(This piece was originally published on March 24, 2016 in the IndyStar.)
It’s not too late for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to veto a bill that has longtime hunting traditionalists and their supporters up in arms.
The bill would allow the hunting of deer and other exotic sheep and goat inside “hunting preserves,” which are large tracks of land enclosed by high fences. Hunters pay preserve owners thousands of dollars for the right to hunt farm-raised animals on the property.
Supporters say the business of hunting preserves is a growing industry that provides jobs and brings big money to the state. Traditionalists oppose the bill, saying it is unethical to hunt farm-raised animals that can’t escape and because there is a risk that animals raised for the preserves could spread deadly diseases, such as chronic wasting disease.
What traditionalists describe as “canned hunting” has been opposed by several environmental groups including the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Indiana Wildlife Federation, the Indiana Deer Hunters Association and the Humane Society of the United States.
We have long opposed fenced hunting preserves for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they raise the threat of spreading serious disease. There have been instances in Indiana and other states where deer and elk have escaped preserves when fences have broken. Those animals could then spread disease to wild herds. That could have serious consequences for a state whose wild hunting industry has an economic impact of an estimated $200 million to $300 million annually.
Canned hunting has been banned or restricted in 20 states in the country. There are believed to be at least seven preserves in Indiana that have been operating for years.
For years Indiana has fended off efforts to legalize regulated fenced-in hunting preserves. Now that Senate Bill 109 has been adopted by the General Assembly, it is up to the governor to decide its fate.
There is an unsporting aspect to shooting captive animals. In fact, it’s questionable such actions can even be called “hunting.”
These hunting preserves have the potential to cause more harm than good in Indiana. The governor should recognize that and veto this bill.