INDIANAPOLIS | A Senate committee voted 7-0 Monday to ensconce the right to hunt, fish and farm in Indiana's Constitution, despite the lack of any realistic threat to those activities or industries.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which now goes to the full Senate, declares "the people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry or dairy products," subject only to limits imposed by the General Assembly.
State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, the sponsor of the amendment, said "radical" "outsider" groups like the Humane Society of the United States are secretly plotting to remove meat from Hoosier dinner tables.
While he admitted there's little chance of that happening anytime soon, the amendment will ensure it never happens in Indiana, he said.
"Fishing, hunting and farming are part of our heritage," Steele said.
Kim Ferraro, the Valparaiso-based agriculture policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, spoke against the amendment. She questioned why farming, a business with "a dark side" of "harmful practices," deserves constitutional protection that other jobs don't receive.
"Why not coal mining? Why not steel making? Why not lawyering? Why aren't these industries, important industries to Indiana's economy, entitled to constitution protection?" Ferraro asked.
Steele said it's up to the Legislature to decide what deserves special protection.
The proposed amendment was previously approved by the General Assembly in 2011. If approved again by the House and Senate this year or next year, it will be sent to Hoosier voters for ratification at the November 2014 general election.