Management of the red deer on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills has been compromised since 1997 by local bans on hunting imposed by the National Trust and the Forestry Commission. As a result the hunts cannot properly carry out their monitoring and management of the deer. And although overall numbers of deer appear to be holding up there is now concern that the proportion of males to females is becoming distorted due to unrestricted trophy shooting. Furthermore, in areas where hunting is no longer permitted, farmers are fencing off land to prevent excessive damage to crops and trees resulting in a significant loss of available grazing for the deer. Finally, and perhaps the most important consequence of a hunting ban, would be loss of the vital search and dispatch function, uniquely carried out by the hunts, whereby wounded, aged and diseased animals, which have no natural predators, are discovered and humanely dispatched.
We are also amazed that the Minister for Rural Affairs, Alun Michael, in his recent statement to the House (3 December 2002) can regard the welfare evidence against deer hunting as "incontrovertible". The evidence alone, presented on Day 2 of his Hearings in September this year by Professor R.C.Harris and one of us (DRW), cannot possibly justify such an interpretation.
Imposition of any radical change such as a ban on hunting, purely for political reasons, without regard to the impact it may have on the ecology and welfare of a species is unacceptable. The Government should be initiating wild life management schemes not dismantling one of the few and arguably the best, of existing schemes.
Dr.Lewis H.Thomas MA, VetMB, PhD, FRCPath, MRCVS
Dr.Archie McDiarmid DSc, PhD, FRCPath, FRSE, MRCVS
Mr.Peter Green BVSc, CertEO, MRCVS
Dr.Douglas R.Wise MA, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS
Mr.David J.Renney BVetMed, MRCVS
Professor W.R.Allen CBE, BVSc, PhD, ScD, DESM, MRCVS