American Cervid Alliance

Your Opinion: Farmed Deer Should be Classified as Livestock

August 13, 2014
Missouri's Capital City News

Charly Seale, media review committee chair, Ayr, Nebraska

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brandon Butler takes aim at deer farmers in his recent column supporting Gov. Nixon’s veto of two bills that would have shifted regulatory oversight of deer farms from the Missouri Department of Conservation to the state Department of Agriculture. Why is Butler opposed to the switch? Deer are obviously wildlife, he says.

Most deer in Missouri are wildlife because they are free-ranging. But when you have deer in a private facility that’s fenced in and the deer are harvested for velvet and meat, or hunted in a private ranch, then the situation changes. These deer are not free-ranging animals, but more like livestock.

That’s the basic difference. But there’s more backstory.

Recently, MDC has proposed draconian regulations for deer farming. The reason given for this is that MDC wants to mitigate the risk on chronic wasting disease spreading in Missouri.

The risk of the spread of CWD is already low due to federal regulations administered by the USDA. Before a facility can transport deer between states, it must be from a CWD-certified herd which is achieved by having every eligible mortality tested for CWD for a minimum of five years. Herd owners must individually identify animals, have fencing in place and conduct regular inventories.

Further, MDC talks out of both sides of its mouth on wildlife disease. MDC over the last few years continues to import elk from Kentucky that originated from CWD-positive states for a relocation project in a manner that does not comply with federal CWD entry requirements administered by the USDA. The elk that were imported were not from CWD-certified herds, which is the requirement for private farms — a requirement MDC is now trying to ignore with its proposed blanket ban on deer imports.

MDC’s agenda is really to put deer farms out of business — and this isn’t supported by the hunting community. A recent Outdoor Life poll of over 3,000 respondents found that 62 percent believe that deer farms are a legitimate business. Only 17 percent thought they should be banned.

MDC cannot be impartial in its oversight of deer farms. Many states already recognize that deer farms should be regulated by agriculture departments and not wildlife departments, and others are considering similar moves. Missouri would be wise to follow in their steps.

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