Move to put wild deer on the menu
TASMANIAN deer farmers say allowing wild harvested deer to be sold for human consumption could threaten their industry.
The comments come in response to a State Government management strategy which will gauge the potential of hunting the species for commercial gain.
Mole Creek farmer Michael Frydrych is one concerned premium venison producer.
Mr Frydrych and wife Connie run about 600 deer for value-added products for local restaurants and for retail.
He said while deer farmers understood the need to control deer numbers, wild-shot deer sold for human consumption was not the answer.
He said any issues with food safety or quality had the potential to destroy the local industry’s reputation as a premium producer of venison.
“We understand that the numbers have to be controlled, but this is not the way to do it.
“Everything is getting stricter, but somehow now we’ve decided allowing guys to go out in the bush at night and shoot deer and process them on the back of utes is OK. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Mr Frydrych said it would be almost impossible for those shooting deer at night to identify animals were of the right age, did not have fawns or were not pregnant and that they were suited to be sold as food.
There are also concerns wild deer shot on farms could potentially have been grazing on crops sprayed with chemicals that have withholding periods for human consumption.
In Tasmania, a number of commercial deer farmers currently supply the market with potential to produce more.
Mr Frydrych said some wholesalers were unwilling to pay premium prices for quality Tasmanian farmed venison.
Lenah Game Meats’ is one wholesaler that supports the Government’s plan. In a submission to the Upper House inquiry into managing deer, owner John Kelly said Lenah Game Meats could sell about 1.5 tonnes of wild-shot venison a month in Tasmania and a further three tonnes interstate.
Mr Kelly said he was currently importing venison to fill product orders.
The State Government released its response to the inquiry this week.
It includes launching a census of the wild deer population next year, which would also try to determine how many are in Tasmania’s wilderness areas.
The response outlines targeted control programs and regulated recreational hunting. A UTAS report in 2016 predicted the state’s wild fallow deer population could reach one million by 2050 if not better regulated.
The Government’s strategy would allow limted numbers of wild deer to be taken and a new Tasmanian Game Council would decide if that would be through shooting and field dressing or capturing and then transporting live deer to processing plants.
Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said a group of landholders would be identified to work with local meat processors on a venison trial.
“The new Game Council is set to advise on the feasibility of a limited trial using special permits for deer farmers and landholders to supply wild deer products for the regulated food or restaurant trade.”