Citing risks to animal health and possibly human health, U.S. Representative Jim Moran (D-Virginia) and five other members of Congress sent a letter last week to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking for a ban on interstate movement of captive deer.

The group lists concerns over the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and chronic wasting disease to livestock or other wildlife, and possibly to humans, as reason for restrictions on trade in deer and other cervids. They cite a recent investigative report from the Indianapolis Star that says cases of TB have occurred in 50 captive deer and elk herds and in at least four instances the disease jumped from captive deer and elk to cattle. The investigation also cites circumstantial evidence captive deer have helped spread CWD, which has been found in 22 states.

According to the Indianapolis Star report, about 10,000 farms in the United States and Canada raise captive deer or other cervids. Many of the animals are bred and raised for paid trophy hunts in fenced enclosures. Deer breeders supplying the industry select heavily for antler size, creating animals with unnaturally large, multi-point antlers that become extremely valuable as breeding stock and trophies.

The Star article and the Congressional letter question the ethics of these high-fence “trophy hunts” along with the industry’s potential for spreading disease.

"Considering USDA's limited resources, it would be prudent for the agency to adopt a precautionary approach, consistent with its regulatory authority, and prohibit interstate transport of captive-bred cervids in order to quell the burgeoning threats the inhumane canned-hunting industry poses to the health of livestock, native wildlife and even humans," the Representatives write.

Read the letter from Moran and five other U.S. Representatives.

Read the Indianapolis Star investigative report on deer farming.