What Does the New Administration Mean for Our Work?
April 7, 2017 Dr. Neal Barnard
The arrival of a new administration in Washington portends great changes in the political landscape. Many people are asking what this will mean for efforts to promote health, good nutrition, and ethical research. Will the new administration halt initiatives for healthy school meals and gut regulations that protect animals? Or will the opposite happen? Perhaps fiscal conservatives in the new administration will seek to end subsidies for the meat and dairy industries that drive up taxes and inflate health care costs. For now, it is too early to tell.
The sudden disappearance of the USDA animal welfare database in February was not a good sign. The database lists animal welfare violations and, as we report in this Good Medicine, its removal was a boon to animal abusers. The Physicians Committee is now suing the federal government to restore the database, working with a coalition of groups that are affected by this unwelcome change.
Troubling as this change at USDA was, it is too early to judge what the next four years will bring overall. In the world of nutrition, neither side of the political aisle has been a vigorous champion. Both are consistently lobbied by the meat, dairy, and snack food industries and have responded with federal subsidies, industry-friendly regulations, and the thoughtless inclusion of unhealthy foods in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The last administration aimed to do better than its predecessors, declaring war on childhood obesity with the Let’s Move campaign, but beat a quick retreat under intimidation by the food industry.
On the other hand, both sides of the aisle helped bring progress on animal testing last year with the passage of the Lautenberg Act which greatly favors nonanimal testing methods. This was the result of a successful roll-up-your-sleeves campaign that crossed the political divide.
So the Physicians Committee will work with the executive branch, Congress, and the courts for good health, smart science, and compassionate research. As always, we approach our work with neither pessimism nor unfounded optimism, but with determination.
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