Wasting Argument Misses the Mark

August 29, 2014

Outdoor Guide Magazine
August 28, 2014 by admin in Guest Editorials, Outdoor News From Our Region

In a recent guest editorial, Steve Jones takes aim at the deer-farming industry and blames private deer and elk breeding facilities for the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). But his shots are off the mark — by a mile.

CWD is a concern to hunters for obvious reasons, but let’s keep it in perspective: According to USDA data, CWD’s prevalence in free-ranging deer and elk is about four in 1,000 — twice as high as it is among farmed cervids.
Certainly, deer hunters want to keep the prevalence of CWD everywhere as low as possible. So do deer and elk farmers. If an animal at a private breeding facility tests positive for CWD, then the entire herd could be destroyed. That’s something no cervid farming business owner wants. That’s why cervid farmers have supported smart and reasonable regulation.

There have been state monitoring programs for CWD for over a decade. In 2002, the cervid industry worked with USDA to implement a national CWD monitoring and herd certification program. Interstate movement of captive deer and elk is and has been regulated by the USDA through monitoring programs, and animals must meet stringent requirements and come from certified herds to cross state lines.

Mr. Jones tries to spread the perception that CWD is a cervid-farm problem, but that’s a skewed and self-serving perception. A breeder who is enrolled in a state certification program must test 100 percent of his eligible deaths for CWD. Eligible deaths are animals that are 12 months of age or older at the time of death.

In contrast, only approximately 1 percent of the free ranging deer and elk that die are tested for CWD.

A disease surveillance program can’t tell the whole story if there’s not adequate testing being done. And, once again, the testing that has been performed finds that CWD prevalence is twice as high in free-ranging deer and elk compared to deer and elk in breeding facilities.

Unfortunately, the “spin” put forth by Mr. Jones and others is easily used by the other side. The anti-hunting Humane Society of the United States, for instance, uses similar talking points to discredit deer and elk farmers. By making CWD seem like an apocalypse, animal-rights groups can scare the public about eating venison.

Pointing the finger at well-regulated cervid farms also fails to note hypocrisy from state agencies and wildlife groups. Consider Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The elk herd there had a 40 percent prevalence rate of CWD, but the herd still grew to the point where the land couldn’t support the animals.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Federation lobbied and helped fund the hiring of helicopters to herd about half the animals to Custer State Park last year. Wildlife agencies lowered sections of fence and released the animals. This was done under protests of state agriculture officials and the cervid farming community.

It’s a double standard. This release of animals with a high prevalence of CWD was done for the benefit of members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Federation by providing them more elk to hunt. Yet these same folks would be the first to bash cervid farming as a disease threat.

It’s easy to talk the talk, but some agencies won’t walk the walk. In fact, wildlife agencies got themselves exempted from the USDA certification program’s requirements for moving animals.

On one hand, you have the captive-cervid industry, which is heavily regulated in moving animals between state lines. On the other, you have the wildlife agency attitude of, “We’ll do what we want.”

Which one is the bigger problem for folks who hunt deer and elk?

No one wants to see CWD spread, nor EHD, tuberculosis, or any other disease. But since CWD is in wild populations, as it has been for decades, advocating for the government to regulate deer and elk farms to death isn’t going to solve anything. It’s only going to hurt hunting’s image with the public, cost jobs, and give ammunition to the anti-hunting crowd.

Mr. Jones calls his screed “The Shame of Missouri Deer Hunters” because the Missouri Legislature listened to both sides of the issue and voted against him. The shame should be on him for continuing to spread misinformation.
Bugai owns Parkview Veterinary Center & Flying B Ranch Whitetails in Seguin, Texas. He is also a board member and vice president of the Texas Deer Association.

Bugai owns Parkview Veterinary Center & Flying B Ranch Whitetails in Seguin, Texas. He is also a board member and vice president of the Texas Deer Association.


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