Animal Writes
From 14 March 2004 Issue

Anti-Hunting Op-Ed
From David Cantor - [email protected]

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 editions.

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 heavily anti-bloodsports.

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 between .

Thanks, and good luck!

David Cantor
Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.
P.O. Box 891
Glenside, PA 19038
[email protected] 


Posted on Mon, Mar. 08, 2004

Animal activists finally get a say
A sportsmen's-rights referendum will let Pennsylvanians speak out against it.
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register my opposition to blood sports - even though the hunting-fishing-trapping system is extremely harmful and long out of date.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 booth.

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 companion.

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. (, which is based in Glenside.

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