MSPCA Position: Oppose
Sponsors: Representatives Alyson Sullivan (H. 1019), Kelly Pease (H. 984), William Straus (H. 1015), Paul Frost (H. 914), David Vieira (H. 1023), and Senator Anne Gobi (S. 547)
Status: All referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Hearing held January 4, 2022.
Every year a number of bills are filed that would eliminate in whole or part the statewide ban on Sunday hunting. Eighty-six percent of Massachusetts residents support this 300-year old Sunday hunting ban,* while hunters represent just 1% of the Massachusetts population and have six out of the seven days of the week, including half of the weekend, to hunt. Sunday hunting bills prioritize a small minority over an overwhelming majority of Massachusetts residents who do not hunt, and who enjoy non-consumptive uses of nature and wildlife. The public highly values the one day of the week during hunting season when they can enjoy our natural resources without having to worry about conflicts with hunting activities.
For Massachusetts residents, Sundays are a day of respite to enjoy activities such as hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, and other wildlife-related activities without concerns about conflict with hunting activity. Tragically, hunting accidents can and do happen. For example:
With Massachusetts being the third most densely populated state in the country, it is likely precisely because we have this ban that more incidents do not occur.
Further, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data show that non-hunting nature lovers not only outnumber, but also outspend, hunting constituencies by fourteen times each year in the Commonwealth. Non-consumptive nature lovers spend $1.28 billion on wildlife watching while hunting constituencies spend a fraction of that figure—just 7%, or $87 million.
Though arguments have been made that permitting Sunday hunting would address human-wildlife conflicts, these assertions are not true. MassWildlife data show that, on average, a total of 1,334 deer were killed during the archery season’s Saturdays from 2013 through 2018. This amounts to about 1% of the current deer population—hardly enough to control the deer population or mitigate conflicts. In addition, and contrary to popular belief, deer hunting does not lower the incidence of Lyme disease or control tick populations. According to leading Lyme disease experts, including Dr. Richard Ostfeld, human risk of exposure to Lyme disease is correlated with the abundance of immature rodent hosts and their food resources, not deer numbers.
In the interest of fairness, and also in the interest of protecting public safety, it is entirely reasonable for Massachusetts, the third most densely populated state in the nation, to uphold this law—a law that allows non-consumptive nature users to enjoy our natural resources with their families, friends, and companion animals for one day a week during hunting season without risking conflicts with hunting activity.
*This survey was conducted via telephone among a representative sample of 1,000 adults (ages 18 and over) residing in Massachusetts. Respondents were divided between survey forms A and B, yielding a final sample size of 500 for each question and a margin of error of +/- 4%. The question asked, “Hunting on Sundays has been restricted in Massachusetts for over 100 years, allowing citizens and their families to enjoy nature without worrying about conflicts with hunters. Do you agree with keeping this restriction?” 86% of the participants agreed. The responses were collected by Pacific Market Research from August 24-30, 2007.