Animal activists should support Michael Hansen in Alabama’s Democratic Senate primary on August 15. In Hansen, executive director of an environmental group, Alabamians have a progressive willing to take surprisingly bold positions on animal welfare. If the Humane Society Legislative Fund hasn’t endorsed his candidacy already — which they haven’t appeared to have done — they certainly should. At the time of writing, none of Hansen’s Democratic rivals discussed animal welfare on their campaign websites or answered my requests for information about their views, with the exception of one candidate who provided an unsatisfactorily conservative response.
In an emailed reply to my questions, Hansen said he supported federal funding for cultured-meat research, as well as national bans on fur sales and animal circuses. This would put him well to the left of some of the most compassionate senators currently in office, like New Jersey’s Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, who haven’t made such commitments, so far as I’m aware. Of course, a candidate’s progressive commitments don’t mean a great deal if the candidate can’t get elected. Hansen himself has conceded his chances aren’t good in a post to his website: “Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a long shot — I’m 35, gay, and a Democrat — but it’s one we have to take.”
Besides answering a few specific queries in his messages to me, the environmentalist suggested he would likely include animal issues in his soon-to-be-released platform. “I haven’t put together an animal rights platform yet,” Hansen said, noting the campaign platform would be made public in the coming days, and he would try to include language codifying his support for cultured meat, a ban on animal circuses and a prohibition on fur sales. “I’ll probably include something about CAFOs as well.” Of course, CAFO is an acronym for concentrated animal feeding operation.
Rival Democrat Brian McGee also responded to my emailed questions, but his answers were far less promising. “I was a farmer and I believe that, as long as one is going to eat meat, animals need to be treated humanely,” the candidate said vaguely. “I believe in developing methods of transporting and killing animals for consumption in a humane way. I believe that much of the current industry does not treat animals as well as they deserve to be treated.” He noted that he participates in blood sports. “I haven’t gone deer hunting in over 30 years,” McGee said. “But I enjoy hunting with my bird dogs when I have time, as I enjoy the beauty of watching a gifted dog point and retrieve game.”
I hope Alabamians who care about animals will vote for Hansen in the special election primary on August 15. Again, aside from McGee, Hansen was the only Democratic candidate in the race who either addressed animal welfare on their campaign’s website or responded to my request for clarification on their views, by the time of writing. The answers he gave me suggested someone who’s willing to take a strong stand for animals. Taken together, federal funding for cultured meat, national bans on animal circuses and fur sales — all things Hansen supports — would represent dramatic progress for animals. We need more candidates like this environmentalist to run and win.