If I wanted to kill deer hunting forever, the first thing I would do is to create the perception venison is an unwholesome food item! That is exactly what the recent article by John Fauber and Lee Bergquist (Paul Smith also contributed) seems to be trying to do; it is both unethical and irresponsible journalism in my opinion. In 2003 Wisconsin journalists and a prominent outdoor magazine published articles about three men in a Wisconsin hunting camp dying from eating CWD tainted venison, which turned out to be patently false! The impact of this misinformation was a loss of about 13% of deer hunters and an estimated $1.5 billion to the Wisconsin hunting-related economy. Wisconsin never recouped these lost hunters, many of whom now are in their late twenties. The recent article, “Can chronic wasting disease jump from deer to humans? Concerns keep rising,” is unethical in that it is based on unsubstantiated or distorted “science;” and irresponsible in that the authors seem to be in league with anti-hunting forces. I will enumerate the misinformation! (Click here for link)
The assertion that CWD has spread alarmingly in Wisconsin is patently false! Reports of a 9.4% infection rate were erroneously calculated by dividing the number of positives by the total number of tests in 2015. There were 3,156 tests and 296 positives. Tests from the original CWD zone accounted for 65.7% of these tests; 54.5% came from the four index counties. The number of counties with positives in any one year has remained at 14 or less since 2010. At the same time, the often ballyhooed Illinois effort has spread to 16 counties. Testing in 2016 (6,000) was about double that of 2015; taking an average of 9 days to report (fastest in nation). The goal now is 48 hours!
The link in the article between cases of human CJD and CWD infection rate is bogus on two counts. First, you can correlate anything! There is no cause-and-effect. The way CJD is reported has changed. Older humans tend to be most affected; and, the average age of Wisconsin citizens has increased 16% during the same period, and so has the USA. I already debunked the erroneously calculated CWD rate. The Canadian monkey study indicating transmission of CWD to them was a non-peer reviewed report; 2 of 18 macaques reportedly developed prion disease after being fed CWD-infected meat from deer and their fellow macaques. The same report included no transmission from blood transfusions and scarified skin. There are peer-reviewed publications reporting no transmission. How many millions of pounds of venison have been eaten since CWD showed up in 1967, with no cases of vCJD?
The primary question of these folks is, What is your end game? (Crickets is the usual answer.) What do these people want? To return to sharpshooting and a bizarre array of seasons and bag limits that FAILED? They had their chance and it did not work! Is it to win at all costs? Is it more funding for academia? [Decades of research and millions of dollars have not answered the two most important questions: 1. What really causes CWD? 2. How do we manage it?] Is it to bring down deer hunting as a Wisconsin heritage? The greatest victim is the Wisconsin deer hunter. What will be the impact of this latest article on deer hunting? Loss of more hunters? Caution always is prudent, but in this case it is downright irresponsible! The anti-hunters have new allies!