Right to hunt, fish on ballot in four states

Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:58pm EDT
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By Ed Stoddard and Tim Gaynor

DALLAS/PHOENIX (Reuters) - Worried that their pastime may get waylaid by a growing animal welfare movement, U.S. hunters and anglers in some states are seeking constitutional safeguards.

When voters in Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee go to the polls to cast their ballots in the congressional elections on Nov 2, they will also be asked if they support making hunting and fishing constitutional rights.

That will be a loaded question at that time of the year, when deer season is starting in many states and millions of Americans take to the woods, firearms in hand.

"When you have something protected in your constitution, then it is very difficult to use the courts or other types of ballot activities to thwart, for example, hunting and fishing," said Steve Faris, a Democratic Arkansas state senator and the bill's lead sponsor there.

"They start with cats and dogs and the next thing you know, someone says it's inhumane to shoot a deer. It's like buying an insurance policy," he told Reuters in a phone interview.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 states guarantee the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions. Vermont's provisions go back to 1777 but the rest have all been put in place since 1996.

The current measures are not seen making a big difference in any House or Senate race.

But they are another lifestyle clash in America's many culture wars, which often seem to pit the rural and conservative "heartland" against urban liberals.   Continued...

<p>Fishermen cast a line into the lake at Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, September 5, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer</p>