The right to hunt and fish is called barbaric

April 27, 2017

A proposed Constitutional amendment to “Establish the Right to Hunt and Fish” drew angry testimony from the anti-hunting and anti-trapping crowd.

“This bill is barbaric,” testified John Glowa of China, who called LD 11 “the worst piece of legislation I have seen in more than twenty years of coming before this committee, and I have seen some bad ones.” Glowa also called the bill “the poison fruit of the paranoia seed planted by the out-of-state gun lobby and by radical extremist consumptive users.”

And yes, that was way over the top. Katie Hansberry of the Humane Society of the United States, who is always well-prepared and courteous in her work at the legislature, testified “The Humane Society of the United States has worked with wildlife management agencies across the U.S. to combat poaching. And in recent years, we joined sportsmen and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to crack down on poaching by helping Maine become the first state in New England to join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

“We are concerned that putting a right to hunt in our constitution could amount to an open invitation for poachers to exploit it to their advantage, and could subject longstanding conservation laws to legal challenge from those arguing that this constitutional right exempts them from existing restrictions like bag limits or prohibitions on spotlight or road hunting. Unnecessarily putting this existing right into our constitution could invite lawsuits from individuals who want to argue that conservation laws on quotas, season closures, or land area closures could infringe upon their constitutional right to hunt and fish,” said Katie.

Karen Coker of WildWatch Maine joined in the criticism of the bill, testifying that, “It’s intent… is to silence Maine citizens concerned about unethical practices and to prevent citizens from initiating ballot initiatives on wildlife issues.” She said “This proposal’s vague terms open the door to inhumane, unethical trapping and hunting practices,” and called the bill “a legal nightmare.” She also insisted that “hunting and trapping and fishing are not fundamental rights.”

She might have a disagreement with Katie Hansberry on that, because Katie testified that “Mainers already have the right to hunt and fish.”

DIF&W’s Testimony

Tim Peabody, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, surprised some supporters by testifying “neither for nor against” the bill. He called hunting and fishing “significant privileges” here in Maine.

Tim also noted that last year the legislature amended the Department’s mission statement to include the direction to “use regulated hunting, fishing and trapping as the basis for the management of these resources whenever feasible.” That was a significant victory for hunting, trappers, and anglers.

Tim questioned “How would this bill, and the resulting constitutional rights affect existing hunting laws, landowner’s rights, or the Department of Health and Human Services ability to enforce child support obligations by suspending licenses? The precise answer to these and many more unanticipated questions likely will not be supplied until these issues are tested in court. In the face of the unknown, I hope the Committee and the Legislature as a whole proceeds with caution.”

He summed up his testimony with this statement: “We urge careful consideration of the possible impacts of the current privilege enjoyed by all law abiding sportsmen and women. There is a distinct difference between a privilege and a right,” he said.


Supporters of LD 11 including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, National Rifle Association, and Maine Professional Guides Association.

Rep. Steve Wood, a member of the IFW Committee, sponsored and spoke for the bill, testifying “I’ve proposed this bill as an attempt to join 21 other states around the country which guarantee the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions; most recently Kansas and Indiana.”  Steve distributed a fact sheet about state constitutional amendments and the right to hunt and fish.

Dave Trahan emphasized that LD 11 is a SAM bill, not an NRA bill as some opponents charged. He took the committee through a bit of history of wildlife management in this country, noting that “conservationists and sportsmen of conscience” supported the Pitman-Robertson Act which established an excise tax on outdoor gear, a tax that has directed $3 billion to wildlife management agencies including Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.

“Hunting, trapping and fishing regulations have existed for less than half the life of this country,” testified Dave. “They were not put in place by the courts or a constitutional ruling and certainly not established to give governments the sovereignty over wild creatures; to the contrary, sportsmen and conservationists willfully placed these limits on wildlife consumption because they recognized the value in our natural world and wanted to insure that they would be around for future generations.

“This Constitutional Proposition is before you because animal rights organizations are trying to change that narrative and history… They believe hunting and fishing are cruel and inhumane, but readily accept the slow, vicious and terrifying death of wild animals through starvation, disease or to be torn apart by wild predators.” Said Dave.

Rep. Karl Ward testified for the bill, reporting that, “As of today, twenty two states now guarantee the People’s Right to Hunt and Fish in their State Constitutions. Vermont enacted this in 1777. The other seventeen – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have passed amendment to their Constitutions since 1996. Indiana and Kansas passed this amendment last year. Texas and Nevada the year before.”

