The Right To Hunt, Fish and Trap
My home state of Louisiana just added the right to hunt, fish, and trap to the state’s Constitution. It is embodied in the first article of the highest law of our state. Though it is not an absolute right in that it is subject to regulation, no one wants it to be an absolute and unconditional individual right. The Constitutional amendment is public recognition and acknowledgement of the importance of hunting, fishing, and trapping. It is the ultimate statement of public policy in this state. Hunting is a right! Hunting is recognized to be of fundamental importance and deserving of protection. No court in this state will ever slight hunting for only being an unprotected activity as has occurred elsewhere. This will silence the Antis’ claims that hunting is an unpopular and unprotected anachronism. The Amendment passed with eighty-one (81%) percent of the vote. Though we wonder about the 19% that voted against the amendment, the right is now law. It is not an “end-all” but it is satisfying relief.
It took several years to get the right through the state legislature before it was put to popular vote before the public. That was because of the advise of the state’s Department of Wildlife & Fisheries’ legal counsel that it might spark litigation which has been the position of the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ Legal Committee for a number of years. Once it cleared the state legislature, naysayers argued that it was “trivial” to which we replied that the trivialization of it by some is exactly why it needed to be protected. It is not trivial to hunters or to America’s wildlife conservation paradigm. Some argued that it was “unnecessary” in Louisiana but PETA had mistakenly placed billboard signs in the state showing a dog rolling its eyes at a fish hook and line tugging at his lip and had also threatened to protest fishing rodeos (tournaments). Conservation Force assisted the Louisiana Wildlife Federation that spearheaded the whole effort with our databank of anti-hunting and fishing examples from around the country that helped make the threat from Antis real. State Senator Joe McPherson who is a longstanding member of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and also founder of the newly formed Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus [offshoot of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus] introduced the legislation and championed it all the way. The HSUS and Fund for Animals deliberately kept a low profile knowing that we would turn their appearance and presence against them. It was not even carried in their nationwide alerts that we carefully monitored. The Antis’ only hope of defeating the Constitutional right was for the Constitutional Amendment to fail from apathy for lack of a perceived present threat to sportsmen and women. That may have been true, but 81% of the voters felt it was important anyway. It is the public recognition and acceptance of the importance of hunting, fishing, and trapping that makes me much more comfortable about my way of life today than yesterday in the “Sportsmens’ Paradise”.
The right to hunt, fish, and trap was also made a Constitutional right in Montana on Election Day. What is especially notable about it, the vote was approximately 81% in favor and 19% opposed, identical to the breakdown in Louisiana according to the HSUS -- Fund for Animals website. With Louisiana and Montana, nine states have adopted the Constitutional right to hunt, fish, and trap.
The HUMANElines … Election issue on November 3 reported that the Antis lost every hunting related ballot measure. There has never been such a sweeping victory against them. They lost their Alaska ballot measure to outlaw bear baiting. [41% voted to end baiting and 59% voted against the measure]. Statistically 50% more voters were in favor of allowing bear baiting than those against. Also, Alaska succeeded in making future ballot initiatives harder. The Antis also lost Question 2 in Maine that would have made bear baiting, hounding, and trapping illegal. [47% voted to end the practices but 53% voted against the Question] Florida also made ballot initiatives more difficult by making it harder for activists to collect signatures. [68.3% voted for ballot signature restrictions and 31.7% voted against]. The Antis did defeat a proposition in Arizona that would have made citizen ballot initiatives more difficult.
The Antis claim to be “regrouping and rallying their forces” in Alaska and Maine to continue the initiatives to limit bear hunting methods. They complain that they lost because “hunting and gun groups” “out spent animal advocates by a margin of two to one in Maine and a margin of eight to one in Alaska.”
Humane USA, the political action lobbying arm of the HSUS, listed its “key animal protection allies on both sides of the aisle” that it was “able to help re-elect.” See if you know them. They are Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Harry Reid (D-NV), Arlen Specter (R-PA) in the U.S. Senate, and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Jim Moran (D-VA), David Price (D-NC), Chris Shays (R-CT), Rob Simmons (R-CT), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) in the House.