Oklahoma farm and livestock groups are making a pre-emptive strike against animal rights activists.
On the heels of a California initiative passed by voters in November, a handful of farm groups — backed by key lawmakers — are trying to pass a state law that would give the Legislature exclusive right to make laws about farm animal treatment.
"In an ag state like Oklahoma, the Legislature knows how best to take care of the animals,” said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and sponsor of the House version of the bill.
The California law puts restrictions on the poultry industry, such as giving chickens more living space, and contains other measures related to the confinement of pigs and calves.
Oklahoma agriculture groups fear that supporters of the California law, such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, will try to put a similar question on Oklahoma’s ballot.
Similar livestock treatment laws have been passed elsewhere, including Florida and Arizona.
Restrictions in such laws result in "a very inefficient way to raise livestock,” said Sam Knipp, spokesman for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which is spearheading the effort.
Livestock is a $2 billion industry in Oklahoma, and the state is second in the nation in the number of cattle, trailing only Texas.
Armes is confident that, with his chairmanship, the bill will glide through the legislative process. Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, is sponsoring a similar bill.