B&C Club Releases Position Statement Decrying Game Farms

January 15, 2015

The Boone and Crockett Club (yeah, the guys who publish that record book for trophy hunters) has released yet another Position Statement, this time criticizing wildlife breeders.  I could almost have ignored the message, if it weren’t for the fact that the criticism appears to be based on the notion that breeding deer and elk is somehow equivalent to privatizing wildlife. (I do a lot of cutting and pasting in the following post, so if you’re concerned about context, I recommend that you read the statement yourself on the B&C Website.)

The argument starts with a “Situational Overview” which is largely founded on ridiculous drivel, like the following nonsense:

The captive-cervid industry uses selective breeding, artificial insemination, regimented feeding, and pharmaceutical drugs to achieve unnaturally large antlers. Such intensive manipulation of the natural characteristics of a wild deer and elk is a major departure from what occurs in nature, and it challenges our common understanding of the terms wild and wildlife.

Maybe some folks at Boone and Crockett are a little less sophisticated than I, because I have no problem understanding the terms, “wild,” and “wildlife.”  The fact that some breeders are using science to engineer “Frankendeer” has no impact whatsoever on that understanding.  I also understand that Monsanto is engineering crops to withstand drought and repel insects, but that doesn’t blur my ability to differentiate between a corn field and a mountain prairie.

It’s also worth pointing out that breeding and manipulation for Frankendeer is hardly the only thing the captive breeders are doing.  There is a fairly large market for venison, as well as deer antlers, hides, and urine.  So it would be much more accurate to have written that, “Some captive cervid breeders use selective breeding… etc.”  Why rely on hyperbole if you think your position is sound?  Is this ignorance, or is it intent?

They go on, in the same paragraph to lean on blatant and biased speculation (and more nonsense):

It does not appear that breeding and shooting operations considered the ethical implications of how far they should go in manipulating wildlife to satisfy the desires of a few. Nor did they think about the value the rest of society places on wild creatures and natural systems. The sole purpose for vastly exaggerating antler size to reach proportions that could never be attained in nature was commercial gain. The decision to drug wild animals also raises a valid question if this meat is safe to eat.

Any time you have to start your argument off with, “it does not appear,” you are already on shaky ground.  Credibility dissolves even further when the purpose of the statement is to speculate on the motives of a third party.  So, tit for tat, it does not appear that the good folks at Boone and Crockett actually have any clue as to what breeding and shooting operations have considered.  Moreover, it doesn’t seem that they have an adequate grasp of logic if they really think the value placed by “the rest of society” on wild creatures or natural systems has anything at all to do with the breeding and captive shooting industry.  Obviously someone in “the rest of society” places significant value on commercial venison, Frankendeer, and high fence hunting, because the industry is doing pretty damned well.

And the last sentence there, about the safety of the meat…   Isn’t that a whole new argument?  How, exactly, is it relevant in context?

But they’re hardly done, and go from speculation to blatant misrepresentation, such as this statement:

In recent years, the deer breeding industry has lobbied for white-tailed deer to be reclassified from wildlife to livestock, with the objective of privatizing a public resource and transferring regulatory authority from fish and game departments to departments of agriculture to obtain oversight more favorable to their industry.

Here’s a tip for the semantically challenged.  Farm bred, genetically manipulated, supplement-fed deer and elk aren’t “wildlife”… at least no more so than a Hereford, a Friesian, or a Rhode Island Red.   By the very definition, these deer and elk are livestock (hoofstock is the industry term, but the meaning is the same).  Most people recognize this, and in fact, the concept of “hunting” livestock (as opposed to “wild” game) is a primary source of ethical conflict whenever this topic comes up.

