From a four-legged vantage point, a Trump administration would be a disaster. Last month, the Trump campaign floated billionaire Forrest Lucas as the potential secretary of the interior in his administration, a position that oversees vital animal-related programs at the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Described as “the leading anti-animal advocate in the United States” by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Lucas has dedicated much of his time and fortune to defending some of the worst animal abuse industries in our country.
Lucas’ anti-animal front organization, Protect the Harvest, spent a quarter of a million dollars to try to block a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have set felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to dogs, cats and horses. That’s relevant to Lucas’ potential influence in a Trump administration, given that the Bureau of Land Management manages tens of thousands of wild horses in the West.
Lucas’ political machine has also advanced other anti-animal causes, including so-called “right to farm” legislation in states like North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Oklahoma. Such legislation would leave millions of animals suffering in silence on factory farms and slaughterhouses, while undermining the Bureau of Land Management’s role in humanely administering 155 million acres of grazing land for cattle and sheep.
While Interior is not directly responsible for companion animal programs, Lucas has shown callous indifference to their protection by funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to efforts to weaken and repeal tough standards to reform puppy mills in Missouri, the nation’s largest dog-breeding state. The Lucas group also helped kill a local initiative in Indiana that simply would have required proper outdoor shelters to protect dogs and cats from the elements.
Along with Lucas, the other members of Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee include some of the most vocal anti-animal business leaders and elected officials in our country. Former Iowa State Rep. Annette Sweeney, one member of that group, was the author of her state’s “ag gag” bill, a perverse inversion of justice in which the heroes who film cruelty on factory farms are instead charged as criminals themselves. That bill was signed into law by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, another advisor on Trump’s team.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, yet another member of Trump’s committee, is infamous for vetoing a bill that would have banned trophy hunting of mountain lions in his state, thus extending Lucas’ anti-cat efforts outlined earlier to their wild cousins as well.
But Donald Trump doesn’t need to consult his advisory board to find defenders of cruel trophy hunting practices like Heineman. He has more than enough of them in his own family.
Sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. have offended millions of wildlife lovers with their pay-to-kill hunts for some of Africa’s most magnificent creatures, including elephants, kudus, civet cats, crocodiles, waterbucks and leopards. Pictures of the Trump boys posing with the victims of their murderous vacations have drawn condemnation across the world, but a much more muted response from their father, who justified it with a casual comment that his “sons love to hunt.”
In this midst of Trump’s anti-animal tornado, it is with wistful retrospection that many Republican animal advocates remember the past leadership by our party on many of the same issues. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the first federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act into law, as well as legislation prohibiting the poisoning of wild horse and burro waterholes. President Richard Nixon expanded the scope and coverage of animal protection legislation by signing landmark animal protection laws including the Animal Welfare Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Endangered Species Act.
President Gerald Ford expanded both the Animal Welfare Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, while Republican legislative leaders like Senator Bob Dole championed the protection of farm animals throughout their careers from their seats in Congress. More recently, Representative Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) twice led Congress to ban horrific animal crush videos, and dozens of Republican representatives in both chambers have fought for legislation to protect whales, chimpanzees, horses and companion animals from cruelty and abuse.
On Election Day, those are the voices for animals that we should honor and respect. If you love your dog, cherish your cat or care about other animals on farms or in the wild, then proxy their paws in the voting booth and pull the lever for anybody but Donald Trump.
Weinstein is CEO of Ridgeback Communications. He was director of media relations for the Dole/Kemp presidential campaign and was deputy press secretary to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.