Friday, April 18, 2014

The Price of Deer Farms

Goliath on the farm - note ear tag
There has been a lot of press lately on the dangers of farm raised deer.  The News-Leader's USA Today had a full page story discussing the problem.  This is a billion-dollar industry with fenced-in hunting of deer bred for large deformed antlers that would make Boone and Crockett if found in nature.  You could look at this as either a fantastic trophy or a bizarre hunt in a zoo full of deformed deer.

Aside from ethical concerns, just what is the problem?  These deer are frequently shipped across state lines to promote the gigantic racks by cross-breeding.  In doing so the captive breeding facilities can spread tuberculosis to cattle, deer lice, and now possibly chronic wasting disease (CWD).  Of interest, the rise in CWD directly coincides with the growth of this industry and the shipping across state lines.

Is this really a problem?  Those in the captive breeding industry say no, citing their control measures and the impossibility of tracking CWD with certainty.  On the other hand, deer do escape the compounds, mixing in with the native populations and as the industry says, tracking CWD is impossible.

The current issue is whether we should allow the interstate shipment of these farm raised deer.  Ironically, while much of the science is pushing for restricting the practice, there are bills before the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives to transfer the control of captive cervids (deer and elk) from the Missouri Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture, even though the griculture department has testified against such a move.

The story of Goliath above is a must read, found at this link.  I would say from the frequent handling he has had by humans and the dull look in his eye that you could successfully hunt him with a pocket knife.

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