Today Animal Wellness Action launches a sophisticated online tool to gauge the performance of federal lawmakers on animal issues. Here, in this Congressional Accountability Tool (CAT), you can find out who the greatest champions of animal protection are (e.g. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Senator Cory Booker) and who poses the greatest threats (e.g., Reps. Steve King and Marsha Blackburn).
The tool builds a record of key actions on animal welfare, from resolutions seeking to open national wildlife refuges and national preserves in Alaska to denning or aerial hunting of bears and wolves to passing bills to crack down on staged animal fights in U.S. territories and enacting the nation’s first-ever anti-cruelty statute.
The CAT is a voter-centric tool that allows a user to input a zip code or search for the name of a lawmaker to reveal their detailed records for the 115th Congress. If the lawmaker has served multiple terms, the CAT tracks key votes as far back as 2002.
The CAT benchmarks how lawmakers compare to other lawmakers in their states and to all Democrats and to all Republicans, revealing their comparative performance.
Animal issues can get lost in the stew of issues that lawmakers examine — from defense to health care to taxes to energy to judicial nominations. The CAT is a tool that allows people who care about this set of issues to access clear, understandable information that looks at the breadth of their animal welfare records. This tool will give you the information you need to thank lawmakers who vote with their hearts or to criticize them if they are upside down on the issues.
There are a raft of urgent federal legislative issues hanging in the balance. The U.S. Senate has passed the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, but the House has not taken up the bill, despite 282 House lawmakers (including 100 Republicans) publicly signing up to support the measure. There are five other House bills (e.g., a ban on shark finning and a crackdown on the barbaric practice of “horse soring”) that also have a majority of House members publicly signed on as cosponsors.
But Republican leaders are catering to a handful of bill opponents and not bringing up these bills for votes. Defaulting to the retrograde views of this handful of lawmakers amounts to passive or fearful legislating and it demonstrates a lack of commitment to animal welfare. More pointedly, it’s bowing to extremism, and it amounts to a least common denominator approach to lawmaking by letting the most hard-hearted legislators set the agenda.
The good news is Republican leaders can turn this situation around by allowing votes on the set of issues highlighted in the CAT, letting the advocates and opponents of the bills cast their votes. The CAT it is an organic tool. Lawmakers can improve their scores by cosponsoring bills and party leaders can show their support for animal welfare by letting rank-and-file lawmakers vote more often on wildly popular issues.
Animal Wellness Action is a non-partisan organization. We believe that fighting against cruelty is a universal value of the American electorate. But lawmakers must perform to earn our support. To that end, Action will be making endorsements in the coming weeks in a raft of races based solely on the performance of lawmakers on animal issues.
The information presented in the CAT reveals that Democrats have performed dramatically better than Republicans. In both the House and Senate, there were 130 or so Democrats with perfect scores, but only two Republicans – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA-8, and Rep. Peter King, R-NY-2. That said, every major effort to help animals, except the effort to defeat the predator-killing resolutions on wildlife refuges and national preserves, had substantial Republican support.
Explore the CAT, share the CAT, and commit to voting for lawmakers based on how they perform. It is axiomatic that we cannot rescue our way out of the crises that animals endure. We don’t have enough arms to extend a hand to more than a relative few of them. And many animals are caught up in legal enterprises, such as factory farming, puppy mills, and the wildlife trade, and the notion of rescue is impractical and impossible as a matter of scale and legality. And even if we could rescue billions of animals in crisis, where would we put them all?
That’s why, as a movement, we must pursue multiple strategies to make the world a better place. One of the critical strategies is leveraging the power of government to create legally established and enforced codes of conduct and to stamp out cruelty, ending the excuse-making to justify abhorrent behavior toward animals. What makes us human is our ability to reason and to understand that other animals have lives that matter to them, and also to solve problems and to meet the basic needs of our species without leaving a trail of animal victims in our wake.