(Featured image: male dairy calf, destined for beef slaughter. Courtesy Kim Bartlett – Animal People, Inc.)
Did you see Bernie Sander’s speech the other night, when he came out in opposition to the systematic slaughter of farm animals in America? Did you hear the passion with which — in his thick, Brooklyn accent — he denounced the horrors of vivisection, the abuse of zoos and circuses, and the abomination of hunting? Did you notice how Hillary Clinton, not wanting Sanders to outflank her, adopted a similar stance, and even the Republican front runners were forced to discuss the issue in their most recent debate? No, you didn’t and neither did I. Because, as animalists, we’ve failed non-humans this election.
Of course, in the near future, it isn’t remotely likely leading presidential candidates will take an abolitionist position on animal exploitation. But we can’t even get welfarism, for which I imagine there is a wide base of support, on the agenda. In early October, I attended a packed Sanders speech in Springfield, Mass.; so far as I could tell, there was not a single mention of torturous treatment to which we subject intensively-farmed animals, let alone any other non-human group. This is what we get from the left-most candidate with any national traction: nothing. And to a certain degree, this is our fault.
To be fair, the animalist group Direct Action Everywhere has attempted to force the plight of non-humans into the presidential campaign. In late October a courageous DxE activist, Matt Johnson, stormed the stage at a Clinton rally in Iowa, carrying an animalist banner, before being removed by police. So far as I can tell, all that resulted from this was a few bemused quips from Bill Clinton, but we need far more actions like this. The example we should be following, in this primary, is that of Black Lives Matter activists, who after repeatedly heckling candidates, got those, at least on the Democratic side, to more specifically address criminal-justice reform.
I’ll admit I found the Black Lives Matter interruption of a Sanders event in Seattle annoying. The video of two young women shouting at an elderly candidate — who, as a socialist, I was predisposed to like — inches away from his face, didn’t sit well with me. Further, it seemed disingenuous when one of these women accused the crowd of racism for booing their hijacking of the event. But in retrospect, it’s clear these activists advanced their cause. Sanders made criminal-justice reform a regular and central part of his stump speech.
We need to, so much as it’s possible, do the same for animalism. We need to haunt the candidates. We need to be there with signs and megaphones at every campaign event. We need to shout them down until they address the overwhelming violence our country inflicts on its non-human brethren. We need to be unafraid of being obnoxious, a fear of which, I’ll be the first to admit, I have a hard time overcoming outside of print. So far this election cycle, we’ve failed animals. Let’s not allow it to continue.
(Administrator’s note: to learn more about the 2016 presidential candidates’ positions on animal welfare issues, see Humane Society Legislative Fund’s side-by-side comparison)