Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is such a polarizing figure that he’s inspired a record-breaking number of news outlets and several Republican public figures to back a Democrat for the first time — or to make their first endorsements.
Now, even America’s animals are breaking their silence to voice opposition to Trump.
Okay, not really the animals themselves. But last week, the lobbying arm of the nation’s most prominent animal welfare group, the Humane Society, broke with its own tradition of not making endorsements by coming out in support of Democrat Hillary Clinton and releasing an attack ad against Trump, calling him “a threat to animals everywhere.”
Unsurprisingly, the ad features the most familiar — and derided — animal-related image associated with Trump: a photo of his sons hoisting the carcass of a leopard they hunted in Africa. It also takes aim at Forrest Lucas, an oil tycoon who founded a farmers’ advocacy group that fights animal rights organizations; and Bruce Rastetter, an Iowa agribusiness entrepreneur. Both are on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee and are among “a who’s who of zealous anti-animal welfare activists” allied with the candidate, according to Humane Society Legislative Fund President Michael Markarian.
Trump “has assembled a team advisors and financial supporters tied in with trophy hunting, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other abusive industries,” Markarian wrote in a blog post announcing the Clinton endorsement.
The president, Markarian noted, has influence over several agencies that create policies that affect animals, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Land Management. Donald Trump Jr., who is seen holding up a severed elephant tail in the Humane Society ad, has expressed interest in joining the Department of the Interior.
Trump himself hasn’t clearly outlined his thoughts on animal issues or trophy hunting (though Mother Jones reported Tuesday that he once sort-of bought a racehorse and trained it to the point of disability). But Markarian argued that “the risk of having a globe-trotting trophy hunter … having the ear of the president should be a terrifying prospect for any animal advocate.”
But animal lovers shouldn’t just vote for Clinton out of fear of Trump, the HSLF argues. As the organization has written before, Clinton has a robust record on animal issues. As a senator, she sponsored legislation against animal fighting, puppy mills and slaughtering of horses for human food. As secretary of state, she led international efforts to police wildlife trafficking. The Clinton Foundation has fought elephant poaching, and Clinton’s official campaign website has a section on her positions on animal welfare.
If that’s not convincing, Markarian wrote, consider how the Clintons have shared their homes with Socks the cat and other animals, while Trump “would be the first president since Harry Truman without a pet in the White House.”
“It’s hardly unusual for pets in our lives to humanize us, and to bring into sharper focus the importance of national policies to help animals,” Markarian wrote. “The Clintons seem to have long felt the pull of animals, while the Trumps have not, with two Trump sons being better known for killing animals as a recreational pursuit.”
It should be noted that not all animal advocates are pro-Clinton. In response to the HSLF endorsement, Ecorazzi, a news site that says it has “an unapologetically vegan voice,” argued that there’s no point in looking for animal advocacy from politicians or officials who play roles in regulating the meat industry. The only hope, it says, is a “grassroots vegan movement.”