Who will be the animals’ voice in 2017?

dog-headWhatever your political beliefs, we know one thing. The people that President Trump has indicated he will appoint to key federal positions are no friends to animals. The U.S. president oversees the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies have sweeping powers over not just animals in the United States but all over the world.

Two of the men on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee are particular causes for concern: Forrest Lucas and Bruce Rastetter.

Bruce Rastetter is an agribusiness titan, he’s made millions off of factory farming and is considered a top choice for the Secretary of Agriculture. Forrest Lucas is the founder and chair of an organization with a deceptively innocuous name, Protect the Harvest (PTH). In reality, PTH is an anti-animal protection organization trying to overturn even the mildest welfare measures.

The way that animal groups label themselves is significant. The terms “animal welfare” and “animal rights” can have negative (or positive, depending on who you ask) connotations. But make no mistake, PTH is not a group against animal rights “extremists,” they are fighting to end all protections for all animals, farmed, wild, and pets.

Lucas opposed laws to make cruelty against cats and dogs a felony. [1]  It is shocking to me that a person like that will be setting our national animal protection policies. This is someone who doesn’t support seriously punishing people who torture cats and dogs.

Two of Trump’s adult children are trophy hunters. [2]  Recently, Donald Trump Jr. shot and killed an African elephant (a threatened species under our country’s Endangered Species Act). He then proudly posedwith the elephant’s tail after slicing it off. There’s been talk that Donald Jr. is interested in becoming Interior Secretary which means he would oversee wildlife protection.

Other organizations have already succinctly and intelligently laid out the case that animals are in big trouble under a Trump presidency.

Last month, Michael Markarian, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund wrote that Trump “has assembled a team of advisors and financial supporters tied in with trophy hunting, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other abusive industries.”[3] Markarian also laid out all the major players likely to hold positions of power and influence under Trump regarding animals.

But here’s the rundown or Trump’s agriculture advisors from Markarian:
  • Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and former Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman – Branstad signed the Iowa ag-gag bill (for more on ag-gag laws, check out our earlier blog post). Both governors signed onto a lawsuit attempting to overturn the California law against battery cages for chickens.
  • Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney – helped pass the ag-gag bill that Branstad signed
  • Texas State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller – called Meatless Mondays “treasonous.”
  • Oklahoma state Senator Eddie Fields – overturned the state’s ban on horse meat intended for humans.
  • Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin – signed the horse slaughter bill into law.
  • Missouri state Senator Brian Munzlinger – championed bills to weaken puppy mill regulations.

The animal community hasn’t had much to be happy about in federal politics. Certainly, people fighting on behalf of farmed animals don’t have many friends when comes to political leaders, Democrat or Republican.

But we know most Americans don’t want to see cats and dogs and all animals hurt, so we have hope. Of note from Tuesday’s elections:

  • Massachusetts passed Proposition 3, protecting farmed animals from the cruelest forms of intensive confinement. [4]
  • The Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s dangerous “Right to Farm” (Right to Harm) – which would have made farming a constitutional right, next to speech, failed.
  • Measure 100 in Oregon will ban any trade of elephant ivory, an important step given that the ivory market in the US is second in the world

So though I’m scared, I think those wanting protections for animals, are in the majority.

Now is the time to yell and scream.

We will not only have to continue to push to extend animal protections, we will have to fight hard to stop the rollbacks of even our modest wins for animals. Please join us.


Liz CircleElizabeth ‘Liz’ Holtz is For All Animals’ director of legislative affairs. She is an animal rights attorney and lifelong animal advocate. Liz manages For All Animals’ coalition efforts to pass state laws that protect animals—like strengthening anti-cruelty laws—and defeating laws that harm animals—like ag-gag laws. She also oversees For All Animals’ Attorney at Paw program, which provides assistance to advocates interested in passing laws and ordinances that protect animals on a local level.