By Rob Sexton, Vice President For Government Affairs
For many years, the fight to prevent Pennsylvania sportsmen from having the same rights as sportsmen in 39 other states has been led by the Farm Bureau. Which is ironic, of course, because their opposition means that they are actually asking the government to prevent their own members – farmers – from being able to decide how to use their own land.
While you are free to go watch the Steelers play football in Pittsburgh on Sunday, or the Phillies play baseball on the other side of the state, you are not free to go hunting. Because Pennsylvania remains one of the few states left that retains this old “blue law.”
Sportsmen, though seem much more determined this time to have the right to choose which day they will hunt. Uniting under the banner of the Sunday Hunting Coalition, national and state sportsmen’s organizations and sporting goods businesses are pressing Pennsylvania legislators to overturn the ban. In response, State Representatives John Evans (R) and Ed Staback (D) introduced House Bill 1760 to do just that.
Predictably, sportsmen have been met with opposition from the Farm Bureau. And now the effort to kill House Bill 1760 includes the most powerful animal rights organization in Pennsylvania, and the whole country for that matter, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
That the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and HSUS could wind up on the same side of a fight over hunting and landowner rights stretches the imagination to the breaking point.
It is HSUS that called bacon and eggs the “Breakfast of Cruelty.” It is HSUS that champions ballot issues across the U.S. to force farmers into more costly animal confinement methods that hurt their bottom lines and drive up food prices. It is HSUS that opposes hunting.
And yet it is HSUS that is on the same side of this fight as the PA Farm Bureau.
And there is simply no logical or defensible reason for this to be the case.
There are no biological reasons to restrict Sunday hunting. Wildlife will continue to thrive. There are no safety reasons to defeat House Bill 1760. Hunting is remarkably safe. There are no reasons to have the government tell landowners what they can do with their own property. Under House Bill 1760, a farmer can still refuse to allow hunting on Sundays, as they can the other six days of the week. Trespass is not a concern. Trespass rates are very low and Sundays do not provoke greater incidents than Saturdays for instance.
And last, Sunday hunting will produce a meaningful economic impact in Pennsylvania – a fact that is welcome news in this recession.
Where in the world in all of this news is there a reason to oppose passage of House Bill 1760?
For HSUS it is simple. They oppose hunting. They claim these days, that they only oppose cruel practices. Their definition of cruelty includes bowhunting, which helps reduce crop damage from whitetail deer. It includes trapping, which helps control disease carrying animals from spreading rabies. It includes hunting bears, which helps to reduce livestock losses.
The list goes on and on. HSUS is anti-hunting. HSUS is anti-livestock farming. While they try to project a less radical image, the truth is the organization is run by well-known animal rights activists who have spent their lives in the crusade to stop hunting and farming practices involving animals.
It is really easy to understand why HSUS opposes House Bill 1760. They know that hunting on Sunday will strengthen the future of hunting by allowing families a day to be in the field together when work or school does not compete.
But it is not easy at all to understand why the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is on the same side.
In fact it makes no sense at all. Hunters and farmers should be on the same side. We are natural allies.
Take Action! The animal rights and anti-hunting organizations are pulling out all the stops to flood members of the House of Representatives and the Senate with phone calls, email, letters and more.
Pennsylvania sportsmen must reach out to their state representative today in support of HB 1760. Tell them that there is no justification for the ban on Sunday hunting. Tell them that the time has come for sportsmen and sportswomen to be treated as first class citizens. Removing the ban will increase hunter opportunity, encourage new hunter participation, and boost the state’s economy.
To find your state representative’s contact information, use the USSA Legislative Action Center at www.ussportsmen.org/lac.