Maine Voters to Consider Adopting Constitutional Right to Food


by John M. Simpson, Duane Morris

via Animal Law Developments - July 15, 2021


In the upcoming November 2021 election, voters in Maine will be presented with an amendment to the state constitution that would establish a right to food.  The measure was approved for referendum by the Maine Legislature on July 2, 2021.


The proposed amendment would create a new section 25 to Article I of the Maine Constitution:


   Section 25.  Right to food. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.


The measure was opposed by animal rights interests, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which argued that the measure, if adopted, would create a right to raise and harvest animals for food that is not subject to statutory limitation by animal cruelty laws.  It is debatable that the measure would have that effect.  The HSUS argument also does not take into account that the proposal specifically does not protect abuses of private property rights which would cover farm animals (although animal rights advocates don’t like thinking of animals as “property”).  In addition, Maine animal cruelty laws already either exclude or provide an affirmative defense for conduct regarding farm animals that conforms with best management practices for animal husbandry.  Given the importance that good animal husbandry practices have for most farmers, it is unlikely that those practices would be abandoned or that the adoption of a constitutional right to food would spur a sudden increase in animal cruelty.


The sponsor of the proposed amendment, Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, a lobsterman from Winter Harbor, described the measure as necessary to protect existing rights from future erosion:


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