Santorum raises ‘aggie' eyebrows over HSUS ties
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 -Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum cruised into Osage Beach, MO (pop. 4,700) last week, hoping to rally rural voters who could perhaps provide the delegates he needs to win in an uphill battle for the GOP presidential nomination. Most of his attack lines focused on doing away with President Obama's health care reform, dubbed “Obamacare.” and the importance of “turning Washington around” and “shrinking the size of government.”
“I've never been for big government solutions to our problems,” he told the almost 700 people gathered in a music hall in this rural summer resort town. “Americans are not used to being straddled with the yoke of government.”
Nowhere does this sentiment ring truer than on farms and ranches across this country, where many families would be quite content to raise their crops and livestock without constant government interference. So it's with little surprise that, as Santorum continues to build his delegate base in primaries around the country, prospective voters are taking a more critical look at his voting record.
Sources tell Agri-Pulse that Santorum's conservative voting record is a very mixed bag, especially when it comes to his relationship with the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS).
When Santorum was running for re-election to the Senate in 2006, one of his biggest advocates was the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), a 501(c)(4) charity that is a lobbying arm of HSUS. In an October 2006 press release, HSLF said it based the endorsement on Santorum's “long-standing record of support for animal welfare, his active leadership on humane issues, and his tangible record of success on these issues.
“There is no stronger animal welfare advocate in Congress than Sen. Santorum,” said Sara Amundson, HSLF executive director in a press release. “Santorum has been one of our most determined and effective leaders in fighting for public policies to halt cruelty and abuse.” HSLF noted that Santorum has long provided leadership in seeking higher levels of funding for enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
In addition, Santorum introduced legislation, to crack down on abusive “puppy mills” that, according to HSLF, “treat dogs like they are production machines.” He has also supported other animal protection measures, including efforts to ban horse slaughter for human consumption.
In the 2006 HSLF “scorecard” on Senate “animal rights” issues in the 109th Congress, Santorum was one of 12 who scored with the organization on key votes 80% of the time. That same year, 22 others, mostly Democrats, scored 100%. Then-Sen. Barack Obama scored 60%.
Earlier this month, staff leaders of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) asked Santorum about his work on dog breeding laws in conjunction with HSUS. He said his efforts were focused on trying to find an approach that was “reasonable.”
“I do believe in people's ability to raise their own animals. But I also believe when animals go into the home as most of these animals do, you have to have consumer protection standards so you're not having defective animals and animals that have temper problems and other types of problems coming into people's homes. How many folks do you know that their dog is like their child? You just can't introduce an animal into the home without having some sort of standards that are set in place.” (For the full interview, click HERE.)
Santorum's comments have raised a lot of concerns, not only among conservatives opposed to “big government” and more regulations, but in Missouri's agricultural community.
“I can say with a great deal of confidence that Santorum's relationship with HSUS is a deal killer for much of the agriculture community,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst in a recent opinion piece written by Frank Miniter. “As far as I can tell, he'd be comfortable with requiring regulations on agriculture ‑ and large dog breeders are a part of this market ‑ that would make it much less efficient to raise livestock,” The article, “Is Rick Santorum a Closet Animal Rights Activist?,” appeared in Forbes online.
Over the last three years, Missouri Farm Bureau banded with dog breeders and others to battle against an HSUS petition on puppy mills in the state, fearing, in part, that new restrictions on farm animal care could come next.
After Santorum finished his speech in Osage Beach, Agri-Pulse asked the candidate how farmers and ranchers should view his past relationship with HSUS. His response wasn't exactly the clarification that some are looking for.
“When I worked on an issue on the federal level, I worked with all of the breeders and with all of the livestock folks…that's what you do when you are a legislator, you work with both sides. When you look at the bill, (the Pet Animal Welfare Statute) it's nothing like what they tried to do here in Missouri.” For additional background on Santorum's positions, click HERE.
Original story printed in March 21, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.
For more news visit: www.Agri-Pulse.com