‘Right to Hunt’ Amendments Pit Gun Rights vs. Animal Welfare


With backing by the NRA, making hunting a constitutionally protected right has become increasingly popular in the past decade. The latest battlegrounds are Alabama and Mississippi.

by | September 19, 201430973_4756818474045_484772904_n

If enough Mississippi voters think it’s a good idea support hunting and fishing, they’ll join 17 other states in ensuring constitutional protections for the practices.

So-called “Right to Hunt and Fish” amendments have become increasingly popular in the past decade, as groups like the National Rifle Association have led yearly pushes in states they consider friendly terrain. Their objective: to head off future regulation against hunting and also establish it as the “preferred” means of wildlife population control, as opposed to special forms of contraception and other methods of thinning out herds.

In Alabama, which already has a hunting rights amendment, advocates want to make it even stronger through the ballot box in November. The amendment before voters would make hunting and fishing the “preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.” Mississippi’s amendment would do that as well.

Both amendments would be subject to “reasonable regulations” that promote wildlife conservation, but animal welfare groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, generally oppose constitutional protections for hunting for a number of reasons. They often deride the measures as policies that don’t respond to any particular threat but merely will make it difficult to regulate more controversial practices down the road.

“It could prevent really progressive reform that would be necessary if there were really egregious abuse, certain forms of trapping like the kind we’re trying to fight against in Maine,” said Tracy Coppola, the director of the Humane Society’s Wildlife Abuse Campaign.

Her example in Maine refers to hounding, trapping and baiting, which sometimes include using mounds of human junk food to ensnare trophy catches or chasing bears into trees with a pack of dogs equipped with GPS devices for easy tracking. The group is trying to ban the practice in Maine this year. The NRA is opposed to the measure.

The NRA says the Maine referendum is overly restrictive. It would mostly ban the use of dogs in bear hunting. But the NRA’s issue with animal welfare organizations is much broader.

While the Humane Society argues its interest is to maintain traditional, humane forms of hunting, the NRA argues the group’s ultimate goal is to displace hunting as the most common means of wildlife management. The group does fund research into methods such as immunocontraception, a vaccine that uses the body’s immune system as birth control. It hasn’t yet reached wide use in the U.S., but some American towns are exploring it to control deer populations.

The threat of new forms of population control, initiatives to ban dove hunting, campaigns to prohibit lead bullets, challenges to bear hunting and other perceived efforts to limit hunting are alarming signs to hunting enthusiasts. “We’re not in jeopardy of losing hunting as a right today, but, you know, that’s the whole point of a constitutional amendment, to protect the next generation or the generation after that,” said Lacey Biles, the NRA’s deputy director of state and local affairs.

The first state to add a right to hunt to its constitution was Vermont in 1777, though the wording didn’t go as far as Alabama, Mississippi or other recent additions to right-to-hunt states in establishing the practice as a wildlife management tool. Most of those recent additions came in the past 14 years, mostly in the South and West but also among some Midwestern states, such as Minnesota. A number of other states, such as New Hampshire and Florida, have statutory protections but not constitutional ones.

There’s been a steady stream of bills in state legislatures seeking constitutional protections for hunting, some appearing in more liberal (but active hunting) states.  Over the past two years, bills have appeared in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Bills have advanced through committees in Indiana and West Virginia but haven’t moved in any of the others. Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have among the highest number of hunters per square mile in the country.

Biles said the NRA doesn’t keep track of every right-to-hunt bill that pops up in a state legislature, many of which weren’t initiated by the group, which claims a 90-percent success rate in places it specifically targets. One miss came in 2010 in Arizona, where groups actively opposed the effort. But there isn’t any organized opposition to Alabama and Mississippi’s campaigns, which are both featured on the NRA’s website. Given near-unanimous legislative support for the bills that launched the amendments in Alabama and Mississippi, that lack of organized opposition and both states’ pro-gun, pro-hunting traditions, it’s a safe bet that both will pass their amendments in November.

Whether right-to-hunt amendments will continue their steady momentum, though, is less certain.

Please Don’t Read this Blog

If you have ever been personally hurt by anything I’ve written here, I’m sorry, but please don’t read this blog.

Even if I’ve invited you or shared a post with you in the past, please don’t read this blog.

Unless you’re seeking information about the injustices of hunting or animal exploitation in general, please don’t read this blog.

If you’re so set in your ways that the things I write about animal rights seem like a personal attack on you, please don’t read this blog. It’ll just make you feel bad.

I have never set out to hurt or attack anyone personally (that’s why I don’t tend to name names). But like people who defend human rights, those who speak in defense of the rights of non-human animals and seek to expose the ongoing atrocities committed against them by human societies, I often have a hard time playing the diplomat.

It’s not that we’re un-American, but once you know what kind of animal suffering is behind the making of an all-meat hot dog, you can’t un-know it.

This blog is not for everyone. Those who are like-minded seem to enjoy it here; those who feel out of place might do better not reading it. (That’s why I don’t spend my time reading hunters’ or cattlemen’s blogs.) I’ve been accused of preaching to the choir. Fair enough, but even a choir of angels needs a pep talk once in a while to remind them that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.

