The Louisiana Dept. of Health and Hospitals would rather the homeless go hungry than let them eat deer steaks provided by generous hunters.
That law has hunters across the Sportsman’s Paradise outraged after health officials ordered a rescue mission to destroy $8,000 worth of deer meat because venison is not allowed to be served in homeless shelters.
The Dept. of Health and Hospitals ordered the staff at the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission to throw 1,600 pounds of donated venison in garbage bins – and then ordered then to douse the meat with Clorox – so other animals would not eat the meat.
“Deer meat is not permitted to be served in a shelter, restaurant or any other public eating establishment in Louisiana,” a Health Dept. official told me. “While we applaud the good intentions of the hunters who donated this meat, we must protect the people who eat at the Rescue Mission, and we cannot allow a potentially serious health threat to endanger the public.”
That statement set off a firestorm among hunters and lawmakers who called it outrageous and insulting.
“That’s a mild understatement,” said Richard Campbell, one of the founders of Hunters for the Hungry, a group that has been donating wild game to shelters since 1993. “Hunters are going nuts over it. It’s created an outrage across our state and even over into Mississippi.”
The controversy started when someone being fed at the rescue mission complained about being fed deer meat.
Henry Martin, executive director of the mission, told me they’ve been serving deer meat for years – from deer chili to deer spaghetti.
“This was really good meat,” he said. “It’s high in protein and low in cholesterol. It’s very healthy.”
Martin said he was extremely bothered by the way state health inspectors handled the situation.
“You would think we would have due process,” he said. “But they meant to destroy the meat – that’s for sure.”
The mission’s chef asked if they could at least return the meat to the processing plant – but the state officials said no.
“They actually took it out to the dumpsters, split the packages open and poured Clorox on it,” Martin told me.
He said the rescue mission serves 200,000 meals a year – without a single dime of assistance from the state or federal governments. As a result of the confiscation, he said as many as 3,200 meals were lost.
“It seems like this was a senseless act,” he said. “I don’t think hungry people who come to our mission appreciate the fact they could have been eating some really good venison and as it is now – no one can eat it.”
The Health Dept. defended their actions and said they had to pour Clorox on the meat as an “extra precaution so that animals would not eat it from the dumpster and become sick or die.”
“This is a process called ‘denaturing,’” they stated. Campbell said the venison comes from deer management programs – where hunters have to kill a lot of deer.
“We ask our hunters once they fill up their own freezers to give the extra to the needy,” he said.
Once the deer is donated, a local processing plant prepares the meat for the shelters. And hunters in the Sportsman’s Paradise have always responded to the call – including State Rep. Jeff Thompson.
“As a hunter and somebody who has personally donated deer to this program, I’m outraged and very concerned,” he told me. “You hear about these stories anywhere and it’s a concern – but when it happens in your own backyard it’s insulting.”
Thompson said he is meeting with the heads of state agencies as well as state lawmakers to make sure the rules are changed.
“We take pride in helping our neighbors and to see thousands of dollars worth of meat that would help the hungry go to waste is absolutely disturbing to me,” he said.
I suppose in Louisiana beggars can be choosers.