When voters go to the polls this November, they won’t only be making decisions about which elected officials will represent them. In a number of states, they will vote on measures related to the humane treatment of animals—deciding whether to adopt policies on factory farming, wildlife trafficking, and other animal protection issues.

In states where special interests have exerted inordinate influence on lawmakers—thwarting sensible reforms, animal advocates have petitioned to put these questions directly to the people. During the past 25 years, voters have approved more than 30 animal welfare ballot measures, halting cockfighting, the use of steel-jawed leghhold traps, captive hunts for exotic animals, confinement of farm animals in cages and crates, bear baiting, and more.

At the same time, these successes have triggered a backlash from some lawmakers, who want to prevent citizens and organizations friendly to animal welfare from qualifying or passing ballot measures to fortify the legal framework against cruelty. In Oklahoma, there is a so-called “right to farm” measure on the ballot, while Colorado has a measure to make it virtually impossible to qualify constitutional amendments through the ballot initiative process.

“There are enormous stakes in the November elections, and that is also true for animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Our society is increasingly hostile to animal cruelty, and voters have the opportunity to strengthen our laws and shield animals from abuse. Animal cruelty is not acceptable, and I am confident that voters will approve social reforms that will advance the cause of animal protection.”

Massachusetts—Yes on Question 3

This year in Massachusetts, voters will decide on Question 3, which would phase out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens in small crates and cages where they are virtually immobilized for their entire lives, and will remove inhumane and unsafe products from the Massachusetts marketplace. Backed by the MSPCA, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Zoo New England and hundreds of Massachusetts veterinarians and family farmers, more than 170,000 Massachusetts voters signed petitions to place Question 3 on the ballot. Question 3 reinforces what’s occurring in the marketplace, with McDonald’s, Walmart and 200 other major food retail brands pledging to change their procurement practices and source only cage-free eggs and meats.

Oregon—Yes on Measure 100

In Oregon, voters will weigh in on Measure 100, which will help save endangered sea turtles, elephants, rhinos and other wild animals threatened with cruel poaching and extinction. Every day close to 100 elephants are brutally killed in Africa, their tusks hacked off to supply the black market for ivory trinkets. Poachers poison watering holes with cyanide, killing hundreds of elephants at once. Organized criminal gangs and armed rebels use military weapons to kill wildlife for the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. Measure 100 will ensure that Oregon does not provide a market for endangered species products resulting from wildlife poaching and trafficking. If passed, Oregon will join California, Washington, Hawaii and other states in shutting down local markets for those who seek to profit from this destructive wildlife trade.

Oklahoma—No on State Question 777

In Oklahoma, family farmers and animal advocates are opposing State Question 777, a measure referred to the ballot by politicians to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would protect corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land and animals. The measure is so broadly worded that it could prevent future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. Even the president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau said the language is flawed, and “I wish that language weren’t in there.”

Other Ballot Measures

The HSUS is urging voters to take sides on other ballot measures that will impact animal welfare and voters’ rights to set policies in their states:

  • Californians who care about animals should vote yes on Proposition 67 to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into bodies of water, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish and birds.
  • Montanans should vote yes on I-177 (PDF) to support restrictions on using cruel traps and snares on public lands.
  • In Colorado, the HSUS urges a “no” vote for Amendment 71, which would impose onerous requirements on qualifying a citizen initiative to amend the state constitution and impose a supermajority threshold for passing the measure.

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