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COMMENTARY
SQ 777
Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson currently co-chairs a coalition in opposition to State Question 777, aka "Right to Farm." Edmondson recently wrote about SQ 777 in a recent issue of OKC Pets. (NonDoc)

The latest OKC Pets Magazine displays an adorable cover photo of Hazel, who must be the second-cutest Australian shepherd I’ve ever seen (next to our Chloe.) It also features former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, the co-chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, which is a coalition of family farmers and citizens who oppose State Question 777.

Edmondson begins his expose of the so-called “Right to Farm” amendment with an explanation of why animal lovers — like farmers, consumers, business leaders, food consumers and, yes, teachers and parents of school children — should vote against 777 this November.

SQ 777’s title, “Freedom to Farm,” merely represents the typical spin corporations choreograph when seeking radical deregulation, Edmondson writes. He believes passage of 777 will give “a free rein to multi-national factory farming,” and goes on to mention Oklahoma’s 777 was, “… copied and pasted from a measure that was written by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and its corporate members.”

Edmondson observes that too many Oklahomans are unaware of the way that ALEC quietly pushes boilerplate legislation to advance special interests:

ALEC isn’t only involved in agriculture, they are also proponents of corporate education, and they have been widely credited with crafting legislation that is crippling public education in Oklahoma and across the nation.

Sad truths hidden in SQ 777

The sad truth is that 777 would quite likely prohibit the Legislature from passing regulations on brutal puppy mills, where “animals are caged 24/7, and some live their entire lives without touching grass.” It would defend the rights of puppy mill proprietors, for instance, to “debark” puppies “by ramming a steel rod down their throats to rupture their vocal cords.”

Of course, the bigger purpose of amending the state constitution to prevent the Legislature from passing agriculture regulations without “a compelling state interest” would be to protect comparably cruel factory farms. We are all aware of disgusting processes by which multi-national corporate farms abuse animals while mass producing meat products loaded with dubious chemicals. I had not known that one in four American pigs is Chinese owned, however.

SQ 777 would limit citizens’ legal rights

Neither had I known that some Oklahoma farmers see 777 as a defense against feral hogs.  The McAlester News Capital did an objective analysis of the controversy and learned that the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s President Tom Buchanan says “feral hogs are an ongoing issue with our membership.” Now, it’s illegal to use a spotlight at night when shooting those hogs. Moreover, the Farm Bureau membership worries that they will be required to get a state permit to shoot feral hogs, skunks, snakes or invasive species. In other words, there are grassroots Oklahomans who believe that out-of-state special interests (the Humane Society, chiefly) will pass laws to protect invasive species in the name of environmentalism

It’s dismaying that our state’s farmers are fighting with environmentalists seeking to protect our ecology from invasive species over an ALEC-spawned state question when Oklahomans on both sides of the issue have more in common with each other than they do the corporate powers who fund the fight.

How did we get to a place like this? Why can’t we unite against invasive special interests that place corporate profit over everything from family farmers to public schools and family pets?

Regardless of how we got to the point where some would amend the constitution to protect themselves against environmentalists championing invasive species and anti-cruelty causes, this is one more example of outside corporate money polluting our political ecology. It is hard enough for grassroots Oklahomans to persuade our state and local government to regulate the industries’ uses of growth hormones, pesticides and other chemicals that end up in local water supplies, but 777 would make it virtually impossible for citizens to defend their environment.

An extreme price to pay

In other words, Edmondson and the cover photo of the latest OKC Pets Magazine remind us that there is more to life than promoting Social Darwinism and the uncontrolled pursuit of profit. We need a balanced approach to our natural resources, agriculture and commerce, and we must respect the dignity of other living creatures.

If corporate elites win this battle and 777 becomes a permanent part of state law, the price we will pay will be extreme. So many aspects of our lives and communities will be cheapened if Oklahomans allow ALEC and other corporate elites to dominate our state’s agricultural industries.