1998 Election Gains

1998 Election Gains

By: Stephen S. Boynton  Date: 12/15/1998 Category: | Animal Legislation | Wildlife Journal |

Hunters, trappers, and wildlife management experts gained ground in the November elections, approving measures that keep control of natural resource management in the hands of professionals and protect the right to hunt and trap. Voters in Ohio turned back an attempt to ban dove hunting, Alaskans kept the right to use snares to trap wolves, Minnesota amended its constitution to protect hunting, fishing, and trapping, and Utah voters approved a constitutional amendment that requires a super-majority to set wildlife policies.

Ohio hunters fought a well-funded and orchestrated campaign to ban mourning dove hunting in the state with a costly two-pronged advertising campaign aimed at the agenda behind the ban - the animal rights campaigns against hunting, biomedical research, and pets - coupled with a simple request to leave wildlife management in the hands of experts. They told voters that the money to ban dove hunting came from out-of-state animal rights organizations that have announced their intention to eliminate all hunting, and that their own funds came from Ohio residents. It worked; the initiative to ban dove hunting went down decisively, 60 to 40 percent.

The biggest gains for animal rights extremism occurred in California, where voters overwhelmingly approved measures to ban leghold traps and the sale of trapped pelts and prohibited the sale of horses for human consumption. Both measures interfere with trade and could be subjects of court disputes.


Audubon opposes trap ban

Trappers had an unusual but ineffective ally in the trapping initiative in California: the National Audubon Society opposed the ban on the grounds that predators targeted for trapping often decimate ground-nesting colonies of endangered birds, but their opposition was drowned out by the rhetoric of national animal rights groups. Audubon has gone to court to prevent the ban from taking place.

In a story in the Washington Post1, Audubon spokesman John McCaul said that the ban would make it more difficult to protect endangered birds from predation and that the similar Massachusetts ban has led to shooting predators since trapping is now illegal in that state.

The trapping ban was supported by ProPAW, a coalition of animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the US and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It was endorsed by celebrities Martin Sheen, a long-time animal rights advocate, and Alicia Silverstone. Trappers were unable to generate more than a small fraction of the money raised by the animal rights.



Horse slaughter

Californians approved the ban on possession, transfer, or receipt of horses intended for slaughter to feed people. Since there are no horse slaughterhouses in California, animals destined for human consumption in Europe, Canada, or the Orient must be shipped out of state, leading to the argument that the law interferes with interstate commerce. In addition, an association of horse veterinarians said that the law may even lead to an increase in cruelty or neglect. In a report quoted in US News and World Report, the American Association of Equine Practitioners2 stated that the cost of euthanizing horses is prohibitive for some owners and could lead to slow starvation for some horses instead of a quick and humane death at a federally-inspected slaughterhouse.

Proponents of the ban said that AAEP, an independent professional association for equine veterinarians, said that the report was "prepared by those who work for the slaughter companies."3 Once again, celebrities helped the extremists gain their goal - Robert Redford, star of The Horse Whisperer was in the advocates' camp.



Other ballot measures

Voters in Missouri and Arizona approved initiatives banning cock fighting. The Missouri bill was "hotly contested" according to the Associated Press, because "opponents claimed it was written so broadly it could be used to arrest people who fish with live bait or hunt with dogs."4

Colorado voters approved a measure to regulate commercial hog facilities, New Jersey voted for conservation of open space, and Colorado voters also rejected a counter-proposal for regulation of commercial hog facilities.



Congressional races

Meanwhile, environmentalists were claiming victory in the election of the 106th Congress. The Sierra Club told Reuters Limited5 that 38 of the 43 candidates it focused on won their races, and the League of Conservation Voters said its $2.3 million advertising blitz contributed to the losses of nine of the 13 Republicans it targeted.

Although LCV is pleased that Senator Lauch Fairchild, incumbent Republican from North Carolina, lost his race and four other Republicans lost their bids to unseat Democrats friendly to environmental issues, the group was not happy that four House Republicans they tarred as anti-environment - including Charles Stenholm and Helen Chenoweth - were re-elected.

  • "Anti-trap measure raises a howl," by William Booth, staff writer, Washington Post, October 27, 1998.
  • "A horse is a horse, of course. Or is it a pet?" By Dan McGraw, US News & World Report, November 9, 1998.
  • Ibid.
  • "Heard about animal rights? Now give a listen to hunter's rights," Associated Press, November 4, 1998.
  • "US Environmentalists pleased with election" by Patrick Connole, Reuters Limited 1998.



Sportsman's coalition tallies unprecedented ballot victories in November

Tuesday's elections saw an unprecedented string of state ballot initiative victories by the nation's hunters, anglers, and trappers. The winning margin was a result, in part, of a unified front of sportsmen's groups represented by the Ballot Issues Coalition. The lopsided plurality enjoyed by outdoors groups stunned animal rights extremists whose success with the initiative process appears imperiled for the first time in nearly a decade.

"What BIC and the sportsmen in Alaska and Utah achieved was more than collecting a majority of votes. It showed the nation the political clout that can be mustered when sportsmen's groups stand together," said Steve Boynton, BIC chairman. "Our alliance with sportsmen's groups in Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin also provided success and, we believe, marks a new beginning in the battle for managing America's wildlife resources and wild places."

At issue were a variety of measures dealing with hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife management. Utah voters passed by 56-44 percent a state constitutional amendment that raised the vote threshold from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority to set wildlife management policies. Minnesota voters adopted a 'right to hunt and fish' amendment to their state constitution, 77-23 percent. Alaskans defeated an attempt by Friends of Animals and other animal rights groups to outlaw the use of snares to control wolf populations by a 64-36 percent margin, and Ohio voters rejected a bid to ban dove hunting 60-40 percent.

The only issue that sportsmen lost was the California trap ban, which passed by 57-43 percent. The California campaign coalition 'No on 4' was endorsed by BIC but due to a late start, was only able to raise about 20 percent as much money as the animal rights campaign.

"Each campaign saw outdoors men and women in those states and across the country come together in a truly heartening fashion. They drew a line in the sand against extremists' efforts to eliminate hunting, fishing, trapping and sound wildlife management from the nation," said Fred Myers, BIC's campaign coordinator. "I've never seen anything like the support we had."

"Even animal rights groups acknowledged our victories. They had to trumpet wins in states where they had issues on cock fighting, bear wrestling, and eating horse meat in order to make any claim to having influenced voters. On issues that impacted America's wildlife, sportsmen overwhelmingly won the right to continue wildlife management programs that will preserve hunting, fishing, and trapping," Myers said.

"The 1998 elections were only the beginning," added Jay McAninch, executive director of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and administrator of BIC. "America's outdoors men and women aren't satisfied in just stopping the animal rights groups. We're going to roll back the unfounded, emotional inroads they have made over the past eight years and set in stone our birthright as the nation's stewards of wildlife and wild places."

The Ballot Issues Coalition was formed in early 1988 to represent the Wildlife Management Institute, the Foundation of North American Wild Sheep, Safari Club International, the National Trapper's Association, the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization, the National Rifle Association, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer's Institute, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Stephen S. Boynton | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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