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Monday, June 23, 2008

All Elections Matter to Animals

When Al Gore took the stage in Detroit last week, it probably wasn’t much of a surprise that he would endorse Barack Obama for president. But it did surprise some people that he mentioned dogs and cats in his remarks, and that he commented on the importance of elections—even to animals.

You can watch a clip on YouTube or read a transcript on CNN, but here is an excerpt:

If you care about a clean environment, if you want a government that protects you instead of special interests, you know that elections matter.

If you care about food safety, if you like a T on your BLT, you know that elections matter.

If you bought poisoned, lead-filled toys from China or adulterated medicine made in China, if you bought tainted pet food made in China, you know that elections matter.

After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter.

It wasn’t the first time the pet food scandal has been held up as an indicator of problems with food safety and our trade relations with China. In fact, Senator Hillary Clinton made similar remarks back in February.

Cat What’s unique about Gore’s statement is that some media pundits took the line out of context and appeared to mock it. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program showed a clip of the Gore speech, but spliced it to remove the line about tainted pet food from China. Without the reference to the pet food scandal, the subsequent line about dogs and cats stood out like a sore thumb.

Joe Scarborough offered a perplexed reaction: “Yeah, he lost me with the dogs and cat thing. I think that was a shark-jump too far.” The watchdog group Media Matters for America pointed out the blunder and called out MSNBC for taking the piece out of context.

After all, last year’s constant drumbeat of pet food recalls shook the nation, and was no laughing matter. The melamine that caused adulteration of pet food claimed the lives of an untold number of dogs and cats, perhaps thousands. Congress passed legislation, as part of the Food and Drug Administration reauthorization bill, to set some new standards for pet food products. And companies that were sued over contaminated pet food agreed to pay $24 million to pet owners in the United States and Canada.

Two-thirds of American households have pets, and ensuring that pet food is safe and healthy is important to millions of people. In fact, whether it's dogfighting or puppy mills or factory farming, animal issues matter. All elections have implications for animals and will determine how policymakers address these issues.

Maybe our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter, but the nation has learned that animals matter to all of us.

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