Hunting/fishing/trapping one step closer to ballot

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January 30, 2012 - 6:00pm

The Legislature moved one step closer Tuesday to putting a constitutional amendment to protect hunting on the November ballot.

Lawmakers picked up where they left off last year in debating the proposed constitutional amendment. It would say that people have the right to hunt, fish and harvest, or trap, animals, subject to rules like those to promote wildlife conservation.

Supporters say they want to protect those rights and traditions against possible anti-hunting moves by groups like the Humane Society of the United States. Opponents call the amendment unnececessary. Among them was Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill.

Sen. Amanda McGill

"We don't have any real threat against hunting and fishing in our state. I would argue we don't have a real threat anywhere in our country," McGill said. "We may have one organization -- HSUS -- that may think that they are trying to accomplish that goal. But they have no pull here in Nebraska."

But Omaha Sen. Pete Pirsch, sponsor of the amendment, says it's needed. "We can tell that there is a serious threat. That one particular group you mentioned (HSUS) alone has over a $100 million in annual receipts and has indicated through statements their intent is to eliminate all hunting, all fishing, all harvesting wildlife everywhere as soon as they can," he said.

Sen. Pete Pirsch

HSUS President Wayne Pacelle says there's no group threatening hunting and fishing. Nevertheless, senators advanced Pirsch's proposal on a voice vote. It would need one more vote of approval by at least three-fifths of the senators in order to be placed on November's ballot for voters to decide if they want to add it to the state constitution.

In an afternoon hearing, the Agriculture Committee considered a proposal that would make it illegal to get a job at an animal processing facility for the purpose of disrupting operations. The bill would also require people who have video evidence of animal abuse to turn it over to authorities.

Sen. Tyson Larson

Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill, the bill's sponsor, said the idea is to combat tactics used by some animal rights groups. He described several recent incidents. "In the past couple of months, a large egg producing company in Minnesota has been targeted by a video taken at their facilities by an undercover operative in the company's egg farms over a three month period. A turkey farm in North Carolina was recently targeted," Larson said. "These videos have been edited substantially before being released to the public. My intent is to make sure that members of these groups are responsible to report these instances instead of using them for their own gain."

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins also described an incident at an egg producing facility in his district where one person threw a live chicken into a shredder while another person took a picture in an attempt to disrupt the operation.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield

No one spoke in favor of the bill. The only opposition came from Alan Peterson of ACLU Nebraska. Peterson said he wasn't defending the actions of some groups opposed to animal agriculture. But he said the bill was too vague. "For someone to be charged with a major felony, as this bill calls for, because they had a quote intent to disrupt' at the time they took the job, without a definition of what disrupt' means, is pretty dangerous," he said.

Larson agreed that the language was a little vague, and offered to work on it. The committee took no action on the bill.




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