Steel traps should not be protected by constitution

The Minnesota Constitution is our state’s fundamental political charter setting forth basic rights and principles of government. It goes without saying that the state constitution should not be amended or manipulated by special interest groups. If the state constitution becomes a charter for the wishes of every special interest group, its political importance and value is diminished for all Minnesotans.
For those reasons, we urge the people of the state to vote “no” on Question II, which declares that “hunting and fishing and the taking of game are a valued part of our heritage” that “shall be forever preserved.” While the measure may sound harmless at first glance, Question II is in fact a deceptive and radical amendment to our constitution advanced by segments of the sport hunting and commercial trapping lobby. Reading the fine print, Question II provides concrete constitutional protections for the use of cruel and indiscriminate steel-jawed leg-hold traps. While the word “trapping” is not found in the proposed amendment, trapping is considered a legal form of “taking of game” in Minnesota and is therefore clearly included in the measure. Proponents of Question II know that the public strongly opposes the use of cruel steel-jawed leg-hold traps to kill animals for fur. As such, they included trapping under the broader term of “taking” in order to mislead the voters.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the World Veterinary Health Association and the Animal Hospital Association all declare the steel-jawed leg-hold trap to be “inhumane.” Animals caught in these barbaric body-gripping devices suffer terribly, sometimes resorting to chewing off a trapped limb to escape the trap’s vise-like grip. Steel traps do not discriminate between victims, catching pets and endangered wildlife. Some studies reveal that for every “target” animal caught in a trap, such as a bobcat or fox, there are one to 10 “non-target” animals caught, such as eagles, deer or family pets. The Humane Society of the United States likens these traps to “land mines” for wildlife.
Not surprisingly, 88 nations throughout the world, as well as a number of states, have banned the trap. Yet Minnesota still permits its use. Last year, Minnesota trappers caught and killed over 400,000 fur-bearing mammals, including bobcats, mink, beaver and foxes and sold their pelts to the fur trade.
The No On 2 Committee believes that the citizens of Minnesota should be afforded the right to decide whether leg-hold traps are appropriate and humane in our state. We should not “forever preserve,” as Question II does, the opportunity to trap wildlife in this way.
Question II reflects misplaced priorities. The Minnesota Constitution does not contain guarantees for citizens to have food, shelter, employment or health care, which are all basic needs. It is inappropriate to establish constitutional protections for commercial and recreational pursuits, such as trapping or sport hunting.
It is clear that there is no legislative threat to fishing or common hunting practices, such as deer or duck hunting. Animal protection groups opposing Question II, such as the Humane Society of the United States and Minnesota’s Friends of Animals and Their Environment, do not have any plans to introduce any such legislation. These groups have never, and do not now, oppose recreational fishing.
Minnesota became a state in 1858. No past legislature saw a need to provide constitutional protections for hunting and trapping. There certainly is no compelling reason to do so today. Vote “no” on Question II and stop special interests from using our constitution to advance their own narrow agenda.

Howard Goldman is on the No On 2 Committee, and is the president of Friends of Animals and Their Environment. Send comments to [email protected]