So, no, raising cervids (native or otherwise) from conception to harvest is not remotely the same as privatizing wildlife.  The breeding industry is not lobbying to have all white-tailed deer reclassified as livestock.  They are lobbying to have their livestock classified as livestock.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I recognize the self-serving nature of lobbying by any industry, and I’m aware of the risks to native wildlife and habitat if the breeders are allowed to minimize regulation and oversight.  I’m also aware that, at least in some cases, the state agriculture departments tend to be more lenient than state wildlife departments.  I’m not suggesting that we turn a blind eye to the breeders’ activities, and in fact, I strongly support efforts to implement and enforce strict regulations on these operations to ensure the safety of our natural resources… regardless of who administers and enforces the regulation.

But, again, we’re talking about livestock here.  We’re not talking about wildlife.

The second part of the document is the “Position, and buried in here are some more real zingers, including arbitrary statements like this one:

The practices of deer breeding and shooting operations should not be accorded the same level of public acceptance as the ethical hunting of wild, free-ranging game that is the foundation of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and forms the tradition of the Club and the majority of hunters.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t even know where to start with this statement, especially as it pertains to deer breeding.  If you keep your farmed deer contained (high fence), manage for disease (as we do with most other livestock), and treat them humanely, then the existence of those deer has nothing whatsoever to do with the NAMWC.  They’re not wildlife, they’re stock.

If you sell your stock to another operation where the animals are kept and managed under the same constraints until they are harvested by paying customers, then there is still no conflict with the NAMWC.  The one simply has nothing to do with the other.

I’m going to stop with the snip-and-paste now, and just take a run at what I see as contradictory statements in the position.  On the one hand, B&C is saying that they don’t want to dictate the choices made by hunters (high fence hunting), but on the other hand they actively support state efforts to prohibit game farms and high fence operations, and to restrict the industry itself.

I find it interesting as well that the statement references the actions of anti-hunting organizations who misrepresent hunting with caricatures, misinformation, and stereotypes, yet this is basically the same approach used to divide hunters on the issue of high fences and game farms.  As I pointed out already, Boone and Crockett does the same thing right here in this position statement, when they misrepresent the efforts by the cervid breeding industry to categorize white-tailed deer as livestock (when they’re only trying to re-categorize the captive animals), and again when they project breeders’ motives for conducting business.

In fact, the only thing in this position statement that I could get behind was the concern over the threat of CWD and the potential impacts on wild herds of deer and elk.  And even there, I’m only in agreement that there’s a risk that needs to be better understood in order to be properly managed.  I have yet to see convincing arguments that captive cervids are the source of CWD.  So far, the best case that can be made is that they are particularly susceptible due to the typically dense population within a captive facility, and that transportation from one facility to the next makes them a likely vector for transmission.

In the end, what I was left with from all of this is that the organization best known for maintaining and publishing a record book for trophy deer and elk is complaining about an industry that produces trophy deer and elk… in part because the focus on these “artificial” trophies detracts from the traditional values of the hunt.

There are a lot of folks out here, myself included, who think that the glorification of the Trophy has done as much or more damage to the sport, and to the NAMWC than anything else.  It’s given rise to a whole new class of poachers (some of whom commit their crimes with the sole intent of getting into the record books).  It’s driven poor wildlife management decisions, and reduced the effectiveness of good management programs.  It’s led private property owners to high fence property in order to manage for “trophy quality” animals.  It’s caused hunter vs. hunter conflicts on public land.  It’s provided a powerful, negative stereotype for the antis to leverage, of hunters who only kill the finest specimens and then take only the antlers or horns.  If there is a true anachronism left in this sport, it is the “trophy”.  And, oddly enough, the quest for a trophy is a major factor in driving the advent of the Frankendeer breeding operations.

So, here’s a thought.  Boone and Crockett, abolish your record book.  Take away the focus on “Trophy” and put your money where your mouth is.  Then, based on the membership you maintain without the incentive of a prize (getting your name in “The Book”), you can gauge the real motivations and commitment of your members to these other issues.

As far as ethics, anti-hunters, and the public opinion of hunters, I’ll have more to say on that pretty soon.



One Response to “B&C Club Releases Position Statement Decrying Game Farms”

  1. B&C Club Releases Position Statement Decrying Game Farms | on January 15th, 2015 18:40

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