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On November 2, 2021, Maine’s voters approved a new constitutional amendment with a sweeping 61% majority. But did they know what they were voting for?
The Amendment is called the “Right to Produce, Harvest, and Consume Food Amendment.” Many people lack access to food, especially healthy food, and the idea of protecting those people is hard to argue with. But in practice, Maine’s Amendment does not improve funding or government resources. What it does do is threaten to undermine protections for animals and the environment.
Law operates in hierarchies. Each state has its own set of laws, and state constitutions are at the top of the pecking order. So, if a state statute conflicts with a state constitution, the state constitution wins out. How does that matter here? Say, for example, a citizen of Maine violates a Maine animal-cruelty statute by feeding a cow poisonous grains (and, simultaneously, a Maine environmental statute because the poison gets into a nearby river). The farmer could defend his decision by arguing that Maine’s constitutional amendment—which supersedes the statute—protects his right to feed the cow however he pleases.
To be clear, this is not to say that Maine’s new Amendment does away with all animal and environmental protections in the state. First, the impact of the Amendment will depend on how broadly courts interpret its language. A court, for example, could reject the farmer’s argument in the above example, deciding that the constitutional language does not give the man a right to feed animals poison. Second, while the state constitution overrides state statutes, it is still subordinate to federal law because of the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution. Therefore, Maine citizens still have to comply with federal laws like the Clean Water Act.
Nevertheless, the law is cause for concern. Most importantly, the federal Animal Welfare Act does not protect livestock, so it is up to state laws to offer protection. With Maine’s Constitution now undermining state protections, animal welfare is in jeopardy in Maine.
Sign this petition to protest Maine’s new Constitutional Amendment.
To continue speaking up, sign these other petitions as well:
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