What’s Next?

It will take a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate to place this Constitutional amendment on the ballot, and the people will make the deciding decision.

I am concerned about the amount of money that will need to be raised to win this ballot fight, but there’s a long way to go before we have to be concerned about that.


4 thoughts on “The right to hunt and fish is called barbaric

  1. This is a really dangerous trend. The hunting and trapping organizations are attempting to get their “sport” enshrined in the constitution as a right. I believe those groups fear that their killing is being undermined by the animal rights movement and by changing attitudes toward the cruelties involved. The Internet with its videos of animals in traps and snares and wounded animals suffering from bullets and arrows reveal the real ugliness of the “sport.” Even the hunters’ own arrogance is having a backlash. People who see FaceBook photos of them grinning proudly over the bloody bodies of once-living deer, elk, and wolves now know what a day of fun in the woods really looks like.

    Once declared as a right in the constitution, hunting and trapping would apparently be safe from future referenda and bills. Once in the constitution, any changes are notoriously difficult and usually fail.

    The fight against our movement for a more humane world is going on in other countries also. A few examples are below:

    Several districts in Spain, such as Catalonia, banned bullfighting. However, Spain’s leading opposition party wants the corrida preserved as an important part of the country’s heritage and national identity. They are proposing laws that would prevent specific districts within Spain from enacting anti-bullfighting laws.

    Spain is even going further. They are going to UNESCO, attempting to get bullfighting declared part of the world’s cultural heritage. Thus, the protection of bullfighting would go global and be protected throughout the parts of the world where they occur.

    There are similar attempts to save other cultural-related cruelty, such as that inflicted on ducks and geese for the “delicacy” produced from their grossly diseased livers, courtesy of human greed. The Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes prohibits the force feeding of ducks and geese to obtain foie gras, except where “it is current practice.” That allows France to maintain its tradition of force feeding, with French law stating that “Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.”

    In America we are fighting similar battles over abuses such as the Omak Suicide Race and Rodeos, both of which have been justified under the excuse of tradition.

    We should not underestimate this issue. Animal abusers feel threatened by proposed bans on hunting/trapping, rodeos, and agriculture. They see public opinion turning against them, and they are trying to use custom and tradition as methods to ensure that their abuses remain legal. We need to fight back, focusing on the cruelty itself, whether the custom is part of sport, ritual, diet, or science. Country, ethnic group, or religion should not count as justifications. What matters is the suffering and death human beings are inflicting on innocent animals.

    If traditions become part of a group’s constitutional right or are enshrined as an integral part of a country’s national heritage on the world stage, then the animals will continue to lose in the future too.

    • You are right and I think this is to be expected. For decades animal welfare advocates peacefully scored points, not big wins that would make much of a difference, but enough to make people who make a living out of abusing and killing animals angry. The killers and abusers started quietly to re-group and attack back. If we don’t want to see everything rolled back, we need to counter attack with everything we have. In U.S. mainstream media is completely useless, they see only the mighty $ and the revenue from advertising that they receive from big-ag and big-pharma. We need to take aim and changing that.

      For me, I have changed my relationship with environmental organizations I support. I no longer assume or trust they are doing the right thing. I expect results and I make my expectations known. I have some ideas how to get our agenda to the average people and I have started to share my ideas with organizations like PETA. For example, why not partner with creative people who love animals and write TV shows.

      Why not create a sitcom about characters working at ASPCA? Start with stories about cute animals and cute human characters doing silly stuff (accompanied with the usual laugh track) and then every once in while dramatize more serious stories like an animal jumping off a truck on the way to a slaughter house. Give the animals names and personalities, let the audience see know and like them. Have you seen YouTube videos of rescued baby goats in pajamas jumping around? There is no better ambassador to speak for animals than the baby animals dairy farmers kill outside of the public eye. Let the public see the faces of their veal, alive and happy in a sitcom filled with laugh tracks playing at their cute silliness.

      Winning the hearts and minds of average people is one way there are also legal ways. I expect intensified legal challenges brought to abusers by the organizations I support. I expect them to get powerful lawyers and bring legal actions against every law designed to give more rights to hunters and corporations that abuse animals.

      That is what I expect and I think the start will be very hard, but in the end we will have the attention that animals deserve.

  2. We know too much about customs and traditions already to thrust fishing and hunting down people’s throats as traditions. Both have been pursuits of the hunter-gatherer people to fill the larder and stay alive. Outdated now.

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