Pennsylvania black markets in everything

by on February 2, 2012 at 10:09 am in Law | Permalink

After lifting a ban on porcupine hunting, the Pennsylvania Game Commission ran into a thorny problem: reports of a new black market for the rodents’ meat in Southeast Asia.

Intelligence reports indicated that people were seeking Pennsylvania porcupines to sell illegally for human consumption in Vietnam, commission officials said.

The eight-member commission responded this week by reversing course and ending a nine-month-old policy of virtually unlimited porcupine hunting during most of the year. Instead, it voted to impose a limit of 10 porcupines per hunter per year. The original limit had been six per day.

The story is here.  I enjoyed this sentence:

Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said that he could not comment on specifics of any investigation resulting in the change, but that no known porcupine trading was taking place.

And I learn there is such a thing, legally speaking, as “nuisance porcupines.”

For the pointer I thank Jonathan Geeting.

1 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

Surf and turf: porcupine and blowfish.

2 JWatts February 2, 2012 at 10:46 am


3 IVV February 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

I want a side of fresh nopales and gherkins with that.

4 Rahul February 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

Culinary masochism!

5 Rahul February 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

How do the commissions ever enforce these “per hunter per year” limits? Sounds impractical.

6 JWatts February 2, 2012 at 10:47 am

I think this is just an example of the “we must do something now” political mentality. The regulation probably has absolutely no practical ramifications.

7 NAME REDACTED February 2, 2012 at 10:55 am

Same way they enforce every other law, through hefty penalties, the fear of the small risk of being caught, and most people’s inherent law abiding-ness.

8 Enrique February 2, 2012 at 11:18 am

“people’s inherent law-abidingness”

Are you serious? wishful thinking, my friend

9 NAME REDACTED February 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Nah, most people obey most the law most of the time, even when they know they won’t get caught.

10 enrique February 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

To be more precise, I wish to make the Humean point that people obey (or evade) law when it is in their self-interest to do so — i.e., there is no “inherent” law-abidingness or law-evadingness tendency — Hume made no exceptions for hunters

11 JWatts February 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

“To be more precise, I wish to make the Humean point that people obey (or evade) law when it is in their self-interest to do so ”

So you litter when nobody is watching? Throw stuff out of your car when driving on the road at night and nobody can see? Sleep with your sister?

12 enrique February 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Aha !!!!

So that’s why the rate of litter is Zero and why are streets are perfectly clean

That’s why there are no cases of incest or domestic abuse

Not !!!!

13 A Johansen February 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

I agree that its mostly the commission expects most hunter to be law abiding. My experience in hunting in PA outside of dear season, is most hunters follow the rule.

That said, I think its primarily an anti commercial hunting measure. My experience is pro hunter (or amateurs who take it very seriously) are orders of magnitude better hunters than your typical couple a weekends a year types and could regularly take very large numbers of game every day. However, my experience also is that game wardens are fairly aware of where the good hunting is, and who is out there very regularly. I suspect the guy pulling out a bag of 10 porcupines every day is much more likely to be caught then you would think.

14 magicdufflepud February 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm

One of the reasons I regularly read comments at MR is because I can expect to learn things like this. Thank you.

15 Careless February 3, 2012 at 12:06 am

I’m reminded of about 15 years ago when a place in NY wanted to reduce its white tailed.deer population. Hired an ex-sniper/hunter who came in and shot something like 50 deer in a couple of days.

16 rjs February 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm

virtually all game in the US has “per hunter per year” limits…everyone i know abides by them…

17 Alex Godofsky February 2, 2012 at 10:37 am

Why is it illegal to sell porcupines for human consumption??

18 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

I think we should make it legal. Here’s the catch, we add a two-week season prior to bow season called “hand season.”

19 tkehler February 2, 2012 at 11:26 am

heh! very amusing, +1

20 JWatts February 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Are gloves allowed?

21 So Much For Subtlety February 2, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Porcupine noodling? It could catch on.

22 NAME REDACTED February 2, 2012 at 10:56 am

Same as for every other law… because they arbitrarily said it is. Law is not reason, it is arbitrary force.

23 So Much For Subtlety February 2, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I expect it is because, you know, non-White people eat ’em.

