The op-ed that appears below is in today's [3/8/04]
Philadelphia Inquirer -- the Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester County
editions. As far as I know, it is not in the Philadelphia and other
If a fair number of letters are sent in response -- 200
words or less to [email protected] / fax 215-854-4483 / P.O.
Box 41705, Philadelphia, PA 19101 -- those that are published can show
additional Pennsylvania animal people are also confident a vote will be
Letters from out of state can show these amendments
neither put states that implement them in a good light (so far, Alabama,
California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia,
Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana) nor do anything to promote
hunting, fishing, and trapping -- instead make "sportsmen" seem desperate.
And they say Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in
Thanks, and good luck!
Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.
P.O. Box 891
Glenside, PA 19038
Posted on Mon, Mar. 08, 2004
Animal activists finally get a say
A sportsmen's-rights referendum will let Pennsylvanians speak out against
By David Cantor
Some opportunities occur but once in a lifetime. In 15
years of advocating for better treatment of animals, I have never yet had
the chance to step into a voting booth and register my opposition to blood
sports - even though the hunting-fishing-trapping system is extremely
harmful and long out of date. But suddenly the hunting lobby and the
Pennsylvania General Assembly are smiling upon me!
Pennsylvania does not have public ballot initiatives that
in other states allow citizens to put a proposed law on the ballot by
obtaining enough signatures, circumventing the legislature. So
animal-related measures don't appear before me when I enter the voting
And the legislative process takes forever to bring about
change, despite the efforts of some fine lawmakers. So I usually seek the
rewards of my profession elsewhere.
But now look at this! The hook-and-bullet crowd wants a
"right of the people to hunt and fish" amendment to Pennsylvania's
Constitution! I blink my eyes and blink again. I don the reading glasses
that years of documents and computer screens have made my constant
The article says an amendment can be enacted only if a
majority of Pennsylvanians vote for it - after it passes the House and
Senate over two sessions. The House has already passed the proposed
amendment by a large majority. The Senate will probably do the same. Both
houses will repeat the same motions next year, too.
Only about 6 percent of Pennsylvanians hunt, but the gun
lobby and other well-organized, well-funded, and well-connected special
interests that profit from hunting wield far more power in state capitals
than do moral indignation or indifference scattered among the populace.
Nor do legislators who sympathize with animals or people who care about
them have to fear that the amendment, if it passes, means more bullet,
buckshot, arrow, or fishhook agony and death; fish and wildlife
regulations would not change.
But if it would not increase the body count, why do
"sportsmen" want an amendment? News articles quote some as saying that,
with their hobby becoming less popular, hunters would get a "psychological
boost" from an amendment honoring them. Isn't it a little embarrassing to
use the constitution to make people feel better? I see them sneering, our
forefathers whose "heritage" hunters contend they uphold. So would our
forefathers sneer at the high-tech guns and bows, the latest fashions in
boots and jackets, and the heated SUVs and pop-country music that today's
rugged bring to the woods.
Though puzzled at my adversaries' strategy - is it just
pro-hunting lawmakers showing constituents they care? - I'm not
complaining! If they need money to get blood sports on the ballot more
often, I'll send a donation! Unfortunately, though, the legislators'
actions mainly bolster 1930s policies that were meant as stopgap measures
to halt the unregulated destruction of wildlife and habitat and have
instead brought regulated destruction ever since.
The "right to hunt" amendment illustrates how those
policies give official sanction to animal abuse that is at odds with the
state anticruelty statute and most people's basic values. It's another
substitute for the best we can do as a society to protect wildlife and
habitat and to restore healthy ecosystems for animals and people alike.
And that's what we animal-rights wackos get to show people in the dialogue
that will precede a vote on a constitutional amendment.
Given complete and accurate information, most
Pennsylvanians, like most other Americans, will make the humane choice.
Most people, seeing a mourning dove, a rabbit, or a deer, do not see a
target but a being struggling against the odds to share a small patch of
earth with one disruptive species that makes life tougher for the rest.
Most people realize that the least we can do, while we strive to reduce
the harm many of our choices inflict indirectly on animals and the land
and water they need, is not to harm animals intentionally.
I think that view will garner many votes.
So if I see any of our hunting-fishing-trapping friends
holding signs and handing out flyers at my neighborhood polling place on
Election Day 2005, I'll thank them for their gift to our
no-ballot-initiative state: a statewide referendum on shooting animals.
It's the least I can do in return for the
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offered by their latest move!
David Cantor is executive director of Responsible Policies for Animals
Inc. (www.RPAforAll.org), which is based in Glenside.
Go on to Animal Rescue
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