Cheney Hunting Adventures: If Someone Eats the Game, It Looks Less Like Killing
When your organization promotes canned shooting of lions, elephants, zebras and leopards in Africa it needs a lot of PR.
That's why Safari Club International (SCI), the trophy hunting organization supported by former President George H. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, created Sportsmen Against Hunger.
Dumping carcasses makes hunters look like they just like to kill.
But find someone who will actually eat the game -- staff at canned hunting clubs for example or the poor -- and you are suddenly a humanitarian.
Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting parties are known for donating the pen raised pheasants they shoot during an afternoon to hunting club workers who presumably don't mind the cleaning and pellet removal.
And few think George H. Bush, Dan Quayle and Schwarzkopf ate the lions they allegedly killed in a canned hunt in Botswana in 1999 themselves. Especially when donating the meat would increase their Great White Hunter status. (see: We're Helping Local Economies and Preserving Big Game By Killing It.)
In fact Sportsmen against Hunger worked so well as a concept -- "hunters are doing something they love and helping others at the same time" said spokesmen -- SCI spun off a second do-good group called Sportsmen Against Cancer stumped by Stormin' Norman himself.
"I'm a health nut," Schwarzkopf, a cancer survivor, told the Fort Myers News-Press in 2006. "However, some people can't afford organic foods, and Sportsmen Against Cancer provides meat at no cost."
Hormones are not good for cancer patients added Angie Hall of the Naples/Fort Myers Safari Club coordinating the program and it's "not very likely that wild animals were injected with hormones."
Until, that is, chronic wasting disease (CWD), a terminal neurological illness similar to mad cow, surfaced in U.S. deer and elk five years ago.
Suddenly no one wanted to eat the meat they harvested or even clean it.
Or let it in the house.
"If the hunter cuts up his/her own deer, he or she should wear surgical gloves and not have any open cuts or sores on their hands," Jon C. McCabe of Watertown, WI warned hunters in the Capital Times.
But that still didn't mean he was out of the woods.
"If the hunter has the deer processed, does that processor sterilize its equipment after each deer is cut up so cross contamination does not occur?" asked McCabe.
Colorado hunter Al Samuelson wasn't afraid of contamination from the other guy's deer; he worried about contamination from his own buck when it tested CWD positive -- and the risks from blood on his steering wheel and hunting clothes which his wife washed.
Mounds of headless deer piled up in places like Wisconsin awaiting elaborate lab tests on their brains and horrifying the public.
And suddenly the tons of limp and headless game hunters tried to donate looked less like generosity than, well, dumping.
Less like helping the poor than dosing them. (see: blankets; smallpox).
Some food pantries refused the "donations" outright; others gave recipients an informed consent flier which told them the meat was probably fine but there was a slight chance it was not fine and actually lethal. Bon Appetit.
Nor did anyone want the meat in a landfill "where other animals can eat it and the blood can be filtered through the soil and enter the ground water," as McCabe wrote.
Now comes news there's a second problem with Sportsmen Against Hunger's heartfelt donations: lead poisoning.
Last month health officials in North Dakota told food pantries to throw out donated meat after 53 packages of ground venison out of 95 revealed lead fragments from bullets when X-rayed.
Health officials in Minnesota and Iowa promptly followed suit.
This leaves Sportsmen Against Hunger with 1.2 million perfectly good meals no one wants on their plate.
317,000 pounds of meat "harvested" for no reason.
And looking less like humanitarians than criminals trying to find someone to dispose of the evidence.
"This is disheartening, and we certainly don't think this program should come to an end on the unscientific assessment that has occurred here," lamented SCI lawyer Doug Burdin upon hearing the states' decrees.
"Deer venison provided through the generosity of our hunters, is a highly valuable food source for some of Iowa's less fortunate citizens," echoed Ross Harrison, coordinator of Iowa's Help Us Stop Hunger (H.U.S.H) program. "We certainly have an obligation to ensure its safety, but we also don't want to be wasteful of this valuable resource if we don't need to."
Maybe Safari Club International needs to do more PR.
The meat may contain CWD and lead fragments but it still has no injected hormones, after all.
And it didn't end up in the School Lunch Program.