If an­i­mals could vote

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— The an­i­mal king­dom will have lost one of its staunch­est de­fend­ers when the Oval Of­fice is aban­doned by Barack Obama, who through a series of crit­i­cal, ad­min­is­tra­tive rule­mak­ings has done more to pro­tect an­i­mals than any other pres­i­dent in re­cent mem­ory.

This will be es­pe­cially dev­as­tat­ing if Don­ald Trump re­places him — not only be­cause of his sons’ lust for hunt­ing ex­otic game but also be­cause his re­cently an­nounced agri­cul­ture ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee in­cludes sev­eral ac­tive op­po­nents of an­i­mal pro­tec­tion poli­cies.

By now, many will have seen the pho­to­graphs cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia of Eric Trump and Don­ald Jr. dis­play­ing their tro­phy kills. One shows the two young men posed with a leop­ard they killed in Africa. An­other shows Ju­nior hold­ing the tail of an ele­phant, which he ap­pears to have just sliced off with the knife in his other hand, and an­other of him loung­ing against the life­less hulk of a Cape buf­falo bull. A fourth photo shows the broth­ers’ smil­ing faces framed be­tween the horns of a mag­nif­i­cent wa­ter­buck.

If these snap­shots were in­tended to cap­ture the rap­ture of proud man­hood, they missed their mark. Trump’s spawn aren’t Maa­sai war­riors, suf­fice it to say. But even the Maa­sai have stopped killing li­ons to prove them­selves, thanks to con­ser­va­tion­ists, and now de­ter­mine lead­er­ship ac­cord­ing to who jumps high­est — ev­i­dence that one can eas­ily jump a ri­val’s fence when raid­ing cows.

When asked about his sons’ bloody hobby, Trump de­murred ex­cept to say that his sons are ex­cel­lent marks­men. Trump prefers golf, he said, and he ob­vi­ously lim­its tro­phy col­lect­ing to women. Ju­nior, mean­while, says he’d like to head the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior, which, among other things, over­sees tro­phy hunt­ing im­ports. Un­der Obama, ele­phant tro­phies from Tan­za­nia and Zim­babwe were halted and African li­ons were listed as threat­ened. What would a tro­phy-hunt­ing Trump do with such pro­tec­tions?

Mean­while, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee’s anti-an­i­mal an­i­mus may be gleaned from his choice of agri­cul­ture ad­vis­ers, which the Hu­mane So­ci­ety Leg­isla­tive Fund has called a “rogues gallery” of anti-an­i­mal wel­fare ac­tivists. (Dis­claimer: My son works for the Hu­mane So­ci­ety.)

Fore­most is For­rest Lu­cas, bil­lion­aire founder of Pro­tect the Har­vest, an or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on fight­ing the Hu­mane So­ci­ety and op­pos­ing any leg­is­la­tion aimed at re­strict­ing cruel an­i­mal prac­tices in the pro­duc­tion of meat, dairy and eggs.

But such hu­mane propo­si­tions are viewed by Lu­cas’ group as un­nec­es­sar­ily re­stric­tive to busi­ness, lim­it­ing our free­doms and at­tack­ing our all­too-Amer­i­can cul­ture. Among the “tra­di­tions” the har­vest group has sought to pro­tect are cir­cuses, il­lus­trated on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site with a photo of ele­phants ab­surdly parad­ing in a conga line on their hind legs. Thanks to an­i­mal ac­tivists and en­light­ened spec­ta­tors, Rin­gling Bros. and Bar­num & Bai­ley re­cently re­tired its ele­phants from the ring to the last­ing de­pri­va­tion of no one.

Lu­cas and Co. have also op­posed ef­forts to es­tab­lish felony-level penal­ties for ma­li­cious cru­elty against dogs, cats and horses, even fight­ing stan­dards for dogs in com­mer­cial puppy mills.

Also on the com­mit­tee is Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first gov­er­nor to sign into law an “ag-gag” mea­sure that pun­ishes whistle­blow­ers, giv­ing fac­tory farm­ers free rein over an­i­mal wel­fare and worker safety. The bill’s spon­sor, for­mer Iowa state Rep. An­nette Sweeney, is also a Trump ad­viser. An­other ad­viser, for­mer Ne­braska Gov. Dave Heine­man, ve­toed a bill to end the sport hunt­ing of moun­tain li­ons and has de­fended fac­tory farm­ing prac­tices that many happy om­ni­vores find rep­re­hen­si­ble, in­clud­ing the use of bat­tery cages and ges­ta­tion crates.

Ad­viser and Iowa fac­tory farmer Bruce Rastet­ter is re­ported to be a lead­ing can­di­date to be­come Trump’s agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary. His brother is CEO of a com­pany that builds largescale hog fa­cil­i­ties as well as ges­ta­tion crates for breed­ing sows. Which way Trump leans — an­i­mal wel­fare or busi­ness prof­its — doesn’t seem to be in ques­tion.

Let’s just say that his se­lec­tion of ad­vis­ers, cou­pled with a cav­a­lier at­ti­tude to­ward his sons’ big-game hunt­ing, bodes ill for an­i­mals and the pro­tec­tions so many Amer­i­cans find both rea­son­able and de­sir­able. I guess it’s all in how you de­fine free­dom. Per­son­ally, I’d like to see how high these mer­ci­less profit-war­riors and tro­phy hunters can jump — not as a pre­lude to lead­er­ship but rather to the ever-pop­u­lar fly­ing leap.

Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.


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