Struggling Victorians could be able to access venison from food banks in future, following the passage of a motion by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Jeff Bourman.
Mr Bourman introduced a motion into the state’s Upper House this month calling for the Victorian Parliament to recognise several facts, including that around 150,000 game deer are shot by recreational hunters every year; many food charities are struggling with increased demand and many families are approaching some of these charities to keep food on their plates; and there are existing programs in Victoria and other states that allow meat sourced from wild animals to be procured for human consumption.
Mr Bourman called on the state government to “commit 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 on selected government programs”.
He also called for investigations into funding for training accredited volunteers and the necessary infrastructure such as vehicle racks and cool rooms.
Essentially, the motion is to use the meat from government-run deer culls by having it suitably processed then donated to charities, and in particular food banks.
Programs allowing harvested deer meat to be used for food banks already exist in New Zealand and the United States.
“There are literally tonnes of high-quality venison being shot in government-funded programs in easily accessible areas, other than the helicopter culls, that are then left to rot because the land manager is taking the path of least resistance, which is leaving them there or putting the ones that they do retrieve in a pit,” Mr Bourman said.
“Should the deer that the government is paying to have killed anyway be left to rot and waste or should the premium-quality meat be used to help relieve the cost-of-living pressures for disadvantaged people in our society?”
The motion was passed with support from government, opposition and some crossbench MPs.
Predictably, the Greens and the Animal Justice Party were opposed to the idea.
The initiative had the support of the ALP’s Southern Metropolitan MP John Berger, who said while he understood concerns about the quality of harvested meat, the fact was similar programs were in place overseas and it was important to approach the issue from a knowledge-based standpoint.
“Why not investigate and see what can be achieved? Who knows – through rigorous testing on particular game animals, perhaps it could be as safe as farmed animals,” he said.
“But we do not know, so let us investigate it. That is why this motion is important, and I commend Mr Bourman for bringing this pragmatic and principled motion to the floor.”
Mr Bourman was happy the motion had passed, but said that was just the start of the journey.
“Now the work starts to get this pilot to actually happen,” he said.