Ryan Zinke, Montana Congressman, Confirmed as Trump’s Interior Secretary

Montana Republican Ryan Zinke won Senate confirmation Wednesday to lead the Trump administration’s Interior Department, garnering votes from several Democrats who threw support behind the one-term congressman.

The Senate voted 68-31 in Zinke’s favor — a solid margin for a Trump cabinet appointee after a handful of other nominees were approved by a razor’s-edge.

Image: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on nomination of Ryan Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior
Ryan Zinke testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, 2017. Michael Reynolds / EPA

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL who describes himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” will oversee the department responsible for the management of federal lands and natural resources. He has defended expanding oil, gas and coal production, and has also warned that landowners in Western states are voicing concern over encroaching federal control.

“I have to go out there and restore trust,” he said at his January confirmation hearing.

Zinke, at the hearing, did noticeably contradict President Donald Trump by testifying that he accepts climate change is real and man-made.

“I do not believe it’s a hoax,” Zinke said, in contrast with the president, who previously tweeted that it’s a “hoax” created by China.

Related: Trump’s Cabinet: What You Need to Know About It

Zinke, 55, was also questioned at the hearing about a House vote this year that makes it easier to transfer federal lands to states.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., fired off a series of tweets Wednesday explaining why he vote against Zinke, arguing that “you can’t be a Roosevelt conservationist when you vote to make it easier to sell off public lands.”

Still unconfirmed is Ben Carson as Housing and Urban Development secretary. Carson’s Senate vote has been held up since his confirmation hearing in January

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More Unnecessary Animal Suffering

At the risk of inciting absurd accusations of misanthropy, I want to talk a little bit about animal experimentation. Don’t worry; I won’t make you hear about all the hellacious, gruesome, twisted and/or morbid things non-human animals are put through in the name of medical science. (If you don’t already know what goes on in those torture chambers they call animal testing labs, please go here or Google animal experimentation.)

What I want to look at is just how unnecessary all that animal suffering is. Not only are there other ways to reach the same conclusions, sans the insanity of experimentation, but the fact is, many of the drugs on the market today are simply superfluous. And many of the illnesses and conditions big pharmaceutical companies and the medical industry have us fearing on a daily basis—through obnoxious and irresponsible ads for their products in every medium—are avoidable, preventable or unlikely to ever threaten us.

How many times have their drugs, though tested endlessly on animals, done people more damage through side effects than the ailment they were said to protect us from? And how many nonhuman animals continue to suffer needlessly because of a national obsession with health care created and fueled by the world’s fastest growing industry?

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Nature, Nurture or a Blow to the Head?

Johnny Depp has been quoted as saying, “You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be true for everyone. Some people can be taught to close their hearts as well, as this quote from a former animal-lover-turned-trophy-hunter illustrates: 

“You see, I didn’t grow up hunting and because I loved animals, I never wanted to hunt them. Any stray cat or dog simply became my new best friend. Any wounded animals became my patients, and if any of our animals looked cold in the winter, I would always ask my mom if we had any old coats or shirts that I could lay outside for them to curl up on. ….Dating Scot was a good thing back then, he taught me about hunting, trapping and conservation. He gave me all of the correct information I needed to understand how it was done…”  

Conservation by killing? Now that’s a funny way to express a “love” for animals. Heaven help any stray cat, dog or wounded creature she comes across now that she’s armed with a new understanding of “conservation” tactics. Not to underestimate her hunter boyfriend’s powers of persuasion (read: manipulation, domination and control) but there must also be some sort of shut-off mechanism involved to aid people who care about animals but want to fit into a society that decidedly does not—a society that in fact was built on, and continues to thrive on, animal exploitation. 

It’s a story that has played out over and over and over again throughout human history. Certainly the 4H club has “taught” a lot of caring young kids not to be “sentimental” about the pigs, cows, chickens and rabbits they lovingly raised when it comes time to send them to slaughter. 

Pigs are one of the smartest animals to grace the earth and have nearly hairless bodies, features that should help people relate to them (especially in this age of shaved heads and waxed backs), yet they are objectified more than almost any other living being. They’re even sold and roasted with their head still attached. How many young people in cannibalistic societies over the ages were put off at their first sight of a human on a spit? Chances are they could empathize with the person being slow-roasted over a bed of coals, but they were taught to objectify the victim as an “other” and therefore not worthy of their sympathy. 

Some psychopaths were simply born without a conscience; some may have lost the use of that part of their brain after a severe blow to the head. But many actually learn to shut off their emotions, their natural reactions, to adapt to a violent or abusive household—or simply to get ahead in the world. A number of psychopathic serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, grew up around pets, but eventually used them as victims to practice empathy-blocking techniques and hone their skills as callous killers. 

Thankfully, humanity has moved beyond cannibalism (aside from the five freak cases that cropped up during the last six days of May, of course). But as long as society condones killing and eating animals, people remain only a half a step away from likes of Dahmer or Luka Rocco Magnotta.