The 127th Legislature now in session has a large number of bills to consider, one reason being that Maine has a relatively large number of senators and representatives, though it is a relatively small state in terms of population. As one might expect, the bills cover a wide variety of concerns, ranging from the ordinary to the political to the unsettling. An example of the last type would be LD 291, “An Act To Allow the Hunting of Small Game Animals with a Slingshot,” sponsored or co-sponsored by no fewer than eight legislators.
The text of the bill adds an exception to a law that limits how wild animals and wild birds can be hunted. If the bill passes, Maine law would state that one cannot: “Hunt a wild animal or wild bird by any method other than by the usual method of shooting with a firearm not larger than number 10-gauge or shooting with a hand-held bow and arrow or, by falconry or by slingshot for certain small game species designated by the commissioner.”
The following summary accompanies the bill: “This bill allows the use of a slingshot to hunt certain small game species designated by the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”
On the face of it, this legislation is unenforceable not only because of the limited number of game wardens already too thinly spread but also because, despite whatever designation chosen by the commissioner, LD 291 opens the door to what amounts to an unlimited season on practically everything small from songbirds to field mice. And since it’s not always possible to distinguish between wild and domesticated animals, mistakes will surely be made, and not in favor of the animal.
Since a slingshot doesn’t have the accuracy and range of a firearm, it’s also predictable that many animals will be injured, all to satisfy someone’s idea of fun, though it’s anything but amusing when mourning doves, cardinals, passing sparrows and creatures of all sorts become the object of mindless suffering.
After all, these are not paper targets. They are creatures whose world is shared with ours, who feel pain and want to live as much as we do. This bill would allow the random killing and wounding of countless animals who pose no danger to anyone and often provide great pleasure — the birds we feed, the pets we enjoy, the lives that help enrich and enhance our own.
LD 291 claims that it’s about hunting, but that’s not the case.
This bill does not provide food on the table, nor does it authorize the destruction of an animal to protect home or person. Instead, it legalizes killing for no reason at all except as a convenient target, and the choice of weapon — a slingshot — strongly suggests that young people should do it. That raises the question: what kind of values are we teaching the next generation? That it’s perfectly acceptable to kill or maim animals who pose no threat and do no harm, or that life should be viewed with respect rather than indifference?
A public hearing on this bill is scheduled before the Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. in room 206 of the Cross State Office Building in Augusta.
Because the committee is largely composed of individuals who routinely vote for hunting and trapping and against any measure that restricts either of those two practices, there’s a good chance LD 291 will pass unless those who oppose it express their concern.
What this legislation advocates is killing for the sake of killing. At a time when there is so much mindless violence in the world — we read about it every day — we should encourage less of it, not more. It’s kindness we need more of — not cruelty.
Don Loprieno of Bristol has served on the boards of the Boothbay Region Humane Society, the Wildlife Alliance of Maine, and the Maine Friends of Animals.