I can see the logic of bag limits. But prohibiting the export of porcupine meat is just absurd.

By way of total coincidence I was recently (but half-heartedly) looking at the economics of rearing porcupine for export to Asia – China in my case. I would have preferred to do it in Africa, but I think that is a little too robust an investment climate for me. It is sad to see the US is out due to idiotic laws like this. Where does that leave? Mexico?

24 Careless February 3, 2012 at 12:11 am

Yeah, they’ve got maybe 10 lbs of meat on them and give birth to one baby a year, pretty easy to over-hunt if we didn’t have limits.

25 So Much For Subtlety February 3, 2012 at 3:12 am

I was looking more at raising them in captivity.

But goats only have one live young a year. So do cows. Bison. A lot of things really. I think it would take a lot of Vietnamese demand to endanger them.

Apparently the porcupine was introduced into Italy by the Romans. Who ate it. Allegedly anyway. The way they took rabbits to Britain. I hope it is true.

26 A Johansen February 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

Based on the article,

“It is illegal to sell meat of any wild game killed in Pennsylvania,” – porcupines are treated just like any other game.

It is not clear from the article that you couldn’t raise porcupines and sell them for meat. It appears you just can’t kill wild porcupines and sell them.

If my recall of the history of hunting in Pa is right, the ban was put in at a time when unregulated commercial game hunting was a threat to may game species.

Pa probably has the regulatory acumen to allow regulated commercial hunting, but institutional inertia and the recreational hunting lobby probably push against it.

27 Rahul February 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

I wonder how often people call the Gaming commission about hunting porcupines and the Game commission complaining about casinos.

28 Sean February 2, 2012 at 10:55 am

Pennsylvania: “You think our liquor laws are byzantine? Try our hunting code!”

29 BruceB February 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

Apparently they are needed for the Facebook IPO.

(h/t Daring Fireball)

And you know that it’s really time to reassess this whole reading blogs thing when you find you have read two otherwise unrelated posts about porcupines within five minutes of each other.

30 Mike February 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

All porcupines are a nuisance. Fact.

31 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 11:48 am

Don’t turn your back on me you spineless rodent, said the porcupine to the groundhog.

32 A Johansen February 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Context may help a bit.

Assuming I recall correctly, and what I read when I had a subscription to PA Game News was correct:

Pa and other eastern states almost had their large wild game like Whitetail deer and black bear, wiped out in the late 19th through the early 20th century, by commercial hunting for meat and skins. Commercial hunting was banned and recreational hunting was regulated. A licensing scheme was put in place and at least in PA, funds from the licensing scheme now pay for the regulation and the purchase of game lands for hunting.

Arguably well regulated commercial hunting could (and in some places probably should) be allowed again, but you would have to change a lot of law and there is significant inertia to keep hunting “just for fun”.

33 Bill February 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

How could you bother us with facts as we enjoy calling govmnt stupid and irrational and operating only to restrict our freedom to consume possum.

How dare you.

34 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm

What facts?

Standard story, overreach, undoing it probably because they overdid it, unintended consequences follow. This is the standard story. Now you’ll ridicule me for not having a paper from Berkeley on it.

35 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

“Personal experience figured in the commission’s decision in April to create the season. One commissioner said his brother’s telephone wires had to be replaced twice after gnawing by porcupines. Another said half the screen door on his hunting cabin had been destroyed.”

Bill, you keep picking really bad examples trying to generalize about libertarians while trying to point out the government ain’t fucking dumb.

36 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

“No studies on population, geographical range, or damage preceded the decision, which allowed hunting of porcupines between September and April 1, allowing the creatures to raise their young in spring and summer.”

The “facts” in this case seem to indicate the gummint acted fuckin’ dumb. We aren’t allowed to say “stupid” in our house.

37 Bill February 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Andrew, previously there was a ban, and the reasons they gave for the limit was extinction risks from commercial hunting. Note also there are restriction, for health reasons, on the commercial sale of this meat, which is one of the reasons there is commercial hunting.

Written using my quil.

