A Right to Farm, But No Right to Free Speech for Opponents of Animal Abuse?

By on March 23, 2016 with 6 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

I’ve written recently about two outrageous and closely related maneuvers in Oklahoma: the first, an effort by the farm lobby and its allies in the puppy mill and cockfighting domains to pass a sweeping and overreaching constitutional amendment by referendum to establish a “right to farm,” and the second, an effort in the state legislature to bar national animal protection groups with a policy-making agenda from raising money in the state.

The Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the pork and cattle lobbies opposed an anti-cockfighting ballot measure in that state more than a decade ago, and in the years since they’ve worked to overturn the state’s ban on horse slaughter and to gut anti-puppy mill rules established not too long ago.  Now they want to create a freeze-frame of the current legal standards for animals used in agriculture – no meaningful rules on puppy mills, no rules in the state on extreme confinement of farm animals, no meaningful restrictions on dumping animal waste into the environment – and they want to forbid us and a host of other organizations and stakeholders from changing those standards from this point forward.

If their right to farm measure wasn’t absurdly bold and overreaching enough, they’ve gone to their key allies in the state legislature to try to prevent us from raising money to fight them or to advance our broad animal protection agenda. They want to bar fundraising by groups who care for animals and about animals – a legislative affront so offensive that even the bill’s author conceded to Tulsa World reporter Barbara Hoberock that it “probably is” unconstitutional.

Yet while all of this anti-democratic, anti-First Amemdment activity is going on, The HSUS is not only working with just about every food retailer in the nation to eliminate extreme confinement practices everywhere, we are also working in Oklahoma itself on a wide range of lifesaving programs for other animals.

We recently conducted anti-cruelty training programs for more than 700 law enforcement personnel throughout the state. And the training is already saving lives on the ground.

Last week, after receiving training from The HSUS on how to properly investigate animal cruelty, Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at a home and rescued eight starving horses. Unfortunately, they were too late for three horses who had already perished. A portion of the training by The HSUS dealt with equine investigations, specifically how to body-score a horse and address malnourished equines. The training also provided resources for handling a large animal seizure and helped the sheriff’s department connect with Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue who helped transport and house the horses.

In Creek County, Oklahoma, Deputy Sheriff Dru Davis found himself on a property with 28 dogs. Davis had undergone HSUS law enforcement training just days before, and with that knowledge at the top of his mind, he could readily identify signs of neglect and abuse. Most of the dogs at the private home were severely emaciated, including several malnourished nursing mothers. There were dead puppies among the living. Davis said he found contact information for Gina Gardner of the Humane Society of Tulsa, one of our Emergency Placement Partners, from his folder of HSUS resources and an evidence kit given to him at the training, and called for help. Gardner and her team helped him remove the dogs from the property: the owners relinquished 21 and the remaining were spayed and neutered and received medical treatment before being returned to the owners, with the agreement that Davis would check in regularly on their welfare. Davis said that had it not been for the HSUS training he would not have known what to do.

The folks who want to halt progress for animal welfare – whether for companion animals or horses or farm animals or any other creature in need and deserving mercy – are standing against the tide of history. When they try to push us out, we just work to become more rooted in the state. We’re focused more and more on Oklahoma, and for all the right reasons. Animals there need us, and so many people in the state really care. They won’t be intimidated by folks who want to choke off the debate about animal welfare, in order to get free rein to abuse as they please.

Support the lifesaving work of The HSUS »

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Annoula Wylderich says:

    What a horrible example they are setting. Catering to special interest groups is shortsighted enough, but they’re truly crossing a line by trampling on constitutional rights. Their lack of compassion for vulnerable species is even more offensive. Oklahoma policymakers need to step into the 21st Century!

  2. David Bernazani says:

    It’s so sad that a few politicians in the pockets of Big Ag can cause so much damage to progress in a state that so sorely needs it. I hope the HSUS inundates Oklahoma with information on these political machinations so its citizens can vote out the corruption and elect decent people who will do better.

  3. Sally Palmer says:

    I never fail to be blown away when agribusiness tries to close a door, The HSUS opens a window. As bad as these attempts to create complete freedom to hurt both animals and humans are, they do become the mothers of invention and inspiration. It makes me want to go live in Oklahoma to join the fight! Of course, I have plenty of issues in my own state to keep me busy. We are all looking forward to consumer preferences hitting them in the sales belt where it hurts these people most, because obviously nothing touches their hearts. Let us rally round the humane economy’s flag of truth, and not allow our country’s flag to be shamed and degraded by dictatorships such as these asking us blindly to salute a pack of lies.

  4. kPF says:

    Why don’t HSUS representatives visit real farms to see how animals are treated . I agree puppy mills and some other type husbandry faculties are not desired. The problem farmers have with HSUS is the gross over reach of what their mission seems to have been when the organization was started. Farmers are battling groups like HSUS and HSUS itself because of not reporting stories that are accurate in production agricultural today. We are attacked for using GMO traits in our crops . We are attacked by the EPA under WOTUS legislation now trying to be crammed down our throats with no idea where it stops . If that is not enough to upset you then they are looking at how much dust agricultural creates by our everyday activities. Then nowdays they are looking at methane emissions by our livestock as a source of global warming . I don’t think one person I know says HSUS can’t have the right to raise money in Oklahoma . Does the House Bill now in question state that ? It says if you raise money in Oklahoma it should be spent in Oklahoma. Now , if you truly believe money raised by the HSUS should be directed to the betterment of all animal, and not spent on some kind of political agenda to file lawsuits , or support efforts that has nothing to do with the welfare of animals then you see why this type of legislation has been introduced. It is solely to help counter attacks on our industry. If this type activities keeps up organizations like HSUS have just only began to see ag’s push back. Our backs are against the wall and we are having to protect our livelihood in a manner we see fit. For the record my family is a proud sponsor of our local humane society. They have great folks at our local site and every dime given goes to the Animals . Thank You !

    • Barbara wood says:

      Hsus is concerned with large scale factory farming; from
      Which 95% of the meat the public gets its meat is

    • Beverly Scott says:

      If you don’t like HSUS and other people and organizations protecting animals, then you need to do something else with your time. At no time do I think it is okay to turn your back on the protection of animals and the people protecting them and trying to pass laws to protect them. I think it is awful that people and/or companies fight laws to protect our animals and our earth. What right do you people think you have fighting these laws thinking that the earth and all its inhabitants are at your disposal…Instead of whining, do something positive

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.