaign websites that are more vague than Castro’s. But their bold new stance on factory farms could signal a major shift in American animal agriculture. Big change starts with big ideas. For now, Sanders and Booker look to be the ticket that could potentially help the most animals.