Guest Opinion: Voters Beware! Extreme Animal Rights Groups are Behind Amendment 13

Jeff KottkampLast week the former President of the NRA, Marion Hammer, urged members of her organization to oppose Amendment 13 on election day.  Among other things Ms. Hammer told her members “if Amendment 13 is passed, extreme animal rights organizations will have a new constitutional standard to challenge any and all activities they find objectionable.”  She was absolutely correct.

Voters will be confronted with a very long ballot on election day.  When they get to the ballot title and summary for Amendment 13 it will appear as if the amendment is all about dog racing.  What they will not be told is that the very first line of the actual amendment (which will not appear on the ballot) says “The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” Notice the language is not limited to greyhound racing dogs but applies to all animals.

More importantly, notice the key phrase “fundamental value”.  Almost identical language was used in an amendment in 1998 declaring that “education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court considered this language when deciding that school vouchers are unconstitutional.

The Humane Society has admitted that it was one of the chief sponsors of Amendment 13 and that they worked closely with the amendment sponsor during the drafting of the amendment. When Marion Hammer says extreme animal rights groups are behind Amendment 13 she is right.

And how do we know these groups will use Amendment 13 to dramatically change any and all activities related to animals?  Well, as it turns out—the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar published a lengthy article this month about Amendment 13.  In the article the Section said this about Amendment 13:

Some have questioned whether it is appropriate to address this issue in the Florida Constitution. However, there is no better place for this evolution in the law to be enshrined. The law historically has viewed animals as personal property. As we come to understand more about animals, the law is shifting toward a more humane view that recognizes the distinction between living, sentient beings and other forms of personal property. Future generations will be able to point to this change in the Florida Constitution as an important shift in the way animals are treated and an example of our social and moral progress.

So—what kind of “evolution in the law” are we talking about?  Ask the people of Naples where an extreme animal rights group pushed for a ban of fishing off the Naples Pier a few months back.  A representative of the group sent the City Council a letter stating  “Whether people like to think about it or not, fish are sentient beings, capable of feeling fear and pain, especially the pain of being hooked through their sensitive mouths, which have many nerve endings…” The group also believes fishing should be banned because fish have memories and recognize faces.

Ask the people of California about the Humane Society.  In 2014 the HSUS pushed for legislation in an effort to stop hunting. Humane Society leader Wayne Pacelle was quoted as saying “We are going to…stop all hunting in the United States…we will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California…then we will take it state by state.”

These extremists aren’t just going after fishing and hunting—they have their sights set on the agriculture community as well.  In 2015 the Humane Society was at war with Rhode Island State Senator Susan Sosnowski because she blocked a bill they supported aimed at chicken farmers.  The Society accused the Senator of “doing the bidding of animal abusers”.  Their battle with Sen. Sosnowski dated back to 2012 when she opposed their efforts regarding crates for pregnant pigs (does this sound familiar to anyone?).

As it turns out, Sen. Sosnowski is a chicken farmer and she knew from personal experience that the bill pushed by the Humane Society would impose standards “far in excess of any standard set forth in any state” without any evidence that the standards would improve the welfare of chickens.  It is a common ploy by extreme animal rights groups—distort the facts and impose unworkable standards that will drive people out of business.

Florida State Senator Wilton Simpson, who is slated to be President of the Florida Senate in 2020, should be paying particular attention to all of this.  He has 135,000 chickens at his egg farm in Dade City.  If Amendment 13 passes—the animal rights extremists will almost certainly come knocking at his door.  In fact, Amendment 13 should concern anyone who works with animals.

It is bad enough that the subject matter of Amendment 13 has no place in our Constitution.  What really makes Amendment 13 particularly bad is that the citizens of Florida will be voting on the creation of a fundamental value (without the knowledge they are doing so) that will be used by extremist animal rights groups as the basis to oppose a wide range of activities they believe are inhumane.

Voters should vote NO on Amendment 13.