The British Deer Society and the Countryside Alliance have renewed calls for an investigation into the management of deer at Baronsdown in Exmoor after an employee of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) was allegedly filmed shooting deer from the window of a Land Rover.
Baronsdown covers an area of more than 250 acres in the heart of Exmoor stag-hunting country. LACS started buying land in 1959 to “create barriers to hunting and to provide safe places for hunting animals”.
But now the League is being accused of hypocrisy and total disregard for animal welfare as evidence has allegedly come to light of illegal culling methods.
A video sent to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) “clearly shows a vehicle being used to herd deer, and deer being shot at from a vehicle,” says BASC spokesman Jeffrey Olstead.
He stressed that while it was legal to herd deer using a vehicle in a deer park, LACS has always maintained that Baronsdown is a sanctuary, not an enclosure. Mr Olstead also pointed out the illegality of shooting at a deer from a vehicle.
He said: “The hypocrisy of this organisation to publicly state that animals do not need to be culled, and then to cull them using illegal methods and with a total disregard for the welfare of the deer, is absolutely astounding.”
The league responded vehemently to the allegations. Spokesman Liam Slattery told HHO that the league is not taking the allegations seriously, maintaining that “they have been made by an organisation which has ultimately conflicting views.”
Various wildlife management groups have raised concerns about the poor condition of the animals in the Baronsdown sanctuary in the past, including the British Deer Society (BDS).
Mark Nicolson, chairman of the BDS, explains: “The BDS does not agree with Douglas Bachelor’s (chief executive of LACS) form of management – live and let die – and the lack of deer population management at the sanctuary.
“We are looking forward to an explanation as to why this state of affairs has been allowed to continue for so long, and in the meantime, we are confident that recent allegations will be dealt with by the relevant authorities.”
The league says it does not cull deer at the sanctuary, reasoning that the wild deer at Baronsdown are a self-regulating population. But it is clear that the area is heavily overpopulated, and while LACS maintains that it is a wild deer population, the sanctuary is fenced on three sides, and the league feeds the animals on a regular basis.
Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance expressed concern about the conditions at Baronsdown, and stressed it was important to get away from the idea that this was a hunting issue.
“There is a huge need for wildlife management here. We are seeing animals dying of starvation and living in terrible conditions,” he says. “What we would like to see is a properly defined population density and an active management program.”
However, the league refuses to accept there is a problem. Liam Slattery said: “This is a self-regulating wild deer population and there are no issues concerning malnutrition or poor condition.”