American Cervid Alliance

American Cervid Alliance Responds to Indiana Newspaper

September 1, 2014

The Herald (Jasper, Indiana)
August 27, 2014 Wednesday

Special To The Herald

LENGTH: 554 words

Brandon Butler takes aim at deer farmers in his recent column (July 22 in The Herald) supporting Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's veto of two bills that would have shifted regulatory oversight of deer farms from the state conservation agency to the state department of agriculture. Why does Butler oppose the switch, which has also been proposed in Indiana and other states? Deer are obviously wildlife, he says.

However, it's not so obvious once you get into the details -- and when you do, it's clear that conservation agencies shouldn't have oversight of deer farms.

Certainly most deer in Indiana, Missouri, and elsewhere 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, the Missouri Department of Conservation has proposed draconian regulations for deer farming. One is a ban on importation of deer from other states, and other measures would increase costs on farms, which are often family operations.

The reason given for this is that MDC wants to mitigate the risk on chronic wasting disease spreading in Missouri. This is a noble goal, but the regulations don't fit this stated agenda.

For starters, 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. On the one hand, it says crippling regulations are needed of deer farms in order to curtail the risk of the spread of CWD. On the other, it performs reckless actions.

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.

Butler claims the self-interest of deer farms is driving bad policy. It's the other way around. Deer farmers have a self-interest in keeping CWD off of their property and out of their animals. They want strong and fair policy. Any facility that tests positive for CWD will likely have to depopulate and will suffer harm to its reputation.

Many states already recognize that deer farms should be regulated by agriculture departments and not wildlife departments. Indiana would be wise to follow in their steps.

Charly Seale is Media Review Committee Chairman at the American Cervid Alliance.

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