Saturday, February 27, 2010

Right-to-hunt-and-fish amendments: Gotta love that HSUS hypocrisy

The Christian Science Monitor posted a story on Friday about the growing number of states that have or are seeking constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to hunt and fish.

The story is fine. It outlines the history of right-to-hunt-and-fish constitutional amendments (Vermont residents have had the constitutional right to hunt since 1777; Rhode Islanders since 1844). And it talks about why some people want such amendments, and presents opposing views from the Humane Society of the U.S. and PETA.

We can safely ignore PETA here because it's run by nutballs. (Even my students, who love seeing bare flesh, laugh at PETA's propensity for using naked women to make a point). But it's worth noting the hypocrisy of the HSUS's Michael Markarian. Read more...
"We haven't opposed these measures," says Michael Markarian of the Humane Society of the United States. "We don't really view them as having much of an impact. These proposals are a solution in search of a problem. Every state allows hunting." The amendments, he adds, play to people's emotions.

Markarian, is, of course, an expert on pitching legislation that has no impact, most notably, HSUS-sponsored bills to ban internet hunting. Internet hunting happened once and was so widely denounced in the hunting community that it died a quick death. But HSUS happily introduces legislation in capitols across the country every year, warning that the scourge of internet hunting must be stopped, and issuing soundbites that lead the public to believe those rat bastard hunters are so awful that they'd actually resort to killing animals in their jammies with the click of a mouse.

Why would HSUS do such a thing? Why, to play on people's emotions, of course! It's just one more image to plant in the minds of people who don't know anything about hunting to ensure that their views of hunting tilt toward the negative.

OK, so let's turn the tables: Is it possible that a constitutional amendment protecting the right to hunt and fish actually is a "solution in search of a problem," as the esteemed Markarian suggests?

The answer is "no," and here's how this legislation differs from internet hunting bans: No one is hunting on the internet out there, and no hunters are begging for the right to hunt on the internet. It's not happening. But spend a little time reading what the public thinks about hunting, and you will see scores of people crying, "Hunting should be banned!" And you will see the HSUS jumping on a lot of bandwagons (if it's not outright pushing the bus) to diminish hunters' ability to do what we do.

Is there an imminent threat to Americans' basic right to hunt? I don't think so. I think anti-hunters have a lot of work to do to convince a country where 96.8 percent of the people eat meat that hunting should not be allowed. (The source for that statistic? A 2008 Vegetarian Times survey.)

And in California - that last place anyone expects to see any respect for hunters - I'm seeing a real groundswell of support for hunting among foodies and conscientious eaters. People realize hunting is a way to get healthy, organic, nutritious, low-fat meat from animals that lived free lives, and to take personal responsibility for the killing that most of us have long delegated to third parties.

But would I mind having a constitutional amendment to protect my right to acquire wild game meat in accordance with laws designed to protect the overall health of game species? Not at all. Fundamental rights are worth enumerating.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Tovar Cerulli said...

Points well taken, Holly.

I, too, have been noticing a swell of interest in learning about where meat--both domestic and wild--really comes from. There have, for example been several related stories in the NY Times over the past year.

HSUS certainly plays on and to people's emotions. (So, of course, do the NRA and all manner of other groups on all sides of the hunting issue.)

And the emotions associated with humane treatment of animals are important ones. The words "humane" and "ethical" and the fundamental belief that underlies them--that animal welfare matters--are important to every hunter I truly respect, just as they are for supporters of HSUS and PETA.

Speaking as ex-anti-hunter, I think it's important to keep that common ground in mind when we challenge the positions and tactics of anti-hunting groups. We can, I think, make those challenges without unnecessarily alienating non-hunters (and even anti-hunters) whose sentiments are, in some ways, not so different from our own.

Josh said...

I don't have a problem with using emotions in arguments, as they are often grounded in something, and they are also important for us to exercise as humans.

Which is why I can't stand it when opposition arguments use it as a reason to oppose something. What are they inferring, that we should be emotionless automatons?

I Love emotions! They aren't the be-all and end-all, but they are also the impetus for our wisdom.

As for a right to hunt, I'm in favor of it. Your last sentence sums it up for me. It is also yet another reason to realize that hunting and fishing are more than mere sport. Nobody is pushing for a right to golf.

Josh said...

One other point: Rights should be enumerated especially where they protect minority actions. The majority rarely needs protection. Insofar as hunting is practiced by a small minority of folks, then, it should be explicitly protected.

Matt Mullenix said...

