Animal Wellness Tracks Biden, Trump, and Federal Lawmakers on Animal Issues

See what our scorecard says about Congressional candidates, track our endorsements, and see our write-ups on the President and former Vice President

During his Senate confirmation hearing for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court 15 years ago, John Roberts famously said that as a jurist he would “call balls and strikes” when it came to interpreting the law and deciding cases.

Easier said than done, but hard to disagree with the aspiration. 

Around election time, when Animal Wellness Action (AWA) releases its Congressional Scorecard and our endorsements, we aspire to call balls and strikes, too — in short, to be a fair arbiter in judging the performance of legislators and the claims of lawmakers. It’s not enough, given the crises that animals face, for a candidate to profess a love for animals or to have a dog or a cat or a hamster. We want to know where they stand on institutionalized exploitation of animals — factory farming, horse slaughter, the trade of live or dead wildlife, trophy hunting, puppy mills, and more. Millions and even billions of animals are used in food and agricultural production, textiles, wildlife management, research and testing, and other sectors of the economy, and our work is about problem solving to make them all better. Our Congressional questionnaire is designed to gauge the views of candidates, but also to educate them about the range of solutions and problems on the docket of Congress that require their urgent attention.

One thing you won’t see in our Animal Wellness Scorecard this year are votes on climate change. But as more serious-minded policy solutions are offered up in 2021 and beyond — and lawmakers take up this question in substantive ways — you’ll almost certainly see us incorporate those issues into our analysis, since disrupting the life support systems of the planet has consequences for every creature. Soon we’ll be pushing federal legislation to stop the killing of millions of kangaroos for the skin trade for athletic shoes, but we also know that cataclysmic fires that kill equal or great numbers of kangaroos is just as relevant for us, even if the causes of that crisis are far more difficult to unpack.

Animal protection should not be a partisan issue

We do not favor Democrats over Republicans. When animal protection becomes the province of one political party, that creates an adverse outcome for animals. Concern for animals should be a universal value, a core part of a civil society, a basic moral framework for everyone that helps guide our decision-making, no matter if they live in a city skyscraper, a leafy suburb, or a farm in a rural community.

When we make endorsements, we do look at the viability of candidates, the seniority of incumbents, and other practical considerations. We may like the stance of a challenger to an incumbent Representative or Senator, but if the chances of that individual prevailing are vanishingly small, we may opt for the incumbent if we think we can influence them to be more alert to animal welfare issues in the future. 

Our staff at AWA may hold strong views on guns or abortion, taxes and trade, or foreign policy or financial services, but our task is to wall off those other concerns and to look at politics solely through the lens of animal welfare issues. It’s our purpose to make sure that animal issues get their due in our political system, and that they are not subordinated to other important social or economic concerns.   

Key races in Congress will influence the course of animal welfare legislation

In the 116th Congress, we saw the enactment of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act and the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act. In an era of divided government, it is, by definition, only the issues that attract bipartisan support that get to the finish line. We are on the cusp of passing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.  And we hope to play a major part in getting at least two House-passed bills — the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act and the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act — over the finish line in the Senate before the Congress adjourns at the end of the year.

Two years ago, AWA conducted independent expenditures – advertising and other forms of advocacy to influence an election – and helped oust two anti-animal lawmakers: then House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Dallas and 30-year House member Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, Calif. Their long House voting records made it plain that they were against basic animal welfare concerns. The two men who won their seats — Congressmen Collin Allred, D-Texas and Harley Rouda, D-Calif. — have shown themselves to be consistent supporters of animal protection.  Check out their records here.

This year, we are also putting our shoulder, in the form of independent expenditure campaigns, into two key races. We are seeking to oust Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who has a zero rating on our Animal Wellness Scorecard, in favor of animal advocate Wendy Davis. We are also working to defend Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., who is the co-author of five animal protection bills in the House and exhibited stellar leadership on our issues.

In addition, we have supported dozens of other candidates through Animal Wellness Action PAC and also by directing our supporters to give to candidates who favor animal protection. During this election cycle, we’ve pushed nearly $700,000 into advocacy to support pro-animal candidates and to oust anti-animal lawmakers. Our work has been thoroughly bipartisan.

Where do Biden and Trump stand on animal welfare?

The presidency has never been more powerful, and the massive investments in the race — billions by the candidates and by outside interests — are the plainest evidence of the importance of the office.  We know you have heard more than your fill about it and are anxious for the result. We don’t presume to tell you how to vote, but to inform you on where they stand on animal issues. View our assessment of the two candidates here.

We don’t believe that either candidate has said a single word about animal protection during their formal campaigns. That’s a missed opportunity for them both, given that there are tens of millions of animal advocates in the nation who detest cruelty in all of its forms. Taking an opportunity to speak out on the major animal issues of the day and to give a nod to one of the biggest causes in the United States would put their humanity on display and show off an issue that doesn’t fit into an existing partisan framework. Our goal is to elevate animal protection issues as a priority for both Republicans and Democrats alike.

While they’ve been quiet on this issue on the campaign trail, it doesn’t mean they have no track record. Donald Trump has only been in office not quite four years, but there’s a lot to examine about his record. Joe Biden has served as U.S. Senator or Vice President for 44 years, and he’s been a part of many important discussions about animal issues.  We’ve dug deep into their records and offer a comprehensive assessment of the performance of Trump and Biden on key animal welfare issues. 

As you conduct your due diligence in this election, we urge you to examine their records and give whatever weight to their actions you deem appropriate.


Two years, ago, Florida voters went all in for a ban on greyhound racing, approving it with a stunning 69 percent of the vote and winning a majority of votes in all of the state’s 27 Congressional districts. AWA was one of the primary organizations backing the measure, donating nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the campaign and helping direct its strategy. That ballot initiative win prompted us to expand our campaign and to work with allies in Congress to introduce the Greyhound Protection Act — to impose a federal ban on greyhound racing. It also helped bring an end to greyhound racing in Arkansas, and Alabama.

While there are no big anti-cruelty ballot measures on state ballots this year, there are some issues (e.g., Yes on 114 in Colorado) that warrant the urgent attention of animal advocates in three states, and I wrote about those issues last week.

But whether it’s deciding ballot measures or candidate races, none of us should be bystanders in our democracy. Only when we elevate the prominence and salience of our issues in American politics will we achieve the lasting reforms that so many yearn to see. 

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