In early October, I received an email invitation from the Maine Farm Bureau to join a call with their special guest, Wayne Pacelle, to strategize opposition to Question 3, the Right to Food constitutional amendment that was on the ballot this fall.

For those who know the name Wayne Pacelle, you can imagine my surprise to see his name on any political effort in Maine. Pacelle was the director of the Humane Society of the United States during the last Maine bear-hunting referendum and since lost his job under the cloud of scandal. Like a bad penny, he was back, and the organization he represents had a new name, the Animal Wellness Action. Most people will never know that he and AWA funded the lion’s share of the “No on 3” opposition to the “Right to Food” amendment.  (Full disclosure, The organization I work for, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, ILA, supported Question 3).

Here is the wording of the amendment: “Section 25. Right to Food. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”

The key word for sportsmen and women in the new amendment, is “harvest.” Animal rights groups know the word “harvest” — it is defined in Maine law several times to mean various types of hunting, fishing and foraging. The passage of Question 3 could spell disaster for the animal rights cause championed by Pacelle and AWA.

In testimony presented Feb. 23 to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States regarding what would become Question 3, Katie Hansberry said, “the term ‘harvest’ is frequently used to describe the killing of wildlife through regulated hunting. Putting a right to hunt in Maine’s Constitution, something that has been attempted and failed several times, is unnecessary.”

The group “Animal Rights Maine” was very clear in their testimony: “codifying hunting, farming, and fishing rights in our Constitution would render all future efforts to improve our relevant state laws a Constitutional matter, with much higher thresholds to meet to pass improvements in law.”

Exactly! Animal rights activists will find it far more difficult to push their extreme agendas in Maine.

After presenting her initial concerns with the “Right to Food Amendment” Hansberry asked the legislative committee to accept an amendment striking the words “raise, harvest sustenance and harvesting” and added legal wording to place animal welfare protections into the amendment. Had the committee accepted her amendment, it would have guaranteed the right to a vegan diet and placed animal rights protection into a constitution meant to establish human rights. I will let you chew on that for a while

The sponsor of the Right to Food resolution, Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, reinforced the fact that “harvest” meant hunting and fishing in his floor speech in the House of Representatives and furthermore, because the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and the Maine Legislature rejected the opposition’s arguments and pleas to remove any reference to “harvest” and, because the amendment contains other hunting- and fishing-related words such as trespassing, poaching, natural resources and harvesting, the legal consequences are now profound.

The animal rights activists knew if Maine people approved Question 3 and placed it in the Maine Constitution, it would establish legislative intent and legal standing for a lawsuit in the future to reject or overturn any future attempt to ban a certain type of hunting.

While Mainers were consumed by the Central Maine Power corridor issue, also on the ballot in 2021, something special happened and few know of its relevance.  Maine passed a first-in-the-nation, hybrid, far-superior version of the right to hunt and fish amendment.  Maine’s version, (23 states have the right to hunt and fish) establishes a personal choice for all forms of legally acceptable food sources, including the right to vegan diet, “right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.” Vegans in Maine should celebrate along with those that make wild food sources a part of their diet.

Question 3 is not absolute, just like all the constitutional amendments that make up the state and federal constitutions. State game departments and the Legislature will still have statutory and regulatory authority over wildlife, foraging, the humane treatment of animals, seeds and protecting natural resources, as no right is absolute.

What the Legislature or regulators can’t do, now that Question 3 has passed, is take that right away altogether.

David Trahan of Waldoboro, a former state legislator, is executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of that organization.

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