Tapping Into Our Resources: Using Kentucky’s Abundant Wildlife Resources to the Advantage of the Disadvantaged

By: S. Nathan Goens, Staff Member

During the most recent session of Kentucky’s General Assembly, Kentucky Senators, Robin L. Webb and C.B. Embry Jr., introduced SB 55.[1] This bipartisan bill will create a new section of KRS Chapter 217 that prohibits state and local governments from restricting, but not regulating, the donation of game meat to or from not-for-profit organizations for the purpose of free meal distribution.[2] The only requirements that this bill sets forth for the donor is that game meat be from wildlife taken within the Commonwealth, properly field dressed and processed prior to donation, and apparently disease-free and unspoiled.[3]

The bill was signed into law on March 20, 2015, and it immediately broadened the resources available to the state’s disadvantaged. Kentucky is home to a plethora of wildlife, including an estimated 821,731 deer,[4] 250,000 wild turkeys,[5] and an ever-increasing population of wild pigs,[6] just to name a few. Opening this market, which has been historically untapped in regards to charities, will provide food for many Kentuckians, who might otherwise have none. If practicality was a touchstone for good legislation, this bill will undoubtedly pass the muster.

However, practicality is not the end-all when it comes to legislation. Often times, legislation comes with regulatory cost. While this law may appear to be associated with relatively low implementation cost, unforeseen circumstances can quickly change this. For example, the law leaves to the discretion of the hunter whether the game meat is disease-free and unspoiled.[7] It is reasonable to assume that not all hunters are able to identify spoiled or contaminated meat. Additionally, not all hunters will be privy to all the ailments that spoiled or contaminated game meat can potentially pose to those who consume it. Because of these dangers, it is likely that the cost associated with ensuring that meat is safe for consumption will increase as both donation and consumption increases. This leaves the question; which agency is to bear the costs that arise? Should the state regulate, or should the nonprofit organization be left to promulgate policies and procedures? Eventually, these questions will have to be answered.

Notwithstanding the possibility of latent cost associated with implementation of this law, the benefits it conveys to the underprivileged of the Commonwealth justify its inception. By allowing the natural resources of Kentucky to provide sustenance for its people, the legislature took a practical step to alleviate hunger in the Commonwealth. In an environment where the importance of practicality is often overlooked, actions like the implementation of SB 55 should be applauded.

[1] 2015 Ky. Acts Ch. 35 (to be codified in Ky. Rev. Stat. Chapter 217). 

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Ky. Dep’t of Fish and Wildlife Res., 2013-2014 White-tailed Deer Report 2 (2013).

[5]  2015 Spring Turkey Hunting Guide, NWTF.org, http://www.nwtf.org/huntguide/ (last visited Mar. 30, 2015).

[6] Kari Hall, Wild pigs a problem in Kentucky, wkyt.com (July 01, 2011), http://www.wkyt.com/home/headlines/Wild_pigs_a_problem_to_Kentucky_124885899.html.

[7] 2015 Ky. Acts Ch. 35 (to be codified in Ky. Rev. Stat. Chapter 217).