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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 10:18 GMT
National deer cull 'disastrous'
The British deer population is 1.5 million
A wildlife charity has attacked the government's plans to cull up to half a million wild deer as "disastrous".

Nature Conservation Minister Ben Bradshaw says deer numbers in England and Wales are out of control and causing damage to trees and crops.

The Exeter MP's plans, also mooted in Scotland, include extending the shooting season, recruiting more stalkers and getting the public to eat more wild venison.

But Working for Wildlife says the animals should regulate themselves.

About a quarter of a million deer are already culled each year, but numbers are still rising.

If we don't do anything more than we're doing now we will be overrun with deer before too long
Andrew Hoon
Deer Initiative
Government advisors think as much as 35% of Britain's estimated 1.5 million deer may have to be shot to prevent further increases.

The plans, which are under public consultation, are supported by the Deer Initiative, a charity made up of shooting and conservation interests.

It says deer cause road deaths and millions of pounds worth of damage to forestry and agriculture.

Andrew Hoon, chairman of the Deer Initiative, told Countryfile: "If we don't do anything more than we're doing now we will be overrun with deer before too long."

'Don't interfere'

But Working for Wildlife, a charity which runs nearly 30 deer sanctuaries in southern England including Exmoor, says studies show deer can keep their own numbers down without culling.

Working for Wildlife's secretary Douglas Batchelor told BBC 1's Countryfile: "What actually happens is in the wild most populations balance according to available resources of feed and everything else.

"When people start interfering and trying to decide which ones live and which ones die, you interfere with the process of natural selection.

There certainly needs to be control of certain species in some situations - equally there are other places where, in fact, the deer self regulate
John Fawcett
Mammal Society
"It can often be pretty disastrous and we believe these things are much better left to nature and that the policy of intervention is one that's failed again and again and again."

John Fawcett, a Mammal Society deer specialist who has studied roe deer populations in the New Forest, said some areas need culling and others do not.

He said the deer numbers in the New Forest halved for the 20 years until 1992, despite no culling, because the roe deer have less children.

The Forestry Commission, which employ hundreds of professional deer stalkers, says culling helps to keep surviving deer fit and strong.

The public has until 16 April to comment on the government's proposals.

We are no longer publishing readers comments

These are the points you made:

Let's have a cull of MPs before they start on other animals.
Mark Holmwood, Hoevelaken Holland

Another example of the government interfering in things it knows nothing about. Surprisingly the deer population has for centuries been self regulating. BUTT OUT!!!!
John ADAMS, Newton Abbot UK

I live on an island in the Outer Hebrides and have often almost hit deer on the road. The numbers are so high that shooting deer is no longer sport. You can now simply shoot deer out of a car window.
Murdo Macdonald, United Kingdom

It is a pleasure to see wildlife and we should share our resorces in the countryside.The roe deer have been in this county as long as the humans.
Anne Willson, Derbyshire, England

I believe that it should be a case of natural selection. When man intervenes he upsets the balance of nature.
Naureen P. Lines, Shepperton, Middlesex

Nature should be allowed to take its own course - plain and simple.
Ian, Essex, UK

A reinforcing argument for the pro-hunting lobby.
Liz, Cambs, UK

The numbers probably are out of control. This is beacause man interfered with nature 100 years ago by making the wolf extinct in this country, so the deer now has no natural predator to regulate its population. A natural solution to this problem would be to reintroduce the wolf.
Robert, Reading, UK

Selective culling will lead to a healthier deer population, and enable the remainder to live in their favoured surroundings and not have to inhabit more urban areas
J Atkins, Blandford Forum, Dorset, UK

What if a decision is made that human population in the UK is too much and it is necessary to cull some millions in order to arrest the situation?
Nanda, Letchworth

Deer populations are rising in this area, causing garden and crop damage. Herds as big as 35-45 are seen locally, a huge increase on past numbers. Sensitive culling would bring numbers back to more appropriate levels. Difficult to see why deer consumption is not taking off, given its lean, healthy, quality.
Neil Marshall, Saffron Walden Essex

In managed areas there is controlled growth of deer stock. Trees are protected. Those areas where wild deer roam should be controlled/managed. But I do not agree with the wholesale slaughter of thousands of deer. They do, by natural selection, control themselves.There will be some additional pockets of deer where culling may be necessary but this should be well controlled. Please - please be selective in the areas to be culled - be considerate / temperate.
Mr Blane Young, Sheffield, UK

Lacking specialist knowledge, any public comment on this topic would have to be based purely on emotion. It follows that public debate is not the most effective way to decide issues of this nature. Only those who are actively engaged in countryside management, and those who are briefed by them, can make a rational decision on deer culling.
Geoff Beale, Dorset, UK

As someone who has lived in the New Forest area for just about all my life, I am well aware of current deer culling policy. I like eating venison, and I don't have a problem with hunting and shooting although I don't personally indulge. I readily accept that some culling is necessary, but some of the comments from Deer Initiative are laughable. I thought poor motorists are more likely to cause deaths on the road - should we cull them too? And as for being overrun with deer, it's hard enough to spot any as it is. Yet again, our city based government is on the warpath against the countryside.
Neil Tungate, New Milton, England

I have not been directly effected but my young nephew was almost killed as a deer ran in front of his car near Cannock Chace. He is lucky to be alive - the car was a write off.
Abgela Billingham, Birmingham

I live in Leicestershire and the numbers here are definitely increasing, but the most unusual place I saw a deer recently was running across the main road outside Luton Airport.
Mark Ashwell, Leicestershire, UK

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