Missouri state representative Ward Franz has introduced a bill, HB 1513, that would prevent future legislation granting rights to animals similar to those for humans. Specifically, the proposed bill states:

“The laws of this state shall not confer upon any animal a right, privilege, or legal status that is equivalent or that exceeds a right, privilege, or legal status as that which this state confers by law upon a human being. This provision shall not be construed as limiting laws that protect the welfare of animals in the state.”

In an interview on AgriTalk radio this week, Franz says the idea came about after he watched outside animal-rights organizations coming into the state trying to impose their will on Missouri’s people and businesses. In particular, he cites the case of “Proposition B,” the Missouri ballot initiative to regulate dog breeders that passed in November 2010 with aggressive support from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Franz also cites the lawsuit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed against SeaWorld in San Diego, claiming that orca whales at the facility should be protected by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that bans slavery and involuntary servitude. A U.S. district judge threw out that case, but Franz believes it is conceivable that groups could file suits against farmers or pursue legislation granting human-like rights to livestock, leading to claims that livestock are unjustly detained on farms.

Franz says he wants to be proactive in protecting the number-one revenue producer in Missouri, which is agriculture. “With the climate in our country,” he says, “it’s getting kind of scary for people who put their careers on the line trying to make a living in agriculture.

Franz also stresses that the bill would not weaken any existing animal-welfare laws, encourage or allow abuse of animals.

While he believes proactive legislation of this type is necessary, Franz acknowledges these issues sometimes seem to push the limits of reality. “It’s ridiculous that we have to be at this point. Growing up on the farm and raising cattle like we were, I never dreamed we would have to have a discussion on (whether) animals have equal or more rights as a human.”

Franz says he has received positive support for the bill, both within the Missouri legislature and from around the state and country. He expects it to move smoothly through the state House and Senate, although animal-rights proponents have begun mounting some opposition.