If you’ve read a newspaper during the past couple of days you can hardly have missed the coverage given to the shooting of a red deer stag – the Emperor – in Exmoor. Probably, like me, you were appalled at the senseless slaughter. I say senseless for several reasons:
1. This was an animal in the prime of life – not diseased, not aged – cut down before being able to pass on healthy genes to the next generation.
2. This happened during the rut. Yes, it’s legal. No, it’s not ethical.
3. Venison from a ten to twelve year old animal would have been too tough, so no reason to kill for the meat.
4. The headless carcass was left at the roadside. Gross.
5. This kind of publicity gives genuine deer stalking and management a bad name.
I love watching deer, but I’m not against culling when it’s necessary. Over 350,000 deer are culled each year in Britain and the population is still rising. Deer have no natural predators and the countryside cannot support an ever expanding number. Older animals are in danger of starvation once their teeth wear down and they cannot eat properly. I’d prefer animals to be culled quickly and cleanly by trained stalkers than left to die slowly of starvation. This animal though was in its prime, should have had little difficulty in surviving the winter and in my opinion should not have been culled. Especially not during the rut. Heartbreaking.
I was working on a red stag painting at the Midland Game Fair with the Deer Study & Resource Centre* earlier this year. I think I might turn the painting in to an Emperor tribute. The Emperor is dead, long live the Emperor!
* Views expressed here are my own and not those of the DS&RC.