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CASH Courier > 1995 Spring-Summer Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Spring-Summer 1995 Issue 

“SPORTSMEN AGAINST HUNGER” OR “SPORTSMEN” AGAINST THE HUNGRY?

A Double Food Standard:  One for the Rich and One for the Poor

“Sportsmen Against Hunger” is the insidious brainchild of Safari Club International.  SCI has confessed that hunters kill a lot more animals than they eat (actually very few hunters eat what they kill).  To bolster a sagging public image, they concocted a scheme to make it appear that “sportsmen” keep people from starving by donating their surplus “game” to the “poor and needy.”  The stumbling block in their scheme was that the USDA would not inspect “wild” meat.  With unknowns such as where and what the animal had eaten, parasites, bacteria, pollution, varying temperatures, and unsanitary handling, the USDA decided not to get involved in the mess.

To get around that little glitch, hunters decided that they would just “inspect” the meat themselves.  How do they do that?  They look at it!  If it looks okay, then it’s okay.  [The actual language in what became known as the “Venison Bill” is “a good faith donor of…wild game…shall not be subject to criminal penalty…arising from the condition of food, if the said donor…finds the food apparently fit for human consumption.”]  SCI, along with Putting People First, went to work on elected officials to push through legislation that would allow hunter-inspected meat to go to charitable institutions.  They even got food banks to go along with the scheme.

They did that in spite of the fact that three state agencies recommended against the bill:  The NYS Department of Health, Social Services and Agriculture of the Markets.  The latter wrote in part: “We cannot, and should not engage in selective enforcement of the law or establish separate standards of food safety.  The poor and homeless are entitled to receive the same level of health protections from government as those more fortunate…We do not take issue with hunters who choose to consume game meat which they have killed since they do so at their own risk.  However, the general public should not be exposed unwittingly to the potential food safety risks of consuming wild game which are ‘processed’ in this fashion.”  In spite of the opposition, the bill sailed through both houses and was signed into law by former Gov. Cuomo.  Later, the Dept. of Ag and Markets made an unprecedented exception to their normal policy and inspected deer meat from a hunt in Rochester (See C.A.S.H. Courier, Spring 1994. “War on Wildlife Waged in Park in Upstate New York”).  They wrote:  “All of the venison which was salvaged from the ‘bait and shoot’ operation in Rochester was found to be unfit for human consumption…the intention had been to donate this meat to the NYS prison system to be fed to prisoners.  We have seized it and will oversee its destruction.”

After being questioned about their role in SCI’s program, The Salvation Army wrote: “Sportsmen Against Hunger’ has assured us they are not using the name of the Salvation Army, but we continue to receive reports that they do use our name, then deny it later.”  And in another letter: “Be assured that the Salvation Army is concerned about the wildlife situation in this country and what hunters are doing to the ecosystem.”

C.A.S.H. recently did a follow up by calling food banks.  We were surprised to find that most hadn’t received donations at all.  [Hunters don’t want to pay for the cutting and packing required].  One food charity that had gotten a donation said it was a very small amount, and people complained about the taste and odor of the meat.  To avoid more waste, they had to mix what they had left, with other meat to make it palatable, thereby mitigating the economic reason for accepting venison in the first place.

The real story of “Sportsmen Against Hunger” involves the opportunistic manipulation of noble causes and public deception to bolster the image of wildlife destroyers.  It offers a glaring example of how the government has sold out to powerful pressure groups at the grave risk of the public.  We encourage you to start a campaign against this program.  If needed, C.A.S.H. can supply you with a packet: “Aids Toward Fighting the Venison ‘Bilk’” See page 16 [We are grateful to affiliates Sue Clark and Dorothy O’Brien for helpful materials.] – A.M.

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