As reported last month in GON, the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in wild deer near a deer-farming operation in Missouri has increased the scrutiny of an effort to legalize deer farming in Georgia.
If passed, House Bill 1043 would legalize importing whitetails into Georgia for breeding farms. Those in favor of HB 1043 point out that deer farming is already legal in 33 states, including Alabama and Florida. They say fears of diseases being spread are not a valid issue since deer would be tested extensively and because the livelihood of deer farmers is dependent on healthy animals. They also say deer farms could create jobs in rural areas.
The deer-farming industry has seen genetically manipulated bucks grow more than 500 inches of freakish antler and sell for tens of thousands of dollars to other breeders and high-fence hunting operations.
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is urging hunters to oppose bringing the deer-breeding industry to Georgia.
“There are no benefits for deer hunters in the growth of the captive deer-breeding industry — only risks,” said Kip Adams, QDMA’s director of education & outreach and a certified wildlife biologist. “It is QDMA’s mission to protect the future of white-tailed deer and our hunting heritage, and we oppose anything that puts those at risk.”
QDMA refers to deer farming as “captive-deer facilities where controlled, artificial breeding technology is used primarily to produce whitetail bucks with enormous, often grotesque antlers — an industry that includes sales of semen, artificially impregnated does and live bucks to other breeders or to captive deer shooting facilities. Current estimates suggest there are nearly 10,000 deer breeding operations in North America, and the number is growing as the industry pushes to expand into areas where it was historically not legal.”
Brian Murphy, QDMA’s chief executive officer, said, “Some argue this is an innocent endeavor with no negative impacts to wild deer or the everyday deer hunter. I emphatically and unapologetically disagree… it threatens the health of wild deer and the public’s perception of hunting.”
According to QDMA, the distribution map of chronic wasting disease (CWD) suggests the disease likely arrived in several new states through transportation of live deer, either legally or illegally, and not through natural deer movements. Legalizing deer breeding in new areas increases the incentive for illegal transportation of untested animals at a time when these human-aided movements must be stopped. Transporting any captive whitetails is risky, as there is no acceptable and practical live-animal test for CWD. Once CWD appears in wild deer in a new area, slowing the spread of the disease requires costly investigation, testing and surveillance efforts for many years and often requires drastic reductions in deer populations. There is currently no known way to decontaminate an environment once CWD is present.
In more than 40 states, regulatory authority over captive deer facilities is held by state agriculture agencies or shared between agriculture and wildlife agencies. QDMA recommends that wildlife agencies have sole responsibility because they have more experience with wildlife species and wildlife disease issues, and they fully understand what is at stake with regard to transmission of diseases like CWD to free-ranging deer.
“QDMA’s current effort is to halt expansion of the deer-breeding industry,” said Adams. “We also want sole jurisdiction for existing facilities to remain with or be reassigned to state wildlife agencies. Considering the implications for our hunting heritage, we can’t afford to allow this industry to expand. The ramifications of being wrong are simply too great.”
Other legislation of interest to sportsmen includes:
• Senate Bill 301 – Legalizes the use of silencers on hunting firearms, changing the law to read, “Any firearm otherwise authorized for use in the hunting or taking of game may be equipped with a silencer.” A more accurate term than silencers is suppressors, because they don’t silence hunting guns, only make them quieter. Proponents feel quieter hunting guns would result in fewer conflicts with non-hunters that lead to firearms-discharge restrictions.
Some opposed to the law worry quieter guns would make it easier for poachers to get away with breaking game laws. Under SB 301, anyone “hunting in an area that is closed for hunting, or by hunting big game out of season or at night with a firearm equipped with a silencer shall be suspended for three years” from hunting.
SB 301 passed the Senate 48-5 and now awaits action by the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee <www.house.ga.gov/committees/en-US/Committee.aspx?Committee=91&Session=21>. Action in the House may be clouded by inclusion of the silencer issue as an add-on to HB 981 (see below).
• House Bill 981 – Would clean up Georgia’s “carry” laws for concealed weapons, removing restrictions on carry-permit holders from having their gun at schools, polling places, bars, churches and other venues. Pro-gun groups like GeorgiaCarry.org point out that law-abiding citizens carrying their guns are not a danger to the public, and in fact make everyone safer, so there is no reason to restrict carry-permit holders from certain places. The should be assigned to a House Committee as its next step toward passing.
Contact Your State Legislators
Don’t expect legislation to get passed, or stopped, without taking part in the process. Find and contact your legislators online by going to <www.congress.org/congressorg/officials/congress>.
Check The Status Of Legislation
Find out if a current bill is moving foward or if new legislation has been intrdouced by going to <www.legis.ga.gov>.