Progress for animals isn’t easy – it never has been. There’s no glide path when you confront entrenched interests and the politicians often so ready to do their bidding. There are still so many people in society who think that animals are just there for the taking – to do with them as they please, and to demand that the law serve their whims or economic ambitions.
Today, the Michigan House, led by the Republican caucus, engaged in an absolute charade of a vote. Lawmakers there approved, by a vote of 65 to 43, the unconstitutional Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which is really a dolled-up measure to allow a group of seven political appointees to open up a hunting season on wolves or any other protected species in the state.
In fact, there’s much more to it than their wish to control the decision to hunt any species that falls outside of the realm of federal protection. Michigan lawmakers have voted for wolf hunting three times in the last two years, and it’s a thinly veiled attack on citizen lawmaking guaranteed by the Michigan constitution.
The reason that the lawmakers have taken three shots at wolves is that The HSUS and a broad coalition of Indian tribes and animal protection, environmental and other organizations qualified two referendums to veto their first two legislative maneuvers.
We knew they wouldn’t take kindly to our counterpunches, but we didn’t think they’d have so much contempt for the Michigan Constitution and the people of the state as to try to subvert the long-established right of citizen lawmaking. They don’t think they can win at the ballot, when all Michigan citizens have a chance to weigh in, so they are trying to limit or entirely subvert the impact of the citizen referendum process.
But, in the end, democratic action and fairness have a way of prevailing in American society, especially when there’s a determined force pushing those ideals, like The HSUS and the entire Keep Michigan Wolves Protected coalition.
The good news is, if we win our two referendums in November – and we can, since the people of Michigan don’t like either these legislators’ abuse of power or their trumped-up, phony charges against wolves – we will block a hunting season this fall. The sparing of these lives will make our investments and efforts in this tangled process entirely worth the trouble.
We are in this position to block the hunt because lawmakers today did not pass an “immediate effect” clause, meaning that their measure probably won’t take effect until March 2015 – long after the hunt season would have concluded. But what this means is, the two referendums to veto their prior wolf-hunting laws must be defeated. If we do not win both, then a 2014 hunting season for wolves could happen after the election – because the original law or laws would then take effect.
In addition to campaigning to win the two referendums – by urging “no” votes on each -- we’ll be filing a lawsuit to challenge the unconstitutional Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The measure that the legislature acted on today bundled together three unrelated measures – wolf hunting, Asian carp control, and free hunting licenses for veterans – to push the wolf hunt over the finish line. In the process, they violated Michigan’s single-issue law requirement, stipulating that a law not contain multiple, unrelated subjects. We’re confident that Michigan courts will reject the legislature’s unconstitutional act and instead respect the results of the vote this November.
But whether we win or lose in court, we know we’ll be battling with lawmakers captive to the National Rifle Association and the Safari Club in 2015, to determine the fate of future wolf hunts in 2015 and beyond.
Our immediate task must be to win the ballot measures for November, and save the lives of dozens or even hundreds of wolves. In Wisconsin, where there is no referendum process, hunters and trappers killed 257 wolves last year, and 80 percent with steel-jawed traps and snares or packs of dogs. We don’t want that cruelty, on that scale, to occur in Michigan, and that’s exactly what’s at stake if we don’t defeat the two referendums in November.
We’ve got to win, to show lawmakers that they truly are out of step with public sentiment and to protect the state’s small, recovering population of wolves from people who want to hunt them only for their heads or hides – not for food, and not to control individual animals who come into conflict with people. Just for the thrill of killing, and for their bitter hatred of animals who deserve much more in the way of our humanity.