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Reviewing Keith Ellison's animal welfare record

After realizing I'd inaccurately characterized Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison's animal welfare record, I wanted to correct the error and take a deeper dive into his voting history as it relates to nonhumans. For those unaware, Ellison is a candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee. During the 2016 presidential primary, he was an ally of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
First, let me address my mistake. In a recent article explaining my ambiguous attitude toward New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, I said Ellison had never achieved a 100-percent rating from the Humane Society Legislative Fund. I got this impression from scanning Ellison's available ratings on the website Vote Smart, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization. However, when I began looking at the source material HSLF's yearly Humane Scorecards I realized Ellison had achieved a perfect evaluation on more than one occasion. I apologize for the error.

So, what's Ellison's animal welfare record? I'll begin in 2007, when he first entered Congress, and received an 83-percent rating from HSLF. He cosponsored anti-horse-slaughter legislation. He didn't do the same, unfortunately, for fur-labeling legislation. He voted for stiffer penalties for animal fighting, to prohibit the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros, and to bar federal funds enabling importation of polar-bear trophies from Canada. He also signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. Still, he was not listed as a leader, by which HSLF meant someone who was a prime sponsor of pro-animal legislation.

In 2008, Ellison again received an 83-percent rating from HSLF. He cosponsored anti-horse-slaughter legislation, as well as a bill requiring euthanasia of livestock too sick or injured to walk and prohibiting Department of Agriculture certification of their flesh. Unfortunately, he didn't cosponsor anti-vivisection or fur-labeling legislation. Again, he voted for stiffer penalties for animal fighting, to prohibit the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros, and to bar federal funds enabling importation of polar-bear trophies from Canada.

Further, he voted for conservation of rare cat and dog species, for conservation of cranes, for a farm bill with important animal-welfare provisions, and to prohibit foreign and interstate commerce in primates for the pet trade. Again, he signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. But he wasn't listed as a leader.

In 2009, Ellison received a 77-percent rating from HSLF. He wasn't a cosponsor of anti-horse-slaughter or fur-labeling legislation. However, he did cosponsor a bill phasing out non-therapeutic antibiotic use on farm animals. Similarly, he cosponsored a bill phasing out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research. Again, he voted for conservation of rare cat and dog species, for conservation of cranes, and to prohibit foreign and interstate commerce in primates for the pet trade.

He voted against a section of a bill which allowed loaded firearms on national parks and an attempt to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from collecting greenhouse gas emissions data from factory farms. He voted to prohibit the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros, to establish a recovery program for the Southern sea otter, and for marine turtle conservation. Unfortunately, he didn't sign a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. HSLF did not list him as a leader.

In 2010, Ellison received a 93-percent rating from HSLF. He voted to ban interstate and foreign commerce in crush videos, to support marine-turtle conservation, to establish a recovery program for the Southern sea otter, and to prohibit the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros. Again, he voted against a section of a bill which allowed loaded firearms on national parks and an attempt to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from collecting greenhouse gas emissions data from factory farms. He voted to establish a service-dog program for disabled veterans, which the HSLF describes positively, but the merits of which could be debated from an abolitionist perspective.

Again, he voted for conservation of rare cat and dog species, for conservation of cranes, and to prohibit foreign and interstate commerce in primates for the pet trade. He cosponsored legislation to require puppy-mill oversight, to phase out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on farm animals, and to phase out invasive research on chimpanzees. Unfortunately, he didn't cosponsor anti-horse-slaughter legislation and wasn't listed as a leader. However, he did sign a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs.

In 2011, Ellison received a 100-percent rating from HSLF. He cosponsored legislation to require puppy-mill oversight, to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, to establish penalties for those attending animal fights, and to prohibit the possession of horses for the purpose of slaughtering them for human consumption. Additionally, he voted to cap agricultural subsidies, cut funding for lethal predator control programs, and to remove an anti-wildlife rider. Once again, he signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. But he wasn't listed as a leader.

In 2012, Ellison again received a 100-percent rating from HSLF. He cosponsored legislation to replace battery cages with colony housing systems, to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, to establish penalties for those attending animal fights, and to require puppy-mill oversight. Again, he voted to cap agricultural subsidies, cut funding for lethal predator control programs, and to remove an anti-wildlife rider. He voted against the Sportsmen's Heritage Protection Act, and sought to prohibit hunting in the National Park System and the importation of polar-bear trophies from Canada. He signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. But, once again, HSLF didn't list him as a leader.

In 2013, Ellison received a percentage rating of 100+ from HSLF. He cosponsored legislation to crack down on horse soring, to replace battery cages with colony housing systems, to establish penalties for those attending animal fights, and to prohibit the transport and export of horses to slaughter for human consumption. He voted against the first and second version of the farm bill, while supporting a more pro-animal amendment to it. He received extra credit from HSLF for signing a letter opposing an amendment to block state and local laws strengthening farm-animal protection. Once again, he signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. But he wasn't listed as a leader.

In 2014, Ellison received a 100-percent rating from HSLF. Again, he cosponsored legislation to crack down on horse soring, to replace battery cages with colony housing systems, to establish penalties for those attending animal fights, to prohibit the interstate trade in pet primates, and to prohibit the transport and export of horses to slaughter for human consumption. He voted against the first and second version of the farm bill, while supporting a more pro-animal amendment to it. Against HSLF's recommendation, he didn't vote for the final passage of the farm bill.

He did, however, vote against the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014 and an effort to undermine the Endangered Species Act. Per usual, he signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. This year, though, he was listed as a leader, having either written a pro-animal letter to an agency or been a prime sponsor of pro-animal legislation not recorded on the Humane Scorecard.

In 2015, Ellison's numbers dipped precipitously, as he received a 44-percent rating from HSLF. He didn't cosponsor legislation to protect nonhuman victims of domestic violence, to crack down on horse soring, to phase out cosmetics testing on live animals, and to prohibit the transport and export of horses to slaughter for human consumption. Similarly, he voted against the omnibus funding bill, contrary to HSLF's recommendation.

He did, however, cosponsor a bill to strengthen the existing crush-video law. Further, he voted to allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to crack down on the ivory trade, and against an effort to undermine the Endangered Species Act. Again, he signed a letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting funds for animal-welfare enforcement and other programs. But HSLF didn't list him as a leader.

The complete Humane Scorecard for 2016 hasn't been released. So by my count Ellison currently has an average lifetime rating of 86.6-percent from HSLF. None of his rivals for DNC chair have served in the Senate or House of Representatives. As a result, they haven't received such ratings. Over Twitter, I asked Michael Markarian, president of HSLF, whether his organization had an endorsement in the contest, but he didn't respond.

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