Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The right to harm

 A nasty piece of legislation passed the Oklahoma house and senate recently. Question 777, misleadingly named the right to farm bill. This question is slated to go on the ballots for Oklahoma voters in 2016.
 The right to farm, this sounds fair doesn't it? It doesn't sound so good  when you read the fine print and understand what this is really all about, and what it's real objective is. 
 Question 777 wants to amend the Oklahoma state constitution so that no changes or regulations can ever be imposed on the farming or ranching industry in the state. Basically this will give the farm bureau, along with the department of agriculture, free reign to do anything they want within the state under the guise of farming or ranching. The vaguely worded question 777 doesn't leave anything off the table, anything that falls under the farm bureau or dept. of agriculture is fair game for them to do as they please. How would you all like to see Oklahoma's land taken over by huge corporate "farms"? Ever seen a factory hog farm? They are utterly disgusting. These corporations would be free to run these so called farms in any way they please. This means goodbye to the small independent farmer. The guy I see selling homegrown potatoes from the back of his truck, how will he compete with the likes of Monsanto ? The ranchers who maintain modest herds of cattle won't have a chance against the huge unregulated factory farms. Of course there won't be any restriction or regulation of pollution that might come from these giants, whether it is in our water, land or air, it's part of "the right to farm" and laws can't be imposed to regulate it. These giant "farming" corporations would be free to use Oklahoma's  resources any way they want. Are people really ok with that?
 Now, let's talk about what is really at the heart of this initiative. Animal rights activists. Oklahoma, in general, has such a deep hatred for animal rights activists that they would pass a dangerous piece of legislation like this just to keep these activists from the state. To a point I can understand this, animal rights activists can get pretty extreme and animals do have a place in the farming and ranching industry. However, on the other side of that coin, Oklahoma does have a lot of issues around the humane treatment of animals that need attention. Without the activists bringing these issues to light, they would never change. If this measure passes it's unlikely we will ever see the end of gas chamber "euthanasia" in the state.  Without any oversight, puppy mills will flourish. Animals  will be freely available for scientific research. We will never see the desperately needed shelter reform or increased access to shelters. What is so "extreme" about any of this?
 In Oklahoma, pretty much anything animal related falls under the department of agriculture. The same department working so hard to push this legislation into law. For a state that prides itself on strong Christian values, the principles  of helping and caring, the "Oklahoma standard" certainly doesn't extend to the animals of the state.
 A vote for issue 777 will be a huge setback for the state. The potential harm that could be done if this becomes law, is truly frightening. It's time for Oklahoma to drop the "us against them" mentality, join the 21st century and start improving the quality of life for ALL its residents.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heartlessness in America's heartland

In most Native American cultures animals were viewed as equal to humans.  Of course, animals were hunted, but only for food, and no part of the animal was wasted. It was common practice to ask the spirit of the animal  permission to take the life of the animal before it was killed.
Prior to becoming a state in 1907, a similar attitude was held throughout what is now Oklahoma. At that time schools were required to spend at least 30 minutes each day teaching animal welfare. Children were required to learn compassion and humane treatment of "dumb animals" as they were considered at that time.
It seems to be a very different attitude that we see in Oklahoma today. A survey was done recently to gather information on animal shelters within the state. There are a total of 136 shelters in the state of Oklahoma, of those, 28 provided no data. Eight of those shelters told surveyors they would not provide any data, the rest didn't return calls or couldn't be reached. Only 33 of the state shelters complied fully with the survey. The survey resulted in some disturbing data about animal welfare in the state of Oklahoma. Euthanasia methods ranged from lethal injection to gas chambers to heartstick to  bullets to the head. Some of the shelters fail to comply with state animal sterilization laws, unaltered animals are released to adopters at some shelters. The majority of people living in rural areas have no access to animal shelters at all, the shelters only accept animals from within the city where they are located, those of us outside city limits have no shelter resources available. Oklahoma state law allows countywide access to animal shelters only in counties with populations over 200,000, only three counties in the state have populations that meet this guideline. None of those counties provide a county wide animal shelter or animal control. I guess that explains all the animals I see wandering the streets, getting hit by cars. Animal dumping  is rampant in the state and spayed and neutered pets are rare in rural settings. Several attempts to get rid of the population mandates that restrict the ability of counties to provide shelters have been made, they are shot down by the association of county commissioners every time, just as the attempts to ban the use of gas chambers in shelters have been shot down the last two years. Animal  welfare laws are motivated by something other than compassion in the state of Oklahoma. There have been numerous horror stories about conditions and incidents In Oklahoma animal shelters, only a few actually make the news.
Lawmakers and officials at all levels in Oklahoma like to tell people that it's only "outsiders" that are bothered by the way things are done here. I know this isn't true, there is an ever increasing number of Oklahoma citizens that are not happy with the way animal welfare, along with a number of other issues, is handled. 
Somewhere in the early part of the last century Oklahoma got stuck, many ideas and practices within the state are throwbacks to a much earlier, less enlightened time. Unfortunately for the animals at least, it isn't the time when compassion for animals was taught in schools.