Voters in the general election in November will have a chance to vote on a referendum that would make hunting and fishing constitutional rights. South Carolina joins Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky and Tennessee with right-to-hunt referendums on the ballot this year. Such constitutional guarantees are already in place in nine states.
Hunting advocates say right-to-hunt measures would ensure that hunting could never be outlawed without a statewide vote. Animal rights groups have pushed for hunting restrictions in several states, including Kentucky where they tried to stop bear season from opening last year and in Minnesota where there was an attempt to ban dove hunting.
President of the national animals rights group In Defense of Animals said the NRA and other pro-hunting groups are attempting a backdoor approach that would lead to more poaching and a greater incidence of non-target species being trapped.
Humane Society of the United States CEO Michael Markarian says right-to-hunt measures don’t accomplish anything.
Director of the Humane Society of Columbia Wayne Brennessel says hunting has been around a long time.
Brennessel says one practice he would like to see change is bear baying, where hunting dogs are encouraged to attack a chained, declawed bear. Humane Society of the United States officials released videos of the practice in August, saying that it was just a spectator sport.
Brennessel says his organization has more important focuses than hunting.
We’re looking at laws concerning animals that have been seized as part of cruelty investigation, and whose responsibility it is to care for those animals. We’re looking at cock fighting, at dog fighting.
Brennessel says there are plenty of animal welfare reforms to work on without hunting.
We’ll see what stands a good chance of getting support statewide. Banning hunting is not going to fly in South Carolina so we want to see that hunters are humane in their practices. Do we need legislation that guarantees the rights of hunters? I would rather see legislation that says here’s what is appropriate for hunting and here are endangered species that you don’t hunt.
Brennessel says he has never heard any Humane Society leaders or supporters in South Carolina talk about any attempt to do away with hunting.