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Hunting Down Prop 109: Wildlife Protection, Voters' Rights At Risk

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The Humane Society of the United States trusts the voters of Arizona. The NRA doesn't, and it wants to take away their rights to vote on citizen initiatives on some animal welfare issues.

That's the underlying mentality that divides the backers and opponents of Arizona's Proposition 109, which was referred to the ballot by the politicians who are the handmaidens of the NRA.

They don't like that we succeeded in convincing Arizona voters to outlaw cockfighting and extreme confinement of veal calves and breeding pigs on factory farms by ballot initiative. And they especially don't like that we succeeded in persuading the electorate to ban the use of cruel and inhumane steel-jawed leghold traps on public lands -- since that was a restriction on the taking of wildlife.

Bighorn sheep

Just a few years after the anti-trapping initiative, in 2000, the NRA and the rest of the trophy hunting lobby succeeded in getting state politicians to place a measure on the ballot to create a higher threshold for passing wildlife protection initiatives in Arizona -- a two-thirds vote, rather than the simple majority vote that is the standard for elections in a democratic society. Even though we were outspent 20 to 1, we succeeded in alerting voters to this attack on their fundamental rights of citizenship; 63 percent of voters told the NRA to leave their voting rights alone, and its ballot measure went down in flames.

Now, the NRA-anchored coalition has come back with its latest attack on voting rights: Prop 109. It creates a constitutional right to hunt, but there's much more to it than that. It takes power away from citizens and puts it in the hands of politicians, and its effect would be to block future statutory initiatives to protect wildlife and to establish that hunting is the "preferred means" of dealing with wildlife. It enshrines in the state constitution that no law or rule shall be adopted that "unreasonably restrict hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife or the use of traditional means and methods." It even weakens the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and replaces sound scientific wildlife management with partisan politics.

If approved, Prop 109 could repeal the voter-approved ballot measure on trapping, legalize canned hunting, and protect outrageous practices like hound hunting of bears or even bear baiting, if someone decided to start engaging in that activity. And we could forget about any attempt to restrict the use of lead shot that is killing highly endangered California condors, since a requirement to use nontoxic shot would "unreasonably restrict hunting."

Today the campaign launched an advertising campaign to alert voters once again to this attack on their voting rights and to this power grab by the NRA and the politicians who do their bidding.

Voters should reject Prop 109, just as they rejected the 2000 effort to accomplish the same end. The Arizona Republic called Prop 109 "a minefield of potential problems."

Take a look at the new ad, and urge your friends and contacts in Arizona to vote "no" on Prop 109.

This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.