(Oklahoma City) Oklahomans who participate in sporting events or occupations that involve animals should have constitutional protections that ensure that their activities can never be outlawed, according to State Senator Frank Shurden.
The Henryetta legislator successfully amended legislation on the Senate floor Tuesday that would change the state constitution so activities such as hunting, fishing, rodeo and the raising of livestock would be considered an inherent right of state citizens. As amended, HB 1375 would require a vote of the people.
"Things like hunting, fishing and rodeo are part of our heritage and deserve protection. We can't let a few misguided individuals ruin the recreational activities or occupations of hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans," said Senator Shurden.
The veteran state lawmaker is hoping such a constitutional protection will never have to be tested, but given the increasing activity of so-called animal rights organizations, he said it wouldn't hurt the state to have an insurance policy of sorts in its constitution.
He noted that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA recently attacked the Boy Scouts of America for offering merit badges in "Fishing" and "Fish and Wildlife Management." PETA asked that the merit badges be discontinued, contending that fishing was a "violent pastime."
"It seems like everyday you read a story about some fringe group going after someone for hunting or fishing or just having fun. When organizations like the Boy Scouts have to look over their shoulder before they hand out a merit badge, something has gone terribly wrong. At some point, we have to say enough is enough and stand up for what is right. That's what this legislation does," said Sen. Shurden.
Sen. Shurden noted that opponents of his legislation have tried to derail it by falsely claiming that it is solely motivated by a desire to protect cockfighting. PETA has also suggested that the legislation will prevent it from banning rodeo and circus activities that it has deemed inhumane.
"They're just throwing up a smokescreen. They think they can holler 'cockfighting' and scare everybody off. What they don't want people to realize is that while they're talking about cockfighting today, tomorrow they'll be going after other activities like rodeos and circuses. This legislation protects all kinds of sports and occupations, not just cockfighting, but the opponents don't want anyone to know that," said Sen. Shurden.
HB 1375 was approved by the Senate Tuesday. It now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.