By Corey Everitt
A motion for the State Government to explore programs for wild-shot deer to be harvested and donated for food relief has passed Parliament after fiery debate over the touted deer control and cost-of-living measure.
Eastern Victoria MP Jeff Bourman of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party moved the motion in the Legislative Council session on Wednesday 15 November calling on the State Government to investigate relief options that can utilise spare venison from shot deer.
The motion broadly compels the State Government to explore the matter by committing “to further discussions regarding the delivery of a pilot program to enable the commercial processing of wild-shot venison to be harvested and donated to food charities,” the motion read.
Mr Bourman’s main argument was that such a program can provide needed relief in rising cost-of-living pressures as venison is an untilised resource even though up to 150,000 deer are killed each year by recreational hunters and government-run culling.
The motion garnered the support of both major parties.
“These deer are a problem in our environment and for our communities,” Nationals Eastern Victoria MP Melina Bath said.
“We certainly endorse the continued enjoyment of hunters to do recreational hunting, but once that meat is on the ground, how can it be purposefully used?”
Addressing cost-of-living gained purchase, but the need to control deer populations gave Mr Bourman’s motion more traction.
“They are a pest,” South Eastern Metropolitan MP Michael Galea said.
“People in my constituency – obviously I have a very urbanised area, but I do have some outer suburban pockets as well – in places like Upper Beaconsfield have told me how much of a problem the local deer populations are and what a pest they are for the local environment, for conservation and for agriculture as well.
“This is not what I think the government should be pinning its hopes on solely, but it is a sensible thing.”
The Greens and the Animal Justice Party opposed the motion, arguing it was a distraction from the more direct ways to address both cost-of-living and deer control, and the overall goal of the motion was to further the interests of recreational hunters.
“Some of the measures that are actually being called for to tackle cost of living and food security are starkly different from this morning’s unappetising serving suggestion from the shooters,” the Greens Southern Metropolitan MP Katherine Copsey said.
“In relation to deer, which are an invasive species that causes damage to our environment, last year Labor had the perfect opportunity to address this issue in the Victorian Deer Control Strategy. Instead, they once again caved into pressure from the shooting lobby, which has a vested interest in continuing populations of deer at high levels so that they can shoot them.”
Ms Copsey said deer control should be through “modernising our wildlife laws”, particularly away from the interest of hunters.
Victoria and Tasmania are the last remaining states yet to classify deer as a pest, they are classified as a game animal which provides protections as wildlife.
The motion was passed with the support of the Labor Party, Liberal Party and the Nationals.