Appalled by Palin, Humane Society Legislative Fund endorses Obama

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 200*:

WASHINGTON D.C.-The Republican nomination
of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to run for U.S.
vice president alongside presidential candidate
John McCain inspired the Humane Society
Legislative Fund to break with precedent in
unanimously endorsing Democratic presidential
nominee Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe
The Humane Society Legislative Fund board
includes prominent Republicans as well as
“While we have endorsed hundreds of
Congressional candidates for election, both
Democrats and Republicans, we have never before
endorsed a presidential candidate,” wrote Humane
Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian
in his September 22, 2008 blog.

“As an Illinois state senator,”
Markarian explained, “Obama backed at least a
dozen animal protection laws, including to
strengthen the penalties for animal cruelty, to
help animal shelters, to promote spaying and
neutering, and to ban the slaughter of horses
for human consumption. In the U.S. Senate, he
has consistently co-sponsored bills to combat
animal fighting and horse slaughter, and has
supported efforts to increase funding for
adequate enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act,
Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal
laws to combat animal fighting and puppy mills.”
Responding to a Humane Society
Legislative Fund questionnaire, Obama “pledged
support for nearly every animal protection bill
currently pending in Congress,” Markarian said.
“Obama also commented on the broader
links between animal cruelty and violence in
society,” Markarian mentioned.
Conceded online animal advocacy
commentator Karen Dawn, who has frequently
praised Republicans, “Obama’s record on animal
issues is better than most. I have spoken to him
personally, and found a keen awareness of and
interest in the connection between the livestock
industry and global warming. Yet animal issues
are hardly at the forefront of Obama’s
campaign–he is no vegan Kucinich.”
Humane Society of the U.S. president
Wayne Pacelle has also frequently praised
Republicans, but Obama appeared to win Pacelle’s
support in July 2008 by pledging to adopt a
shelter dog for his daughters.
The anti-puppy mill book A Rare Breed of
Love, by Jana Kohl, published earlier in 2008,
includes a photo of Obama posing with Kohl’s dog
Baby in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Obama convinced many pro-animal voters
of his sincerity when Entertainment Weekly asked
him to name the first film he could remember
watching as a child.
“I don’t remember the first movie,”
Obama replied, “but I can tell you that one of
the first was Born Free. I remember that movie
having an impact on me. I think I may have
teared up at the end when they release [the
lioness] Elsa. I couldn’t have been more than
four or five, but I remember choking up on that.”
Continued Markarian, “Republican Senator
John McCain voted for and co-sponsored
legislation to stop horse slaughter, and voted
to eliminate a $2 million subsidy for the luxury
fur coat industry. But he has largely been
absent on other issues. The McCain campaign did
not fill out the Humane Society Legilsative Fund
presidential questionnaire, and has not issued
any public statements on animal welfare issues.
Yet he did speak at the National Rifle
Association convention earlier this year, and
was the keynote speaker” at a late September
conference held by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.
Endorsing McCain through a “Sportsmen for
McCain National Steering Committee” were National
Rifle Association past president Sandra Froman,
American Council of Snowmobile Associations
executive director Christine Jourdain, former
National Wild Turkey Federation chief executive
Rob Keck, Boone & Crockett Club past president
Robert Model, and Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife
founder Don Peay.
McCain has also long enjoyed the backing
of prominent members of Safari Club
International, whose national headquarters in
Tucson is within his home state.
But the League of Conservation Voters,
Defenders of Wildlife, and the Sierra Club have
all long backed Obama. While all three
organizations’ statements have emphasized
McCain’s positions on energy issues in opposing
him, mainstream conservationists have been
annoyed since February 2003 by McCain’s repeated
derisive attacks on a five-year, $4.8 million
grizzly bear census based on DNA analysis of hair
and scats.
McCain continued to scoff at the study in
his September 26 debate with Obama.
