A petition urging the DNR to no longer accept deer killed with lead bullets as donations to its food program that helps feed the needy was denied Thursday by the Natural Resource Commission. The DNR works with the Food Bank of Iowa in the Help us Stop Hunger or Hush program, which allows hunters to shoot a deer then donate it to be processed and fed to the needy.
The NRC voted to reject the petition because commission members said there was not enough evidence to show the bullets caused lead poisoning. Cynthia Hansen, the manager of the “Lead Is Poison Coalition” testified that people eating venison are at risk when a deer is shot with lead. “Many of the fragments are too small to see with the naked eye or to feel when the meat is being processed. But the lead is there as shown in the x-ray and CAT scans during the research studies,” Hansen says.
Hansen cleaning the wounds won’t prevent lead poisoning. “So when deer is shot with lead the fragments are scattered beyond the wound channel,” according to Hansen. “And that lead can be dispersed anywhere from two inches to eighteen inches outside the wound channel based on research. ” While the commission recognized people are poisoned by lead in Iowa, the secretary of the NRC, Kim Francisco , says this lead often comes from other sources.
Francisco made the motion to deny the petition, saying there is no strong proof that the venison donated to HUSH contained toxic lead. “There are some legitimate concerns, and we heard it today, the presenters did a really nice job, about sub-lethal levels. Certainly understand that but 800,000 meals a year and we haven’t had any public health issues come up, ” Francisco says.
The DNR reports 5,281 deer were donated to the program in the 2012-2013 season. Kim Francisco, says HUSH serves a couple of purposes — supplying meat to feed the needy and helping the state with deer management. The commission also made the point that it was not the right venue to address the problem — instead it should be taken to the legislature.
The DNR says just over 56,000 deer have been processed in the program from 2003 to 2012, which resulted in 10 million meals being provided.