Evaluating The Influence Of Animal Interest Groups
Each state of the U.S. has its own set of laws regarding how animals can be treated, with some states having more animal protection laws than others. While there are animal rights groups and charities that lobby for more protections, they are often overshadowed by agricultural lobbies that are better-funded, better-organized, and more familiar with and connected within the legal system. Oftentimes animal rights groups have to go through public referenda to get pro-animal laws passed. Although getting such laws passed can be challenging, especially when those laws conflict with the interests powerful corporations, each state does have some form of legal protection for animals.
This study, published in Society & Animals, gives each state a rating by using ten areas of animal protection laws as a standard. These areas include general anti-cruelty laws (which raise the rating), laws requiring humane slaughter (which raise the rating), and laws that exclude farm animals from animal cruelty laws (which lower the rating). The overall ratings range from -2 to 8, with higher scores indicating better animal protection laws. While these areas are not all-inclusive and do not take into account factors such as how strictly each law is enforced and with what penalties, they provide a general picture of how well the state’s laws protect animals. The study also looks at various characteristics of each state to determine if there is a connection between certain characteristics and the strength of animal protection laws in that state.
Although the authors expected states with more varied economies to receive higher ratings, the study did not find a significant association between the two. They also did not find significantly higher ratings in states with a stronger Democratic Party, more liberal laws, or greater party competition. The authors did find, however, that states whose economies were more greatly dependent on agriculture had significantly lower ratings. Likewise, states which were classified as having a more traditionalist political culture also had significantly lower ratings.
For animal advocates, the study may be eye-opening in that states that are more Democratic or have more liberal laws generally don’t necessarily make for an animal friendly climate. The study results suggest that advocates may be able to make more inroads legally in states whose economies are less agriculturally-based and whose political structures are not traditionalist. However, making inroads in states with relatively little agriculture may have less impact overall. Though the study is from 2011 and some of these attitudes may have shifted since then, the knowledge gleaned from the ratings can be instructive, even more so if replicated in today’s context.