“There are approximately 765 grizzly
bears in northwestern Montana,” summarized
Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello four days
earlier, after the U.S. Geological Survey
announced the study results. “That’s the largest
population of grizzly bears documented in Montana
in more than 30 years,” three times as many as
were believed to be in the region when the study
was first proposed, half again as many as the
most recent previous estimates by conventional
counting methods.
“Supporters of the research included
Montana ranchers, farmers and Republican
leaders,” said Cappiello. “They pushed for the
study as a step toward taking grizzlies off the
endangered species list. Since 1975, grizzlies
have been [designated as] threatened in the lower
48 states, a status that bars hunting
[grizzlies] and restricts development.”
“While McCain’s positions on animal
protection have been lukewarm,” wrote Markarian,
“his choice of running mate cemented our decision
to oppose his ticket. Governor Sarah Palin’s
record is so extreme that she has perhaps done
more harm to animals,” in only two years in
office, “than any other current governor in the
United States.
“Obama’s running mate, Delaware Senator
Joe Biden, has been a stalwart friend of animal
welfare advocates in the Senate,” Markarian
wrote, “and has received high marks year after
year on our Humane Scorecard. In the 108th
Congress he was the co-author with California
Senator Barbara Boxer of legislation to ban the
netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen.
He was the lead author of a bill in the 107th
Congress to prohibit trophy hunting of captive
exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he
successfully passed the bill through the Senate
Judiciary Committee.”
Palin’s parents, Chuck and Sally Heath
of Anchorage, Alaska, “have been part-time U.S.
Department of Agriculture wildlife specialists
for the past 15 years, traveling throughout
Alaska trapping or killing animals,” recounted
Associated Press writer Matt Volz. Among their
assignments, Volz noted, have been killing
Arctic foxes for preying on nesting Canada geese
in the Pribilof islands, poisoning rats on
Palmyra Atoll, and killing mice and rats in
debris from the World Trade Center during the
search for human remains in the Fresh Kills
landfill in January 2002.
Palin rose to political prominence in
Alaska as mayor of Wasilla, a town of 7,000
known chiefly as the starting point for the
annual 1,100-mile Iditarod dog sled race. Palin
promoted the race, which is opposed by many
animal advocates.
As governor, “Environmentalists have
nicknamed Palin the ‘killa from Wasilla,”
reported Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello.
Upon being nominated to run for vice
president, Palin declared that her favorite food
is “moose burgers.” Among the first photographs
distributed by Palin boosters after her
nomination were several showing her and one of
her daughters with a moose whom Palin shot, one
showing her speaking in the governor’s office
from a sofa with a grizzly bear pelt (head
attached) draped over the back, and one of her
speaking while wearing fur. A photo of her
parents’ home showed little space that was not
stuffed with hunting and trapping trophies.
“Her philosophy from our perspective is
cut, kill, dig and drill,” Alaska Wildlife
Alliance president John Toppenberg said. “She is
in the Stone Age of wildlife management and is
very opposed to utilizing accepted science.”
Continued Cappiello, “At the National
Governors Association conference where she first
met John McCain, Palin had other business:
making her case to Interior Secretary Dirk
Kempthorne against classifying the polar bear as
a threatened species.”
On August 4, 2008 Palin in her capacity
as governor of Alaska “sued the government for
listing the polar bear,” recounted Mark
Hertsgaard in The Nation. The listing, Palin
asserted, would harm Alaskan oil and gas
“The George W. Bush administration had
not wanted to designate the polar bear as
threatened in the first place,” Hertsgaard
explained. Polar bears were protected only under
pressure of court orders, based on a finding by
the U.S. Geological Survey that two-thirds of all
polar bears could be lost by 2050 if Arctic ice
continues to melt at the present rate.
“The listing was the first time global
warming had been cited as the sole premise in an
Endangered Species Act case,” Hertsgaard
continued. “Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne
clearly wanted it to be the last. When
Kempthorne announced the polar bear listing, he
emphasized that it would not affect federal
policy on global warming or block development in
the Arctic. On August 11,” with Palin’s lawsuit
as pretext, Kempthorne “proposed new rules that
could allow federal agencies to decide for
themselves whether their actions will imperil a
threatened or endangered species. To make sure
no one missed the point, Kempthorne told
reporters that the new rule would keep the
Endangered Species Act from becoming ‘a back
door’ to making climate change policy.”
