By Yasmin Tadjdeh | PA Independent
A measure to allow hunting game on Sundays would increase jobs and spending as well as generate additional tax revenue, but it is being met with hostility from farmers and animal rights groups.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission released a resolution earlier this month calling for the Legislature to open up hunting on Sundays, and a bill that would legalize Sunday hunting is in the General Assembly.
According to the commission, hunting on Sunday would generate $629 million in additional spending and create 5,300 new jobs, which would equate to an additional $18 million in sales and income tax.
Lifting the ban would bring in hunters who work Monday through Saturday and drive sales to hunting and gun stores, restaurants and hotels in Pennsylvania.
The proposal “appears to be a win-win situation,” said state Rep. Edward Staback, D-Lackawanna, minority chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
Similarly, HB 1760, introduced by state Rep. John Evans, R-Crawford, also would transfer regulatory power from the Legislature to the Game Commission. The shift would require the Game Commission to determine when hunters could hunt, which species they could hunt, and how much they can take in, Staback said.
The Game Commission is an appropriate choice, because it makes decisions based on its working relationship with game biologists and wildlife experts, said Staback.
But state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, said he wanted the ban to remain in place after hearing from outdoor enthusiasts, equestrians and farmers.
Sunday is "one day they can go through the woods and not be worried about shooting," Eichelberger said. He also said that "virtually" all of the farmers he has spoken with do not support lifting the ban.
The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, a lobbying group that represents sportsmen and conservationists in Pennsylvania, said in a statement that it supports giving the Game Commission authority over hunting.
However, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, a state lobbying group that represents 50,000 farms and families in Pennsylvania, strongly opposes Sunday hunting.
Lifting the ban would take away the one day of peace and quiet for hardworking farmers statewide, said Mark O’Neill, the bureau’s media relations director.
According to O’Neill, 80 percent of the state’s hunting land is privately held, with much of that being farmland. Farmers, if the ban was lifted, would have to be disturbed by hunters firing on their land, or hunters coming to their homes to request permission to hunt. O’Neill said there has “never been stronger opposition” among farmers than now to uphold the ban.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which advocates against cruelty to animals, also does not support lifting the ban, saying the state should pursue other ways of generate revenue rather than disturbing animal populations.
“The last thing Pennsylvania needs is a seventh day of the week for hunters to disturb animal populations, damage ecosystems, and disrupt property owners. If the state wants to create jobs and encourage young people to engage with the environment, it should promote environmentally sound, non-consumptive activities like wildlife photography, bird watching, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and camping,” according to an official statement from PETA.