Knollenberg repeatedly fails to curb animal cruelty
Almost no one defends cruelty any longer, and it would be hard to understand the motivation of a lawmaker who voted against efforts to crack down on the inhumane treatment of animals.
After all, animal welfare is widely recognized as a social virtue. Oakland County readers may be surprised, then, that Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Hills, stubbornly refuses to let go of the ugly past. Sadly, he has amassed one of the worst records on animal cruelty issues in Congress. Throughout his career in Washington, he has opposed modest and common-sense animal welfare reforms.
He has time and again opposed efforts to halt the slaughtering of America's horses for export to Europe and Asia so the animals' meat could be consumed as a delicacy. His position is at odds with the important historical place horses have occupied in our culture. They helped Americans settle this country.
While horses are not food animals, even livestock deserve basic humane treatment -- but Knollenberg has voted to deny such protections and play Russian roulette with our food supply. He sought to continue processing "downer" cattle -- animals who are too sick or injured to walk to slaughter, and are often dragged with chains, ropes, bulldozers, and forklifts. These downer cows pose a greater threat of spreading "mad cow disease," or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), because they may go lame due to illness or neurological disease. Of the 15 known cases of BSE-infected animals discovered in North America, at least 12 involved downer animals.
Animals in the wild don't fare any better with Knollenberg. Last year, he voted to allow wealthy American trophy hunters to shoot polar bears in the Arctic -- where they face threats from global warming and vanishing ice floes -- and bring their heads and hides back across the border to America. It is already illegal to hunt these polar bears for sport in Alaska, so trophy hunters skirt the spirit of U.S. law by killing polar bears abroad.
The Safari Club International gives out a "Bears of the World" hunting achievement award to individuals who shoot four of the eight species of bears in the world, and that awards program drives competitive killing of polar bears.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has made a preliminary finding that polar bears should now be listed as "threatened" with extinction.
It wasn't the first time Knollenberg had taken aim at wildlife. He voted to allow the trophy shooting of bears over piles of grease and jelly doughnuts on national forests and other federal lands, and the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and wire neck snares on national wildlife refuges -- inhumane and unsporting practices opposed by responsible hunters. He even voted against two measures that would have protected dolphins from drowning in tuna nets.
Even with a ballooning deficit, and even though he says he's a fiscal conservative, Knollenberg believes in giving government hand-outs to industries that abuse animals. He voted to use your tax dollars to promote the trophy hunting of elephants in Africa, and to give a $2 million annual subsidy to the luxury mink coat industry.
Of all 15 Congressional districts in Michigan, the Ninth District has the most members of the Humane Society of the United States. Knollenberg's opposition to the most modest animal welfare reforms, especially in light of the humane-minded constituency he represents, is just perplexing.
Citizens of the Ninth District, and the nation's animals, deserve better treatment.
Michael Markarian is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. He writes the blog "Animals & Politics" online at www.michaelmarkarian.org.