Well, it’s President’s Day, so I figured it’s a good time for a post about democracy and politics.
I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but it seems there’s some pretty spooky stuff going on up in Jeff City these days. See, apparently in Missouri, if our legislators think the reason a measure passed at the polls is largely because we’re all too stupid to have understood what we were doing, they can just go over our silly little heads and “fix” our mistake. Oh, what’s that? You DID understand your vote? Me too! I guess it’s really just a matter of a few state representatives and senators acting in their own self-interest to protect a small set of special interests at the expense of the will of the people – not to mention the health and welfare of a few hundred thousand abused dogs. You don’t need a degree in political science to understand how thoroughly jacked up this is.
In case it’s unclear, this rant/post is about Proposition B. If you recall, Prop B, which was approved by a majority of Missouri voters last November, introduced a long-overdue and very specific set of new regulations for Missouri dog breeders. According to the new law, all licensed dog breeders in Missouri would have one year to comply with basic standards for humane housing, food and veterinary care, including a limit of no more than 50 dogs per breeding operation and a prohibition of stacked cages and wire flooring in kennels. We’re talking about the basic right to sufficient food, water and necessary medical attention (Oh, and not being covered in a constant stream of your upstairs neighbors’ disease-spreading poop and pee).
During a contentious campaign, these same special interest groups who are behind the current effort to gut the new regulations did their best to convince Missouri voters that Prop B would go well beyond dogs to place strict new limits on the care and keeping of livestock. Though completely false, this tactic was well within their rights during the campaign. It’s when the mudslinging failed to fool voters that things really got ugly. Their new plan of action: lean on the legislators they elect through hefty campaign contributions to circumvent the people and gut the bill. And it’s working! Not cool. Definitely not democratic.
Now, do I think the lobby on the other side of this issue is really just a bunch of cold-hearted, mean people? No (well, not all of them). I understand that they recognize that change is incremental. Of course they don’t really believe that this law will affect livestock because anyone who reads the bill can plainly see that it doesn’t. What they’re afraid of is that these regulations will lead to another set of regulations, and then another and then another, until eventually big changes to agricultural laws do come – and they’re right. But here’s the thing: that’s the beauty of living in a free democracy.
Prop B is just one of many similar new laws and regulations across the country that are indicative of a coming sea change in public opinion about commercialized cruelty and animal abuse. What the people on the other side of this issue need to recognize is that this is an opportunity to get out ahead of the inevitable. Change is coming. Adapt or die. (Oh, and all you dog breeders/puppy mill enthusiasts who are complaining about not being able to stay in business after the law kicks in…take a hint. If you can’t run your operation within the bounds of the law – not to mention, ethics – then you don’t get to be in business. Thems the breaks.)
Any real challenge to Prop B belongs in the courts – which is inevitably where this will end up (I know they don’t think the animal rights groups are just going to let this go). But, even if you voted against Prop B, this charade should make you angry. Silencing voters is a dangerous game and a very slippery slope. Ask yourself what could be next – and hope that it’s not something that directly affects you or an issue that you’re passionate about.
If you have a second, contact your legislators and ask them to uphold the principles of democracy and the will of the electorate – and then go out and buy yourself a vegan cookie for being such an upstanding citizen. You deserve it!