Is allowing commercial deer hunting a good idea? Some lawmakers in New Jersey are trying to overturn the state’s ban on hunters selling deer meat, and they are getting support from some ecologists. According to the Asbury Park Press, a bill was introduced into the General Assembly earlier this year that would do just that, and is currently waiting for a hearing in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
To say that the bill is controversial would be an understatement. Some ecologists believe that allowing individuals to sell harvested venison will get more people into the woods to help control the rising deer population. Others, however, believe that the return of commercial hunting will only recreate the far-ranging consequences caused by overhunting in the early 1900s.
“Anybody who lives in Monmouth County and is driving around is able to see a deer population that has exploded,” Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth), who is sponsoring the bill, told the Asbury Park Press. “I’m concerned about the high number of Lyme cases and I’m also very concerned about the car accidents, half of which occur between October and December.”
The exploding deer population in the East Coast is not only a road and health hazard, ecologists are warning that the deer are degrading forests as well, which could lead to mass starvation for the animals. Supporters of a commercial deer season also point to the fact that almost all of the venison that Americans enjoy in restaurants or local grocery stores come from captive deer farms. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported last year that about 85 percent of all commercially-sold venison in the United States actually comes from New Zealand. Casagrande and her supporters say that it makes little sense to import deer meat into New Jersey when the state is currently grappling with an overpopulation of whitetail deer.
Not everyone agrees, however, and in a rare occurrence, sportsmen’s groups and animal right organizations have found themselves on the same side of the issue—if for different reasons. Many hunters say that revisiting the same strategies that led to the overhunting of deer in the East Coast is a very bad idea. All 50 states have placed restrictions on the sale of deer meat, with laws stretching back to the early twentieth century. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection explicitly states that it is “illegal to sell deer meat, deer antlers or any part of a deer except deer hides, tails and the lower portion of the legs,” in the state.
To combat the rising deer population, hunters and wildlife biologists instead advocate for increased awareness of the problem, and promoting hunting as a valuable activity in the state. Animal rights activists oppose the bill for much the same reasons, but offer an alternative solution. Instead of hunting the deer either way, they instead call for non-lethal population control methods such as sterilization.
The bill, AB A3039, is still waiting to be heard by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee before it can move forward. If passed, hunters will be able to apply for a commercial hunting license which not only allows the sale of deer meat, but also meat from small game such as beavers, raccoons, and otters.
What do you think? Should you be able to sell meat from the deer your harvest, or could that open the door to a host of problems for hunters and wildlife? Let us know in the comments below.