Why I’m No Longer Going to Vote for Terry McAuliffe


Here in Virginia, the Democratic primary for the state’s gubernatorial race is underway. We have a few candidates running, including former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. I was initially considering throwing my vote his way, despite his campaign’s irriating calls multiple times every week, but after a mailing I received yesterday, there’s no chance. If you don’t want to open up the PDF, take a look at the video instead:

As a vegan, I cannot justify supporting a candidate who wants to turn animal waste into energy. Why would I reject an option that, in theory, doesn’t hurt the animals? Especially one that helps clean up the environmental mess that’s a result of their intensive confinement? Because it’s just not that simple…

  • Agribusiness doesn’t deserve the money. As an ethical vegan, why would I want to support factory farms (because, believe me, ain’t enough waste coming from farms like the imaginary one in the video to support McAuliffe’s plan)? Using chickens’ waste doesn’t solve the real environmental problems of overconsumption and factory farming. Rather, it financially rewards those causing the problem. Let’s look at another by-product of meat production: leather. The argument is that leather is just a by-product and the materials would otherwise be wasted and discarded. But, a USDA report states that animal skins are “the most economically important byproduct” of the meatpacking industry. It’s not just an afterthought, it’s an essential part of the operation of slaughterhouses and the poultry waste used for energy could potentially become nearly as essential.
  • It’s not proven to be environmentally sound. If it ain’t clean and sustainable, why is it even a topic for consideration? This Washington Post piece points out a number of criticisms of the chicken waste-to-energy concept:

    Environmental groups have been largely critical of efforts to generate energy from waste products such as garbage or droppings. Often such plants produce harmful emissions.

    In addition, critics note that raw poultry waste already brings in top dollar as a fertilizer — more, sometimes, than the energy it can produce.

    “It does not make sense to try to solve a waste problem as an energy solution,” [Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network] said. “It is an unproven technology that is going to serve only to delay and confuse the real solutions in Virginia, which are energy efficiency and true renewable energy like wind and solar.

  • Fibrowatt. Fibrowatt is a Pennsylvania-based company aiming to build a power plan on the Eastern Short of Maryland that would run completely on logging and poultry waste. There has been a lot of opposition to Fibrowatt and “poultry litter incineration” in North Carolina, calling the process “dirtier than coal, more expensive than wind, and litter incineration as an economic threat to farmers” (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League).

Where do the other candidates stand? Brian Moran supports it in a passing comment, but:

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for Moran, criticized McAuliffe’s fixation on chicken waste. “He’s made it seem like chicken waste is the solution to the problem, and we’re not even sure how much of an answer it is,” he said.

I couldn’t find a stated position for Creigh Deeds. I’ve sent him an e-mail and a note on Twitter and am awaiting a response.

While I’m sure none of the candidates are going to completely satisfy my lefty political desires, I can definitely say that I will not be voting for a candidate that so enthusiastically and aggressively supports plans like chicken waste-to-energy. We shouldn’t be putting more money into the pockets of factory farms while diverting attention from real solutions like reduced consumption, energy efficiency, and clean technogies like solar and wind power.

(Update: Creigh Deeds replied to my inquiry on twitter: “Great potential in poultry waste, and other ag waste for that matter.” Sigh.)

Animals and Politics


What’s the deal with Republicans and their VPs?  Apparently it’s a requirement that you support or participate in the most heinous of hunting practices.  Current VP Dick Cheney, when not shooting friends in the face, is a fan of the canned hunt.  Meanwhile, John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin, has supported the aerial hunting of wolves and bears.  This practice involves chasing the animal by helicopter until the animal is exhausted, and then shooting her point blank.

Aerial hunting was outlawed by the federal government in 1972 in the Federal Airborne Hunting Act, but Alaska has been wiggling through loopholes to allow this sort of thing.  Governor Palin “actively opposed a ballot measure campaign seeking to end the aerial hunting of wolves by private hunters and approved a $400,000 state-funded campaign aimed at swaying people’s votes on the issue,” according to the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.  If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to read up over at the Defenders’ page about Governor Palin’s record on this and other wildlife issues.

The thing is, I can guarantee that a question about this will never come up in any of the vice presidential debates.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that no question related to animal use or even animal welfare will come up during any debate or be prominently mentioned by either campaign.  Sure, Obama’s got the Animal Rights Advocates for Obama on my.barackobama.com.  The group has, after all, raised $12 for Obama’s campaign!  Wonder if they did that selling lemonade on the corner.

And, sure, Obama’s been quoted as saying, “I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other, and it’s very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals.”  Which is good.  Really.  But it’s kind of a blow-off statement, especially considering his seemingly lackluster voting record on animal welfare.

What I’m getting at is a point that a fellow Poplar Spring volunteer made to me the other day at lunch.  He told me how, as a vegan and animal rights advocate, he felt completely distanced from either candidate.  He said that he had to pretend other issues were more important to him than animal issues for the sole fact that politicians never talk about animals when campaigning.  I had to agree.  This issue that is so important to us, one that we see tied so closely to the mainstreamed issues of human rights and the environment, is completely ignored during the campaign season.  It’s unbelievably frustrating.

I realize it’s likely the candidates ignore the issue because they would alienate much of their base if they were to discuss the rights of animals.  So, until the base changes, the issue won’t be raised.

I think all we can do is continue to work our best to advocate on the individual level, making people aware of the issues and getting people to go vegan.  We have to tie animal rights and veganism to the rights of the human workers in slaughterhouses and the environmental affects of meat, dairy, and egg production.  Once more people are protesting the use of animals in their everyday lives and can see how it’s not just “an animal issue,” then maybe politicians will start talking about the rights of all sentient beings.  Maybe then people like Sarah Palin will be questioned about her support of illegal, barbaric hunting practices.  And maybe then we can start to make some real progress for the animals.