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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 29 October 2002 Issue

PAWPRINTS, FOOTPRINTS & ANIMAL CHATTER
By Judith Marie Gansen

Article 16 - Voting - and Why The Animals Need Our Votes

I have always been fascinated and often disturbed by the way people make decisions about voting.  Once someone said to me:  "Why vote when one more vote either way doesn't make a difference?"  Well since the last presidential campaign we all know now that a few votes can make a huge difference.

Some vote selfishly--"what's in it for me?"   Others vote for the greater good.  Some people vote only the way their parents have voted in the past or how everyone else in their community is voting.  There are still others who are "one-issue" voters.   Much to my dismay, some vote how their churches tell them to.  It is illegal for churches to get involved in voting issues at all since churches pay no taxes and therefore must be non-partisan.  Yet this has happened recently and some of the churches I read were sued because of doing things like handing out pamphlets and telling people who to vote for!  My own feeling on that is that God gave us a brain to think with and I would be very suspicious of any church who told me how to vote--that even smacks of cultism.

Why Vote At All?

A pamphlet someone sent me from the United Auto Workers (no author listed) says it perfectly (very loosely paraphrasing and adding my own comments):

1. The paycheck you receive and the jobs available depend on electing leaders who want to keep good jobs in your state.

2.  The taxes we pay including sales, property and income are set by the people you elect to office--we need to elect leaders who make the rich and large corporations pay their fair share.

3.  The bills you pay--gas, electric, water and phone depend on some type of public utility board or commission usually appointed by your governor who we elect. 

4. The air you breathe and the water you drink won't be clean and safe unless we punish polluters of our natural resources.  Keeping the money you make is great but means little if you are dying of cancer caused by pollution! 

5.  The condition of the roads we all drive depend on electing leaders who authorize funds for their repair and construction.  No one likes potholes who throw our cars out of alignment!

6.  The quality of our schools depend on politicians who care about good education to give our children the jobs of the future.  Our educational system needs to be the best in the world--our children ARE the future.

7.  The homes we live in depend on politicians who should strive to keep home interest rates and taxes low but ensure enough affordable housing for everyone.

8.  Your health depends on elected officials who care about health care costs and services.  We need leaders to stand up to the powerful doctor and hospital lobbies.

9.  The constant shrinking of our pocketbooks is something we should let elected officials know about--if the current trend continues I believe some day there will be no middle class.

Now, having said all that--HOW CAN YOU NOT VOTE???????

My Ideas on How To Vote Intelligently:

1.  First of all don't listen to ANY ads or advertisements from candidates because every one of them is designed to maximize the good qualities of the candidate or may outright lie.  Just about any candidate running is capable of coloring the truth a bit.  I don't believe they start out attempting to deceive--it's just that if they told the truth all the time fewer voters would vote for them.  They are attempting to appeal to the greatest number of people at the same time to get the most votes so they must be vague.  That is why when questioned they often don't answer a question outright or they try to give a more generic answer.  We would do the same thing if we were trying to win votes--you can't get your issues accomplished if you don't get elected.

2.  Take each issue separately and listen to the most eloquent arguments for each side and then try to make up your mind.  Listen to debates between candidates.  Whether it's about Iraq, terrorism, abortion, gun issues, drug issues, etc. all sides have an approach that they believe is the way to get the job done.  For instance Republicans tend to be more punishment oriented if someone breaks the law whereas Democrats often want programs to prevent crime before it happens.  Both want safe streets, they just have different ways of getting there.

3.  Begin saving articles out of the paper before election day.  I make a pile of them along with any other things I think may be important such as what organizations or people endorse a candidate.  A few nights before voting day we sit down and go over these things and make our lists who we are voting for.  My husband and I don't always agree on all issues and that is okay--differing viewpoints and a rich pool of ideas make America the great country it is.

4.  Where is the best source of info about a candidate?  Look at their voting records--historically what have they done?  I have seen candidates give great speeches about how they support an issue only to check their voting records to have it be completely opposite.  A wonderful source for this kind of info is the League of Women Voters.

http://www.lwv.org/   League of Women Voters  
You can also check things out at libraries or research newspaper and magazine articles.

Newspapers are supposed to be full of unbiased information.  Just remember newspapers need advertising to survive and therefore they don't like to offend businesses in their area.  If they do, the ads get pulled and they lose money.  Our paper admits it leans to the "right" politically--I would say far right in my opinion.  I keep this in mind as I read their reviews.  I have noticed they like to handle campaigns unfairly yet subtlely--publish an unflattering photo of the Democratic candidate or they are certain to publish the worst quote they ever said (one of our TV stations does this too--it's called cheating in my book and I complain when I see it being done to any candidate).  To stay "well-rounded" therefore I try to read conservative and liberal publications as well keeping in mind what agenda the journalist may have in mind.

WHY VOTING MATTERS TO ANIMALS:

How does politics impact animals?  In EVERY way!!!  Everything from cruelty laws, neglect laws, how animals like horses and cows are transported in trucks, how "food" animals are slaughtered,  whether dogs and cats need to be spayed and neutered before being released from animal control facilities, rabies shots, wildlife rescue, can circuses come to town, what kinds of animals are hunted and when--just about everything involving animals at one time or another has to go through a state or federal law of some kind and therefore politics plays a huge role in how those laws are processed.  A wonderful organization helping animals with legal issues is the Animal Legal Defense Fund http://www.aldf.org/

Over the years I have watched and studied which political party comes out on top for the animals--there is only one winner in my book--Democrats!  I am sorry Republicans but you folks have a long way to go.  I am not saying that this is always true.  Democrats have at times been hunters voting against humane wildlife issues and Republicans have sponsored humane bills but overall it's a huge margin in favor of Democrats.  Republicans tend to be very pro-business and do not like big government which is not a bad thing necessarily but I believe it makes them have a more "hands-off" approach to allowing the businesses to police themselves and therefore this allows business to cruelly exploit and profit from animals if it chooses to do so.  You can't let the "fox guard the chicken coop" therefore places like labs that do medical experiments on animals and slaughterhouses need to be policed.

I personally believe in a system of "checks and balances" when it comes to most institutions.  We need government, business and non-profits as well as good journalists to keep an eye on each other and speak up when someone breaks a law or does something unethical.  We need the everyday, hardworking American to vote intelligently to keep those four institutions in check as well.

If you check out any of the major animal websites, most have updates on laws pending to help animals.  The proposed laws that are out there to help animals will never pass if they have people with big business in their pocket and no hearts in their chests who stop those laws from passing.  As you may have guessed by now, while I consider myself to be an "Independent" voter, I most often find myself voting Democrat.  I am never a one-issue voter, however, because there are too many important issues out there.

The bottom line here is VOTE!  If you can't vote next month then get registered and vote the next election in your area.  If the polls say your candidate is behind vote anyway--complacency has made the lead candidate lose before!  Don't pass up the opportunity to make a difference in our beloved country.  Become educated on issues because every issue out there that you think is not important may return some day to slap you back into reality.  Ask yourself if you care about the kind of world we leave to the children and animals--they are the ones who matter and we can't positively affect their future unless we vote!!  President John F. Kennedy said:  "There are risks and costs to a program of action.  But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction."1

Judy
Staff:  Animals in Print  (free online animal publication)
http://www.all-creatures.org/aip/

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