Animal Rights Collective Blog

Dark Days for Virginia by christine
November 26, 2009, 1:39 am
Filed under: Animal Rights News, Local Events

What the GOP Victory in Virginia May Mean for Animals and Their Defenders

On November 3, the Republican Party of Virginia won sweeping victories. The GOP won the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general’s seat. The victory means Virginia Republicans will have a near monopoly on political power in Virginia and animals and their defenders may witness significant changes in the immediate future.

Bob McDonnell is the governor-elect in Virginia. The Republican outlined some of his political plans immediately after winning the statewide election.

McDonnell said his administration will accelerate granting permits for companies to explore and possibly drill for petroleum and natural gas off Virginia’s eastern coast. Geographic areas that may be explored include Virginia’s portion of the famed Assateague Island, located in Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Assateague Island, which is shared territorially between Virginia and Maryland, includes a National Wildlife Refuge (NWF) that serves as a resting spot for numerous migratory birds. The Refuge also serves as a home to several threatened or endangered species including the Delmarva fox squirrel, peregrine falcon, and the piping plover.

If a petroleum spill were to occur off the coast of Assateague Island, whether accidental or intentional, Assateague’s NWF could be destroyed.

Governor-elect McDonnell, in addition to Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who ran for and won the attorney general’s race, have both promised to deregulate the state business sector. This might mean that existing environmental and animal protection statues will be dismantled. This means animal producers in Virginia will most likely not be faced with additional regulation of their business practices and will continue their animal operations with minimal interference from state regulators.

The attorney general-elect, Ken Cuccinelli, will be the top law enforcement officer and lawyer for the Commonwealth. As such, Cuccinelli will determine the direction of the attorney general’s office. In other words, which individuals and groups to pursue and to what end.

Cuccinelli marketed himself during the attorney general’s race as a “law-and-order” candidate. In essence, it means he has promised to use the power of the attorney general’s office to crackdown on street crime and political dissent while protecting business interests. Undoubtedly, Cuccinelli is likely to crackdown on animal rights activists if they pose a threat to the profits of any company exploiting animals.

Animal rights activists in the last few years have come under increasing scrutiny from the state for their political beliefs and activities and this is likely to accelerate with both McDonnell and Cuccinelli in high political office.

Animal rights activists in northern Virgina have been the victims of state scrutiny for several years. At George Mason University, animal circus protesters have been physically and verbally harassed by police officers and FBI agents. Additionally, those activists have been under explicit surveillance.

In April 2008, four local activists had felony arrest warrants issued for them after wearing masks at a Ringling Brothers demonstration. Wearing a mask in public is a Class 6 Felony in Virginia. The law states: “it shall be unlawful for any person over sixteen years of age while wearing any mask, hood, or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered (§18.2-422 )” Eventually, three of the four arrests warrants were dropped while a fourth arrest remained outstanding until the respective activist was apprehended.

The immediate future of animals and their defenders may be difficult to predict as unexpected events occur and local jurisdictions change their political direction. However, animal rights activists should remain vigilant about changes that result from policies under the McDonnell administration.


1 Comment so far
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Very informative. I hadn’t realized what the election of a Republican governor (and AG) may do for animal rights in Virginia.

Comment by Tracy

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