WHAT OTHERS SAY: Oh, deer: Will we hunt 'livestock'?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | 1:17 p.m. CDT

Are deer game, livestock or both?

Deer in Missouri now are considered game governed by state Conservation Department regulations.

A growing industry — both deer breeders and high-fenced hunting ranches — is seeking to reclassify captive deer as livestock overseen by the state Agriculture department.

Legislation authorizing the reclassification and transfer has been approved by Missouri lawmakers and awaits action by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Our knowledge of hunting may be limited, but the idea of hunting “livestock” makes us uneasy. Hunters we have consulted seem similarly disturbed by the legislation.

Brandon Butler, who writes a weekly outdoors column for the News Tribune, characterized the proposal as an “atrocity” in a May 4 column. He wrote: “Sen. Parson’s attempt at putting a positive spin on our state becoming a leader of killing deer behind a fence is misguided at best.”

The captive deer industry, which lobbied for the legislation, complains their livelihood is threatened by new Conservation regulations — notably a double-fencing rule designed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is fatal to deer.

We believe preventing the spread of a fatal disease is reasonable. Conservation officials have confirmed 11 cases of the disease in captive deer and 10 cases in wild deer since 2010.

Proper management of Missouri’s deer population is important; hunting is a significant contributor to the state’s economy. In his column, Butler wrote: “A 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in Missouri, hunters spent $1.6 billion on equipment, licenses, trips and more.”

In comparison, fenced deer-hunting ranches are a fledgling industry. Although fledgling industries deserve to be nurtured, they do not deserve to be exempted from the rules.

Transferring oversight of captive deer from Conservation to Agriculture is, essentially, an exemption from rules designed to protect the deer population and traditional hunting, including its economic contribution.

And, for the record, hunting is not shooting “livestock.”

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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