AB 1614: in honor of Cesar Chavez

Eric Mills is the coordinator for Action for Animals, a California animal-welfare group

Show support for Assembly Bill 1614 by contacting your legislator. State legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol; Sacramento, CA 95814.

Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers, once wrote, “Kindness and compassion for all living things is the mark of a civilized society.” He went on to note that cruelty, “whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people.”

These words are from a letter Chavez wrote to me in 1990 in support of animal welfare. It’s noteworthy that Chavez, an admirer of Gandhi, was an ethical vegetarian, a fact not widely known. The letter also contains these prophetic words:

“There is a great need for legislation to ensure the humane treatment of animals employed in rodeos and I would certainly support any such bills. I understand that most rodeos don’t even require that a veterinarian be present—this seems the very least we owe the animals, who are participants through no choice of their own. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting, cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”

Words to live by, and California boasts the most progressive rodeo law in the country. For most rodeos, the law requires (in part) either an on-site or on-call veterinarian to care for injured animals, prohibits unnecessary use of electric prods, and requires that injury reports be submitted to the State Veterinary Medical Board.

Current law, by definition, does not cover California’s hundreds of Mexican-style rodeos, called charreadas. But help is on the way: In a rare bipartisan effort, Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Westlake Village, has introduced Assembly Bill 1614 to rectify this inequality. The bill is co-authored by Assembly members Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, and Joe Coto, D-San Jose, chairman of the Latino Caucus.

AB 1614 is an “everybody wins” bill: the animals, the general public and human decency. It will polish the image of rodeo cowboys and charros by confirming their concern for animal welfare. We hope that AB 1614 will be supported by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Federación de Charros, and the California Veterinary Medical Association.

It’s only fair.

As sponsor of AB 1614, I dedicate the passage of this humane legislation to the memory of Cesar Chavez, whose birthday we celebrate on March 31.