A blog can be likened to a writer’s personal diary made public. Those close to the writer sometimes recognize themselves between the pages. My advice to folks who don’t like what they read here is, simply, stop reading. Speaking for myself, I never start off writing things with the intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. The only intention I ever have is adding my voice to the call to end animal suffering and abuse of the innocents.

Writing can be cathartic and when the words are flowing, I don’t have much control over their direction. They’re often a meditation on an issue that is really important to me. I find it works better than trying to debate with people over these emotional issues, because when things get heated, I tend to get overheated. My circuits fry, and my thoughts don’t flow; they go on overload. Afterward, I end up feeling like “I should have said this,” or “I should have answered to that. “

Unless you really care to know how I think or feel, please don’t read this blog.


Everything You Do Leaves an Impact, so You Might as Well Be an Ass-teroid

One of hunters’ favorite fallacies these days is some form of the (il)logic that everything you do affects something in some way so you might just as well hunt down big “game.” It’s the same school of thought as, you can never be completely vegan so what’s the point in choosing not to eat animals?

Apparently some folks, with nothing better to do, have been staying up nights wracking their brains to come up with as many ways imaginable that non-hunters, or even vegans, might inadvertently kill animals. Not because these spin-doctors really care about anything except themselves, but because it’s easier to try to break down someone else’s resolve than to look at ones’ own intentional acts of—or collaboration in—cruelty.

After all, nature’s cruel, so you might as well be the cruelest, right? And as long as someone eats who you kill, it’s almost sacred, or something, isn’t it? (But, as PETA put it, “Did the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims justify his crimes? What is done with the corpse after a murder doesn’t lessen the victim’s suffering.”)

It’s like saying, you’ll never be Jesus so what’s the point of trying to live the best life you can? Sort of a variation of Lucifer’s “…better to lead in Hell…” credo.

How’s that working out, Satan? Hot enough for you down there?


“Humane Meat” Legitimizes Factory Farming

Somewhere out there someone must be raising ‘food’ animals ‘humanely,’ therefore I’m justified in eating this steak, chicken, egg, pig part, turkey leg, hamburger, sausage, etc., etc., without feeling guilty–there’s always a chance that meat meal was humanely raised and compassionately killed, right?


It’s amazing how many people use some version of this feeble argument in rationalizing their culpability to cruelty, as if ‘humane’ animal farming gives them a license to ‘kill’ (so to speak).

I understand there are some who think the ‘humane meat’ movement will lead to a more compassionate future for factory farmed animals. But the fact is, advocating any form of animal agriculture that results in the breeding and premature death of an animal just legitimizes factory farming to the masses who may not see the subtle difference between a hot dog made with body parts scraped off Farmer John’s bloody-red kill floor or off Farmer Joe’s slightly greener kill floor. Yes, Farmer Joe may be able to keep his slaughterhouse a little tidier, but that’s only because he may ‘process’ fewer animals at a time, not because he truly thinks he’s being ‘compassionate.’

What would it take to provide ‘humane meat’ to everyone who won’t consider giving up their flesh? Robert Grillo answers that question, in this quote from an article entitled, Pasture Raised Eggs: The Humane, Sustainable Fiction:

“As for the scale of such an operation, where does all the land needed to give animals a “natural” farm life come from?, asks author and program director of United Poultry Concerns, Hope Bohanec. “At any given time, there are 100 million head of cattle and 70 million pigs alive in the U.S. Currently, only about 9 percent of all livestock is pasture raised. How would we ever have the land to pasture raise them all? To give all farmed animals the space they need to have even a semblance of a natural life, we would have to destroy millions more acres of wild areas, forests, prairies, and wetlands to accommodate them.”

[This mirrors the situation with open range cattle grazing. Although less than 5% of cows raised and killed for meat are put on the open range, when people see cows out there on National Forest or DNR land, they think their hamburger must have led a nice life out on the range somewhere. Truth is, most cows are raised in overcrowded feed  lots.]
“There is not enough land on the planet, or even two planets, to free-range all the billions of pigs, sheep, turkeys, ducks, and chickens. We would need closer to five planet Earths. It simply cannot be done. Free-ranging animals for food can never be more than a specialty market for a few elite buyers.”
And United Poultry Concerns’ president Karen Davis PhD addresses the notion of Hurting Animals Humanely in her article featured in the Dodo:

No one who truly respects animals, respects their dignity, feels with and for them, and wishes them joy in life supports “farming” them, because animal farming is about degrading animals meanly to the level of their genitals and their genes, mutilating their body parts, destroying their family life, controlling every aspect of their lives including culling (killing) them as one pleases when they are deemed not “productive” enough to keep feeding, and ultimately murdering them. 

“How can anyone claiming to respect animals promote a view of them as ‘dinner’?”


