Our cause has made some of its most tangible gains by qualifying and passing ballot initiatives in the last quarter century, bringing issues directly to voters when lawmakers won’t take action on common-sense reforms. Since The HSUS and The Fund for Animals put their shoulders into direct democratic action in the states in 1990 – with voter approval of Prop 117 in California to outlaw the trophy hunting of mountain lions – we’ve racked up an incredible win rate on a wide range of issues.
The passage of Prop 2 in California – to ban the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens – did more to propel the debate on farm animal protection in the United States than any other single action, setting the stage for the raft of corporate wins we’ve had in the last few years. Our series of three winning anti-cockfighting ballot measures – in Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma – stopped plenty of intentional cruelty and set us up to run the table with remaining states where the practice was legal. It also positioned us to enact a comprehensive national ban on cockfighting through our work in Congress. When voters swamped the NRA and overwhelmingly rejected the target shooting of mourning doves and the trophy hunting of wolves in Michigan, it revealed that certain forms of hunting simply don’t curry favor with the public, even in a Rust Belt state with major traditions of farming and hunting.
We’re now just about a month away from the general election, and The HSUS and its affiliates are actively supporting pro-animal measures in Massachusetts and Oregon. There are a series of other measures we also back and hope will pass. And of course, with our progress, there is always an inevitable political backlash, and that’s in evidence in Oklahoma, where lawmakers have referred a draconian measure to the ballot designed to stymie any future limits on the conduct of agriculture, including raising dogs on puppy mills or roosters for cockfighting.
Yes on Question 3 in Massachusetts: Massachusetts voters will decide Question 3, banning extreme confinement and stipulating that eggs, pork, and veal sold in the Bay State will have to be produced by cage-free operations, regardless of where they are. The agribusiness lobby sued to try to keep us off the ballot, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously in our favor, allowing the measure to proceed. We’ve got 1,000 volunteers reaching out in Massachusetts through donor-knocking, and more than 1,000 people making phone calls to Massachusetts voters.
Yes on I-177 in Montana: In late June, grassroots advocates qualified a ballot measure to end commercial and recreational trapping on public lands in Montana to protect people, pets, and wildlife from indiscriminate, hidden, and baited traps. The initiative is based on the principle that Montana’s public lands, and the wildlife on them, are held in the public trust. Steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps are indiscriminate, cruel, and dangerous, and make those public lands unsafe for pets and wildlife. Arizona passed a similar measure by a wide margin two decades ago, and several other western states, including California, Colorado, and Washington, have passed comprehensive anti-trapping measures.
Yes on Measure 100 in Oregon: Oregon has an opportunity to join the global movement to stop illegal wildlife trafficking and the barbaric methods poachers employ to kill elephants, rhinos, and other endangered animals teetering on extinction. Our team gathered more than 150,000 signatures to ensure Oregon voters have the opportunity to take a stand this November. Oregon is now poised to join Washington, Hawaii, and California as the last state on the West Coast to shut down local markets for those who seek to profit from this destructive wildlife trade. Washington voters approved a very similar ballot measure last November. Most of the state’s major newspapers, including The Oregonian, The East Oregonian, Portland Tribune, Register-Guard, and Mail-Tribune, have endorsed Measure 100.
No on State Question 777 in Oklahoma: This misleading measure — titled “Right to Farm” but more accurately characterized as “Right to Harm” – found its place on the ballot after the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and other agribusiness interests convinced state lawmakers to refer it there. This constitutional amendment would prevent voters and even legislators from making reforms that would benefit food safety animal welfare and the quality of Oklahoma’s land, air, and water. It is so broadly and vaguely written that anyone describing themselves as being involved in agricultural production and technology will be shielded from future oversight or accountability by the state, including puppy mills and cockfighting operations. Oklahoma University’s legendary coach Barry Switzer is urging a “no” on 777, as are cities and counties throughout the state. The Tulsa World, Norman Transcript, and Muskogee Phoenix are just a few of the state’s newspapers opposing this dangerous, overreaching measure.
No on 71 in Colorado: This measure also seeks to take power away from voters and consolidate it in the hands of state lawmakers, by making constitutional amendments in Colorado virtually impossible to conduct successfully. The existing requirements are already hard to meet, and the proposed language of this amendment requires a super-majority of 55 percent of voters to approve a proposed amendment, and it also requires signatures from all 35 state senate districts to qualify for the ballot. The HSUS opposes attempts like this to severely limit the citizen’s initiative process. In 1996, Coloradans voted in support of a constitutional ban on the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps for commerce in fur or recreation. Because lawmakers had tried to overturn a different and enormously popular wildlife protection measure four years earlier (it got 70 percent of the vote) – to ban spring bear hunting or any baiting or hounding of bears – we opted to pursue the anti-trapping constitutional amendment to prevent an unfair legislative attack on the measure. Amendment 71 is backed by special interests who already have a vise grip on state lawmakers, and don’t want uppity citizens taking policy-making into their own hands.
Yes on Proposition 67 in California: Californians will vote on Proposition 67 to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds. Some ocean animals mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastic, and die of starvation.
More than ever, animal protection ideas are ascendant – as evidenced by gains in the corporate and political realms and a growing consciousness about animals and their intelligence. Yet our cause is tested with every battle, and we have some especially tough fights this year. There’s so much at stake with every one of these ballot measures. We hope you’ll join our efforts to pass the measures we favor and to defeat those that warrant opposition.