Bush & Kerry each seek an animal-friendly image, have contrasting records on animals
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:
WASHINGTON D.C.–Animal issues historically have little
resonance with voters, but the appearance of animal-friendliness is
all-important for U.S. Presidential campaigns, conventional
political wisdom holds.
Only three presidents have ever been elected without mention
being made of their pets, and none since 1880, according to Claire
McLean, curator of the Presidential Pet Museum in Lothian, Virginia.
Some analysts of image-making believe voters may have
preferred Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore in 2000
because Bush fed his cats on camera, in his bathrobe, presenting a
caring appearance, while Gore, in a business suit, only patted his
dog while speaking of other things.
Alexandra Kerry, daughter of Democratic nominee John Kerry,
opened her July 29 address to the Democratic National Convention in
Boston with a pet story.
“It hasn’t been easy to sift through years of memories about
my father and find those few that might best tell you who John Kerry
really is,” Alexandra Kerry began.
“So, let me begin with one July day when [sister] Vanessa
and I were kids. It’s a silly story, but it’s true, and it’s one
of my favorite memories about my father.
“We were standing on a dock,” Alexandra Kerry recounted,
“waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the
scientist, had packed all of her animals, including her favorite
hamster. Our over-zealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash
and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched as Licorice,
the unlucky hamster, bubbled down into a watery doom.
“Now, that might have been the end of the story: A mock
funeral at sea and some tears for a hamster lost. But my dad jumped
in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over
the soggy hamster, and began to administer CPR.
“There are still to this day some reports of mouth-to-mouth,”
Alexandra Kerry said, “but I admit it’s probably a trick of memory.
The hamster was never quite right after that, but he lived.
“It may sound silly, and we still laugh about it today, but
it was serious to us. And that’s what mattered to my father.”
“The Bushes started out with three cats and one dog during
the 2000 campaign and ended up with two dogs and one cat in the White
House,” according to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
The first dog, Spot, was born in the White House, a
daughter of Millie, the spaniel kept by President George H. Bush and
his wife Barbara. Their decision to breed Millie may have provoked
more protest mail than the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Spot died on February 21, 2004.
“The six-toed cat Ernie,” acquired as a stray whom Spot
treed in Texas, “was sent to a friend in Los Angeles, deemed ‘too
wild’ for the White House,” Dowd continued.
The friend, investment banker Brad Freeman, commenced a
much publicized search for Ernie after he disappeared in March 2001.
Ernie was found three weeks later, “reportedly in ragged shape and
without his custom-fitted toe caps,” according to Associated Press.
Barney, a Scotch terrier, took Ernie’s place in the White House.
“Giving Tom Brokaw a tour, the president let slip that his
remaining cat, India, is low pet on the totem pole,” Dowd said.
“Bush recalled the night of September 11, when Secret Service agents
heard a plane and hustled the President and First Lady out of their
bedroom and downstairs to the bunker. Guiding Laura, who was not
wearing her contact lenses, he said, he was ‘holding Barney,
holding Laura, and Spot was chasing behind. Kitty was left to
India, a.k.a. Kitty, became Willie in July 2001, after
about 30 members of the Bharatiya Janata Party then ruling India
protested outside the U.S. consulate in Mumbai, maintaining that her
name was an insult because as one demonstrator put it, “Indians are
lions, not cats.”
Legislator Mangal Prhabhat Lodha told Ramola Talwar Badam of
Associated Press that the BJP members did not ask that the cat should
be renamed, only that she should not be called by the name India on
the White House web site.
In her resume of the Bush family pet history, Dowd also
mentioned a “wacky story going around about how Attorney General John
Ashcroft,” a Bush cabinet favorite, “wants calico cats shooed out
of his sight because they’re signs of the devil.”
White House speechwriter Matthew Scully enjoyed commercial
and critical success with a pro-animal book called Dominion,
published in late 1992.
But the most recent pro-animal activity by any member of the
Bush family not involving their own pets appears to have been a May
2002 appearance by Laura Bush at a vegetarian lunch benefit for the
Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, of Medina, Texas. The sanctuary was
founded by songwriter and author Kinky Friedman.
