Tuesday, 22 December 2015

CALL FOR GOVERNMENT PROBE AFTER STAGS LEFT TO ROT

One of the Stags left to rot at Li and Coire Dhorcail, managed by conservation body, John Muir Trust.



The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has today called on Scottish Government to investigate why a landowning conservation charity left dozens of Stags to rot on a Knoydart hillside.
The deer culling practice by the John Muir Trust on their land at Li and Coire Dhorcail has left neighbouring deer managers sickened.
Stags, some with haunches and heads removed, were left to decompose on the moor and online images of the carcasses, viewed by thousands, have elicited angry responses.
The normal practice of engaging with neighbours in the local deer group about intentions for the cull was not observed by John Muir Trust who, instead, informed Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Despite only 14 Stags being observed during indicative cull counts by SNH on Li and Coire Dhorcail, the conservation body shot 86 Stags, most of which it admits were left on the open hill.
Neighbours in the deer management group have claimed, whilst being disrespectful to the animals, the practice has cost the local area £100 000 in wasted venison and income from visiting stalkers.
It is not the first time the wild land charity has been criticised for this practice.
In 2008, senior officials from the conservation body promised to stop the policy after over 40 discarded deer were discovered left on a west coast property where it was advisor.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The charity in question have made it their political prerogative that they stand outside of the voluntary code respected by other deer managers in Scotland because they are lobbying to have this replaced by statutory arrangements.
“The only body who can scrutinise this incident properly to decide whether it is in the best interests of deer, best practice or the local people in Knoydart, therefore, is Scottish Government.
“The lobbying charity has claimed this is about repairing ecological damage. If a private estate did this, there would be an outcry. Leaving deer in this manner has nothing to do with environmental repair.
“Deer were extracted from this area successfully before it was managed by John Muir Trust. The culled animals do not need to be left on open hill.
“Sometimes a stalker has to leave a deer, if its condition makes it unfit for consumption. A professional decision may be taken to leave it to feed a bird of prey and it may be placed out of view of those accessing the countryside.
“However, not at this number. What is considered ethical and decent has been over-stepped. Deer management groups are under close scrutiny by government in context of the Land Reform Bill. It is only fair similar scrutiny is applied to bodies who place themselves outside of existing local engagement processes.”
John Muir Trust has successfully applied in recent years to cull deer on Li and Coire Dhorcail, outside of the legal seasons, under authorisation by licensing body, SNH.
This year, the licence was refused by SNH as John Muir Trust did not provide enough evidence of winter habitat damage by deer.
An SGA Spokesman added: “John Muir Trust officials have claimed this is a difference of opinion between traditional sporting estates and those who wish to repair ecological damage. It is highly unlikely anyone on either side of the argument would view leaving deer to rot, lack of community engagement and an over-reliance on out of season culling as either progressive or modern.”
John Muir Trust deer culls were called into question recently in the Assynt Community when SNH counts revealed hundreds of deer were missing.
Despite arguing their cull policy in the area is to promote regeneration at Ardvar SSSI, independent woodland advisers say deer numbers have been low enough for five years to achieve this aim.



*If the cull policy at Li and Coire Dhorcail is of concern, individuals can write to their constituency MSP to make their case. MSP contact details can be found, here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps.aspx