The stag ran through the wood, already exhausted, it struggled to see where it was going. The hunt had been going on for three hours. It could hear the howls and excited barking from the forty or so hounds in the distance, every minute getting closer. Its eyes bulged, its once steadfast legs were about to buckle beneath it, its mouth hung open struggling for air, and its head that was once held high in its grandeur, hung low. Finally, too weak to carry on, the stag falls and waits to be murdered. How can we let an animal, which represents the beauty of the English countryside, be tortured like this?
The red deer is the U.K.’s largest native land animal, standing up to 1.5 metres at the shoulder and can weigh up to 225 kilograms. The males (stag) stay on the poorer feeding areas while the females (hind) feed on the better grass-rich habitats. The current population is over 300,000.
Hunters claim that any deer which escapes from the hunt later returns to the herd without suffering any ill-effects. This is far from the truth. There may well be many lost calves which suffer a slow death; therefore many hinds suffer the trauma of losing calves. By the end of the day the deer have lost so much body heat that they succumb to hypothermia or pneumonia. However, an even more painful death from myopathy may await. This is due to stress and over-exertation. The deer suffers from a build up of lactic acid which breaks down muscle tissue. Normally the kidneys can clean this out of the bloodstream, but when the deer is over-exerted the lactic acid is massively increased and this results in extreme pain and kidney failure.
Predators would have culled the old and sick and, to somewhat degree, controlled the numbers of deer. But how should deer numbers be controlled by humans? Annually, at least 80,000 deer are killed by shooting to remove the old, sick and to prevent over population. A professional marksman, using a high powered rifle with telescopic sights, can kill a grazing deer instantly. Deer hunting, using slower hunting dogs and the selection of a fit, strong stag, gives a long exhausting chase over many many miles.
Traumatising a helpless creature instead of shooting it and giving instant, effective death is not my idea of an effective way to cull deer!
Hunt propagandists claim that if deer hunting with dogs were abolished it would lead to red deer being exterminated on Exmoor, they base this on the following suppositions:
Firstly,” Hunting causes deer to spread across a wide area which would reduce crop losses caused by large groups of deer.” The opposite is true. Deer- being herbivorous- form large groups when they are aware of predators. Packs of dogs pose the only obvious threat, this is the principle cause of large groups of the animal and therefore the source of major crop losses.
Secondly,” Deer thrive on Exmoor because of hunting dogs, on Dartmoor there are no deer because there’s no hunt to protect them.” This is also untrue. The red deer of Dartmoor were exterminated in the 1700’s by the Duke of Bedfords staghounds! This is an example of stag hunting being responsible for the extermination of deer.
And finally,” Hunting with dogs is a near-natural method of control.” Hunting with dogs is totally unnatural. Wild predators select the old and sick specimens of the herd, but if the deer is able to outrun the predator for several minutes it gives up. However, deer hunting is to provide a long exhausting chase, a strong, fit stag is chosen by a hunt harbourer. There is no natural predator in the world which hunts defenceless prey for 20 miles over a period of several hours – and which uses motorcyclists equipped with CB radio to keep track of the running deer!
Now, as you can see from these examples, humankind is the only enemy. What sense does it make to torture and murder an animal like this? 30 riders, 30 horses, at least 40 hounds, several terrier men in Land Rovers with terrier dogs and spades and several hunt followers in cars… versus one stag. Does that sound to you like a fair way to control deer population?