08 August 2004

From the Mailbag

Dr Burgess-Jackson:

Over the last 4 days, I had to slow down on my drive to work or stop 4 times because of deer. They are really a problem throughout most of Wisconsin, and hurt and/or kill a lot of people due to accidents.

This made me recall your remarks about the ethics of "road kill."

The head of the Wisconsin DNR summed up the problem as: "Once we removed the natural predators of deer we're left with two ways to cull the herd, hunters or vehicles."

This leads me to two questions:
(1) Given three methods of maintaining natural deer-herd balance—wolves, hunters, and vehicles—which method is more or less humane? I lean toward hunting (especially considering the condition of some carcasses I see almost daily on a 30-mile stretch of I-43 on my commute to Milwaukee) as probably the least painful way for a deer to be dispatched. What would you say?

(2) If (as I believe you once said) the ethics of eating road kill are also not clear-cut, can one draw a distinction between eating road kill and eating the results of a hunt?
My own thoughts currently are:
(1) Deer and traffic don't mix, and in this part of Wisconsin—a long commute to either Milwaukee or Chicago—they are a real hazard to life and limb, and a significant cause of insurance claims. (Even the folks from PETA found this out.)

(2) Hunters are a better method for reducing the herds than vehicles.

(3) I like the taste of venison, and as long as it comes from what is essentially a replacement for the wolf, I see no ethical problem in eating it.

p.s. The deer are lousy on the road. They don't stop for signs, dart out of driveways, and Rudolph never signals his turns.

Frank Borger

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