JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Whitetail Breeders and Hunting Ranch Association held an event in the capitol today to urge lawmakers to support the re-classification of deer across the state as “livestock.”
Breeders largely argue that their animals should be regulated under the Missouri Department of Agriculture, which oversees all livestock regulations in the state. Currently The Missouri Department of Conservation oversees deer breeding operations.
All captive deer in the state are either born in captivity or purchased from a private breeder, just like the state’s elk operations. Sam James, President of the MWBHRA, says the MDC is using the rise of chronic wasting disease in captive whitetail deer as an excuse to regulate the industry.
“[MDC] says that it was a captive cervid that first tested positive for CWD, and that’s true,” James said. “But we were the only ones testing for it in the first place, testing our deer. So, I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure you can’t find something if you aren’t looking for it.”
Keith Warren, host of Pursuit Channel’s “High Road Hunting,” attended the event to support the MWBHRA cause and urge lawmakers to support the House and Senate bills reclassifying captive deer. Warren, a deer breeder himself who has spoken on behalf of the industry, said he got involved because he “cares about the deer, like all the other breeders.”
Warren has also produced a documentary on CWD, saying that “nobody had done it yet,” and that he “wanted to get the facts there.”
Warren says he spent time looking for people with different opinions on CWD than in his own. Warren told the audience the final product was one-sided because nobody from “the other side” would speak on camera.
“You’ll hear CWD comes from deer farms or overcrowding,” Warren said. “But if that’s true, can you tell me about West Texas where there isn’t a deer farm for 400 miles? In my opinion, it’s been around a long, long time, and we’re just now learning about it, and like most things, people are going overboard with it.”
Warren and James both said new MDC conservations would kill their industry. James said that one new proposed regulation, double fencing of property, was “completely unreasonable.”
“50 states in the country, none of them require double fencing,” James said. “I don’t know why we get treated differently.”
Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, and Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-DISTRICT are sponsoring bills to reclassify deer. In the House, the issue has become stalled in committee, but the Senate has placed their language on the calendar, giving proponents some hope.
“There’s no need to target us,” James said. “We just want to be treated like anyone else in our business.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.