Protect property rights

Published 9:38 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

I react to the Virginia DGIF (Department of Game and Inland Fisheries) study on hunting with hounds.

I begin by taking note that Virginia is properly concerned with property rights in this study, but gives far too much importance to a recreation, hunting. That’s precisely the dichotomy: the rights of property, which should be protected vigorously, and the right to a particular recreation, which should not.

Taken further, protecting a recreation at the expense of protecting property, or for that matter, the recreations of others simultaneously, means granting the right to drive an ATV on someone’s lawn, or skateboard on someone’s driveway, or snowmobile on hiking trails. Recreations of any kind do not trump property, and action taken under color of law may well violate constitutional protections.

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Hunting is not for subsistence any longer, nor is it very popular. At the foxhunting level, it is the preserve of an elite community with garb, gear and social pretensions, and at the deer/bear/bird/coon level, it is a video game, played with pickup trucks, tracking collars and GPS, and Budweiser. Responsible hunters may well hunt for food or to do what they believe must be done to protect the species being hunted, but they are not the ones who prompted the need for this study and I daresay their numbers are few in comparison to property owners.

My argument favoring property rights over recreation has not thus far addressed the moral and legal issue arising from hunting with hounds, that is, the despicable treatment of hounds. Not by every hunt club or hunter but by enough of this community that any one in animal rescue or pound/shelter operation knows the outrageous extent of this behavior. It is a crime too many don’t pay for, nor do they pay for licenses, medical care, food, shelter and the other things the law expects from its responsible citizens.

The question that the study should pose is why elevate recreation over property in the first place? And why countenance an immunization from Animal Welfare law merely because one is fond of bloodsport? In large part it seems the answer is because those who think of themselves as the traditional Virginians glamorize a past that no longer exists and endeavor to preserve its behaviors as traditions.

It’s time to move on, not just move forward.

Donald C. Marro

The Plains