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Where do Obama, McCain, Palin and Biden Stand on Animal Rights Issues?

The presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2008 election

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Obama and McCain

Obama and McCain at the Second Presidential Debate. Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Candidates don’t always have consistent positions on animal issues, so it’s unusual to find a candidate who is either 100% in favor of or 100% against animal protection. Like other issues, there are shades of grey in animal protection and most candidates are somewhere in the middle.

Obama/Biden

Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden both have scores of 75% on the 110th Congress Mid-Term Humane Society Legislative Fund report card. Both co-sponsored the horse slaughter bill and the animal fighting bill, and both signed on to a letter seeking funds for enforcement of animal protection laws. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would prohibit transporting live horses from the US to foreign slaughterhouses, and is still pending. The bill is very similar to the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008. The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act became law in 2007, and created felony penalties for dogfighting and cockfighting. In past years, Obama and Biden have never scored below 60%, and Biden scored 100% in 2004.

Why didn’t they score 100%? Neither Obama nor Biden co-sponsored the Pet Safety and Protection Act, which would prohibit the use of random source dogs and cats for research. The bill is still pending. Current law allows random source dealers, (a.k.a. “B” dealers) to sell former companion animals to laboratories. “B” dealers are known for unscrupulous methods of obtaining animals, such as answering “free to a good home” ads.

Only 17 senators received a score of 100%, so a score of 75% puts both Obama and Biden near the top, but this isn’t the only reason Obama has many fans among animal activists. Obama has helped the campaign against puppy mills by posing for a photo with Baby, a 3-legged dog who was a victim of overbreeding at a puppy mill. Also, Michelle Obama has announced that the family will adopt a rescue dog instead of buying a dog, after the campaign is over. And during the primaries, Obama was also quoted in Time magazine supporting animal protection: "I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other," he said. "And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals."

However, Obama has disappointed some animal activists on at least one issue. As part of a statement on gun control in April of 2007, the Illinois senator said, ”I'm a strong believer in the rights of hunters and sportsmen to have firearms.” Speaking in Ohio in September of 2008, Obama stated, "Let's get the record straight: I believe in the Second Amendment. Nobody who's a hunter out here or a sportsman needs to worry about their guns in an Obama administration." More to the point, Obama told Field and Stream, “if you talk to sportsmen in my home state of Illinois, they will tell you that I've always been a forceful advocate on behalf of the rights of sportsmen, on behalf of access for sportsmen and hunters.” Regarding the future, Obama stated, “I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem. And so my suspicion is that whoever heads up the Department of Interior is probably going to be a sportsman or sportswoman.”

McCain/Palin

John McCain’s score on the Humane Society Legislative Fund report card is 25%, for his co-sponsorship of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. Compared to the rest of the Senate, McCain’s score is not terrible. Approximately half of the Senate scored 25% or lower. But on the past three scorecards, McCain has never scored more than 40%.

A closer look reveals that McCain addressed a rally of the US Sportsmen’s Alliance, a pro-hunting organization, via satellite on September 28, 2008. At that same rally, McCain told the hunting and fishing supporters that he does not hunt, but is a fisherman. In an interview in Field and Stream, McCain spoke in favor of opening up federal lands to hunting and promised to renew President Bush’s subscription to Field and Stream for Air Force One.

Since the HSLF focuses on members of Congress, Sarah Palin has not been rated by the HSLF, but the Alaska governor has a strong history against animal protection in her state. Palin is a hunter and a life member of the NRA, which promotes hunting as well as gun ownership rights. Palin has supported the aerial gunning of predators, delisting polar bears from protection under the Endangered Species Act, and the Iditarod. Palin even went so far as to sue the federal government to delist the polar bear, and covered up scientific data on polar bears.

As a result of their strong record on animal protection, the Obama/Biden ticket has been endorsed by the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Not surprisingly, the McCain/Palin ticket has been endorsed by the pro-hunting National Rifle Association.

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