Hunters Against Hunger helps feed the poor, but some fear it leads to unethical hunting.
This year, Montana legislation made some changes to its Hunters Against Hunger program. The program, which allows hunters to donate wild game to help feed the poor, started asking for donations with the purchase of a hunting license. This was to help offset costs for individual hunters, who used to have to pay for the processing of the donated meat.
It turned out to be a huge success. The program raised more than $77,000, which covered the costs of processing the 5,500 pounds of donated game meat to local food shares.
In Helena, which had a huge response in donated meat, this was a big help. Through the food-share program, emergency food is provided to more than 1,500 local families a month, food is sent home with 520 elementary school children each week and as much as 5,000 pounds of food a day is given out. The food share's role is vital in the community and ensures that the poor do not go hungry.
The game meat offers a healthy, lean protein, and with the ever-increasing costs of food, the workers from the food shares and customers who benefit from Hunters Against Hunger are grateful.
"As food costs continue to rise, this program is truly helpful to the bottom line at Helena Food Share," Ann Waickman, executive director of Helena Food Share, said.
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Yet, critics are still filing complaints.
"Hunters, state and federal agencies support these programs as really just a way to make killing animals for fun palatable to the public," said Ashely Byrne, a campaign specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Hunters may get their kicks from shooting innocent animals, but they should leave the deer out of it and instead volunteer in a soup kitchen."
In response, Ron Aasheim, administrator for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, stated that the game donated is harvested in line with the state's deer-management protocols and that no extra licenses have been issued to support the program.
The number of tags issued in a specific area is not related to the number of hunters, but is solely dependent on the deer population and keeping those numbers under control.