How Colombia’s presidential candidates stack up on animal rights: Hernández vs. Petro

By Ángela Forero-Aponte June 5, 2022

In the first of a new series, we’re looking at both candidates’ positions on certain issues in the run-up to the presidential election in Colombia. We’re starting with animal rights.

Photo: Dominik QN on Unsplash

Animal rights have been important on the political agenda in the last few years. More and more activists are advocating for animal rights, making it a pivotal issue for some voters. Here is a short summary of where the two run-off candidates stand on this issue. To be fair, there is little specific mentioning of animal protection in either of the candidates’ government plans – just three references across both manifestos. However, they have both appeared on social networks with animal rights advocates, and expressed their concern about this issue. 

Rodolfo Hernández

Rodolfo Hernández, on the one hand, got together with Yefferson Cossio, an influencer who, among other causes, is known for rescuing dogs and cats from abandoned locations. When invited to be part of Hernández’s movement a while ago, Cossio answered he wanted to join it, but he wasn’t a sellout. After a recent meeting with the candidate, this paisa influencer has said he’ll vote for Rodolfo, to which Hernández tweeted: “Protecting our pets is protecting life.”

There has been criticism on social networks of Hernández’s promise to protect animals though. When running for mayor of Bucaramanga, Hernández promised to build a Centre for Animal Welfare. The completion of this construction became unclear as Bucaramanga’s budget could not cover the two billion pesos in yearly maintenance. In a 2018 report, the mayor’s office announced they would not build the centre and would instead rebuild the zoonosis centre. Animal defenders and bumangueses alike were disappointed since Hernández had promised the centre during his campaign. His promise had been backed by a document signed before a notary that, “It is my commitment to build an animal centre…this commitment will be effected once I’m the elected mayor of Bucaramanga.”

Gustavo Petro

Gustavo Petro has a slightly clearer idea for animals. He promises to recognise animals as sentient beings, protect good treatment of animals and free Colombia from speciesism. Bullfighting would be stripped of all public funding. He was officially backed by elected senator and animals rights defender Andrea Padilla who, on a video published on her official twitter account, stated, “Let´s hope with [a Petro] government, animals are offered the State we always denied them.” She cited the organisation and responsibility she believes Petro has for animals.

Candidate Petro has made a commitment with Senator Padilla on the following items:

  • Institutional strengthening to take on the implementation of public policy practices for the protection and welfare of domestic and wild animals, strengthening which must allot “financial, legal, and human” resources to perform this implementation.
  • Broadening of the “capabilities to provide assistance and to take action regarding animal protection and concerning the fight against animal abuse” as well as to widen the “human resources appointed to the Special Team against Animal Abuse of the General Attorney´s Office and of the Environmental Police Force.”
  • To support “legislative initiatives” to: “put and end to violent and abusive cultural manifestations, reduce cruel and unnecessary cattle-raising practices, to protect wild animals and improve their institutional care, to strengthen the laws related to the protection of animals and to the fight against animal mistreatment, to end the exploitation of animals for touristic, entertainment, safety and surveillance purposes, to substitute comercial activities where animals are involved with other activities to generate Jobs.
  • Also, “legislative initiatives” to: acknowledge the work of animal protectionists and rescuers, and to support shelters and animal protection foundations, the regulation of responsible pet keeping, including a national sterilization policy, education in animal and environmental protection for children and youngsters, and any other policy to improve the welfare of domestic and wild animals.

Finally, here’s a little gossip on the candidates’ pets (they’re both dog people).

Petro’s: Golden retriever Phillipe and English cocker spaniel Tequila. Bacatá, his dog when he was  mayor of Bogotá died while on one of her walks.

Hernández’s: No pets of his own, but presents his son’s Frenchies as his. Narcojosé (this name was given by his son when narconovelas were hip), and Oreo. Both pets have Instagram accounts.