The owner of a local processing plant says his business will be unduly penalized by an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regulation allowing only deboned deer, elk and caribou to enter the state.
Roger Key of Garner Abattoir and Meat Processing Plant in Van Buren said he only recently learned the game and fish commission in March passed a resolution stopping all cervid animals from coming into Arkansas unless they are completely deboned.
"My business was notified of this regulation by an Oklahoma deer hunter," Key said. "I have yet to have a member of the AG&FC to come to my facility."
He said the new regulation will prevent thousands of dollars from entering the state and creating a great inconvenience to Garner Abattoir customers who hunt across the state line.
Key said he was told by game and fish commission officials chronic wasting disease was found in a captive elk in the Oklahoma panhandle 10 to 12 years ago and in a captive whitetail deer in eastern Oklahoma last year.
However, Key said he was told by Oklahoma health officials direct brain testing on the two destroyed animals returned negative.
"Understanding the importance of protecting our deer herd, I immediately put together a plan to do so and allow a legal means of transporting deer carcasses across the Oklahoma/Arkansas line," Key said. "I have discussed this with the AG&FC and elected officials. Thankfully, our elected officials are all over it."
He said the game and fish regulation is not going to accomplish what it is set forth to do.
"Even if CWD appears today, deer are going to continue to travel back and forth across the state line, whether they are running back and forth or in the back of a truck," Key said.
He said live deer will continue to be transported from known CWD states across Arkansas, and rendering plants will continue to use bones and carcasses from across state lines to produce dog food in the state.
"We can’t eliminate it, but we can created a legal means of doing it correctly while providing the needed protection for our deer herd," Key said. "Mad cow disease is often compared to CWD. When MCD was discovered we didn’t stop processing cattle."
He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a way to control the risk animals to prevent contamination.
Cattle of 30 months of age and older are candidates for MCD, and Key said meat processors follow a different set of guidelines for these animals.
"This could easily be used in the processing of cervid animals from a known CWD state," Key said. "Ultimately, if this regulation is left in place it will simply hurt small businesses, create job loss, and provide protection to our deer herd from something that doesn’t exist."