Is Deer Hunting OK If You Give the Meat to the Needy?

Controversy over deer hunting in Pennsylvania.

The Inquirer reports that the beginning of deer-hunting season is upon us, and with it renewal of a controversy: Is hunting inhumane? What about when the meat from the hunt is donated to otherwise hungry and needy people?

Annually in Pennsylvania, as many as 5,000 deer – each providing enough ground meat for about 200 meals – are donated by governments and hunters, according to Hunters for the Harvest, or HSH, the statewide group that coordinates the donations.

(Hunting) has stirred controversy and drawn pickets from the group Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment.

The group's vice president, Lee Hall, questioned the motive for the meat giveaway.

"I think this is something that is done to win public acceptance," she said. "Just because it is charitable doesn't make it OK to kill loads of deer."

I've never hunted, never killed a deer. But I grew up in rural Kansas; there have been times in my life when my freezer was stocked with roasts and steaks and other select bits of deer, along with other animals. It certainly tasted different from most of the processed meat I've ever eaten. But I'm also a big believer in the Circle of Life—everything gets eaten by something, sooner or later, even if it's just worms getting us humans after we're dead. We shouldn't treat the process cavalierly, but we shouldn't turn our backs on good, honestly earned food for the poor, either.

  • Ewizobeth


    I am from Minnesota and I wanted to weigh in on this question. In my state deer are incredibly plentiful. We love our deer. They are beautiful and gentle creatures.

    To address the issue of cruelty, hunters make very calculated shots to the deer’s heart. The animal collapses, and the deer around it sometimes even continue to graze, because they apparently have no concept of death.

    I am in a metro area, and every year there comes a point at which there are deer everywhere, roaming the streets and freeways. People have car accidents every day because of the deer’s unusual behavior of leaping onto the road and just standing there. This is where the expression “deer in the headlights” comes from. Recently in North Dakota there was a terrible deer-vehicle accident involving a jackknifed semi, and then other people crashed into the truck. There were fatalities.

    Sometimes the police department has to come out with a rifle to track down a deer which has gotten into an area which is heavily populated. Essentially, either we control the deer population because there is no other option.

    Perhaps it is different in Pennsylvania, but in Minnesota many people fill their freezers and have a significant source of protein during the cold winter months.

    I am compassionate and humane. I don’t even kill bugs if I can help it, because I feel they deserve to live and enjoy their tiny lifespans. But deer hunting is a way of life here. We still have some connection with earlier generations who lived frontier lives in Minnesota.

    A great deal of deer meat is donated to “Second Harvest,” a food bank which gives the meat directly to families in need.

    So I guess I would say to those people who are unhappy about deer hunting, they need to become pragmatic adults and accept the well-balanced approach being used to cull the deer population. Note also that Minnesota hunters try to kill bucks rather then does, to ensure that hunting has a minimum impact on the deer population. Note also that the hunting season is always in the fall of the year so that the remaining deer stand a better chance of finding enough food to survive the winter.

    An interesting note–we also have problem bears who wander right into the downtown area of St. Paul. They get tranquilized when possible and shot when necessary (once a bear was hanging around a preschool building, and there was a concern that the bear would see the children as prey).

    Humans and wildlife live in a symbiotic relationship in Minnesota. I think culling through hunting is the best possible way to control our deer population.

    • Thomas

      I recently struck a deer during darkness on an off-ramp of I-95 in Phladelphia, Pa. Had the accident occurred on I-95 itself, I probably would have been injured or killed. But, because my speed was only about 30-MPH when it ran in front of my car, damages to the vehicle were much less and I was not hurt. The doe was not found by police I called to the scene. My point is, the herds in the city are enormous. During the rut, deer are in backyards, on sidewalks and front lawns. More has to be done to aggressively lessen the deer population in populated areas. I’m an animal lover, but human beings come first. . .

  • Chelsea

    I didn’t support hunting, until I worked as a park naturalist. That’s when I saw how destructive over-population can be. When deer breed without any control they eat all of our area’s native plants and ignore any invasive species, which grow in their place. Those plants destroy our ecosystem, and some species like Japanese Knotweed will overtake the entire area and are almost impossible to destroy without damaging the earth. Then other wild animals native to our area have no food, nowhere to nest or inhabit. Population control is a sad realization, but unfortunately very necessary to sustain our area’s ecosystem.

    That being said- I’m not a hunter, but I bought some ground deer meat at Cabella’s last year. Add that to some ground pork, baby you got yourself a stew! Or some really good, hearty and gamey burgers, for those non-Arrested Development fans out there.