This quote from a Facebook friend sums the situation up succinctly: “‘Humane’ animal farming is nothing more than the devil putting on a fancy suit. Vegan is the only way”

And, PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk put out a U-tube on the folly of ‘Humane meat’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfUBMKwVl7Q



You could say that I am more than a bit peeved at the HSUS these days. Their shameless promotion of meat-eating—especially their sponsoring the hedonistic “Hoofin’ It” event—has me downright pissed off. 

I have to wonder if they can even see above the bullshit they’ve sunk into this time. 

For years I was an ardent supporter of their policies—until they went out of their way to join Whole Foods in perpetuating the myth of “humane” meat. Instead of sticking to their guns and helping to usher in an era of evolution that takes us beyond animal agriculture, they’re bent on reviving the “Old McDonald’s Farm” fantasy.

I live next door to Old McDonald, and I’ve seen how he treats his farm animals. It isn’t pretty.

One of the flesh food purveyors featured in the “Hoofin’ It” event (the ranch that raises bison) waxes poetic about their “product” as though it were a hand-crafted ale or fine wine: “Our bulls are…finished with a natural diet of whole corn, sunflower pellets…” and “are harvested and processed at the prime age of 24-30 months, weighing approximately 1,100 pounds.” 


Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Prime age for whom? Certainly not for the Bison! Bison don’t even reach maturity until 3 years of age and can live well over 30 years in the wild when allowed to. The bison whose flesh they’re selling are still babies. In the wild, male bison remain with their mothers for at least 3 years before joining in with groups of other bulls. It’s like eating a lamb who is never allowed to grow up to be a sheep. And who the fuck eats a lamb anyway, HSUS? 

The big question is, how does one “humanely” kill (“harvest” or “process”) a 1000 pound, gregarious, empathetic herd animal who relates enough to others to make a habit of mourning over their dead? “Processing” day must be a real sad, morbid, not to mention horrifying day for those waiting in line for their turn to get slaughtered. 

This whole alternative “humane” meat issue reminds me of the popular new micro-brewery that cropped up in the small town of Twisp, WA, where I used to live. Their menu featured grass-fed, organic beef from a local rancher who turned out to be none other than wolf-hater/poacher Bill White. White, along with his son, was responsible for baiting and killing off most of Washington State’s first wolves, the Lookout Pack. (Yes, they’re the same folks who got caught trying to send a bloody wolf hide through the mail to Canada.) 

Is the HSUS being led down the garden path by other (possibly wolf-hater/poacher) ranchers who are eager to sell a higher-priced product to a new generation of starry-eyed foodies who think the sentient animals they’re eating were happy to know they were “sustainably” harvested? 

It was partly because of the wisdom of a few friends working for the HSUS on wildlife issues that my wife and I went vegan 16 years ago. Those friends are still as dedicated to the animal rights cause as ever, but somehow the HSUS as a group must have lost its nerve, its soul and now, its ever-loving mind.


“Get To Hoofin It”: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

“Get To Hoofin It”: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States


By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

Probably everyone reading this knows the feeling of going to the computer each day, clicking on email, and experiencing that knot of dread as the messages unfold with their sad and terrible stories about animals, the horrible and endlessly ingenious ways and reasons that our species has for making animals suffer and die, which includes stripping them of their dignity.

If it’s bad enough knowing what the institutions and entities that we expect to hurt animals are doing to them, there is added despair involved in knowing what is being done to animals by organizations calling themselves “humane,” “anticruelty” and the like. It is monstrous seeing our language of care and respect degraded into completely opposite meanings. A perfect example is this:

Get to Hoofin it: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

“We support farmers and ranchers who give proper care to their animals, and act in accordance with the basic ethic of compassion to sentient creatures.”
– The Humane Society of the United States

Most people know enough by now about the realities of animal farming, regardless of scale or label, to envision at least some of the details of what farmers and ranchers actually do to animals, versus verbalizations about “proper care” and “basic ethic of compassion.”

What these abstractions express and perpetuate in this context is alienation from actual animals. What they demonstrate is lack of respect for animals, indeed mockery of the very idea of “respecting” them. No one who truly respects animals, respects their dignity, feels with and for them, and wishes them joy in life supports “farming” them, because animal farming is about degrading animals meanly to the level of their genitals and their genes, mutilating their body parts, destroying their family life, controlling every aspect of their lives including culling (killing) them as one pleases when they are deemed not “productive” enough to keep feeding, and ultimately murdering them.

How can anyone claiming to respect animals promote a view of them as “dinner”?

Will a call to “Respect Your Dinner” advance your empathy and respect for animals as they lie slaughtered on your plate in barbecue sauce? Maybe the code word here is “basic.” Basic ethic of compassion = lowest possible level. In any case, compassion has nothing to do with the business and consumption of animal products. Its purpose is to gain customers and subvert consciences, to the extent that a conscience exists toward animals made into meals and blessed over in this condition even by their, uh, advocates. Like “humane,” the word compassion in this context is a mockery of both the animals and the meaning of words, including the word advocacy. It is the final gut punch to those we’re supposed to be advocating for.

Click on each animal photograph in this link for more information:

For more commentary, see pattrice jones here:

Peaceful Prairie here:

James McWilliams here:

Hen being slaughtered Basic ethic of compassion in action.