End Cruelties of Scottish Deer Cull
Singer James ‘Arg’ Argent’s December 17th Tweet told only part of the story:
Guys iv had a serious car crash in Dundee, I am ok and on the way back home to Essex. This has really taught me some things, Love you all! X
Pictures of the blood-spattered, mangled vehicle showed how serious the accident was.
After a performance at Dundee University, Arg, his manager and their driver were heading to the airport. At 5:30 a.m. the road was still shrouded in darkness. Suddenly a deer bounded in front of the vehicle. The driver swerved but could not avoid hitting the deer. A car coming the other way struck it again. Although they could not find it afterward, Argent said they assumed the deer died of its injuries.
7,000 Collisions a Year
The accident made Argent another cipher in Scottish statistics that report 7,000 deer-related collisions every year. In an ironic twist, the country’s push to establish more forested areas and greenbelts has resulted in both lush habitat and killing fields. Biodiversity has increased the number of roe and sika deer. Along with that have come interactions between the deer on one side and vehicles, gardens and pets on the other.
Recent harsh winters have also pushed deer into lower altitudes and into areas where humans run into them, figuratively and literally. So the Scottish parliament enacted new legislation that requires councils to have policies for dealing with wildlife, including culling.
Deer stalking (hunting) has a long tradition in Scotland, but even those who view it as sport are questioning what is happening now in the name of keeping deer numbers in check. Reports by walkers and gamekeepers are raising serious concerns about the way in which culling is being carried out.
Orphaned Fawns and Wounded Deer
Professional deer stalkers complain that licenses are being given to careless marksmen eager to increase their income. The experienced stalkers contacted Animal Aid, a U.K. animal rights organization, to complain of deer being wounded and left to die, of fawns being orphaned, of commercially valuable, mature stags being shot, and of kill numbers they claim are much higher than those reported by Scottish Natural Heritage (the country’s conservancy organization).
In February walkers on Glen Nevis reported finding 40 hinds and calves left to rot because their remote location made them difficult to move. Their ears had been cut off to prove the numbers killed.
According to The Guardian, people with culling licenses can earn between £64 and £145 for each kill. Deer are vulnerable at night, when the nocturnal animals are feeding, so night licenses can increase marksmen’s income. The monetary incentive is leading to an increase in “lamping,” the practice of taking all-terrain vehicles into deer habitat and using powerful spotlights to confuse deer as they are feeding.
Deer Cull Defended
In response to the criticism, the Forestry Commission Scotland, focus of many of the complaints about the culling, counters in The Guardian:
We’ve heard other false allegations over the professionalism of the contractors we use, however our standards are the highest possible. In reality, one of the commonest complaints from would-be contractors is that our conditions are so tough to meet.
Whatever the conditions contractors need to meet, it is clear some of them are inflicting needless suffering on the deer they are paid to cull. It is also clear some sort of deer management is required since the numbers explode in the absence of predators.
One option proposed from time to time is to reintroduce wolves. A 2007 study, “Wolf reintroduction to Scotland,” looked at the benefits of a predator-prey model but cautioned that any such scheme would need to be accompanied by careful planning and public education.
Deer Will Always Lose in Competition with Humans
Deer are part of the biodiversity being sought as Scotland restores its woodlands and natural areas. The problem is numbers. When herd size expands in an area without natural predators, human-deer conflict is inevitable. So are over-grazing of natural vegetation and an expanding search for food. Sometimes pets and people are victims of deer attacks, especially during rutting and birthing seasons.
Since two-legged predators regularly move into wild areas and upset the balance of nature, some kind of culling is inevitable. What is not inevitable are the suffering and carelessness being reported in Scotland (and elsewhere in the world of wildlife culls).
Call on the Scottish Natural Heritage to stop the carnage. Sign the petition below.
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