JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new bill from Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, seeks to make captive cervids fall under the definition of livestock, which could have wide-ranging implications for those who raise deer and elk.
In changing the definition of livestock to include captive cervids, the bill would also allow the meat of captive cervids to be sold so long as those cervids are raised for food. Inspections will be done by both Missouri’s Departments of Health and Senior Services and of Agriculture and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It will also allow the sale of captive cervids to be exempt from sales tax, further define captive cervids as livestock for the purposes of urban agricultural zones, and subject them to numerous other regulations and requirements.
Similar bills have been filed in years past in both the House and Senate in what is seen as a pressing issue for the agriculture community. Munzlinger said he would like to see Missouri’s laws change because the deer population in the state could be a boon to farmers in the state.
“If you eat venison in a restaurant or somewhere, it’s usually imported from other countries,” Munzlinger said. “We have a lot of potential here in Missouri.”
He added that with the definition change leading to increased regulation of these cervids, which will make it easy to track and safe to eat.
“These captive cervids, when you buy or raise those animals, they are owned, they’re taken care of, like all of the federal livestock,” he said.
However, Munzlinger notes that possible opposition to his proposal may arise from Missouri’s Department of Conservation, which has battled in court to restrict the import of privately owned deer into the state due to concerns about chronic wasting disease (CWD). CWD; like Mad Cow Disease, scrapie and kuru; is a prion-based transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that is always fatal in the deer it infects by essentially rotting the brain and nervous system. Limiting the spread of the disease usually means heavy regulation and oversight of the transfer of one group of cervids to different areas so if an outbreak does occur it remains localized.
CWD spread to South Korea in 2000 when a Canadian farm exported an infected group of elk for farming operations to the Asian nation. Before that, CWD had only occurred in Canada and the United States.
But currently, the law has sided with Munzlinger’s side of the argument. Last year, a judge struck down the rules created by the Department of Conservation and the Conservation Commission that would limit the trade of cervids, though litigation continues. Aaron Jeffries, deputy director of the MDC, noted that the department has taken proactive steps to fight CWD in Missouri, but that since rules and laws regarding captive wildlife and livestock were still under dispute in this area, the department would not comment on the issue.
Nevertheless, Munzlinger said after years of trying to effect this change in statute, he was eager to get it passed into law.