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Oklahoma’s animal house



His response was lovely and instant: “I will be happy to pick up Dr. Rollin at the airport.”

Bernard Rollin, Ph.D., is a serious animal ethicist from Colorado State University’s philosophy department. Cattle ranchers and animal-rights activists alike consider him a friend. The Kirkpatrick Foundation debuted its ambitious new animal initiative — to make Oklahoma the safest and most humane place to be an animal by 2032 — by hosting Rollin for private and public discussions. His time with us was philosophical rather than prescriptive, educational rather than instructional.

Lindsey, an affable and educated man with a broad background in agriculture, also has an excellent reputation as executive director of the pork producers’ association, representing an industry that has its critics.

If we achieved little else that week, that single introduction did the greatest amount of good for Oklahoma animals. Rollin and Lindsey became fast friends.

Rollin has said, “I’m not a religious man, but sow stalls are a sin.” He reiterated that stance on his visit to Oklahoma City by quoting a former corporate hog-farm employee: “This ain’t agriculture.”

Even Sonic Corp. has weighed in on the matter, announcing in June that it would phase out purchasing pork from producers who use gestation crates.

Still, Lindsey showed up, steady and engaged throughout Rollin’s visit. He’s even invited us to speak to his board later this week.

When we work together like this, we can make a great impact. The nationwide numbers are hard to fathom: Five million adoptable shelter pets are euthanized and six billion farm animals are slaughtered every year. Add to that blood sports, garden-variety cruelty, abandonment, and pets who are suffering. Research tells us again and again that child and animal abuse are closely associated. The dog tied up in the back yard 365 days a year, ice storm and heat wave be damned? Maybe we simply start there.

Animals are our greatest societal alter ego, and to create a civilized culture, we must necessarily do well by them.

So what does the Kirkpatrick Foundation mean by “safe and humane”? Let me explain what it is not. We are not advocating for vegetarianism or freeing animals from the circus or even ending necessary euthanasia. We’re especially not about vilifying those who disagree with us. Our aim is to raise the standard of care and treatment to the highest level. Right now, our method is to listen, ask questions and learn.

We’ll ferret out the information, get off our high horse, have a dog-and-pony show, and try to control the animal idioms along the way. Ultimately, this effort is about ideas and compassion and creating a humane community that values animals and the people who care for them. We know that awareness and education will be critical tools and — equally so — a willingness to embrace the unexpected and unlikely bedfellow.

McCune-Elmore is executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation.

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