A farm bill has passed both the House and the Senate that dramatically expands deer farming. Now North Carolina deer hunters across the state are poised to lose.
After intense debate in the House, the bill sailed through the Senate and now sits on the Governor’s desk.
It would remove oversight of deer farming from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, where concerns about disease, hunting opportunity, and hunter ethics reign, and transferred to the Department of Agriculture, where deer would be treated as livestock and profit sources.
And the profits are there. Deer farming is an incredibly lucrative industry worth billions of dollars per year. But the downfalls are many, and they all hurt hunters.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is the largest disease concern. This insidious bug is always fatal, yet there exists no test for live animals.
Deer can carry the disease for years with no outward signs, and once the disease gets into the soil, it persists for decades. These characteristics, combined with deer farmers trucking deer in and out, across county and state lines, create a ticking time bomb.
Outside of CWD, North Carolina deer hunters still come out losers with deer farming. Private ownership of wildlife goes against the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, reserving game animals for only those with the money to buy them.
The first tenet of the Model is that wildlife is held in the public trust; a difficult promise to uphold behind fences. Some large bucks can bring tens of thousands of dollars.
Hunter ethics also cry out against deer farming. Shooting selectively-bred, genetically-enhanced captive deer, quite simply, is not hunting.
How could it be, when the deer are treated, and managed, as livestock? Shooting these genetic giants is a weak man’s game, tantamount to gunning down a steer.
Let’s hope the governor values North Carolina deer hunters and citizens.