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Chase Clark, guest columnist: Deer Ranching in Texas is Regulated, Accounta

December 23, 2014


Chase Clark, guest columnist: Deer ranching in Texas is regulated, accountable

 Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 12:01 am

CHASE CLARK Guest columnist
Waco Tribune

When I considered how to reply to Jenny Sanders’ false and uneducated portrayal of deer farming in Texas in a Dec. 13 column, I just didn’t know where to begin. Let’s start with the basics.

Deer ranching and intensive deer management have been in practice in Texas for decades and have had a tremendous, positive impact on this state, both in terms of the economy and on the health and strength of our whitetail population. Through innovative management techniques, this state’s wildlife resources have thrived after decades of mismanagement. Texas deer ranchers and hunters have seen incredible gains in both the quality and quantity of deer.

Far from being a cottage industry, it has a $650 million annual economic impact in this state — that’s more than the citrus and rice industries combined.

Sanders claims that our industry is under-regulated and leads to bad practices. This couldn’t be further from reality. Deer ranching is highly regulated, and the measures we support are already the law of the land in our state and have been for many years. As an industry, we provide answers and solutions backed by facts and science. We operate under a strict code of ethics and demand that our membership does the same. We don’t have an option to do it any other way; it’s how our businesses have to operate. The state requires us to be accountable.

Deer farmers already face strict regulation. All farmed deer or elk in Texas must have a visible ear tag, a permanently tattooed identification number or an official USDA or RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag. Elk imported into the state must have been part of a monitoring program for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) for at least five years, designed to mitigate the risk of this disease. Whitetail and mule deer cannot be transported around the state without a special permit.

Federally, the USDA administers a CWD monitoring program. Herd owners must have fencing, provide individual ID for deer and elk, and perform regular inventories. There’s also a regulatory certification and accreditation for tuberculosis and brucellosis. The net result of all this regulation is that farmed deer are probably the healthiest deer in Texas and the rest of the country. Recruitment numbers in breeding operations far surpass those of pasture herds.

Sanders also calls to “end cavalier use of drugs and no safety net to protect human health.” Again, this is false. Deer ranchers are required by law to have a working relationship with a licensed, accredited Texas veterinarian prior to administering drugs to their herd.

Deer ranching in Texas is a proactive industry in deer research, including active current studies at both Texas A&M and Texas Tech universities. A recent study from Texas A&M University, in cooperation with industry participants, found no harmful levels of three common drugs used in deer breeding after 11 days. These studies are incredibly expensive and require the input and financial support of many participants to be successful. But you won’t find Sanders or any of her supporters on the co-operator or donation lists for any of the studies underway.

Sanders’ “coalition” is nothing more than a Facebook page. Her vocal minority is far from representative of the vast majority of sportsmen. She represents an elitist group of environmental activists with a specific agenda.

One recent poll of hunters by Outdoor Life magazine found that 62 percent believe that the high-fence hunting industry shouldn’t be banned, even if they’re not personally interested in participating in them. Only 17 percent were in favor of such a ban.

Sanders is trying to use bad science, scaremongering, and one or two bad actors to smear an entire industry.

It’s unjustified for them to try to use the Legislature or fool the public into supporting their private interests and ideology.

Chase Clark is president of the Texas Deer Association.

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