OPED: Hey NRA: Keep your paws off animal rights laws

Humane PA

The NRA is front and center in the news these days. Since Humane PA PAC is a single issue organization — an organization founded on and guided by the commitment to secure the humane treatment of animals and eliminate animal cruelty through electing humane candidates and public policy — we are not commenting on gun issues or events that have propelled the NRA into the limelight, other than to share that we too are overwhelmed by the magnitude and horror of the Florida tragedy and we feel enormous compassion for what the students have experienced and continue to go through. And, we are also incredibly inspired by the students leading the fight against the powerful influence of the NRA.

As the only Pennsylvania Political Action Committee (PAC) for animals, we at Humane PA have also experienced firsthand the disproportionate stranglehold that the NRA has in our state when it comes to our efforts to pass laws which would eradicate cruelty to animals. 

We see it every session when the bill to end live pigeon shoots stagnates because of fierce NRA opposition, including threats, robo-calls, multiple fear mongering alerts all predicting the demise of hunting — even though independent opinion polls show that the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, including hunters, want this cruel practice expressly prohibited. 

We saw it at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the ivory and rhino horn ban bill, when the NRA sent out hysterical action alerts to its membership in an effort to flood the committee members with opposition to the bill. The NRA representative personally testified against the bill — and the bill remains sitting in committee.

More:State experiments with court advocates for abused animals

We, unfortunately, get to watch the tactics first hand: The NRA, with its rote and visceral opposition to so many animal protection bills and it’s scorecard punishing legislators who support ending cruelty — and rewarding those who oppose anti-cruelty bills with their coveted A+ rating, is a major stumbling block to passing better laws for animals.  The NRA, of course, is not solely responsible in preventing anti-cruelty bills from moving forward. Every legislator who is not guided by compassion or how their constituency wants them to vote, but instead opts to please the NRA or, perhaps what is even worse — is too fearful of them to do the right thing — they are their partners in allowing cruelty to animals to continue when they have the power to take action to stop it.

The success of the NRA is not just its’ scorecard, it is that they can claim large numbers of single issue voters, and that frightens susceptible candidates. However, we at Humane PA, with the help of tens of thousands of PA voters have made animal voters a force to be reckoned with that grows stronger every day.  The number of animal lovers in Pennsylvania far outnumbers members of the NRA and it is up to all of us to make sure we become as politically active as it has been.

Across the country, major corporations are disavowing their association with the NRA. Delta, United Airlines, the Best Western hotel chain, MetLife, Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise — and over a dozen other corporations have severed their affiliations with the NRA. If airlines, hotel chains, insurance companies, and car rental companies can sever their ties with the NRA, why can’t Pennsylvania lawmakers?

More:OPED Animal exploiters would be wise to follow Ringling's example

There are many pending bills in our state legislature which, if passed, would dramatically improve the lives of animals in our state and end egregious and horrific forms of cruelty, including the bill to end live pigeon shoots. We challenge every Pennsylvania legislator — and those who are busy campaigning for office in the upcoming election — to pledge that their positions on these bills will be guided by kindness, compassion and common-sense, not by the position of the NRA; that they will not do the bidding of  the NRA — or act out of fear of the NRA. The Pennsylvania legislature still has time to pass meaningful laws to protect our animals this legislative session — but it may mean standing up to the NRA. We challenge every legislator to follow the example being set by corporate America and to step up and do so.

And, we also challenge every animal lover in Pennsylvania to step up to the plate and let your legislators and candidates know the  you want them to stand against animal cruelty — no matter where the NRA stands

— Humane PA is Pennsylvania's political voice for the protection of animals.