Things That Matter

Julián Castro Makes History: Becomes First Candidate To Release Comprehensive Animal Welfare Plan

It’s August 2019. We are just over a year away from the 2020 elections but the Democratic primary race has been well underway for a few months already. 

We’ve had two debates and have gotten to know each of the 23 Democrats running for President a bit better as they share their policy viewpoints. We’ve learned where the candidates stand on immigration, healthcare, foreign policy, racism, and Trump’s impeachment. However, until now, none of the candidates have outlines policy positions when it comes to animal welfare. 

Julian Castro isn’t just the first candidate of this primary race to release a detailed animal welfare plan, he’s the first candidate for president to ever release a plan like this one. 

In a Twitter announcement, Julián Castro announced his far-ranging animal welfare plan.

With his new set of proposals, Castro positions himself among the leading voices for advancing animal protections, something that polling suggests the public overwhelmingly supports.

His ideas include ending the euthanasia of healthy cats and dogs in shelters, making animal cruelty a federal crime and expanding U.S. protected lands. The plan won praise from animal welfare advocates who have pushed 2020 candidates to publish similar platforms and to support animal-friendly legislation.

“We applaud Secretary Castro’s proposal to protect our pets, wildlife, and animals raised for food,” Brad Pyle, the political director at the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Voters are lucky to have so many animal protection champions seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.”

Under Castro’s pawlicy, the US would move away from euthanizing perfectly healthy animals who are waiting for forever homes in shelters.

In a post on Medium, Castro said, “Last year, over 700,000 animals were euthanized in America’s shelters, a cruel and unjust fate for far too many lives. But our nation can choose a different path. This month, Delaware became the first “no-kill” state, with more than 90 percent of animals returned to their owners or provided a home.

His policy would also provide protections for farmed animals, the farming of which contribute the greatest risk towards climate change.

And in that same Medium post, Casto suggested the federal government should follow California’s lead in adopting more progressive protections for farmed animals.

Paul Shapiro, a leading animal rights advocate, has come out in favor of Castro’s plan.

Shapiro is the author of “Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World“ and a vocal advocate for animal welfare. In a tweet, he welcomed the groundbreaking announcement and thought that it could lead to even greater protections for animals in the future.

Many have pointed out that the policy plan come just days after the Trump administration gutted protections for endangered species.

Castro may see an opening as the issue may have even more resonance with Democrats after President Trump’s weakening of the Endangered Species Act, the law that brought the bald eagle, the humpback whale and the grizzly bear back from the brink of extinction. Castro, meanwhile, said he would strengthen the landmark legislation.

In announcing his plan, Castro sought to position himself as the fix to four years of Trump administration policies.

“The president does not care about animals and his cruel actions prove it. He has put corporate profits over living creatures and individual fortunes over our future,” Castro said in a statement. “This groundbreaking plan will improve the treatment of animals around the country and the world, and undo Donald Trump’s damage.”

And Castro’s policy would go directly after one of Trump Jr’s favorite so-called ‘hobbies.’ 

His plan would also end the import of big-game trophies. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is an infamous big-game hunter.

“Protecting these majestic animals must first start with repealing the Trump administration’s NRA loopholes that allow trophy hunting and enforcing strict penalties on the domestic ivory trade,” the plan reads.

Reactions to Castro’s plan have been met with huge surprise and admiration across Twitter.

A lot of people admitted that this policy announcement was enough to cement their support for the Texas congressman. And they hoped that Castro made it through the upcoming primary process so they could vote for him in their state’s primary.

One Twitter user, @thejohnburke1, said “I loved Julian Castro already, but a man who fights for animals is who I’ll fight for.”

Another person on Twitter, @hr072, said “I love love love this… Brilliant plan by #Castro2020”

Many joked that a whole new constituency may have just been created by this groundbreaking policy announcement.

Few doubt the commitment and dedication of animal lovers. They are often truly dedicated to their cause and seldom take no for an answer. From so-called cat ladies to militant vegans and pony girls, the animal welfare/rights community is a tight knit community that may just help carry Castro into the next debates with this new policy plan.

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Costco Pulls Chaokoh Coconut Milk Off the Shelves After the Brand Is Accused of Using Forced Monkey Labor

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Costco Pulls Chaokoh Coconut Milk Off the Shelves After the Brand Is Accused of Using Forced Monkey Labor

If you’re planning on buying Chaokoh coconut milk on your next trip to Costco, it’s best you look elsewhere. The wholesale giant has reportedly stopped stocking the Thailand-manufactured product due to allegations of forced monkey labor.

You read that right. USA Today reported that Costco expressed concern over Chaokoh’s labor practices after they were made aware of some upsetting accusations.

PETA alleges that monkeys are (often illegally) taken from their families in the wild and kept “chained” and “isolated” on “barren dirty farms” in Thailand where they have little opportunity to interact with their own kind. An investigator recorded upsetting footage.

