Rock Creek Park has a thriving deer population. The animals are a common sight for bikers and joggers, but they’re also targets for government sharpshooters, who help keep their numbers under control. And the 106 deer that the hunters killed this season didn’t go far after they were killed; the venison was dispersed among Washington’s homeless shelters and other charities.
The park’s deer provided 3,300 pounds of meat during the past season, The New York Times reports. Recipients included D.C. Central Kitchen, which uses the venison for meals that are then sent out to places like Rachael’s Women’s Center and Casa Ruby.
Rock Creek Park isn’t the type place you might typically think of as a hunting ground (even if ritualistically sacrificed animals do show up there on occasion). The NYT spoke with representatives from some of the organizations that receive the park’s deer meat, and though there was evidence of surprise – and in some cases hesitance to eat the venison – it has become an important ingredient in D.C. Central Kitchen’s meals.
It’s worth noting that the meat is inspected and processed before being used for food, and D.C. Central Kitchen accepts meat from other sources, including Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, which pools donations from individuals.
Where you stand on this issue probably boils down to your feelings on meat-eating in general, but as far as traditional hunting for controlling animal populations and making use of meat that would otherwise go unused, it looks like the National Park Service has a found a strategy that works here. Sure, it may result in some children asking where their deer meat is coming from – but that’s the kind of question that’s going to come up anyway with more familiar food products like hamburgers and fried chicken.