Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoes move to exploit captive deer

07/08/2014 12:11 PM

07/08/2014 12:11 PM

Bad news for trophy hunters. Good news for Missouri and its deer.

Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed the General Assembly’s outrageous attempt to reclassify captive white-tailed deer as “livestock” in order to please breeders and ranch operators who seek to market selectively bred deer to wealthy shooters.

The Missouri Department of Conservation, which regulates wildlife, is proposing rules to assure more humane treatment of captive animals and to stop the spread of diseases that appear to begin in captive herds and spread into the wild. Chronic wasting disease, which is always fatal, has already been detected in Missouri and 21 other states.

Ranch operators and deer breeders, of course, don’t want anything to do with rules like double fencing and a ban on shipping selectively bred deer across state lines.

They want to be able to breed deer with freakishly large antlers, ship them in a drugged condition to out-of-state rural preserves, and charge wealthy executive types tens of thousands of dollars to shoot them. (Following the lead of leading hunting groups in the state and nation, I refuse to refer to the pastime as hunting.)

Republican leaders in the Missouri House wouldn’t even allow members of their own party to propose an amendment stipulating that the deer couldn’t be killed while still drugged.

Just gross.

The thinking on the part of legislators was that by reclassifying deer as livestock, oversight of the captive herds could be transferred to the state Department of Agriculture, which might be more sympathetic to people who regard shooting drugged deer as a legitimate business pursuit.

Nixon wasn’t buying it. “White-tailed deer are wildlife, and they are also a game animal,” the Democratic governor said in his veto message. “Putting them behind a fence does not change that fact.”

Nixon is protective of Missouri’s natural resources, so his veto is not a surprise. “Growing and managing our deer herd and fostering the hunting opportunities that we enjoy takes hard work and sound science, and the Department of Conservation should be commended for employing both to preserve this important part of our heritage, not stripped of its authority to do so in order to protect narrow interests,” he said.

Bravo. You’ll hear a lot of griping from the narrow interest and its legislative supporters. Why, more regulation might even put these places out of business! Or so they’ll say.

Well, good. Jobs are hard to come by in some parts of rural Missouri, but there has got to be something better than making a living off of drugged deer with genetically bred racks.

Missouri already aids and assists too many unsavory industries. Puppy mills, payday loans shops and cheap cigarette venues come to mind. Unless it is overridden, which seems unlikely, Nixon’s veto will thwart the trophy antler business for at least another year.

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