DawnWatch: Palin provides vital opportunities for animal friendly letters 9/4/08

The news this week is the Republican Convention, and the animal news is the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate. Before I write any further on that issue, I need to stress that DawnWatch is entirely non partisan. If you've read Thanking the Monkey you know of my commitment to non partisan animal activism. It would be unfair to the animals for their advocates to alienate half of the human population. And in Thanking the Monkey, I explain that the somewhat common assumption that animal advocacy is a left wing issue is false. Democrat voting records are better on animal issues overall, but the exceptions are shining. Republicans John Ensign of Nevada, and Christopher Shays of Connecticut are just two of those current outstanding exceptions. And former Senator Robert Smith of New Hampshire, an ultra right wing conservative, is the only person to date to speak passionately against vivisection on the Senate Floor.

Perhaps most notably, one of the finest books ever written on animal protection is "Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy." It is by Matthew Scully, who worked as a senior speechwriter for George W Bush, penning the book on his off hours. Scully sees his compassion, or mercy, for animals, and his vegan lifestyle, as perfectly in line with his Catholic conservative values.

For those who equate hunting with Republicanism, here are some of Matthew Scully's words on hunting, as he responds to Jack London's idea of how a man with a gun must seem to a wolf:

"Such terrifying powers we possess, but what a sorry lot of gods some men are. And the worst of it is not the cruelty but the arrogance, the sheer hubris of those who bring only violence and fear into the animal world, as if it needed any more of either. Their lives entail enough frights and tribulations without the modern fire-makers, now armed with perfected, inescapable weapons, traipsing along for more fun and thrills at their expense even as so many of them die away. It is our fellow creatures' lot in the universe, the place assigned them in creation, to be completely at our mercy, the fiercest wolf or tiger defenseless against the most cowardly man. And to me it has always seemed not only ungenerous and shabby but a kind of supreme snobbery to deal cavalierly with them, as if their little share of the earthís happiness and grief were inconsequential, meaningless, beneath a manís attention, trumped by any and all designs he might have on them, however base, irrational or wicked." (p9).

In an extraordinary twist of fate, Scully was selected to write Sarah Palin's speech, which aired last night. Let us hope that in the time Scully and Palin spent together working on the speech, he began to influence her thinking. I hope every Republican on this list will urge her to read his book!

I write that because unfortunately Palin's history on animal issues is disturbing. Bad animal stances are hardly a Republican monopoly. I think most of us remember watching John Kerry walk out of the woods swinging dead ducks as he attempted to woo the NRA. And many of us were disturbed to hear Hillary Clinton speak glowingly of her childhood duck hunting days. Obama also supports the rights of hunters, though thankfully he has said outright that he does not hunt so we need not fear similar spectacles from him.

Indeed, 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. And as a senator, long before he was in the presidential race, he posed for photos for an anti puppy mill book. Yet animal issues are hardly at the forefront of Obama's campaign -- he is no vegan Kucinich.

While McCain has some environmental policies that would kill billions of animals living in the wild, his history of leadership in the discussion of campaign finance reform is pertinent. In Thanking the Monkey I argue that campaign finance reform could be the number one animal rights issue -- that's because of the democracy-decimating strength of the farm and biomedical lobbies.

I also discuss single issue voting. That's how the National Rifle Association keeps its power. Candidates know that a percentage of folks large enough to swing an election will vote entirely based on a candidate's gun position. The animals will be better off when our movement has that power. Yet, I also argue that a compassionate world view is not species specific, and cannot leave out humans. So I acknowledge the strong case for taking all of a candidate's stances into account when casting a vote.

Those are the reasons why DawnWatch will never take a Republican or Democratic stance, and will never tell you for whom you should vote.

But in the current election we have an unusual media opportunity to make the animals' voices heard. While most of the population are not vegetarian and may not rate animal issues at the top of their agenda, numerous polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans do care about kindness to animals. They back animal welfare and environmental protection laws and are against egregious cruelty. Sarah Palin has so far shown a level of hostility to animal interests that is well outside the norm. Her presence on the ticket therefore gives us the chance to let it be known that such a stance matters, and that to most people, both Democrat and Republican, it is a negative.

You can learn the details of her stances on various websites. The Defenders of Wildlife site may be the most comprehensive. It tells us, "As Governor, Sarah Palin has championed aerial hunting of wolves and bears" and it includes distressing video of aerial wolf shootings. About whales it tells us, "Governor Palin opposes the listing of the Cook Inlet beluga whales, citing the listing as a threat to oil and gas development, despite their genetic uniqueness and the fact that their numbers have decreased from 1,300 in the 1980s to about 350 today. And it reminds us that Palin opposes listing the Polar Bear as endangered:

"Governor Palin has actively opposed the listing of the polar bear despite the fact that Alaska's top marine mammal biologists agreed with the federal scientists who believed the bear should be listed." (You can read her own words about that in a New York Times op-ed she wrote, published January 5, 2008 -- http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/opinion/05palin.html Thanks to Michael Oswald for that link.) The Defenders of Wildlife information and video is on line at http://tinyurl.com/6objq8

Her animal unfriendly policies are unfortunately not that unusual amongst candidates. What is unusual is the strong tone of antipathy towards animal protection. Sarah Palin's parents are reported to have a bumper sticker that reads, "Vegetarian: Old Indian word for bad hunter." That's the kind of joke many of us would find funny, if it weren't coming from folks whose living room is strung and hung with heads and carcasses:


Here are some more photos that send a strong message:

A dead Grizzly, is draped across Palin's couch:
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Here is Palin at the Podium:




And here is a photo with her daughter and a friend:









(I thank Marjorie Glickman for pointing us to that one.)

Again, DawnWatch will never tell you how to vote in this, or any, election. There are great arguments for single issue voting on behalf of the animals, but my greatest hope is that the rights of animals become an issue of significant public importance, and therefore part of public policy as such -- not that they trump all other issues.

We therefore must not waste this extraordinary opportunity to bring the animals into the public conversation. Every single newspaper across the US now has news of Sarah Palin, so now is the time for every newspaper to include letters to the editor letting it be known that to compassionate Republicans and Democrats alike, a cavalier attitude towards the slaughter of animals and the decimation of species is unacceptable. We owe it to the animals to push animal protection onto the platforms of both political parties and to make it clear to candidates on both sides that their stance on animal issues is part of what shows us their moral standing. Regardless of her party, Palin's wardrobe, decor, and policies give us the perfect opportunity. Letters from Republicans will pack the most punch.

Your letters are the most likely to be published in your local paper. Some small papers publish close to 100 percent of the letters they receive. So please, take a moment to speak up for the animals. It is time they got a voice during the election media frenzy.

If you have any trouble finding the correct email address for a letter to your editor, ask me for help.

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published. And please avoid using comments or phrases from sample letters or alerts. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers.

Yours and the animals',

Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

Please go to www.ThankingtheMonkey.com to read reviews of Karen Dawn's new book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals" and watch the fun celebrity studded promo video.

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