Michael Markarian, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, has an outstanding post on Ag Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack. More than anyone else, Vilsack will be shaping America’s food and agribusiness policies. Here’s what Markarian thinks of Obama’s choice:
Vilsack has a solid record on animal protection, and he was the top choice of HSUS and HSLF to lead the USDA, the agency that oversees our federal laws on animal welfare, humane slaughter and transport, horse protection, animal fighting, and others. Nearly 90,000 animal advocates contacted the transition team through our website, expressing how important it was to pick an animal-friendly Agriculture Secretary and recommending Vilsack as an excellent choice. The Obama Administration listened to your views, and this appointment demonstrates what an important voice animal advocates can have as a political constituency.
As governor of Iowa, Vilsack advocated for bills to toughen the state’s penalties for animal fighting, and now he will lead the agency charged with enforcing the federal law to break up dogfighting and cockfighting rings. He stood up to the puppy mill industry and vetoed a bill in 2006 that would have weakened protections for pets by reclassifying dogs as “farm products.” He also exhibited tremendous fortitude and adherence to principle when he vetoed legislation in 2001 that would have allowed the sport hunting of mourning doves for the first time in decades. Standing up to the NRA and the gun lobby in a big hunting state, he said at the time: “The majority of Iowans do not support changing the current law to legalize dove hunting. My office has received contact from thousands of concerned Iowans regarding this issue, and my conclusion is that this policy is not right for our state at this time.”
Vilsack recognized the importance of protecting animals from cruelty and abuse, and the importance of public involvement in the decision-making process. He’ll need that same principled leadership in enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, and other federal laws. We look forward to working with him to elevate animal protection, food safety,and protection of the environment at USDA, which has consistently subverted these important considerations and sided time and again with the knee-jerk positions of agribusiness. He’ll have a big role to play in how our nation confronts puppy mills, factory farming, predator control, the use of animals in research and testing, and other practices and industries that have compromised animal welfare.