Why Some States Have More Pro-Animal Rights Laws Than Others
Pro-animal rights legislation has been difficult to pass in the United States. The agriculture lobby has been successful in obstructing federal legislation that would improve animal welfare. But the federal government is not the only avenue in which to create change. Individual states have been much more receptive to public opinion. Organizations and individuals working to implement pro-animal rights legislation have been very successful at the state level in the last few decades.
Some states have led the way while others have fallen behind. Researchers from University of Dundee, Scotland reviewed several factors that could contribute to the success of pro-animal rights legislation in individual states. The researchers collected data within three primary categories: economy, liberalism, and political culture. They found that the only economic factor that had a significant correlation to the success of pro-animal rights legislation is the agriculture workforce. The more agriculture workers within a state, the less likely that state is to adopt pro-animal rights legislation.
The results of the study also revealed that the political culture of a state plays a significant role in the adoption of pro-animal rights legislation. Political culture is a theory coined by political scientist Daniel Elazar. Elazar believed that states could be categorized into three types based on typical political customs: moralistic, individualistic, and traditionalistic. States that have been categorized as traditionalistic were significantly less likely to adopt pro-animal rights legislation than other states.
According to this study, pro-animal rights legislation would be the most popular in states with fewer agriculture workers and non-traditionalistic states. However, there is hope for states that fall into these categories. Once one state adopts new animal rights laws, it is likely that others will follow. Since 1990, 38 amendments, propositions, and laws protecting wild, domesticated, and farmed animals have been adopted throughout the US using referendums and initiatives. Referendums and initiatives allow the voters of the state to vote on policy directly. In several states, they have produced positive results.
Traditionalistic states do not always vote down attempts to promote animal rights. Arizona is characterized as a traditionalistic state but has been a leader in promoting farmed animal welfare. While states with a traditionalistic political culture are characterized by minimal public involvement in politics, many do not even have laws that provide initiatives and referendums. Arizona is in the minority of traditionalist states that provide these legislative opportunities.
While this lack of direct voting in some states remains a challenge, there are many organizations that are working to promote public participation in the US. And although it is difficult to change political institutions, these legislative successes have not only been proven to inspire similar changes in other states, but have also shown that people are concerned about animals and are willing to vote for change.
[Contributed by Miranda Harrington]