Our Position: Vote “Yes” on Indiana Public Question 1: The Indiana Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment
On November 8, Indiana residents will be asked to vote on Public Question 1, the Indiana Right to Hunt and Fish amendment. If passed, Question 1 would make hunting and fishing a protected right enshrined within the Indiana Constitution.
At first glance, it makes sense.
Proponents of the bill claim that the privilege of hunting and fishing is increasingly under attack by animal rights activists who believe humans have no right to own, confine or harvest animals under any circumstances. Fortunately, a vast majority of Hoosiers disagree.
However, such animal rights groups don’t give up easily. They are well-funded and run by intelligent people who work through the media, legislature and courts to enact laws that limit animal husbandry or wildlife management (including hunting, trapping and fishing).
That’s why the National Rifle Association and other groups have backed the effort to add a constitutional right to hunt and fish to all state constitutions. So far, 18 states have added such an amendment. Vermont already added such language to their constitution in 1777.
The problem is that there haven’t been too many cases where the animal rights groups have been effective in limiting hunting or fishing on a widespread basis. In certain instances and locales, they have influenced lawmakers or (more commonly) regulatory agencies to place certain limits on hunting but overall, they have been rather ineffective (fortunately).
Many observers believe their most effective anti-hunting work is actually being done via social media in order to change the beliefs of that increasing number of Americans whose opinions on unfamiliar, complex subjects are primarily developed via heart-tugging memes on Facebook.
In light of the largely ineffective history of challenges to hunting or fishing, opponents of Public Question 1 have single argument that sticks: this legislation is a solution in search of a problem. There is no real crisis this amendment would solve, either today or ten years from now.
That’s because, contrary to what both sides claim, the amendment wouldn’t prohibit new laws or policy (pro or con) in regards to wildlife. As Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokesman Phil Bloom said yesterday to WildIndiana.com: “The proposed amendment stipulates that while it would be a constitutional right to hunt and fish, that right is ‘subject only to the laws prescribed by the general assembly.’ It does not affect DNR’s statutory authority (Indiana Code 14-22-1-1) to manage fish and wildlife resources. Therefore, DNR does not have a position for or against the right to hunt amendment.”
The amendment won’t prevent laws that severely limit (but not stop) hunting or fishing. In fact, someday in the future, the amendment itself could even be stripped away from the constitution depending on the whim, excuse us, will of The People.
In essence, Public Question 1 simply makes us feel better that our traditions are acknowledged in one of the most important documents of our state legal system. That’s not a bad thing but there is also the secondary risk of emboldening other special-interest groups to push their “right,” onto the ballot. Imagine voting on an amendment that enshrines shopping, singing or the “right” walk around naked into our state constitution.
In other words, we’re trying to kill a housefly with a sheet of ¾-inch plywood when we’re not sure the fly is actually there. There is also a significant concern about unintended consequences that are always lurking around the corner with any new legislation.
In spite of these reservations, WildIndiana.com will become what we believe to be the first media outlet in the state that official supports voting “Yes” on Public Question 1. While the proposed amendment doesn’t effectively “do” anything, it does demonstrate that Indiana voters have a strong love for our traditions of hunting and fishing. This is perhaps the most important legacy of the amendment as it puts legislators on notice that they shouldn’t seriously consider stripping away our ability to harvest wildlife.
Which leads to another, deeper point about this issue that every Hoosier should take to heart: we’ll never see hunting, fishing or even firearms outlawed on a state or federal level.
What we will see, and already have seen in the firearms industry, is a widespread and organized effort to make sure we voluntarily give up our sport. This will be done through a slow shift in public opinion, burdensome licensing requirements, greater liability concerns, price increases, unfavorable environmental rules, land use restrictions and other “hidden” means. Eventually, hunting, trapping, shooting and maybe even fishing will become so expensive and difficult to practice that most folks just give up.
“They” will never take away your guns or hunting. Instead, you’ll willingly put them away rather than face being nibbled to death by the regulatory ducks.
Vote “Yea” on Public Question 1 on November 8 but realize it’s just a symptom, not the solution.
WildIndiana- Marsh: Vote “Yes” on Question 1