The Humane Society is a target of criticism from the amendment’s advocates. Steele says the organization is quietly working to undermine hunting and fishing rights – a charge the organization denies.
“They’d like you to think this is a manufactured crisis,” said Steele, an avid hunter. “But if I were a virus and I wanted to kill the world, the way I would want you to believe is that I didn’t exist. That way you’d never wash your hands, you’d never do anything to prevent me.”
“I’m just trying to inoculate us,” he added.
Huang’s response: “We’ve never taken any measures to end traditional hunting.”
The organization has, however, worked to shut down Indiana’s high-fenced hunting preserves, which charge hunters for the chance to shoot deer confined inside the fences. A lawsuit challenging the legality of Indiana’s five preserves is pending.
The Humane Society has also supported Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s crackdown on puppy mills.
Huang says these positions aren’t radical. “We’re very mainstream,” Huang said.
The General Assembly has been wrangling with the proposed hunting and fishing amendment since 1998, when now-retired Goshen lawmaker John Ulmer first proposed it. Ulmer was inspired by efforts he’d seen in other states.
“I’ve hunted all my life, and I’ve hunted all over the world,” Ulmer said. “I thought, this is something I could get behind.”
Dozens of legislators were willing to sign on as co-sponsors to the measure, but it didn’t go anywhere that session.
It stayed stalled until 2005, when both legislative chambers passed it. But it needed to be passed again by a separate Legislature before it could go to voters – a requirement for any constitutional amendment to get on the ballot in Indiana. The measure failed the next time it was up in 2007.