The Presidential Files: Hillary Clinton’s Experience on Animal Protection Issues
After winning the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, Sen. Hillary Clinton has largely made it a race between her and Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. Like Obama, Clinton has been a strong supporter of animal protection issues, and has brought something unique to the debate over animal welfare in presidential politics. She recently responded to a questionnaire from the Humane Society Legislative Fund, in which she outlined her experience on animal welfare policy as First Lady and then as U.S. Senator.
In her questionnaire response, Clinton indicates her support for every major animal protection bill in Congress, and says she will work with executive agencies to implement humane policies and adequate funding and enforcement for animal welfare laws. “I believe animal welfare is an important issue to Americans, and I would work to address these problems when I am President, as I have during my time in the Senate,” she wrote. “From preventing dog fighting to preventing horse slaughter to addressing global warming, I will work to ensure that these issues get the attention and support they deserve.”
In her seven years in the U.S. Senate, Clinton has been a consistent supporter of animal protection, scoring 100 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, and 100+ for the 109th Congress. She is currently a co-sponsor of legislation dealing with horse slaughter and animal fighting, and she previously co-sponsored legislation to stop the processing of “downer” livestock and to crack down on abusive puppy mills where dogs are cruelly confined and treated like production machines. She has also signed letters requesting more funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to step up enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal animal fighting law.
One thing that stands out about Clinton’s record is that she has taken a leadership role in efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals. The same drugs used to treat illness in people are often used in massive quantities on factory farms—not because the animals are sick, but in order to build up immunity so more animals can be crammed together in overcrowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions. Because these drugs are pumped into the food we eat, they lose their effectiveness when they’re needed most.
Clinton spearheaded efforts in Congress to study the effects of certain antibiotics in animal feeds and to prohibit the USDA from buying chickens for the federal school lunch program that have been injected with cipro-like antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. Her successful efforts on the antibiotic issue have helped people and animals, and have informed her outlook on the broader issues related to the production of animals on industrial factory farms. “I also believe it is good that there is a growing market for food that is produced with better living conditions for animals,” she wrote.
In advance of the Iowa caucuses, Clinton was criticized by small farmers for selecting Joy Philippi, an industrial hog farm operator and past president of the National Pork Producers Council, as her co-chair of “Rural Americans for Hillary.” Philippi’s industry trade group had lobbied against some environmental standards for factory farms, and had fought against modest animal welfare reforms such as banning two-foot-wide gestation crates for breeding pigs. Given Clinton’s leadership on factory farming issues and her call for local control over where Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) can be located, selecting the face of corporate agriculture to represent her campaign seemed like an incongruous choice. But this one possible misstep shouldn’t negate Clinton’s positive actions in fighting industrial factory farms, and her support for the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act is a tremendously important statement.
When she served as First Lady, Clinton wrote a book, “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy,” featuring many of the letters that children had sent to the First Pets, and gave the proceeds to the National Park Foundation. It was a dual indicator of the importance of celebrating animals in our culture: our fascination with the pets who share our homes, and with the wild animals who share our environment. Clinton’s other famous book from that era, “It Takes a Village,” was based on the African proverb that it takes an entire community to raise a child. But it could easily be applied to animal protection, too. It takes all of us working together to create a more humane world for people and animals.