State’s homeless may soon dine on deer

Bambi may soon pay a visit to the city’s homeless — served medium-well.

A bill submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly last week would set aside $30,000 to pay butchering costs for dead deer — either hit by motorists or shot by hunters — so that their meat can be fed to the homeless. While the bill’s sponsor says hunted deer and possibly roadkill should go to a good cause rather than be wasted, animal rights activists find the idea much less appetizing.

Deer such as this one, hit by a car near Ridgefield, Conn., may soon be served to the state’s homeless, although deer meat is currently not allowed to be sold commercially in Connecticut.
Matt Lucas
Deer such as this one, hit by a car near Ridgefield, Conn., may soon be served to the state’s homeless, although deer meat is currently not allowed to be sold commercially in Connecticut.

Deer meat is forbidden from being sold commercially in Connecticut, although it is popular in many rural areas of the United States and in Europe. But with food pantries facing shortages and deer already widely hunted because of overpopulation, Rep. Antonietta Boucher, R-Wilton, said the state has an opportunity to kill two birds — or deer — with one stone.

“It was reasonable in that it was making use of captured or hunted meat for a good purpose, a higher purpose — providing nourishment for those who need it very badly, and very nutritious nourishment,” she said Tuesday. “Why not do some good?”

The plan, creative as it may be, is not a new one. The Connecticut Food Bank already accepts deer from hunters, and the state of New York operates a program similar to the one proposed last week. Boucher, a self-described animal lover, said the idea originated from residents on Wilton’s town committee that deal with deer overpopulation.

Boucher’s constituents may not benefit much from soup kitchens stocked with deer meat; the town of Wilton, population 18,000, has a median household income of over $140,000 and a poverty rate of less than 3 percent. But for New Haven soup kitchens, new sources of food are needed as more community agencies begin to tap into the area’s food banks, said David O’Sullivan, coordinator of Christ Church’s Community Soup Kitchen on 84 Broadway.

At the same time, there are concerns about accepting deer meat, O’Sullivan said, both because of questions about the meat’s safety and because local residents, whether homeless or not, might not want to eat it.

“With the deer population increasing, it would make sense,” he said. “[But] overriding everything is the question of how it’s been handled — was it shot Saturday morning and did they get it to the state butcher Monday morning at 9 o’clock? I think that’s the big issue.”

Meanwhile, animal rights activists say the bill will do nothing but further encourage deer hunting by giving hunters a certain benevolent raison d’être for their forest forays.

Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the state’s money would be better off spent directly on helping the homeless rather than encouraging hunters to take to the woods on their behalf.

“The thing is, by doing this … you’re giving people another reason to go kill animals for fun,” she said. “For any reason, we would not support it.”

But deer meat has redeeming qualities, said Grant Potter ’10, a native of Utopia, Texas, where the number of deer in town outnumber the number of people.

“I find the idea of feeding roadkill to the homeless a bit dubious,” said Potter. “But then again, fried venison is good enough that I’d consider scraping it off the road myself.”

The bill awaits consideration by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on the Environment.

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