There are many reasons to support Bernie Sanders, but this article will solely focus on issues relating to animal welfare and rights, and to that extent, the environment.
Right now the race for the Democratic nominee is between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Some of you may be on the fence about who to vote for in your state’s primary. Others may have already decided on Biden. But if you care about animals, the answer is clear: You should vote for Sanders.
I have been vegan over 7 years, and vegetarian before that. Animal rights matters to me. With the current Trump administration, I’ve been horrified to witness a devolution in animal welfare. At this moment, we have the opportunity to nominate, and then elect, someone whose platform is based on compassion for all, including nonhuman animals. No, Bernie is not vegan, or even vegetarian as far as I know. However, when one looks at the animal welfare legislation that Sanders co-sponsored or supported throughout his political career, public statements he has made, and the Green New Deal, it is clear that the lives of some of the most exploited animals, including wildlife, would likely improve if Sanders was elected.
Factory farms are responsible for 1.4 trillion pounds of animal waste in America. They are a threat to the water we drink and the air we breathe, and it is unbelievable to me that Republicans in Congress have been working overtime to exempt factory farms from environmental laws.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 5, 2019
We can no longer ignore the problem of global warming. Climate change is among the top issues for voters, and we need a President who not only understands our concerns (unlike Trump, who called climate change a “Chinese hoax”) but can address them with a plan. We need someone with courage to take on the agricultural industry, which is a significant driver of climate change. Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal (GND) does this.
With the Green New Deal, a Sanders presidency will mean enforcement of the Clean Air and Water Acts. For far too long, factory farms have gotten away with polluting our water and air due to lack of enforcement. As the GND states, “Farm practices should not infringe on the ability of other farmers and neighbors to carry out the normal activities of farming and rural lifestyles.” Sanders’ Green New Deal is supported by the Climate Justice Alliance, which has member alliance of 70 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and supporting networks. Update 3/10: And the Center for Biological Diversity’s Action Fund gave Sanders a 10/10 grade on their Climate Scorecard. Biden received a 2/10.
Sanders’ stance on factory farming is encouraging. In August, the results of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund’s questionnaire were released, in which the Presidential candidates responded to top issues in the Iowa caucus. One of these questions was regarding factory farming. The candidates were asked, Will you stand up for our air, water and quality of life and sign our letter calling for a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms in Iowa? Sanders answered yes. (In contrast: Joe Biden received this questionnaire and did not respond to it.)
A Bernie Sanders presidency could mean a break-up of the biggest animal exploiters; the GND specifically states that its goal is to break up “big agribusinesses that have a stranglehold on farmers and rural communities.” There are different ways this could happen:
- The Green New Deal has $41 billion earmarked for transitioning large-scale confined animal feeding operations, also known as factory farms, into “ecologically regenerative practices.” You can read more about the “regenerative revolution” here.
- Reforming farm subsidies. As Sanders correctly points out: “[I]nstead of protecting family-owned farms, federal support of agriculture is skewed toward large factory farming. […] The top 10 percent of farms currently get 77 percent of all subsidies.” Animal rights activists understand the evil that is the farm subsidies — subsidies hide the true cost of animal products from consumers, and create an unequal playing field for animal products versus plant-based products.
- Combat agricultural monopolies with antitrust action against meat companies, and undo previous mergers. In March of last year, Sanders wrote a guest column attacking animal exploiters like Homel and Tyson, writing: “Hormel had its tax bill cut by more than half last year. And Tyson — the nation’s largest meat packer, which rakes in tens of billions of dollars a year — effectively paid nothing in federal taxes last year.” Sanders went on to say, “We must end the absurd situation where the top four packing companies now control more than 80 percent of the beef market, 63 percent of the pork market, and 53 percent of the chicken market.” You can read an in-depth look on the issue of agribusiness monopolization here.
- “If [Teddy Roosevelt] were alive today, I think I know what he would be saying to these huge agribusiness corporations,” Sanders said. “He would say we are going to break them up. And working together, that is exactly what we are going to do.”
Sanders is often accused of being too “radical,” but his positions actually align with much of the population. This is true with healthcare, and also with his policies regarding animal welfare and farming. Polls and surveys show that Americans claim to care about how animals on farms are treated, how factory farms pollute the environment, and how there should be increased oversight. For example:
- 50% of consumers who often eat beef said it’s important they eat beef that came from animals treated humanely (Technomic’s 2019 Center of the Plate: Beef and Pork Consumer Trend Report).
- Nearly two-thirds of consumers agree that humane treatment of animals raised for food should be a societal concern and a regulatory issue (2017 survey by Packaged Facts).
In a poll on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, results showed that “more than eight out of every 10 people surveyed voiced concern about problems CAFOs cause for public health, air and water pollution and worker safety”; and “almost 70 percent of those surveyed were concerned about how CAFOs disproportionately harm low-income people and people of color because of where they are sited.” And perhaps most importantly, “A majority of national respondents (54 percent) think the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of people.” Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal is how we can begin solving the problem and meeting those needs.
Throughout his political career, Sanders has supported various pro-animal positions. These include:
- Calling on the Trump administration to ban trophy hunting imports of endangered species;
- Ensuring horse slaughter remains illegal;
- Demanding that the Trump administration restore animal cruelty and puppy mill records on the USDA website; and
- Raising concerns over the Trump administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act.
Additionally, Sanders has consistently rated highly from various animal-related organizations. Some examples: For the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund’s Climate Scorecard, he was given a rating of 100%. The Humane Society Legislative Fund also gave Sanders a 100% rating. In 2018, for positions on Endangered Species Act, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund gave Sanders an 89%, and the Animal Welfare Institute rated him 88% in 2018.
Update 3/10: The Center for Biological Diversity’s Action Fund just released their Environmental Report rating. The difference is clear:
Has Bernie been perfect? No! And we cannot expect that of anyone. However, we need to take these first steps toward a more just world by electing a President who grasps that combating the status quo regarding our treatment of animals and the environment is a centrally important issue.
As Bernie tweeted just today:
We are capable of making sweeping change if we have the courage to do it.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 9, 2020
Have courage and take action! Bernie Sanders cannot get elected without our support. Vote when it’s your time, and until then, spread the word and donate to the campaign if you can.
Links throughout the post. See also:
Bernie Sanders photo credit: Lorie Shaull. Used under a Creative Commons license.