Apparently taking her information from Bush publicists,
Natalie Gott of Associated Press wrote that the $1,000 per plate
benefit raised $125,000.
ANIMAL PEOPLE later learned from the Utopia Animal Rescue
Ranch filing of IRS Form 990 that the benefit actually netted
slightly less than half that amount, $62,262, after meeting expenses
The Bush family made another attempt to appear friendly
toward animals in general in July 2003, but a photo-op at the
Mokolodi Nature Reserve in Botswana went awry.
“Four elephants were pre-positioned for the benefit of the
president, and of the cameras beaming pictures back home,”
recounted Associated Press writer Tom Raum. “As the yellow pickup
truck carrying the President, the First Lady, and their daughter
Barbara rolled up, two of the elephants engaged in some decidedly
Bush has signed two major pro-animal bills into law.
The Captive Wildlife Safety Act, signed in December 2003, regulates
interstate commerce in exotic and dangerous cats. The co-sponsors
were Representative John Ensign, DVM (R-Nevada), and Senator Jim
Jeffords, of Vermont, a longtime Republican who became an
independent in 2001.
In August 2004 Bush signed the Minor Use and Minor Species
Animal Health Act, to ease the introduction of veterinary drugs for
treatment of species other than dogs, cats, cattle, horses,
swine, chickens, and turkeys. The bill was pushed throughout the
Bush tenure by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the
American Pet Product Manufacturers Association.
Both Bush and Kerry, and their running mates, Vice
President Dick Cheney and North Carolina Senator John Edwards, have
played up their histories as hunters in the 2004 campaign. The
so-called “swing states,” whose voting histories indicate that they
could favor either candidate, and whose electoral votes will decide
the election, include Florida, with 27 electoral votes; Ohio (20);
North Carolina (15); Virginia (13); Missouri (11); Arizona (10);
Colorado (9); Louisiana (9); Arkansas (6); Nevada (5); West
Virginia (5); and New Hampshire (4).
Ten of those 12 states have more active hunters per capita
than the U.S. norm, Florida has the largest sport fishing industry,
and Ohio trails only Michigan and Pennsylvania in total numbers of
Bush and Cheney have by far the stronger hunting credentials.
Both are life members of Safari Club International.
Bush while Texas governor was the Safari Club “Governor of the Year”
in 1995 for vetoing legislation that would have curtailed game
Cheney is believed to have spent more days hunting during the
past four years than any other member of a White House team. His
reported victims have included more than 70 cage-reared pheasants and
an unknown number of mallards killed in December 2003 at the Rolling
Rock Club in Ligonier Township, Pennsylvania, and six ducks killed
on January 5, 2004, on a controversial expedition with U.S. Supreme
Court Justice Antonin Scalia in southern Louisiana. Two actions of
the Bush administration were at the time before the Supreme Court for
review, and both were eventually approved.
“Since 2001, the Bush administration has added over 60 new
hunting and fishing programs on 51 units of our National Wildlife
System,” National Wildlife Service director Steve Williams boasted
to news media on August 30, announcing the opening to hunting of
four more refuges and the expansion of season dates or hunting areas
at 13 others.
At least 315 of the current 544 National Wildlife Refuges now
Kerry animal history
Kerry had little public record as a hunter, though he had
long claimed to hunt, until he shot two pheasants in under five
minutes at a Halloween 2003 photo-op near Colo, Iowa.
Edwards was not widely known as a hunter until July 2004,
when he told Newsweek while endorsing renewal of the since lapsed
federal restrictions on the sale of assault rifles, “I’ve been a
hunter and a gun owner and user and a fisherman since I was a kid.”
Within another sentence Edwards changed the subject to health care.
Pointed out the Bush/Cheney campaign web site, “Kerry has
the highest rating on the Humane Scorecards sponsored jointly by the
Humane Society of the U.S. and the Fund for Animals. Both are
firmly committed to ending hunting.”
