Maine Supreme Court will consider ‘second amendment for food’ in challenge to Sunday hunting ban

The Maine constitution is the only one in the country that protects the right to food

Abe Asher
Thursday 10 August 2023 23:12 BST
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Maine’s Supreme Court is readying itself to a hear a case that could allow it define the extent to which the state’s unique constitution protects the right to food.

In November 2021, Maine became the first and only state in the country to add a right to food to its constitution via a ballot referendum. The language of the constitutional amendment Maine voters approved states that “all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food,” including the right to “grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing” so long as individuals are not breaking other laws in the process.

The amendment was heralded by campaigners as a significant step forward for human rights in the state, and may serve as a model for activists in other states like Washington and West Virignia who are aiming to add a right to food to their own states’ constitutions.

Up to this point, however, the legal implications of the Maine constitutional amendment have not been well-defined. But that could start to change in October, when the state’s high court will hear Parker v Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

The plantiffs in the case, Joel and Virginia Parker, sued the state over its Sunday hunting restrictions — arguing that they violate the right to food provision of the constitution by wrongly restricting the days during which the family can hunt.

The Parkers say that, due to various school and work obligations, they can only hunt together as a family on the weekends and believe they should be able to hunt for the game they say they use as part of their diets on Sundays as well as Saturdays so long as they don’t break other laws in the process.

Though the state Supreme Court did decide to take the case on, the Parker family may be facing an uphill battle: its case was dismissed by a lower court, and a range of hunting and wildlife organisations including the Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Woodland Owners, and Maine Forest Product Council have all come out in favour of retaining the Sunday ban.

The interest group that does seem to have a vested interest in the end of the Sunday hunting ban is pro-gun organisations like the National Rifle Association, who the Brennan Center for Justice reported may see the right to food amendment as an avenue through which they can successfully limit gun control measures.

The Maine high court’s decision in the case could offer a measure of insight into the direction of the battle between the left and the right over whose political interests will benefit most from the constitutional amendment. All of the justices currently on the court were appointed by Democratic governors.

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