MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Deer Farmers Association has filed a federal lawsuit against the state, including officials of the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Animal Health, claiming a new law enacted by the 2023 Legislature is unconstitutional.
The deer farmers group says the law is intended to put their industry out of business in Minnesota.
The 60-page suit was filed by Twin Cities attorney Erick Kaardal on behalf of association members. It was filed Dec. 28 in Federal District Court in Minneapolis and has been assigned to Duluth-based Judge Leo Brisbois.
The new law prohibits any new deer or elk farms from being licensed and dramatically limits how animals can be moved into or within the state.
The law also transferred authority over white-tailed deer farms from the Board of Animal Health, which oversees livestock in the state, to the DNR, which already oversaw wild deer.
The suit claims the new law violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause.
Several Minnesota hunting and conservation groups pressed for the new laws. Many wildlife biologists believe the movement of farmed deer between states, and between farms within states, has helped hasten the spread of chronic wasting disease among wild deer nationwide.
Several Minnesota deer farms have been found to have animals infected with CWD, some of which escaped the farms and others which were dumped on public land after they died. The captive deer are raised both for scents, such as doe urine, and to sell as trophies for people to shoot on captive game farms.
Several Minnesota counties, including St. Louis, also have imposed moratoriums on any new deer farms.
CWD is an always-fatal neurological disease that affects many members of the deer family. There is no known cure, and the only way to test for it is if the animal is dead.
According to the DNR, there are now 125 registered white-tailed deer farms in Minnesota with 3,325 deer. The Board of Animal Health continues to oversee elk farms.
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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