HSUS president and Humane USA Political Action Committee chair Wayne
Pacelle in June 2003 observed that, “Senator Kerry was the co-author
with former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) of the successful effort to halt
an annual $2 million subsidy for the mink industry. Kerry was also
co-author, with Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), of letters in recent
years sent to the leaders of the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture
Appropriations to increase funding for [enforcement of] the Animal
Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act. Kerry has cosponsored
almost every piece of [recent] animal protection legislation,”
Pacelle wrote, “including measures to combat cockfighting, bear
baiting, canned hunts, puppy mills, the bear parts trade, the
exotic pet trade, steel-jawed leghold traps, and the abuse of
Kerry, if elected, would bring to the White House “a German
shepherd named Cym and a yellow parakeet,” according to the M2
PressWire press release distribution service.
In addition to the current Kerry family pets and Winston,
the golden retriever who nearly drowned Licorice the hamster, Kerry
is known to have been fond of a dog named VC who was mascot of the
swiftboat he commanded in Vietnam.
“We all took care of him, and he stayed with us and loved
riding on the deck,” M2 PressWire quoted Kerry as saying. “I think
he provided us all with a link to home and a few moments of peace and
tranquility during a dangerous time.”
Once VC disappeared after a mine exploded under the swiftboat.
“After several minutes of frantic searching, the crew
concluded that they had lost him,” M2 PressWire recounted.
Said Kerry, “We were relieved when another boat called
asking if we were missing a dog. It turns out VC was catapulted from
the deck of our boat and landed confused, but unhurt, on the deck of
another boat in our patrol.”
Among Kerry’s other past pets, M2 PressWire added, was a
parakeet that he had in college named Dodi Faustus. Kerry remembered
Dodi as ‘a smart bird who learned a few words of French and Italian,
but not smart enough to avoid having to be rescued from a tree once.'”
Bush is “friend of pork”
The National Pork Producers Council on August 27, 2004 gave
George W. Bush a “Friend of the U.S. Pork Producer” award. He has
received similar honors in the past from the National Cattleman’s
Countered National Resources Defense Council senior attorney
and Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, “The White
House and its executive agencies are now racing to put radical
policies in place that will let their corporate cronies poison our
air, foul our water, and devastate our wildlands for decades to
Kennedy mentioned specifically “the oil, coal, logging,
mining, and chemical industries,” but in previous statements has
made plain that he means factory farmers too.
“Large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the U.S.
and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network,”
Kennedy said in April 2002.
“I lost my law offices in the 9/11 blast, and I lost many
friends,” Kennedy added, “so I don’t say this lightly. I believe
the threat offered by an outside terrorist like Osama bin Laden, who
is clearly evil,” is less than that of “an industry that is lawless
in almost every respect.”
The Bush administration has been moving rapidly to make
industries that often violate environmental protection laws much less
“lawless,” by changing the rules governing enforcement. This
bypasses having to alter legislation, which might meet political
opposition, even with Republican majorities dominating both houses
Many of the rule amendments come at the expense of wildlife.
Among the examples riling Kennedy, the Bush administration
in July 2004 authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to
approve pesticides without consulting with the Fish and Wildlife
Service and National Marine Fisheries Service about possible impact
on endangered species.
Required by the 1973 Endangered Species Act, when there were
just a few dozen protected species, the consultation process became
so complex as the number of protected species rose to about 1,200
that only 30 consultations were initiated within the past decade and
only 12 were completed.
The rule change is expected to sharply reduce the number of
lawsuits filed against the federal government on behalf of endangered
species–such as a case filed in mid-2003 by the Natural Resources
Defense Council against the use of atrazine, an herbicide that
allegedly alters the gender characteristics and fecundity of
reptiles, amphibians, birds, and possibly mammals.
The American Bird Conservancy in mid-2004 used the threat of
a similar lawsuit to persuade the maker of the insecticide fenthion
to withdraw it from the U.S. market. Fenthion was implicated in
killing birds in connection with mosquito control in Florida.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a frequent litigant,
estimates that pesticides are contributing to the endangerment of
about a third of all listed species.
With the threat of lawsuits lessened, the Bush
administration then authorized cattle ranchers who lease grazing
rights on the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in South Dakota to
poison prairie dogs.
The most aggressive Bush administration rule-changing,
however, has benefited the timber industry.
In March 2004, for example, the Bush administration
scrapped a rule adopted as part of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan
that required the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
to survey their holdings for 296 endangered or threatened species
before authorizing logging, prescribed burns, trail-building, or
The change affects 5.5 million acres of old-growth woods.
