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January 25, 2010

My Turn: Hunters Helping the Hungry is a self-serving endeavor

This week's "My Turn" column is by non-hunter David Irving.

In mid-December 2009, Congressman Scott Murphy introduced the Hunters Helping the Hungry Act. It entitles hunters who donate their kill to anti-hunger programs, and those who process the kill, to take a tax deduction.

Congressman Murphy's bill is nothing but undisguised pandering to hunters and the hunting industry. They will not soon forget that he attempted to give them a tax break. But proposals like this need thoughtful scrutiny.

Ten years ago the Venison Donation Coalition (VDC) was formed to allow hunters to donate their kill to meat processors for distribution to the needy of New York through charitable organizations. Since then, the VDC boasts that it has processed 337.51 tons of venison.

This may sound impressive, but while it may help a little during the short deer hunting season, annualized over 10 years this comes to only 185 pounds of venison daily for all of New York. This is hardly a drop in the bucket.

About 85 food banks, government agencies, sportsmen's groups, corporations and religious and civil organizations are involved in the VDC effort.

Nobody wants to take food from the needy, but surely a focused effort by these organizations could generate far more food for the hungry than participating in a deer-kill program that contributes little to the poor.

The concept of hunters helping the hungry must be seen for what it is, a self-serving endeavor to create an image of hunting as a benevolent activity that makes an altruistic contribution to society.

Already damaged by growing public recognition of the cruelty of hunting, the hunting industry needs an image change.

Representative Murphy's proposed Hunters Helping the Hungry Act fulfills the same function. It is true that his proposal offers participants a tax break, which would increase kill donations. But are people so enamored of hunters and kill processors that they think they deserve a tax giveaway?

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