Breeding Deer in Texas: A Business Opportunity or Betrayal of a Public Trust?

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Sharon and James Anderton are Texas deer breeders. Their activities and those like them are overseen by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as they breed deer for bigger antler spreads and give people a chance to shoot "trophies" at a much lower price than, if say, they paid to shoot a deer on the King Ranch.

In December 2010, Texas Parks and Wildlife workers shot and killed more than 70 deer in a herd maintained by the Andertons and deer breeders across the state rejected with outrage to what many said was a heavy-handed and brutal attempt to shut down their business.

As Brantley Hargrove writes in this week's cover story, "The New Hornographers," the agency said it destroyed the Anderton herd to test for a fatal contagion that is similar to mad cow disease.

As Hargrove writes:

Experts say chronic wasting disease is decimating populations in parts of Wisconsin, Colorado and Wyoming and so far has been detected in nearly 20 other states. It was identified last year in West Texas mule deer for the first time.

The agency's supporters -- many of them conservationists, wildlife managers and low-fenced hunting ranches -- believe Anderton and his ilk threaten wild deer herds with disease. They say pen-raised, genetically cultivated bucks with incredible (and occasionally grotesque) spreads of antlers represent not only the commodification of wildlife, but the outright perversion of traditional hunting culture.

So it's a fight between people who believe whitetail deer are a public trust and should not be sold like livestock. And those who have no problem doing exactly that.

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