The species assays are blamed by the timber industry for slowing the
pace of old-growth logging to about half of the rate it projected
when it agreed to the plan.
In July 2004 the Bush administration pledged to reverse the
Roadless Area Conservation Rule, adopted in 2001 by former President
Bill Clinton. After this proved more controversial than Bush
strategists anticipated, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey on
September 7 announced that the final decision will be delayed until
after the election.
On September 1 the Bush administration handed the timber
industry an immediate gift, ruling that the marbled murrelets of
California, Oregon, and Washington will now be considered part of
the larger population inhabiting Alaska and British Columbia. This
may mean that marbeled murrelets will lose Endangered Species Act
Southern marbeled murrelets have been considered a
genetically distinct subspecies. The Pacific office of the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service recommended in April 2004 that they should
retain that status.
Only salmon and spotted owls have been involved in more
restrictions on logging and more lawsuits. The Bush administration
has also moved to count hatchery-reared salmon along with wild stocks
in determining whether salmon runs are endangered, and to
consolidate for regulatory purposes some spotted owl populations
which have been considered subspecies, but may not be fully distinct.
Rule-changing on behalf of loggers and the oil and gas
industry has prompted objections since 2002 from the National
Wildlife Federation, among the most conservative of the major U.S.
environmental groups. More than 500 local hunting clubs signed onto
a letter protesting the 2003 Bush administration to open the Tongass
National Forest of southern Alaska to old-growth logging.
But Bush strategists seem to have judged rightly that gun
issues will trump environmental concerns when hunters vote.
Birders vs. Bush
Birders are another historically conservative constituency,
whose largest collective voice, the National Audubon Society, was
begun in 1905 by George Bird Grinnell to regulate competitive
bird-shooting. Eighteen years earlier, Grinnell and Theodore
Roosevelt founded the Boone & Crockett Club to regulate trophy
hunting of mammals. Ninety-nine years later, the National Audubon
Society has kept birders mostly politically aligned with hunters–but
bird photographer Theodore Cross, of Princeton, New Jersey,
recently formed Birders United to Defeat Bush to try to break that
“America’s 15 million adult bird enthusiasts have been
passive bystanders to the severe destruction of bird habitats caused
by the Bush administration,” Cross charges at
“In the past few years,” Cross continues, “the Bush
administration has engaged in a systematic campaign to remove federal
protection of a third of America’s wetlands, vital for 50% or more of
our nesting birds, and to undermine legislation protecting endangered
and threatened birds.
“One of America’s most charming and delicate shorebirds, the
piping plover, is close to extinction,” Cross cites by way of
example. “The Bush administration has permitted the reduction of
critical habitat for this bird by 92%,” as sought by BNP Petroleum,
in connection with drilling near the South Padre Island National
Seashore in Texas.
In 2001, Cross recalls, then-Alabama attorney general
William H. Pryor Jr. argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the
federal government “invaded the province of the states” by invokiing
the Clean Air Act to protect wetlands used by migratory birds.
In December 2003, while Congress was recessed, Bush
appointed Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The recess
appointment enabled Bush to evade a Senate review of Pryor’s
credentials and potential conflicts of interest.
“The appointment is in effect until a new Congress convenes
in January,” Cross notes. “Should Bush be reelected, it can be
expected that Pryor will be renominated for a seat on the court,”
which “has jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Pryor
will sit in judgment,” Cross reminds, “over any key environmental
case affecting the Everglades and other wetlands in Florida.”
But even that was not the Bush action most motivating Cross.
In September 2003, Cross recounts, “Bush nominated William
J. Haynes II to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. As a Defense
Department lawyer, Haynes argued that bombing Farallon de Medinilla,
an important haven for many rare birds, would actually be beneficial
for bird watchers,” because it “would disperse the birds to other
islands, so many more people would be able to see them.”
Cross calculates that in all the so-called swing states “the
number of adult bird enthusiasts is so large that an organized bird
watcher vote could control the outcome. If only 270 Republican bird
watchers in Florida had shifted their votes,” Cross concludes,
“Bush would not now be in the Oval Office.”