Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tom Vilsack To Be Ag Secretary: Animal Groups React

As you may have heard by now, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is Barack Obama's choice to head the Department of Agriculture. Notably, two of the nation's leading animals rights crusaders offered a mixed reaction.

The Humane Society seemed pleased. Writing in his blog, Animals & Politics, Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said Vilsack was the top choice of head the USDA.

"As governor of Iowa, Vilsack advocated for bills to toughen the state's penalties for animal fighting. He stood up to the puppy mill industry and vetoed a bill in 2006 that would have weakened protections for pets by reclassifying dogs as "farm products." He also...vetoed legislation in 2001 that would have allowed the sport hunting of mourning doves for the first time in decades."

Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection group, was more critical in its statement, given by Gene Baur, president and co-founder.

"Vilsack has an uneven track record when it comes to farm animals and fighting factory farming. He has supported some animal protection measures and has at times stood up to Big Ag, yet he has also taken actions that are not in the best interest of farm animals or rural communities. During his tenure as governor of Iowa, the state saw a proliferation of massive hog farms, and we saw these hog farms first-hand this summer when we rescued pigs from the flooding in southeastern Iowa."

While a historic shift has come to Washington on a campaign that had a central theme of "change," we humans are creatures of habit, and change in practice is harder to implement than change in theory. That is why it is more important than ever to be emblodended by victories such a Proposition 2 in California, and keep the fight going. The animals are depending on all of us.

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