Though there is no set limit on policies to care about, we all have political causes that are especially close to our hearts. For Devorah Rose, Editor-in-Chief of Social Life Magazine, animal rights are at the top of that list.
A proponent of cruelty-free adoption, animal rescue, and wildlife conservation, Devorah Rose believes that all citizens should keep our furry, feathered, and scaled neighbors in mind when stepping into the voting booth.
“As a proud owner of two dogs, it’s impossible not to care,” Devorah says. “I try to look beyond myself at the bigger picture. And when it comes down to it, this planet is home to more than just humans. And seeing as they can’t vote, someone needs to speak up on their behalf.”
Still, voters have a tendency to be a bit myopic when it comes to voting. It’s hard to blame them. In New York City, where Devorah resides, the wellbeing of residents is oftentimes reliant on the policies shaped by elected officials. These laws can affect housing affordability, family leave transportation convenience, and as such are a big priority for NYC voters.
Yet Devorah Rose maintains that in addition to these concerns, voters should consider how candidates’ policies will impact our planet’s non-humanoid inhabitants. This includes pets, wildlife, work animals, and the environment more generally.
“When I look at some of the policies that have been implemented or stripped on a federal level, it’s beyond disappointing,” Devorah Rose says. When the Trump Administration removed protection of Yellowstone grizzly bears from the endangered species list, for example, she was disheartened by what seemed to her like blatant disregard for American wildlife.
Animals were not a topic of much discussion last year leading up to Trump’s election. His policy proposal made no mention of animal rights, but there may have been a few hints starting with his environmental policy stance. Claiming climate change was a Chinese hoax may have been a red flag that protective policies could be rolled back; the same goes for his promises to aggressively undo Obama-era regulations.
The Trump administration also ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove inspection reports and other information regarding the treatment and welfare of animals from its website. Essentially, this means that violations against the Animal Welfare Act will only become accessible after submitting a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA), approval of which which can take several years.
“Unfortunately, candidates aren’t always upfront about their stances on this topic,” Devorah Rose says. “And because it doesn’t directly affect most people, a lot of anti-animal policies fly under the radar.”
“It’s rarely a talking point, so the onus is on us as constituents to speak up and ask questions,” she urges.
With general elections around the corner in New York City, voters may be wondering what they can do to find out which candidates align with their views. It’s become clear that local elections are one of the better ways we can make out voices heard, but that means doing rigorous research instead of voting blindly.
“First, you can check the candidates’ websites to see what they represent,” Devorah Rose recommends. “You can also do research on their past donations, who has donated to their campaigns, or look to see if the Humane Society Legislative Fund has information on their record.” The HSLF endorses candidates in federal and state races based on their records or positions on animal issues.
The HSLF doesn’t help quite as much in city elections, unfortunately. When there is scant information available online, which is often the case, the best thing to do is just reach out and ask. Most candidates are eager to share their stances on a range of issues by phone, by email, or even social media.
If enough people express that animal rights are a priority, Devorah Rose thinks we could see more politicians adopting pro-animal platforms. “If you look at the numbers, most Americans support pro-animal policies by a landslide,” she says. She’s right: a majority of voters, regardless of party, disapprove of harmful practices like factory farming and wildlife trafficking.
In NYC, Mayor Bill DeBlasio was elected in 2013 after running on a strong animal rights platform, but advocacy groups have been less-than pleased with his progress especially on his proposed ban on horse carriages, which was tabled in 2016. Still, he’s contributed to a few wins, including a phasing-out of wild animals from circuses, a law spearheaded by New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez.
All in all, for animals to win in New York City and beyond, a human candidate that rallies for them and follows through must win first. “It’s definitely work,” Devorah Rose admits, “but we can all do our part to make this world a more humane one for animals. Speaking out and voting intelligently is a great way to start.”