When it comes to the Tofu Terrorists, we always expect an endless stream of anti-meat, anti-commerce, anti-hunting propaganda that is as far from the truth as the federal budget is from being balanced. But what scares me is when so-called wildlife professionals resort to scare tactics, heated rhetoric, and lies to close down wildlife commerce and shut off new hunting opportunities.
Recently, legislation was introduced in Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia that would allow or amend the existing regulations for deer farming. Now, whitetail deer are the most popular big game animal in North America, and more states are seeing how these amazing animals are offering economic solutions for communities and families who are struggling to make ends meet.
Deer farming is not new. Man has farmed deer since 5,000 B.C and deer breeding has been in North America since 1908. Today, the industry drives $3 billion into the U.S. economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs in small communities across the country. That fact is not lost on legislators who want deer farming to help offset budget deficits and spark job growth.
Yet, all of these bills had well-organized opposition. And it wasn’t the radical Anti’s that opposed them. No, these attacks came from other sportsmen, “couch conservationists” and some of the states’ own wildlife agencies.
In Tennessee, for example, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and Tennessee Wildlife Federation tag teamed an all-out media blitzkrieg that employed fear tactics and spread misinformation like steaming compost. The spokesmen for these two groups were in lock step the whole way, warning sportsmen that deer farming could bring Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and wipe out the state’s entire deer herd with a massive contagion.
Interestingly, Tennessee’s Axis of Propaganda incited fear that farmed deer would bring CWD, even though the state law already allows farming of most other species of cervids, like elk and moose. Plus, TWRA itself participates in bringing elk into the state — both for release into the wild and for farming.
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) also launched a slanderous attack against the deer industry and encouraged voters in seven states to strike down legislation involving deer farming. QDMA CEO Brian Murphy took a ‘drive by’ approach and said deer farming “threatens the health of wild deer” but then failed to provide any hard facts to support his accusation. (Note: The QDMA’s rogue leadership on this issue saw a well-deserved backlash as Purina and Cargill both pulled their sponsorship.)
Let’s look at some of the statements and shed the light of truth on CWD and deer farming.
MYTH #1: Deer will escape pens, and infect wild deer with CWD.
First, blaming CWD on deer farming is either dishonest or ignorant. Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming all have documented cases of CWD, yet none of these states have a farmed elk or deer industry. North Dakota, West Virginia and Texas have found CWD in the wild, while their farmed industry has tested tens of thousands of animals, and all have been negative.
CWD has never had a negative impact on a deer population, and the areas with no hunting, such as national parks, typically have the largest infection rates.
MYTH #2: CWD has wiped out deer herds.
There has never been one documented case of a herd (wild or farmed) being lost due to a so-called “contagion” of CWD. Not one!
What has actually killed herds with regard to CWD are rigid state policies. Wildlife authorities in many states routinely kill hundreds of animals as part of their quarantine practices. If one deer or elk is found with the disease, they kill hundreds of animals and they usually find they were all perfectly healthy.
CWD is not the massive contagion that state agencies, QDMA and others want the public to believe...and it’s certainly not a byproduct of deer farming.
Of course, there are still unknowns about CWD. But I think we are too quick to point a finger at who finds it first, when the more relevant issue is really how hard we are looking. In most cases, we’re going to find it everywhere if we look hard enough.
The simple truth is that farmed deer are tested, monitored and documented more heavily and frequently than wild deer, so it makes sense that, if the disease exists, we will find it more often where we test. But because we find it there doesn’t mean the disease is more prevalent there, it just means our testing and management controls are better there. To reach any other conclusion is simply lazy junk science or it’s intentional misinformation.
Meanwhile, wildlife professionals continue their biased attack on deer farming and brandish CWD like a big stick, publicly inciting fear among hunters. Are they afraid of competition, afraid of losing power, afraid of losing budget dollars? I believe all of this propagandizing has more to do protecting their political fiefdoms and elitist agendas than it does with actual deer management.
Whitetail deer offer a unique solution to some of the problems we face today. When you get past the lies and propaganda and realize that raising deer can simultaneously educate and inspire our youth about the outdoors, give economic hope for family farmers, bring jobs to industry-starved rural areas, provide conservation funding for years to come, and help preserve our American outdoor traditions, the deer industry should be welcomed by all sportsmen.