Friday, September 03, 2010

More on the proposed right to hunt and fish

[Instant Update: just saw this article in the Miami Herald with a little more on the alleged threat, which is that there are animal rights groups who have money.]

Here's the prefiled bill to go before the 2011 Kentucky General Assembly:
BR 71 - Representative Leslie Combs, Representative Greg Stumbo (09/02/10)

AN ACT proposing to amend the Constitution of Kentucky relating to hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife.

Propose to amend the Constitution of Kentucky to create a right to hunt, fish, and harvest nonthreatened species using traditional methods; submit to the voters for approval or disapproval.
And here's the query I sent to Reps. Combs and Stumbo:

Dear [Reps. Combs and Stumbo],

I am a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University with active interests in animal and environmental ethics. I am writing to request further information about the proposed amendment to guarantee (in short) a right to hunt and fish in the Commonwealth. I find myself uncertain about the legal necessity of such a right, though there may be clear and present dangers to the livelihood of well-regulated and well-managed hunting and fishing of which I am unaware. That aside, I am sure you are aware that the language of such an amendment must receive careful attention. It would be ecologically imprudent to enact an amendment which made revising current management practices and regulation illegal, since protecting the welfare of wild game species in a dynamic ecosystem might require changes in current practices. To that end, the insertion of the term "nonthreatened species" is especially important and appreciated.

One might, however, bear in mind that humans are a nonthreatened species! That (silly?) point raises more serious questions about the relation this amendment would have to other elements in the state constitution. Would the right to hunt entail that convicted felons have a right to purchase and own firearms? (I ask this as a hypothetical example, since I do not know the current laws about this in KY.) Would the right to hunt make regulations such as restricted hunting seasons or catch limits illegal until the particular species was threatened at some very particular point? And what exactly are "traditional" methods? Why not employ the less ambiguous language of "methods that are not explicitly illegal"?

While traditions are an important part of individual and social identity, appeals to tradition for justification are slippery. Slave-owning was once an institution and tradition, but that alone does not confer legal (or moral) justification upon it.[Clarification: I'm not saying that the hunting and fishing tradition is just as bad as slavery, just pointing out that you can't justify a tradition by pointing out that it's a tradition, even if it's a good one. (Note sent to Stumbo and Combs)]

Again, I reiterate my concern about the necessity of this amendment, in proportion to the various complications and legal questions it might raise if enacted. Do our traditions--such as eating Thanksgiving dinner, attending college sporting events, and drinking mint juleps at the Derby--require explicit constitutional protection in the form of a stated legal right? And since this amendment could be later voted down by the will of the people, why do we now need the will of the people--in the form of our General Assembly--to protect its traditions against the will of the people? From that point of view, I can't quite see how this proposed amendment promises anything of substance.

[Yours Truly]

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put.

    I imagine that the point is to enable certain politicians to say, when running for re-election, that they stood up for the right to hunt, etc., rather than having to say they did nothing at all. Whether these rights needed protecting isn't likely to come up much. It also means that anyone opposing hunting can be portrayed as against the state constitution, and so something like a traitor. Maybe there is more of a threat than I know about, but I doubt it.

    On a possibly related note, I recently came across an organization called Friends of the NRA. Why wouldn't these people just join the NRA? Very strange.