Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Kennebec, is mistaken in his recent assertion that the “Right to Food” constitutional amendment has “no bearing” on animal welfare laws. The problem with this amendment lies in the language, not the concept. As written, this proposal fails to include reference to state laws and municipal ordinances that protect animals, the environment and public safety, while exercising the right to “grow” or “harvest” food of one’s own choosing.

As noted by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry during the public hearing process, constitutional laws pre-empt state laws. Consequently, by excluding specific reference to existing statutes, Question 3 leaves the door open for various forms of animal neglect and abuse, as well as potential environmental, public safety and zoning violations.

Legislators were alerted to these language errors during the committee review process. Corrected language that would have kept the intent of the “Right to Food” amendment intact, while ensuring animal welfare and environmental health, was proposed through testimony, but disregarded. Additionally, the Legislature failed to address a wide array of concerns voiced by community organizations including the Maine Veterinary Medical Association and the Maine Municipal Association, prior to moving this proposal forward to voters.

I admire Sen. Hickman and generally support his initiatives, including the 2017 Food Sovereignty Act. However, as someone who cares deeply about the humane treatment of animals, as well as the health of our environment and citizens, the ambiguous language presented leaves me no choice but to vote “No” on Question 3.

Susanna Richer

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