Following a recent article in the Observer/Guardian predominantly in relation to the deer cull in England and closure of the restaurant, catering and hospitality sector with the consequent loss of a significant market for venison, and a follow-up article in The Independent which looked at the issue more from a Scottish perspective, ADMG has issued the response below to The Independent as the background/context to the headlines is often glossed over or omitted.
Your article about wild deer and venison raises and reinforces some important issues but has omitted some crucial background detail in relation to Scotland.
When the pandemic broke in March last year the upland deer sector was in a relatively good place. Overall red deer numbers in Scotland, due to committed culling (over 22% of the population culled annually), have shown a reducing trend over the last 20 years and are now estimated to be at an average density of less than 10/sq km, the target cited in the Independent Deer Working Group’s report to the Scottish Government.
It is worth noting too that approximately 300,000 red deer share their open hill range with 600,000 breeding sheep, and pre Covid there were estimated to be less of both species on the hills than for several decades. Impacts from hares, feral goats and other herbivores are also part of the overall picture.
We understand that culls through Deer Management Groups are being taken as planned as far as possible. The major processors have continued to collect from estate larders and have been utilising what cold storage remains available.
It is easy to over-sensationalise how a variance of the upland deer cull, if there indeed is one because of the Covid crisis, might impact with just about a month of the hind cull left to run. The facts when we know them may show that we are in a better place than that suggested.
ADMG cannot speak for other deer species in the lowlands of Scotland but numbers of roe in particular, which are not counted, are considered to be on the increase.
Crystal ball gazing right now is probably not of huge benefit and the market for venison can only reopen fully once suppression of the pandemic allows that to happen. Culling and leaving carcasses on the hill as some have suggested in the past is certainly not an option.
Association of Deer Management Groups