The production and use of velvet antler to potentially alleviate human disease appears to be a win-win situation with both the human population as well as that of deer. American, New Zealand, Russian, and Korean deer farms harvest the velvet in a process that has received the endorsement of farmers, veterinarians, animal behaviorists, animal welfarists, and government agencies.
Together they have developed a velveting code to ensure deer are velveted humanely. Velveting involves restraining the stag to enable local anesthetics to be administered and for the velvet to be removed. At the time of removal, usually in late spring, the antler is mainly formed of cartilage and has a well supplied blood vessel network.
Deer farmers pay particularly close attention to their herds as they are most interested in keeping these animals healthy, vibrant, and alive. They will resort to the use of vitamins, special feeds, and patrolling their property boundaries to ensure the most natural open habitat that will give the stags and the herd a healthy, viable setting in which to thrive and propagate. The New Zealand code of velveting emphasizes a reduction in stress in deer through correct mustering and handling procedures, and velvet removal techniques to prevent injury, stress, or pain.
The ultimate responsibility for velveting is in the hands of a professional veterinarian, bound by professional code which assigns first priority to the animal's welfare. This priority is not entirely developed as a result of the farmer's love of his herd. Certainly part of the motivation is monetary.
As an example, a rancher may sell a full-grown stag to a hunter for as much as $15,000. However, this figure is not all profit, as there are land costs, feed, veterinarian supervision, and licenses to be maintained. Realize that deer live as long as 30 years and the harvesting of their antlers, which is a cyclical yearly event throughout the natural biological life span, can generate a return of $40,000 profit to the farmer. We soon understand that it is far better for the farmer and us to preserve life and make sure that the animal is healthy throughout that period of time. Excerpt adapted from: Velvet Deer Antler: The Ultimate Antiaging Supplement by Dr. Alex Duarte, 2000.