Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Why Do Farmers Shoot Deer?

Tempting to use the Mallory response. But it's a serious question.

It's necessary to say that there are farmers who would never shoot deer, or any wildlife come to that. It's also worth stating that many farmers see themselves as frustrated with the way their market works and that can lead to an embattled mindset. The convoluted systems of payments and subsidies and supermarket contracts and the bureaucracy and paperwork associated, don't help. Yet other groups of workers also have frustrations and insecurities without some of the compensations a life on the farm can bring. There are farmers who choose to forget this. In their narrative sometimes the public (overwhelmingly 'townies') is seen as hostile and those cuddly animals misguidedly liked by townies get on the wrong end of this. But there are many reasons for what happens. These are just a few:

The short answer to the headline question is: because they see them as vermin. Vermin to farmers and gardeners is the animal equivalent of weeds, organisms living, however temporarily, where the person responsible doesn't want them. Don't give an inch.

This view of deer has been bolstered by irresponsible news headlines in recent years, even in the non-tabloid press, giving suggestible readers the impression we are being swamped by deer. And some less scupulous academics have sold their long term credibility for media coverage in the short term Even people who've rarely or never seen deer may be forgiven for believing the scenario. It's as if deer are swarming over the Med, storming the fences at Calais then coming  up country and eating up all our woodland. The truth is quite different. There are very few places in the whole UK where deer are at unsustainable levels, the most significant of course being in the Scottish Highlands where deer are encouraged in various ways by landowners and their gamekeepers who want people to come and shoot them; deer populations there are too high. In fact many parts of the country, and this is one of them, have not enough deer. It's sheep and cattle that are over abundant. Where deer  make a nuisance of themselves, in specific localised areas, it's usually a response to misguided land management and the failure to implement sensible preventive strategies.

Another answer to the question why farmers shoot deer is that they do it because they are allowed to; farmers have been given the right after extensive lobbying over the years to shoot many wildlife species which are not protected, deer being one. Another answer is that most farmers have guns and like to use them if they can find an excuse, a certain satisfaction coming from the exercise of power over life and death. There may also be an economic value in the dead animal, assuming there's an arrangement with a local butcher or supplier.

Another reason I've heard mentioned (by someone in the conservation industry!) is that shooting them sends a message that they are not welcome: a lesson to be learned apparently. Come here and this is what happens!  How you learn any lesson at all after you're lying on the ground expired I don't pretend to understand, but it's been said.

But after all this we shouldn't underestimate the power that property exerts on human psychology. This is my property. Gerroff my land ......... or else. I felt something similar when I saw what somebody's family pet had left on my drive yesterday morning. It never occurred to me, however, to react further than a silent curse. 

You can only shoot deer if they get onto your land and for deer it can be tempting. They like grass and when they see a large area of it especially when it's unoccupied and easy to access you can see their point. But how much 'damage' do they do? That is the big question. For example many of the fields on the edge of Blacka are just there to support a couple of horses. Are those horses starving?
Whenever I walk this way I see mostly empty green fields.

There is one field, not easy to find, a cornfield, probably food for horses, where damage could have been the result of deer getting over the wall.

But it's the wildlife trust who are responsible for maintaining this boundary and the delapidated stone wall.

One feels for SRWT; they are too busy filling in forms and sending off grant applications to be bothered with this. Protection of the largest and most impressive wildlife on their land is hardly a priority. So the result is that magnificent animals of the kind we would never have thought to be living inside the city boundaries are casually killed.

What more can you say? Apart from "Run, Jump, get away quick! There are nutters around with guns!"

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