Voting ends tomorrow in the statewide election in Washington, and the big item on the ballot for animal advocates is I-1401, the most comprehensive anti-wildlife trafficking proposal ever considered in a state. Polling indicates the measure has a strong lead, but we are taking nothing for granted. We’re working to get our supporters to cast their ballots by mail, to deliver new protections from trade in the parts of elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, tigers, cheetahs, sharks, rays, and sea turtles.
The HSUS has joined forces with billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen and others on this ballot measure, and we are excited about the prospect of Washington voters doing their part to crack down on the global trade in the parts of rare species. The New York Times reported on it today, and most of the state’s leading papers, including the Seattle Times and Spokesman Review, have endorsed I-1401.
In neighboring Oregon, The HSUS is part of a growing coalition of animal advocates, conservationists, and zoos that turned in more than 1,500 preliminary signatures to then kick-start round two of a signature-gathering effort to qualify a similar measure for the statewide ballot in Oregon a year from now. That measure is modeled closely after Washington’s I-1401, and both come on the heels of California governor Jerry Brown’s signing of legislation to ban the commercial trade in ivory and rhino horn.
No group has been more effective at using the ballot initiative process to drive reform than The HSUS. We’ve conducted dozens of campaigns through the years to outlaw cockfighting, bear baiting and hounding, trophy hunting of mountain lions, captive shooting of exotic mammals on fenced-in areas, the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps for recreation and commerce in fur, and the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms.
On the front page of today’s Boston Globe, reporter Joshua Miller provides some context for our long-running efforts to engage citizens in democratic decision-making and writes about a second path-breaking ballot initiative we are helping to lead in this election cycle – a measure in Massachusetts to ban extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens on factory farms, and to stipulate that any veal, pork, or eggs sold in the state must come from farms that do not crowd the animals in cages and crates barely larger than their bodies. The Massachusetts measure builds on a successful 2008 California ballot initiative, Proposition 2, that dealt with industrial agriculture practices that immobilize certain types of farm animals for their entire lives.
Our staff and volunteers are working hard, along with representatives from many other organizations, to put this measure on the ballot for next November. We are, however, in the stretch run of the crucial signature-gathering phase, and need about 95,000 signatures to qualify to put the measure in front of voters. If you’re a registered Massachusetts’s voter, you can request a petition to sign and return by mail here: citizensforfarmanimals.com/sign, or better yet, gather signatures of friends, family members, and others and help us reach our goal.
In states where a small number of lawmakers bottle up popular reform, we’ve used the initiative process in the states to make things happen. We’ve also used the referendum process to nullify bad laws approved by lawmakers, as we did when we succeeded in asking voters to nix measures enacted by Michigan lawmakers (2006) to allow mourning dove hunting and trophy hunting and trapping of wolves (2014).
By engaging citizens and driving reform, we’ve elevated the prominence of animal issues. We’ve also set an example for other states to follow. And we’ve shown time and again that there is a strong majority of Americans who care about animal issues and want stronger standards in our society to eliminate cruelty and other forms of unfair treatment – and that has implications for all animal issues. In fact, it was after our landslide victory on Prop 2 in California that we’ve seen a cascade of major food retail companies – from McDonald’s to Burger King to, just last week Kellogg’s and TGI Friday’s – to adopt anti-confinement principles for their procurement of animal products.
I hope you’ll spread the word between now and tomorrow night to Washington state voters to cast a “yes” vote on I-1401 and I hope you’ll get involved with our petition drives in Massachusetts and Oregon to put important issues on the statewide ballot. And more broadly, I hope you’ll support The HSUS and its affiliates in working to use direct democracy where appropriate to change the fortunes of animals caught up in so many situations of distress. We can do better as a society, and our ballot measures are showing the way.