Anti-venison vs. pro-beef merits a reality check

For those people who believe deer hunting is wrong, maybe it's time for a reality check. Consider the difference between a hunter taking a deer and a rancher selling his beef cattle. Some might view this comparison as oversimplified, but the differences are less than we often envision, given our contemporary societal attitudes. But there are also a few glaring differences which many don't, or choose not to, consider.

When we view the two species, both can be and are a source of meat for our consumption. However, deer are a pure natural strain that live in the "wilds." Beef cattle are the result of specialized breeding that has resulted in a once-wild animal that also lived in the "wilds" but has been domesticated and genetically altered for a specific purpose: food. The population of whitetails in the nation today is estimated to be nearly 40 million, and there are an estimated 100 million beef cattle.

The sustenance required by both deer and cattle depends on the quality of the food, its availability and amount, and the number or density of animals utilizing it. With deer, they are totally dependent on a combination of natural and cultivated foods within their range. Cattle foods are largely manipulated according to the total acreage of grazing land, but also supplemented by grain and cultivated food provided by the rancher. In both species, the amount of available food is the primary limiting factor in supporting densities. Ranchers control this by only having enough cattle that the ranch and the ranchers' cattle food budget can support. Excess animals are sold. Deer densities, on the other hand, are uncontrolled and continue to expand until there is insufficient food available, and starvation culls the excess animals.

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