Sellers of deer velvet supplements make dubious claims about a variety of purported benefits. While there’s no sound evidence to support their use, there’s irrefutable proof that their production involves extreme cruelty to animals.
In June 2023, PETA investigators visited four farms in South Korea that supply the deer velvet industry and documented abhorrent living conditions for the animals. They found that on velvet farms, deer spend their entire lives confined to small, barren pens. Video footage shows deer pacing repetitively and licking and chewing on the metal bars of their enclosures. A veterinarian stated that this abnormal behavior indicates frustration and severe psychological distress in a normally far-roaming species. Licking and chewing on metal bars can also indicate an underlying iron deficiency, which is common with chronic internal parasitism and can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Every year, the deer are subjected to a gruesome procedure to remove their antlers. Farmers injected deer in an attempt to sedate them prior to the rudimentary surgery. One deer endured multiple injections over the course of an hour before he was sedated—indicative of a strong stress response in these sensitive animals. Adrenaline surges due to apprehension and stress can override even significant amounts of anesthetics. Even after the animals were injected, investigators documented that deer moved their legs and had more than double their normal resting respiratory rate, which suggests that they were semiconscious and able to feel pain while farmers sawed off their antlers. Workers stepped on the faces of deer to hold their heads in place while others cut through their antler tissue. Some workers kicked deer in the side, apparently in an attempt to make them stand up after the surgery.
Guests attended the antler cutting and drank the fresh blood from the animals’ wounds. Deer can carry a number of diseases that are transmissible to humans, including Q fever, chlamydiosis, leptospirosis, campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis. At least one guest had fresh deer blood on his shirt when he left the farm, possibly putting other members of the public at risk of being infected with diseases.
One farmer acknowledged that male deer are killed at 10 years old, when their antler production wanes. Females are slaughtered when they can no longer breed.
What You Can Do
You can help stop this abuse of gentle, sensitive animals who want only to live in peace. Refuse to buy deer velvet—or any other animal-derived substances—and urge your friends and family to do the same. There’s a wealth of widely available plant-derived supplements for every health need, and most have earned rave reviews from a large number of users. For every cruelly obtained product, there’s always a kind alternative.
Take Action for Deer
PETA has lodged a complaint to Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Ministry of Public Administration and Security. Despite clear violations of Korea’s Animal Protection Act, these cruel facilities continue to operate legally. You can help stop the abuse of these sensitive individuals, who endure painful procedures year after year.
Please use the form below to join us in urging the Korean government to investigate these farms and take action to protect deer from these cruel practices.