Hunters Strengthen Rights in Three States, N. Dakota Keeps Canned Hunts

WASHINGTON, DC, November 3, 2010 (ENS) – Voters in Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina overwhelmingly approved amendments Tuesday that will protect hunting and fishing as constitutional rights.

Voters in Arizona, the only other state with a similar amendment on the ballot, rejected the measure 56 to 44 percent.

In Tennessee, 90 percent of voters supported the amendment, while similar measures received 89 percent in South Carolina and 82 percent of the vote in Arkansas.

In South Carolina, the Wildlife Federation’s spokesman Cary Chamblee said, “It’s important because all of the country, over the past 10-15 years, there have been challenges to hunting and fishing from animal rights groups, mostly, and this is kind of forward thinking…As a state grows and urbanizes, and fewer and fewer people as a percentage are hunting and fishing, we want to retain those rights.”

Bob Scott, chief executive officer of the South Carolina Forestry Association, claimed that state and national groups that oppose hunting may threaten the sport, saying, “They have very effective leaders, and they’re adept at marketing their position perhaps better than some of the hunting and fishing organizations.”

In Arkansas, constitutional protection for the right to hunt and fish became an issue because Arkansas has approved an animal cruelty law that allows prosecutors to charge the offense as a felony.

Supporters of the measure argued that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect hunting, fishing, trapping, and harvesting wildlife because animal rights groups in other states have filed lawsuits and mounted advertising campaigns to influence public opinion against hunting and fishing. Backers wanted to draw a clear line that would prevent hunters and anglers from being accused of cruelty.

Arkansas duck hunters, January 2010 (Photo by Cory Alberson/Bayou Deview Duck Guides)

The right to hunt ballot measures were supported by the National Rifle Association and also by the waterfowl conservation group Ducks Unlimited.

Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall said today, “We are glad to see the voters of Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina voted in favor of these amendments, as they protect a very important piece of our nation’s heritage. Ducks Unlimited supported the passage of these amendments, and we hope that more states will adopt similar changes in the future.”

The measures were opposed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which said the amendments are unnecessary.

PETA spokesperson Ryan Huling said, “We think there are so many better ways to enjoy nature than killing a piece of it. PETA as an organization exists to remind people that there’s really no difference in abusing cats and dogs to abusing deer and fish. These animals all feel pain in exactly the same way.”

The Humane Society of the United States also opposed the right to hunt measures and issued a statement today taking credit for the defeat of the measure in Arizona, saying, “We protected the right of Arizona citizens to make wildlife policy through the initiative process, and we turned back this terrible power grab by the NRA and their politician allies.”

If Arizona voters had passed the measure, HSI said, “the government would have had “exclusive control over wildlife policies, boxing citizens and wildlife experts out of having a say.”

Ten other states have already adopted an amendment to protect hunting and fishing: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In North Dakota, voters rejected Measure 2, an effort led by hunters in the state to ban canned hunts of tame deer and elk trapped behind fences.

Backers of a ban on fenced hunting preserves say the practice is unethical because the animals cannot escape the hunters’ guns. Opponents said a ban would violate property rights because farmed elk and deer are private property, generations removed from the wild.

The measure to abolish fenced hunting preserves where people pay to shoot big game such as deer and elk went down in unofficial returns 57 percent to 43 percent. Roger Kaseman of the Fair Chase Committee, who led the effort to get the proposal on the ballot, said he was “outspent” in the campaign.

An editorial in the “Dakota Beacon” by Dwight Groz gives a taste of opposition thinking. “Whether it’s high fence hunting, cattle burping and farting methane, navigateable waters, wolves, CRP, spotted owls, wetlands, global warming, lead ammunition and just about every other politcal debate we are having, it increasingly defines the two world views between states rights and federal encroachment,” wrote Groz.

On another ballot measure, North Dakota voters approved a proposal to set aside 30 percent of the state’s oil tax collections in a Legacy Fund. By 2013 there will be an estimated $2 billion worth of revenue from oil, of which $613 million will go into the fund and $700 million will be left over, said Sandy Clark, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

North Dakota’s Cass County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to be used to help fund a Red River diversion and other flood control projects. The county has dealt with major flooding the past two years.

In Missouri, The Humane Society and Missourians for the Protection of Dogs declared victory as voters approved the Missouri Dog Breeding Regulation Initiative, Proposition B, also known as the Puppy Mill Initiative.

The Humane Society said, “At puppy mills in Missouri, dogs are crammed into small and filthy cages, denied veterinary care, exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and given no exercise or human affection. These puppy mills are cruel and the way these dogs are treated is wrong.”

The measure sets out new rules for dog-breeders, including capping the number of dogs that are used for breeding purposes, requiring resting periods between breeding and other requirements. Dog-breeders will only be able to have 50 breeding dogs and will be required to feed those animals daily and regularly.

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