Compact and well-stated.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Tovar, you are right on several points. The NYT articles were great; conversely, it was also excellent that Field & Stream devoted major space in a recent issue to the subject of preparing game meat well.

You're also right that both sides play to ridiculous emotions (and sometimes engage in hypocrisy). But I'm swinging a bat for the hunting team, not at it. I'll leave it up to the antis if they want to see this kind of analysis of the pro-hunting positions.

Josh: Yay for emotions! The can be important, provided they're a condiment to a healthy serving of FACTS. I like facts. I once had an editor who said, "Can we get some more FACTS in this story?"

Matt: tnx

Anonymous said...

Interesting story Holly, speaking of the HSUS, they along with the Animal Welfare Institute, Amimal Protection Institute, and ASPCA are facing a huge lawsuit. It's being filed by the Barnum and Baily circus, you can read the details on the Center for consumer freedom website.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I, too, have witnessed first hand that more people than I would have imagined are pro-hunting. They may not hunt, but they don't have a problem with it, especially if it is in order to provide meat.

But do I welcome an amendment that protects that right, especially with the HSUS, and groups of that nature lying in wait? Of course I do.

Another great post, Holly.

Josh said...

Oh, I LOVE facts!!!
: )

Galen Geer said...

Hi Holly,
Well written.
In my work I’ve had to wade through a lot of claims that hunting is a privilege. Whenever people try to make the case for hunting being a privilege rather than a right they fail to realize that privilege breaks down into class separation and provides the foundation for the elimination of hunting. But, hunting is a right and it has been recognized as a right for centuries. In our country the final word on the right to hunt actually belongs to Theodore Roosevelt. One must remember that he subscribed to the belief that only wealthy people could really be responsible for wildlife and that hunting was a privilege of the upper class. His opinions did not change overnight but we do know that at some point during his time here in North Dakota he decided that hunting was a basic right and fundamental to a democratic society because hunting (choosing to hunt or not to hunt) was a decision of the individual and could not be made for them by any government. The trend of state governments to create laws to protect the right to hunt is, by extension of Roosevelt’s statement, indicative of a greater trend of increasing infringements on other fundamental rights. It may sound strange to some of your readers but consider this—as goes hunting, so goes the nation. History bears this out and it is something that Ortega actually focused on, not only in Mediations on Hunting but other works as well.
Okay, enough of my babble.
I enjoyed your post.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Galen, I would venture to say that hunting is far more than a right - it's a biological imperative. Hunting is one of the things that made us what we are.

And while civilization has stripped from most people the firsthand knowledge of this most fundamental need - the need to kill animals to feed ourselves - I don't doubt for a second that 99.999 percent of all human beings would reclaim this birthright if the facade of civilization were to fall away. And the rest of them would make good lion food.

(Can you tell I've been on a little reading bender? The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game
by Paul Shepard. Loving it! It's a race to see whether I'll write about this book or a pig hunt first - looks like I'll be done with both at around the same time.)

Walter Bruning said...


Anyone who loves hunting and wonders why we do it might want to study "Meditations on Hunting" by Jose' Ortega y Gasset, the great Spanish philosopher. If you do, you will be struck by the prophetic nature of many of this thoughts regarding the decline of societies where hunting is restricted or diminished. His analysis goes far beyond the usual biological imperative arguments and are quite compelling in my view. Thanks for posting this piece.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh yeah, I love Ortega y Gasset. Fixing to re-read "Meditations on Hunting" soon because I've learned a lot since the first time I read it and I think I'm ready to get more out of it now. But I have to buy a fresh copy because Boyfriend won't let me write in his books, and I love making notes in the margins!

Swamp Thing said...

Holly - you mentioned the key for our current ability to keep the vapid anti's at bay (for the time being) - people are, amazingly, becoming very conscious of where their food comes from, how much antibiotics, hormones, and fertilizer are used to grow that food, and what it costs to transport it from (south America for example) to their home.

These folks have opened their eyes to hunting as a sustainable, organic, fairly local option to obtain high quality food. They may never hunt themselves, but they "get it." And God bless 'em - I'm happy to share...even my pheasant filets.

HSUS continues to fight windmills - and I've met some of their lawyers and their small number of real biologists - they are smart people. When your organization's only product is "filing lawsuits," it means that all their money is paying for lawyers' salary.

And paying off witnesses to lie in court - let's not forget about that. They'd never let us live it down if DU, SCI, or QDMA paid a witness $190,000 to lie in court.