It was a very mixed night for ballot measures on animal issues – with voters repealing two pro-wolf hunting measures, Proposals 1 and 2, by wide margins, but apparently rejecting bear hunting reforms in Maine by a narrow margin. In a landslide vote, Florida voters backed Amendment 1, to protect habitat for wildlife.
Michigan voters spoke loudly and clearly for wolves today. They repealed two dangerous laws that sought to establish a trophy hunting season on the state’s fragile wolf population and to strip voters’ right to have a say on wildlife issues, including the wolf hunt. Not only is this a win for wolves in Michigan, it is a win for all of our nation’s wolves — this was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections.
On the down side, it appears that Maine’s Question 1 – to ban bear baiting, hounding, and trapping – may go down to a narrow defeat. It was very difficult to overcome the active involvement and spending by the state government, which caused so much confusion for voters despite Maine being the only state to rely on all these extreme hunting methods. It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign that was based on fear and scare tactics.
There seemed to be a consensus building that trapping and hounding of bears are unacceptable, and even many opponents of Question 1 acknowledged that these two practices are inhumane and unnecessary. Lawmakers and the hunting lobby must address this, or they’ll be inviting another initiative in short order. In fact, our polling showed a narrow majority of people wanted to ban all three practices, but a substantial percentage of people were “wrong way” voters – casting “no” votes even though they intended to stop inhumane and unsporting practices.
The closeness of the vote strongly suggests that the defeat of Question 1 is not a mandate to continue these inhumane, unfair, and unsporting hunting methods. We sincerely hope that Maine officials will look at the science-based and ethical thinking that has driven prohibitions on these hunting methods in other states, and come to the right conclusion in the future that these methods have no place in modern wildlife management.