It’s been a busy week in the states for animals. Yesterday, a key California Senate committee approved a ban on bullhooks, as the wake from last month’s Ringling Bros. announcement to retire its traveling elephant acts continues to be felt. Also on elephants, the Oregon Senate on Tuesday approved a ban to severely restrict any trade in ivory or rhino horn – with poachers killing the world’s biggest land mammals mainly to supply markets in China and the U.S. And Monday, in Washington state, after legislators aligned with the NRA blocked a similar measure, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen announced a ballot measure, with The HSUS’s support, that will restrict the sale of ivory, rhino horn, and the parts of eight other endangered species for commercial sale in the state – with the measure expected to go before voters this coming November.
But there have been bad outcomes in other states. In Florida, to the great disappointment of The HSUS and other animal advocates, the House abruptly adjourned its regular session, killing very popular bills to require injury reporting for greyhound racing and to eliminate a state requirement that tracks have to conduct live greyhound races in order to conduct other forms of gambling. We hope to revive the measures if the governor calls a special session on the gambling issue in the months ahead.
And in a truly awful display of politics at its worst, the Oklahoma House cleared a so-called “right to farm” constitutional amendment for the November 2016 ballot, positioning The HSUS and its allies against the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and other defenders of factory farming, the puppy mill industry, and the cockfighting industry. Oklahoma is home to enormous chicken and hog factory farms, some of which have polluted the Illinois River and other waterways, and confined animals by the millions so tightly that they cannot turn around.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau teamed up with two of the most outspoken and unabashed apologists for animal cruelty – D.C. lobbyist and public-relations operative Rick Berman and Indiana businessman Forrest Lucas – in their campaign to pass this measure and to demonize the good work of The HSUS. More than a decade ago, lawmakers beholden to the Farm Bureau placed a measure on the ballot to make it impossible for citizens to qualify any animal welfare measures for the ballot- a measure we, and the people of Oklahoma, defeated.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau coordinated this year’s campaign with the state attorney general, Scott Pruitt, who made false allegations about The HSUS during the legislative fight. Pruitt alleged that The HSUS raised money for relief efforts after the devastating Moore tornadoes hit. When we provided documentation disproving his allegations, he pivoted and said we don’t give enough money to animal shelters. We appreciate the advice, but generally don’t give much credence to people with no record of helping animals in shelters and who’ve never shown any interest in animal welfare except to obstruct progress. Of course, the entire reason for Pruitt’s phony campaign was to enable factory farms to do as they wish to animals.
It took a statewide campaign on our part to finally outlaw cockfighting in the state after a solid majority of lawmakers pandered to people who stage fights between animals. Then it took our campaign to block their attempt to ban citizen ballot initiatives to stop animal cruelty. And we’ll work hard this year and next to protect the right of citizens, local lawmakers, and future state lawmakers if they choose to act when agribusiness interests intrude on the well-being of others.
If any of these folks think they are silencing The HSUS, they’re wrong. We’ll be doubling down in Oklahoma and we’ll be announcing future plans in the state soon. And we’ll be continuing the fight to drive animal welfare reforms for farm animals, elephants, greyhounds, and other animals every day of the year in every state.