by Christie Lagally
Originally published in City Living Seattle
While many elections quickly fade from our thoughts, our recent election will be with us for decades to come. Thought leaders around the country, from economists to human rights advocates, warned how electing a president who embodied extreme racism, sexism in its worst form, and a leader displaying pathological narcissism would be a massive step backwards for our country’s progress to pursue a just and humane world. Likewise, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), a political action committee working for the advancement of animal protection, called the president-elect and his future administration “the greatest threat ever to federal policy-making and implementation of animal protection laws.”
While the presidential results were startling for both humans and animals, this election also came with a reminder that being involved in political action is one of the best ways to help animals. For example, in this same election, Massachusetts voters approved a new law banning the extreme confinement of farm animals and the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free in the state, per HSLF. This momentous win helps millions of animals in one fell swoop by improving the conditions of millions of egg laying hens, pigs, and veal calves by preventing them from being crammed into cages or crates for their entire lives. And this ballot measure got 78% of the vote in Massachusetts!
Likewise, voters in Oklahoma rejected Question 777 by a 60% margin, which proposed a state constitution amendment to disallow any restrictions on agricultural practices, including efforts to end “puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting” according to HSLF. Thankfully voters spoke up to protect animals.
Finally, in Oregon, voters followed the lead of Washington voters in 2015, by passing Measure 100 which ends trafficking of wildlife, thereby adding a measure of protection for wild animals living under the threat of trophy hunting around the world.
These election results demonstrate the importance and the sweeping scope of participating in our political system. After-all, despite the warnings, over 90 million registered voters in the United States didn’t vote in the last election, and hence played no part in preventing the outcome of the presidential race.
But it is never too late to get involved. Our voices are needed today to play an on-going role in our political system right here in Washington State to address cruelty issues such as illegal hunting of wildlife, chained dogs, and elephants in traveling circuses. This is our time to get involved and to keep up the momentum of progress for the protection of animals.
In support of that goal, the Humane Society of the United States will be hosting Humane Lobby Day on Wednesday, January 25th in Olympia. This is our opportunity to collectively make our voices heard for animal protection issues. At Humane Lobby Day, participants from all over Washington State gather in Olympia to advocate for new laws to protect animals. Participants first learn about bills being proposed that effect animals, and then meet with their legislators to educate them on the importance of passing such bills or opposing bad bills.
Seattle resident, Sandy Smith, has attended Humane Lobby Day for the last six years and says that it is one of the most effective ways to help animals.
“We may think that we are just one person speaking up,” says Smith, “but ask any legislator, and he or she will tell you that a constituent who comes to Olympia to encourage the passage of a law makes a strong statement for the cause.”
Smith explains that every constituent is technically a lobbyist, and we are actually more influential than a lobbyist hired by an organization. Citizens elect the legislators to represent us, and therefore our voices matter.
“It’s important that people understand that if we don’t talk to our legislators about animal issues, those legislators will only hear from lobbyists who may work against the protection of animals,” explains Smith.
Knowing the power of citizen lobbying, Smith also co-founded a political action committee called the Humane Voters of Washington (HVW) to help citizens speak up for animals. Smith frequently updates the HVW Facebook Page (facebook.com/humanevoterswa) with action alerts and information on events, including upcoming Humane Lobby Day. You can start speaking up for animals by ‘liking’ the HVW page, and checking back regularly.
As Secretary Hillary Clinton recently said, “Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear…”
This call to action includes our responsibility to speak up for the rights of all people and all animals, and to work toward a more just and humane society. This is the time to ensure progress is made, not receded, because failure to move forward in a political world where so much is at stake is simply not an option.
For information on Humane Lobby Day, stay tuned to the HSUS Washington page at www.facebook.com/HSUSWashington.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com.