Cattlemen oppose halt to deer breeding, hunting operations
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association (MCA) opposes an emergency moratorium put into place by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Commission on new Class I wildlife breeder facilities and licensed hunting preserves.
Citing a “low-trust environment” between deer breeders and MDC, regulations committee chairman and deputy director for MDC, Tom Draper, stood before an audience of deer farmers and asked the commission to put a hold on issuing any new permits for facilities or hunting preserves to help control the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This emergency moratorium will last for 180 days following its implementation on Sept. 3, and will stunt the growth of the $1.1 billion industry that brings 11,000 jobs to rural Missouri.
“Missouri cattlemen and women support the growth and marketing of any livestock industry,” said cattle man and MCA President Lonny Duckworth. “Too often, government agencies throw their power around and end up hurting small businesses and, in this case, viable entrepreneurial efforts. We encourage science-based animal health initiatives, but do not believe an outright ban or moratorium prohibiting the growth of the livestock industry is an acceptable or appropriate use of government power.”
Deer breeder and Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch CEO Donald Hill spoke before the commission last week reminding commissioners that 100 percent of all downed deer must be tested for CWD by their owner. He says the true problem is centered on the wild deer population, which is, in his opinion, not tested for CWD enough.
“It’s not right to blame the breeders for testing their animals.” Hill said. “If there’s only one person looking for CWD, there’s only one person that’s going to find the problem. Our animals’ health is constantly monitored; the wild deer population is not.”
MCA encourages the use of the Cervid Health Committee formed in 2002 to explore a solution to the CWD problem. The MDC and secretary of state’s office will begin a formal comment period beginning Oct. 2 and ending Oct. 31. The commission will decide after reviewing those comments whether or not to pursue a permanent ruling.
According to MDC, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy which causes brain degeneration in cervids like deer, elk and moose. Humans and domestic livestock cannot contract the disease. It is spread by abnormal proteins called prions which accumulate in the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes of infected animals. To date, 11 cases have been found in captive Missouri deer since February 2010, and five cases have been found in wild deer since early 2012. — WLJ