Welfare considerations in the culling of wild red deer
The criticism levelled by Urquhart and McKendrick (Vet Rec. June 28, 2003) on the conclusions we draw from their data are of course entirely justifiable (and understandable). But we would point out that the assumptions we make in arriving at our conclusions erred, we believe, substantially on the side of optimism and we suspect that when the authors come to make the more thorough analysis that they wisely advocate, our figure of 65% for animals not killed almost instantaneously from the first shot will, if anything, prove to be an underestimate. Moreover we consider that this category of animal is more meaningful in terms of animal welfare than simply assessing the proportion of animals that have suffered 2 or more wound tracts as did Bateson in his 1997 report to the National Trust.
And on a point of information concerning hunted deer brought to bay, we did not state "unequivocally that this leads to an instantaneous and painless death" we were most careful to say "almost certain death". Nothing can be entirely certain when dealing with wild animals but nevertheless we believe that the relatively controlled situation of a hunted deer brought to bay for a close range shot to the head represents the best chance for an instantaneous and painless death.
More recently we note the interesting comment by Baker (Vet Rec. July 5, 2003) that in the case of multiple wound tracts the first shot may in fact have been the lethal shot but we have some difficulty in believing that this would have been the case for all 135 such carcasses examined by Urquhart and McKendrick (Vet. Rec. April 19, 2003). But in any event the second shot "to make sure" was presumably fired because the animal did not die almost instantaneously from the first.
Professor W.R.Allen (Newmarket)