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Western Morning News - Article re. the impact of a ban (added 25.3.05)

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BRITISH WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT - PRESS ARTICLE - 7/2/2003
Western Morning News: Hunt ban may spell end for deer herd

Red deer numbers in their West Country stronghold could plummet as a result of a ban on hunting, it was claimed last night. Red deer in the Exmoor, Tiverton and Quantocks areas account for about half of the English total of the species - but an extraordinary meeting of the Exmoor and District Deer Management Society was warned last night that a ban could see numbers drop by ten per cent a year.

There was standing room only as more than 200 people packed into South Molton Assembly Rooms for the society's meeting, which was held to consider the future of red deer in the event of a ban.

Society chairman Hugh Thomas said if that if deer numbers in the Exmoor area were to be controlled by shooting alone, it was clear that at least in the first few years of a ban more deer would be injured by wounding than were currently accounted for by hunting in the Exmoor and Tiverton hunting countries.

He said: "We are not the hunt, but we work closely with people who do hunt because we recognise that hunting has produced the largest herd of healthy wild red deer in England. This is now under threat because of the Hunting Bill making its way through the committee stage of the House of Commons."

Mr Thomas asked how a cull could be controlled if there was no hunting.

"Hunting and shooting together manage the herd satisfactorily now, but shooting on its own cannot," he said. "The reason is that there are numerous small land holdings over which the deer move at will.

"Who is to say how many should be killed and what is the right level for the population?"

Mr Thomas said people should not give up hope of reversing the Bill going through Parliament.

"Public opinion is beginning to understand the complexities of these arguments, and I do not believe that the general public will tolerate the introduction for political reasons of a new system of deer control that relies upon culling, that is to say, killing the deer, as its only effective contribution to the so-called welfare of these magnificent stags and hinds," he said.

Last night's meeting was addressed by a number of people, including the president of the Countryside Alliance, Baroness Mallalieu, who lives on Exmoor. She said she found it very moving that so many people of all ages had turned out for the meeting.

"It should be a matter of real shame that the Government should drive people to come out on a night like this just to register how angry we are at what is being done to us," she said. "This is a gross insult to the people in this room and the people of this area who have done a fine job in conserving the finest herd of red deer in this country."

She received a standing ovation after she said: "We have to make (Rural Affairs Minister) Alun Michael see that the strength of feeling against the Hunting Bill is far greater than anything he could have imagined. What is at stake here is our way of life and our freedom and the way of life we cherish."

Robin Venner, chairman of the Tiverton Staghounds, said it was important that the campaign against the Hunting Bill continued.

"I have wondered what would happen if we took hunt out of our title and called ourselves Deer Conservation and Management," he said. "I wonder if those people would see us differently. We have got to do everything in our power to fight this to the very last ditch.

"I am confident that if we can persuade public opinion just that little bit more towards our way of thinking then we can defeat this horrendous and terrible Bill they are trying to put through.

"If this Bill goes through the deer as we know them on Exmoor are finished. It will become in a very short time a free-for-all."

Edmund Marriage, of British Wildlife Management, said after the meeting that a scientific appraisal showed hunting was more humane that other culling methods.

He said: "Where it is decided that animals have to be killed, there is an obvious moral requirement that they should be given the best prospect of an instantaneous death. Culling methods should also be selective, in that the weak, sick and injured should be found and dispatched before healthy animals are killed.

"Target animals should be killed out of sight of other animals, with the least disturbance to the natural environment of all species. Only within the processes of search, following scent, location, dispersal, flushing, pursuit, dispatch, or bringing to bay, using soft or hard temperament scent hounds, sight hounds or terriers, can the above requirements be best satisfied." 

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