The footage shows monkeys chained and caged in cramped quarters. One yanks on its cage, ostensibly trying to escape. The monkey are let out to climb trees and pick coconuts–sometimes up to 400 per day– and afterwards, they are once again confined to cages.

The coconuts they pick are used for the production of coconut milk, oils, yogurt, and other coconut-based products. While there, one of the workers told the PETA investigator that they supply their coconuts to Chaokoh.

While Costco will not publicly comment on the matter, USA Today obtained a letter a Costco executive wrote to PETA about the allegations.

“We have ceased purchasing from our supplier/owner of the brand Chaokoh,” wrote Ken Kimble, Costco’s vice president and general merchandise manager, in a letter dated September 29th.

Kimble added: “We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting and that all harvesting must be done by human labor. In turn, our supplier has contractually required the same of all its suppliers. In addition, our supplier is in the process of visiting every one of its supplier farms to communicate the harvest policies.”

Although PETA has obtained footage of the monkey labor practices, the manufacturer of Chaokoh says they have conducted an internal audit of 64 farms out of 817 farms they source from. According to them, they “did not find the use of monkey for coconut harvesting.” They even presented USA Today with a 14-page document entitled the “Monkey-Free Coconut Due Diligence Assessment”.

Costco is not the only retail chain that stopped supplying Chaokoh. Walgreens, Duane Reade, ShopRite and Smart & Final are no longer selling the coconut milk brand due to the alleged animal abuse practices. Meanwhile, Target, Walmart, and Kroger still have the brand listed on their websites.

According to PETA, Thailand is the primary country that employs monkey-labor practices. Other coconut-heavy regions like Brazil, Colombia, and Hawaii use humane methods.

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

Gabriela Bhaskar / Getty Images

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, progressives are struggling to figure out their next move. Republicans have made it clear they don’t care about precedent or even following their own made up rules, and plan to attempt to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible.

Some Republicans have even gone as far as saying they’ll vote to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee even if he loses the November election, in a lame duck session of Congress.

This has Democrats in overdrive trying to figure out their game plan and how they’ll respond to Republican efforts to once again steal a Supreme Court seat.

Julián Castro says that Democrats should consider packing the court if they come into power come January.

In an interview with Buzzfeed’s News O’Clock podcast, this year’s only Latino candidate for president said that Democrats should consider adding more justices to the Supreme Court if Senate Republicans rush to confirm a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His announcement is a reversal from his stated position during the presidential campaign.

“For many of us, that wasn’t our preference, but the fact is you have Mitch McConnell not abiding by, not working in good faith under the Constitution. … If you have that kind of abuse of the system, then I think that, yeah, Democrats should be open to different ways that we can stave off draconian changes to our fundamental rights,” he said.

During last year’s presidential primaries, Castro said that he “would not pack the court” if we were elected president, but with reproductive rights, voting rights, and healthcare hanging in the balance, he now believes Democrats should consider structural reform to the court.

“When those are the stakes, and Mitch McConnell is the one who’s abused this system, then yeah, I think we need to be open to considering either adding more justices or other structural reforms that will prevent this kind of abuse in the future,” he said.

Nothing in the Constitution limits the number of justices that sit on the Supreme Court.

Credit: Sam Gateaux / Getty Images

Adding more justices to the Supreme Court, or “packing the court”, has become widely popular among progressives as they see it as a last resort to restoring equality to the court. And the only way in writing wrongs committed by Republican Senate leadership.

Obviously, one concern is that if the Democrats increase the court size when they have power, that the Republicans could expand it again when they regain power. And we would have a never ending saga.

But as the Democrats are once again outplayed and outmaneuvered by the GOP, many say it’s a risk worth taking.

Castro also warned that Biden was losing his traction with Latino voters.

Meanwhile, Castro has also expressed concern that the Biden campaign isn’t doing enough to win the support of Latino voters.

“I believe the campaign gets it in that they understand they have work to do,” Castro said, adding that he thinks that Biden will pick up Latino support by Nov. 3 because the campaign is now investing in voter registration, bilingual messaging across platforms, and tailored outreach to different Latino communities, rather than treating them as one unified voting block.

“The Latino community too often is invisible, it’s an afterthought,” said Castro, who was housing secretary under Barack Obama. “Even though it’s going to be the largest non-white voting group in 2020. I think in every way in American society … there’s this image of the Latino community as though everybody got here five minutes ago.”

Joe Biden’s campaign has “to make sure that they are doing everything they can to reach out to a community that already has one of the lowest rates of voting, that needs to be brought into the fold”, Castro said.

With 29 million eligible voters in 2018, or about 12.8% of the total, Latinos voted more than two-to-one for Democrats, according to Pew Research. That was a much lower rate than for the party’s key bloc, African Americans, who went 90%-9% for Democrats.

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