The Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) is requesting a fast-food restaurant reconsider offering farm-raised elk to customers in Montana over concerns the practice could fuel an expansion of unethical commercial markets and erode Montana’s fair chase hunting culture.
In a letter sent today to Arby’s Corporation, MWF says the new menu options in three western location, including Billings, could lead to an increase in game farming practices which have been proven to impact the health of wild herds and privatize a public resource. The letters states, “elk and deer are best left as wild, free-ranging animals that are part of the public trust, managed by the state for the benefit of all Montanans.”
“There is a real danger in marketing wildlife as a commodity like this,” said Nick Gevock, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “This runs counter to Montana’s fair-chase hunting values by encouraging the commercialization of a public wildlife resource.”
Game farms are already illegal in Montana after a citizen voter initiative banned them in 2000. Groups including the Montana Wildlife Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Bowhunters Association, and other local rod and gun clubs asserted the practice spreads disease to wild herds including chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disorder.
Although game farms are legal in other areas of the globe, the Montana Wildlife Federation says that the majority of Montanan don’t believe the practice is ethical or necessary. The letter states, “Fundamentally, Montanans would rather hunt wild elk on public and private lands in our state than get them from a game farming operation that threatens the public wildlife resource.”
The Montana Wildlife Federation is urging the restaurant find a better way to promote hunting that doesn’t place public wildlife values at risk.
“There are much better ways to promote our hunting heritage and we welcome a productive dialogue with the leadership at Arby’s,” said Dave Chadwick, the executive director of Montana Wildlife Federation.
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