Maine is voting today on an amendment to its State Constitution that would declare the right to food to be a fundamental right. The specific phrasing is this:
Constitution, Art. I, §25 is enacted to read:
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 problem here, though, is not with the proposed amendment, which may or may not be a good idea. The problem is with the response to the proposal by folks who apparently slept through their grade school American history lessons and their junior high Civics classes. Typical is this response, from Katie Hansberry, Maine State Director of The Humane Society of the United States:
We do not think it is the intent of this proposal to allow food producers and and/or hunters, trappers, and fisherman be exempt from animal welfare and cruelty laws, but as currently written that would likely be the case as the current list of limitations fails to include any reference to such laws.
Constitutions are not subordinate to laws; laws are subordinate to Constitutions. Maine’s laws must fit within Maine’s Constitution, and when its Constitution changes, those laws must be changed accordingly; the laws are not immutable. Nor is there any requirement to enumerate subordinate matters into a governing document.
More than that, it’s foolish to expect the Constitution to be malleable by whatever later lawmakers decide with their new laws.
Still worse, if a Constitution is changeable by any collection of politicians, it will be vulnerable to willy-nilly changes according to the whims of the day, and from that it will soon cease to be a governing document. It will merely be a reflection of what men in government from time to time see as their own benefit, and it will no longer stand as a long-lasting and stable document that represents the will of the citizenry and that restrains those elastic politicians and their inconstant desires.