38 Bill February 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Andrew, as a peace offering, I have signed you up with a Vietnamese firm to send you products under it’s “Possum o the Month Club”

39 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Man Bill, I could never have guessed that government officials think they have good reasons for doing what they do. Just as they think there are good reasons to have 21,000 people on a no-fly list and still have to harass tiny children at checkpoints.–no-fly-list-doubles-in-one-year.html

40 A Johansen February 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Assuming my facts are right, I think there are issues illustrate hard choices from most any policy perspective.

In general, PA’s games laws, which include the PA game commission, appear to have achieved their primary goal – rebuilding and then maintaining game populations.

However there are significant consequences:

Its harder to get true game meats than otherwise (“game meats” you buy in the store are farm raised normally).

PA doesn’t have a true commercial hunting industry in the sense of from the forest to the restaurant plate or supermarket.

PA has over populations of game in some areas where there isn’t much recreational hunting and some municipalities have to pay professionals to come in and clear them out.

That the commission makes mistakes, and may make bad policy choices has to be weighed against accomplishment of the primary goal. Any institution is going to make poor or foolish choices in particular instances.

On one hand I think game in PA could be better managed, on the other, even if was funded from license income, I wouldn’t want to be proposing a Porcupine population study right now given Pa’s budge woes.

41 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm

You and Bill want to assume that way. That’s fine. However, it’s pretty obvious this story makes clear that’s the wrong assumption in this case. They succeeded in creating too many porcupines, just as other states succeed in creating too many coyotes and red-tailed hawks. It’s cool. But then Bill uses the opportunity to take a swipe that we always think the government is dumb. Well, the problem is the government is always dumb. That’s not an ad hoc insult. It’s an assessment based on the fact there is are various un-dumb way to do these things that the government refuses to pursue. I don’t have to know the answer to know they did it wrong, and that doesn’t mean that my feelings that they are always dumb somehow, as Bill and Francis Fukuyama might think, affects how the government does stuff.

Why not sell permits and change prices based on overpopulation? That took me 10 seconds.

42 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Here’s an example: talking to my dad about the cops. He always takes the opinion that of course there are some bad cops. Cops are people after all (although I don’t understand why the ‘higher standard’ idea somehow instantly evaporates here) and there will be some bad apples. When we find them we deal with them.

But that’s not what I am talking about when I’m talking cops. I’m talking about how they set speed limits at a point to systemically create “citizen contact events.” These are events that are intentionally built into the system to create escalatory contact with otherwise harmless citizens. It’s just an example of systematic failures that cannot be addressed by addressing the individuals, just like theft by TSA or semen feeding by teachers. This is what my dad and Bill never seem to quite get.

43 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Oh, another, one degree of separation from Obama thought Fast and Furious was a “great idea.” Nobody in the room thought to ask “Hey, what if it actually works as intended?” These are the smart guys.

44 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm

And Holder is still employed. And not a single government worker to my knowledge got fired after the financial crisis. These are examples of evidence of systemic observations that the government really is dumber for reality-based explanatory reasons. For some reason people tend to give governments a pass (and this is both a cause and effect of them being dumber) and Bill appears to think he has good reasons for doing so based on something I call Conflict-Creation Bias. To whit, “the government must not be dumb because those people on MR always say government is dumb and they must not have real reasons to think that.”

45 gil February 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm

As a youth in southern York County, my favorite part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Hunting Regulations handbook was the appendix entitled: Rules for Blind Hunters. Glad to see that they are still at going strong.

46 Urso February 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm
47 Becky Hargrove February 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Facebook IPOs and porcupines in a distant planet: maybe the wild west of Google won’t get fenced away as quickly as some might imagine!

48 John Mansfield February 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Nothing on where to go for the best Vietnamese porcupine?

49 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Strip malls.

50 gil February 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm

street vendors

51 eddie February 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Cheesecake Factory.

52 Rahul February 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm


53 Andrew' February 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm

No. In Vietnam they make Americanized Vietnamese Porcupine to cater to tourist expectations.

54 Daniel February 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

The rise and fall of empirical economics:

55 Hmmmmmm February 3, 2012 at 11:39 am

Does porcupine taste like chicken? Truly, who has eaten it and what’s it like? Tyler??

56 gavin February 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

read in an old outdoors book that they taste like “spring lamb with a hint of turpentine”

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