AUGUSTA, Maine — A hunting group sued the state of Maine in April to overturn the longstanding ban on Sunday hunting, and now the Office of the Maine Attorney General is asking for that lawsuit to be dismissed.
In a Friday court filing, the attorney general's office wrote hunting on Sunday has been prohibited in Maine for well over a century.
And while the lawsuit argues a right-to-food amendment approved by voters in 2021 nullifies the Sunday hunting ban, Friday's filing stated that the amendment's text, alongside its legislative history and legislative intent, makes clear the amendment doesn't apply to the hunting ban.
Friday's filing from the attorney general's office also stated that even if the right-to-food amendment could be read to implicate the Sunday hunting ban, that statute would be "excluded from the statute's reach because the amendment does not protect activities that constitute 'poaching' and/or 'other abuses' of Maine's 'natural resources.'"
Mainers passed the nation's first constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to food in November 2021. The Associated Press reported supporters of the amendment argued it would ensure the right to grow vegetables and raise livestock in an era when corporatization threatens local ownership of the food supply.
Opponents said the drive to pass the amendment was "deceptively vague."
The ballot text of the right-food-amendment asked Mainers if they favored amending the constitution "to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being."
"Mainers deserve the right to hunt and harvest the food of their choosing seven days a week during established hunting seasons," Hared Bornstein, director of Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, told NEWS CENTER Maine in April.
Hunting is not specifically mentioned in the right to food amendment, but Bornstein said the word "harvest" in the amendment clearly covers hunting as well as crops and livestock.
"The Sunday hunting ban is superseded by the Right to Food Amendment," the original lawsuit stated. "The ban is a religious and social construct that does not fit into any of the amendment's exceptions, as it cannot be justified by the need to protect private property rights, public safety, or natural resources."
But the Office of the Maine Attorney General's filing asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed and stated the Sunday hunting ban complies with the state constitution.
"The Legislature and the people of Maine are actively engaged in a dialogue about what changes—if any—should be made to it," Friday's filing stated. "The court should not permit this suit to be used as a vehicle to circumvent that democratic process.