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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 June, 2004, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Hygiene concerns over culled deer
Scottish Gamekeepers' Association video
Hundreds of deer were shot during the cull
Food safety concerns have been raised about the handling of carcasses of deer shot in a major cull in the Cairngorms.

Video footage from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association showed the open carcasses of animals being dragged along fields strewn with animal dung.

Hundreds of pregnant deer were shot during the cull, which was intended to regulate numbers.

However, only the venison of a few was rejected for human consumption and a food expert has expressed concern.

Professor Hugh Pennington described what happened as "completely unacceptable".

A total of 563 deer were culled during the Scottish Deer Commission's action on the Glenfeshie estate from January to March.

I'm pretty certain they will be getting E.coli O157 on them because it is so common in cattle in Scotland. That's completely unacceptable
Professor Hugh Pennington
Normally deer are gralloched or disembowelled immediately after slaughter but such was the scale of the operation some of the animals were flown to lower ground where the guts were removed up to two hours after death.

Footage seen by the Scottish Executive showed major infringements of guidelines on best practice, particularly in relation to the dragging of open carcasses across fields with animal faeces on the ground.

Of the hundreds of animals culled, only nine were rejected as unfit for human consumption.

In a report by the Scottish Executive on the controversial cull, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had no concerns about food safety.

'No respect'

However, Prof Pennington told BBC Scotland's Landward programme: "These animals, like all ruminants, can carry nasty bugs. They could, for example, be carrying E.coli O157.

"I'm pretty certain they will be getting E.coli O157 on them because it is so common in cattle in Scotland. That's completely unacceptable."

Prof Penington said the FSA's view may have been different if it had seen the video.

Peter Fraser, of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said "every rule in the book" had been broken.

He said: "They had no respect for the deer themselves, and when it came to food hygiene, that was all forgotten about."

Carcasses were ultimately taken to game dealer Bestwick based in Chesterfield, which serves major supermarket outlets.

On being told about the footage, the company said: "We are 450 miles from our suppliers and we have to trust their assurances that the carcasses are handled properly.

Andrew Raven
Andrew Raven said the cull was necessary
"Everyone is now saying those Glenfeshie carcasses were unfit for human consumption.

"Why didn't they react there and then rather than sit back?"

All venision undergoes veterinary examination when it reaches licensed processors but it is less than clear where responsibility lies for hygiene out on the hills.

Highland Council's environmental health department did not express interest in watching the video ahead of Landward's transmission on Sunday.

It said it was concerned with the standard of meat once it reaches a licensed plant.

Andrew Raven, of the Deer Commission for Scotland, said: "We're pleased that the (executive) report confirmed that action was necessary in Glenfeshie, that the action taken was legal and that there were no significant compromises of animal welfare or public safety/food safety.

"Plenty to learn but good to have vindication of the necessity of the action and how it was carried out."

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