Wrote Alaska Conservation Solutions
president Deborah Williams, “Palin’s actions and
comments regarding polar bears and the impact of
global warming on the Arctic ice cap reveal
serious problems with her views on science and
proper governmental process. Governor Palin
asserted that the state did a ‘comprehensive
review’ of the science and found no reason to
support a listing. This statement flatly
contradicted the conclusions reached and
communicated by the state’s leading marine mammal
Palin also opposes protecting the
estimated 375 beluga whales remaining in the Cook
Inlet, off Anchorage–less than 20% of the
population believed to have inhabited the Cook
Inlet in 1959, when Alaska was admitted to
“Federal scientists have said the Cook
Inlet whales have a 26 percent chance of going
extinct in the next 100 years,” pointed out
Associated Press writer Mary Pemberton.
A decision on listing the Cook Inlet
belugas as threatened is due by October 20, two
weeks before election day.
Among Palin’s many hostile positions
toward wildlife, her antipathy toward wolves is
best known, amplified in part by a McCain/Palin
TV commercial which depicted their political
opponents as a wolf pack.
“I have lived in Alaska for nearly 25
years, long enough to see the on-again off-again
cycles of predator control,” wrote Friends of
Animals member Marybeth Holleman in a statement
distributed by FoA. “Never has the killing of
wolves and bears in order to inflate the numbers
of moose and caribou been so widespread and
mean-spirited as under Palin’s reign. Under
Palin, private citizens kill wolves from planes
under the guise of predator control. They run the
wolves to exhaustion, and then shoot them.
Under Palin, for the first time in 20 years,
wolves are also gunned down from state-chartered
helicopters. Palin authorized $400,000 in state
funds for advertising to persuade Alaskans to
vote against a ballot initiative that would have
curtailed aerial hunting. Her propaganda was
successful; the ballot measure failed,” just one
day before her nomination to run for vice
“Under Palin, for the first time since
Alaska statehood, it’s legal to do
land-and-shoot killing of bears and their cubs,”
Holleman added. “Under Palin, predator control
has spread from one to five regions of Alaska,
to over 60,000 square miles, more than at any
time since statehood. Nearly 800 wolves have
been shot from planes, and some 2,000 are killed
every year by other methods. And that’s just the
reported deaths. Palin even went so far last
year as to put a bounty on wolves– she wanted to
pay $150 for a foreleg of each dead wolf. Thanks
to Friends of Animals, the Alaska Wildlife
Alliance, and Defenders of Wildlife, her wolf
bounty was ruled illegal by the courts.”
Palin’s speech accepting the Republican
vice presidential nomination was ghosted by
former White House speechwriter Mat-thew Scully,
author of Dominion: The Power of Man, The
Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy
Noted Massimo Calabresi of Time magazine,
“Scully is best known for his vigorous defense of
animal rights. A vegetarian who is regularly
critical of the NRA and much of the hunting
community, he is a passionate advocate for doing
away with the more brutal versions of
blood-sport, including aerial hunting, which
Palin supports.”
Karen Dawn hoped that the Scully/Palin
partership might positively influence Palin. The
partnership may be more likely to strain Scully’s
welcome at animal advocacy conferences.
Said Norm Phelps, author of The Longest
Struggle (2007), “I think the fact that Matthew
Scully wrote her convention speech, which was a
masterpiece of viciousness, should give us all
pause about the notion that conservatives will
ever be serious animal advocates.”
Added University of Texas at El Paso
philosophy professor Steven Best, “Like the
politicians he serves, Scully talks out of both
sides of his mouthŠNo principled or consistent
person writes a book against hunting, and then
writes a speech for a vicious defender of hunting
and avid killer.”
“If Palin is put in a position to succeed
McCain,” concluded Markarian, “this could mean
rolling back decades of progress on animal

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