Parnell is Best Choice for Animals in SC-5

South Carolinians who care about animals should vote for Democrat Archie Parnell in the fifth congressional district’s special election on June 20, despite the fact he’s demonstrated no commitment to nonhuman welfare. Parnell’s chief opponent, Republican Ralph Norman, doesn’t have a clear record on the issue either, but has been endorsed by a rogues gallery of animal haters. Meanwhile, Green Party selection David Kulma, who represents an organization with comparatively progressive views on nonhumans, doesn’t have a chance to win. Of course, supporting Parnell shouldn’t preclude activists from recruiting more pro-animal candidates for 2018.

The Democratic nominee is a former tax attorney from Goldman Sachs — a resume unlikely to endear him to economic progressives — and has no history in elected office which we can examine for clues about his perspective on animal welfare. So far as I can tell, he’s made no public statements on the matter and at the time of writing his campaign hasn’t responded to a request for clarification on his views. All that being said, because Parnell is a Democrat, we must presume he is more progressive on nonhuman issues than his conservative rival. For animal activists, this is a sad state of affairs. But I believe politicians will more directly address our priorities when we organize and make them clear.

Norman, the Republican candidate, previously served in the South Carolina House of Representatives. A cursory search didn’t reveal much about his positions. In 2006, according to VoteSmart.org, he supported a bill increasing animal-fighting penalties — but this is hardly a controversial stand. More tellingly, Norman is running on the Republican ticket, which, by and large, signals extreme hostility to animal welfare. His campaign website prominently touts an endorsement from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who earned a 0-percent rating from the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2016. If Norman’s views on nonhumans are anything like Cruz’s, it would be disastrous for animals.

Kulma, the Green nominee, doesn’t mention animal welfare amongst the long list of issues he highlights on his campaign website. But just like we should assume Democrats are generally more progressive on nonhuman policy than Republicans, so we should assume Greens are generally more forward-thinking than Democrats. After all, the third party boasts a platform which calls for banning puppy mills, phasing out animal testing of consumer products, and a good amount more — though much of it seems overly vague. Sadly, Kulma doesn’t have a credible shot at winning this election, as is often the case of Green Party candidates.

Going forward, I hope animal activists in South Carolina, and across the country, use the Democratic Party as a vehicle to advance their views. Those in the fifth district, who care about nonhumans, should recruit a more progressive candidate to run in 2018 — no matter who wins this year’s special election. Of course, in-state groups are in the best position to identify future prospects. I encourage voters to shoot for the moon during the primary process. Campaign fiercely for someone who wants to prohibit fur sales, end animal circuses, and invest in cultured-meat research. But fall in line during the general election if your choice isn’t nominated.

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