Maine ‘Right to Food’ Amendment Leads to Lawsuit Challenging Sunday Hunting Ban

Maine ‘Right to Food’ Amendment Leads to Lawsuit Challenging Sunday Hunting Ban

Last July, it looked like Sunday hunting on private property could become a reality for Maine when Gov. Janet Mills signed into law Legislative Document (LD) 1033. The NRA and its Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) worked hard to make LD 1033 a reality, which directed the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to oversee a survey of Maine residents, businesses and organizations on the Sunday hunting issue. This stakeholders’ group and the department were to present a report to the legislature about their findings, with the potential of the ban being lifted. Unfortunately, once the stakeholders’ report was submitted, the Maine Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee voted to oppose lifting the longtime ban at a March 2022 committee meeting.

In Maine, private land not posted specifically to prevent hunting can be hunted by anyone per state law. Part of the opposition to Sunday hunting has been the fear that if Sunday were added, private landowners would begin posting their lands for “No Hunting” over concerns of being overrun—and in the process, reducing overall hunting lands available to all in Maine.

Now, a “right to food” lawsuit seeks to overturn the Sunday hunting ban using a newly passed amendment to the Maine constitution—an amendment that, ironically, in and of itself had nothing to do with the Sunday hunting issue. It came about last November when a statewide referendum asked Maine voters if they favored an amendment to their constitution “to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being,” providing private and public property rights and laws are not violated. It passed with 61 percent of the vote.

Virginia Parker of Readfield, Maine, filed the above-mentioned lawsuit against the state on behalf of herself and her husband, Joel, to end the Sunday hunting ban because of “the unalienable constitutional right to harvest food, superseding the old religious ban on Sunday hunting,” the Portland Press Herald reported. The Parkers are members of the 2,600-member Facebook group Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting. The Parkers, who began hunting in 2011, want to teach their five children how to hunt, which is more difficult to do with only one weekend day available.

At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Virginia Parker explained, “My husband works full-time Monday to Friday. My children are in school full-time and have academic responsibilities. That only gives us one day to go out hunting as a family, to help them learn to harvest an animal, or just enjoy the education, though we do try to fill the freezer. Meat is so expensive now.”

According to the lawsuit, the Sunday hunting ban “unconstitutionally infringes on and violates the rights of the plaintiffs, who seek to hunt on Sundays as a means of providing food for themselves and their family.”

“I actually didn’t see this coming,” said State Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor), who advocated for the right to food amendment and is himself a hunter. “But I do think the Sunday hunting ban is denying people their inherent right to food and it stops people from harvesting food for arbitrary reasons.”

Now the Maine courts will decide if the state constitution’s right to food amendment is at odds with the state’s long-standing ban on Sunday hunting.