Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Department of Agriculture enters cervidae case fray


St. Paul The Minnesota Department of Agriculture informed
Pillager-area deer and elk rancher Gary Tank last week that the
agency will “commence regulatory sanctions” against his operation
if he allows people to shoot his elk or deer and harvest the

The letter, signed by Kevin Elfering, interim director of the
Dairy Food and Meat Inspection division, cites an advertisement
that Tank placed in May that stated that customers may “Harvest an
Elk or Deer for Meat Now.” According to the Ag Department, the ad
“gives the impression that you will allow the person ordering the
elk or deer to shoot the animal, dress it on the premises, and take
the carcass for the purpose of harvesting the meat.”

“Please be advised that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture
does not believe that this type of operation is a legal method of
processing livestock,” Elfering wrote.

In June, a Cass County judge ruled in favor of Tank on the
misdemeanor charge of operating a game farm without a license.
Tank’s family has owned a deer and elk ranch for nearly 40 years,
using byproducts from the animals in the scent business.

Farmed deer and elk are registered with the Board of Animal
Health and therefore qualify as livestock, Elfering said. Given
that, they must be slaughtered as livestock, and meat products must
be processed in a plant that is licensed and inspected by the
state, according to Elfering’s letter.

Livestock slaughtering requires “humane practices,” which would
not include shooting them for sport, Elfering said.

“We don’t allow people to shoot pigs for sport, either,” he

“We will only allow you to slaughter your animal on your
premises for personal use or the use of your household and
nonpaying guests and employees. Violations of these respective
statutes give us no other recourse than to commence further
regulatory sanctions,” the letter stated.

Elfering said he wasn’t sure how the department would handle
“regulatory sanctions” but said options would include
administrative penalties or criminal prosecution.

Tank said he has no intentions to cease selling animals to
people to dispatch as they see fit. He says he’s willing to go back
to court if needed to resolve the matter.

“I’ve already taken money down on animals, and if they decide to
kill them here, I will help remove them dead or alive,” he said. “I
am going to continue to do what we’re doing. It’s not illegal, and
I’m not going to be bullied.”

Tank says that he’s not selling the animals for meat; he’s
selling the animals “dead or alive.” The multiple state laws that
have emerged recently have restricted the interstate transport of
cervidae, so he’s simply trying to recoup dollars, he says.

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