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Where Do the Veep Candidates Stand on Animals?

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The political talk over the last couple weeks has swirled around two subjects: the party conventions, and the vice presidential nominees. Now that Barack Obama and John McCain have both selected their running mates, it's time to look at the animal protection records of the two vice presidential hopefuls.

As of today, the contrast could not be more clear: While Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) has been a leader in the Senate to protect marine mammals and exotic wildlife, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) has denied the threats facing polar bears and has led her state's efforts to gun down wolves from airplanes and helicopters.

McCain announced this morning that the GOP ticket now includes Gov. Palin, who is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and, despite her youth and good looks, is a throwback on animal issues. Having her one heartbeat from the presidency should strike fear into any animal advocate in the nation. The Palin Administration has waged an all-out war on Alaska's predators to artificially boost the populations of moose and caribou for trophy hunters, and has tried to pass legislation making it easier for state officials to gun down wolves and bears from the sky.

Last year, the state offered a $150 bounty as an incentive for pilots and aerial gunners to kill more wolves. And leading up to this week's statewide vote on Measure 2 to stop the aerial shooting of wolves and bears, Palin's Board of Game spent $400,000 of public money on brochures and radio ads to influence the election. She not only took an inhumane and unsporting position at odds with the principles of wildlife management and fair chase, but did it in an undemocratic and underhanded way.

Gov. Palin also penned an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this year arguing that it was the "wrong move" to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. Later, when the Bush Administration announced its listing of the polar bear as a threatened species, she filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the decision. Environmentalists fired back over Palin's lawsuit and said "her head-in-the-sand approach to global warming only helps oil companies, certainly not Alaska or the polar bear."

On the Democratic ticket, Sen. Biden has been a longtime friend of animal welfare in the Senate, and has received high marks year after year on the Humane Scorecard. In the current session of Congress, Sen. Biden co-sponsored measures to stop horse slaughter, upgrade the penalties for animal fighting, ban the possession of fighting dogs and attendance at a dogfight, and call on Canada to stop its annual massacre of baby harp seals. He has consistently signed onto letters requesting increased funds for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and the federal animal fighting law.

Biden has not only supported animal protection legislation during his career, but has also led the fight on important issues. He was the co-author with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the 108th Congress on legislation to ban the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen. He was the lead author of a bill in the 107th Congress to prohibit trophy hunting of captive exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he successfully passed the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

You'll hear more from the Humane Society Legislative Fund about the presidential race as we get closer to Election Day. Keep checking the blog for updates and more information, and send me an email to let me know what you think.

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