Open Letter to Secretary Clinton on Animal Rights (Animal Rights Series)

Activists with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an animal rights network, in San Francisco

Dear Secretary Clinton,

When your campaign released its animal rights platform in May — the first ever by a major presidential party — animal supporters rejoiced. It was a powerful sign of the times that a major party presidential candidate would publicly state her support for “animal rights.” Sadly, while your platform says that you support animal rights, what you support does not yet look like true “rights.”

Mei Hua was rescued from the manure pile in a Certified Humane Whole Foods farm.

Your platform calls for “encouraging farms to raise animals humanely.” What exactly does this mean? We can only think of the rise of efforts by many businesses — most notably Whole Foods — to market animal products they sell as humane, compassionate, or otherwise ethical. Given the degree of public concern over cruelty in animal agriculture and support for animal protection — 79% of Americans support the protection of animals from “all suffering and harm” — those raising animals for food have had to respond to the increasing sense that animals are suffering horrifically on farms.

Yet those who have looked into what happens even on supposedly higher-welfare farms have been disappointed. From a Whole Foods turkey farm to a model farm under one of the most notable animal welfare laws in the country, investigations of supposedly humane farms have found violence. This should be unsurprising, though: central to the idea of animal agriculture is killing the animals, an inherently violent act.

Against this backdrop, true support for animal rights starts with taking steps not to improve but to end their exploitation. The government currently subsidizes meat, dairy, and egg industries to a shocking degree through an elaborate set of economic props. Government agencies work with animal agribusiness to market the industry aggressively. And as government supports industry that uses animals right and left, animals are still regarded as legal things, unable to have cases heard on their behalf in court.

You are on the record promoting measures to support the raising and killing of animals for food. Your vice presidential candidate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, boasts about his home state’s status as a “leader in livestock and poultry production.” While your platform talks about rights, not a single part of it actually supports a legal right enforceable in court.

Your platform on animal rights, then, rests on a contradiction. You say you supports animal rights, but you support an industry whose existence is based on violating any rights — to life, to liberty, or to happiness — that animals might want. Today we are calling on you to fix this contradiction by calling for an end to government support for industry, including subsidies and government checkoff programs that are already subject of a bill recently introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Mike Lee, and affirmatively supporting legal personhood for nonhuman animals.

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) activists at a Bernie Sanders Rally in Wisconsin

There are 50 billion animals killed every year in the United States. This is a scale of unfathomable proportions. As long as you refuse to face and resolve the contradiction, animal activists across the country — who have made our voices heard repeatedly in the past — will make our voices heard to your campaign.

The Activists of Direct Action Everywhere