Already avenues in place for hunters to provide meat to food banks, says minister
Some hunters and food advocates say more options should be made available
Amid calls from a hunting and fishing association, the provincial minister of fisheries and land resources says there are already a number of ways hunters can get meat to local food banks.
"Sharing food, sharing wealth with those who need it, it's never a bad idea. Ever," said Minister Gerry Byrne.
Earlier this week, Barry Fordham, head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Hunters and Anglers Conservation Group, said he wants to bring a Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, in place elsewhere in Canada, to this province.
It's a goal Fordham has been working toward for a number of years, but he said there are third-party rules put in place by the provincial government that prevent hunters from being able to give their game meat to food banks.
Options exist: minister
However, Byrne said there are a number of other ways for hunters and anglers to get their game to those in need.
A hunter can fill out a form and designate someone to be the recipient of any moose meat they get, making it a gift, Byrne said. A food bank could also act as a repository, matching willing hunters with those in need.
Or, he said, a food bank could obtain a food licence, purchase meat through a permit process and bottle moose meat as ready-to-eat food product — the same rules that restaurants use to put locally caught moose on the menu.
"We've provided as many options as possible to be able to provide meat to those who are needing of it.," Byrne told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.
Situation in Labrador
It's a different situation for some communities in Labrador, where community freezers provide game meat, fish and berries to people who are unable to get it on their own.
Gary Mitchell ran a community freezer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for a number of years. Hunters would provide meat, which would be processed in another facility, then sent to the community freezer groups.
"We have a resource in our province that's available to them. Why should just a few privileged hunters be able to take advantage of the resources we have?" Mitchell said.
"The Aboriginal culture was to share your resources, share your food, so this program was brought in to do just that."
In the 10-plus years the program's been running, Mitchell said there were cases in the past of problems with the quality of the meat. That turned out to be due to an issue at the third-party processor, but that was caught and addressed.
"I think that the third-party rule should be really considered by the provincial government and really put aside. I think it's very important that these people that are underprivileged to get meat resources be able to access it," Mitchell said.
"They're part of this province, they can't get out and hunt, so why should they be denied a piece of moose meat? They're not denied a package of macaroni or something else that came from the food bank, why are they denied to have a bit of fish, a bit of meat or something like that?"
But Byrne said there are constitutional rules that mean different regulations for Indigenous hunters in Labrador, and there are no plans to change the third-party policy.
"Provincewide, there is a mechanism to allow those who face an ability challenge to apply for a moose licence and have a proxy hunter hunt for them," Byrne said.
"Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, if you are a licensed hunter, you can gift your meat to someone who you feel would be deserving and would value that particular meat. There are a number of different ways to be able to do that."
Byrne added that he's had meetings in the past with Fordham, and hopes to have a larger meeting with the province's hunters and anglers at the group's next annual general meeting.
With files from The St. John's Morning Show