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Since the 2020 race to the White House first began several months ago, we've seen a swarm of politicians, former athletes, and businessmen alike throw their hats in the ring (opens in new tab) for a shot at holding the highest office in the land. In the Republican corner, things are pretty light; only two conservatives, William Weld and Mark Sanford, have the guts to directly challenge the current incumbent Donald Trump. However, to the left are 17 (down a few hopefuls since the race started) different candidates from a colorful medley of professional, cultural, and political backgrounds clamoring for the Democratic nomination.
With so many people crowding the election, it can feel difficult to distinguish the candidates from one another. There are so many important issues being discussed within the political space right now—healthcare for all, immigration, and the economy have been the focus of many of the recent Democratic debates (opens in new tab)—and many of the candidates have similar, if not identical stances on the issues that matter the most. However, few candidates have spoken up with thorough plans to address the often-ignored topic of animal rights. Cory Booker has been among the most vocal of his peers. During the third Democratic debate (opens in new tab) earlier this month, moderator Jorge Ramos pointedly asked if Booker believed that Americans should follow his plant-based diet, to which the former mayor cheerfully responded, "No." But don't take that to mean that he doesn't think that eating less meat is a good idea; the 50-year-old's veganism is closely tied to his personal politics.
Booker's passion for animal advocacy began in 1992; after reading Gandhi's autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth as a college student attending Oxford University, he decided to try cutting meat out of his diet just to see how his body would be affected by the change. Pleased with the results, Booker stuck with his vegetarian diet until he started doing more research about the ways in which the environment and its inhabitants were impacted by animal consumption. "My veganism started then," he told VegNews (opens in new tab) earlier this year. "It was almost like my conditioning had changed." His very last time eating a non-vegan meal was on November 4, 2014—Election Day.
Now fully vegan, the former Newark mayor's bid for president stands out from that of his opponents in that his proposed policies (opens in new tab) as POTUS will include measures to create a more sustainable environment for both humans and animals. Those measures will focus on pushing back against the corporate big wigs behind the factory farming system and forcing smaller family farms out of business. Booker's policies will also make illegal the "ag-gag laws" (opens in new tab) that allow these corporations to hide the animal abuse that goes on at the farms from the American people.
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"Legislatively, I want to continue to be a part of a movement of folk who are fighting against corporate interests that are undermining the public good and the public welfare," said Booker in his interview with VegNews. "I believe that Americans do care about the cruelty to animals...so, I think there’s a lot of legislation we could be doing to stop sort of corporate power from reigning over the power of individuals to have freedom of choice, to see more compassion, to see a focus on public health."
The only other current candidate on the Democratic side to come up with a fully fleshed out plan to address animal welfare in the United States is Julián Castro, the former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. Castro's proposal, appropriately named the PAW (Protecting Animals and Wildlife) Plan (opens in new tab), promises to reinforce the Endangered Species Act by appointing an Interior Secretary with a background in conservation science, creating a $2 billion National Wildlife Recovery Fund to combat extinction, and doubling the Multinational Species Conservation Fund. And like Booker, Castro also wants to regulate the animal farming industry so that animal cruelty on corporate farms no longer goes unseen and unpunished.
Whether you identify with veganism or personally enjoy a medium-rare steak every now and again, animal welfare is a pressing environmental issue that can't be ignored by anyone who wants to be President of the Unites States. In the future, you can bet that more of the candidates, at least on the Democratic end, will take began to roll out their own policies regarding animal rights.
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