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‘Deer are destroying habitats’: push to get venison on to UK dinner plates

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“I t’s crazy and indefensible,” says the MP Charles Walker. “Venison is a wonderful, sustainable resource but is seen as too posh to eat, ergo – very few people eat it and it ends up being made into dog food.

It’s a contradiction of mind-bending proportions.”From ancient Celtic folklore and Arthurian romance to the Harry Potter films and Warcraft games, it is the iconic stag that is conjured up to symbolise the spirit of ancient England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.But now conservationists, environmentalists and the farming community have come together to warn that Milton’s “behemoth biggest born of earth” is destroying the countryside it has come to represent.Thanks to a two-year pause in culling during Covid, the deer population is at its highest level for 1,000 years: at about 2 million animals – 50 years ago, the population was at 450,000 – there are more deer nibbling away at trees and crops now than when William the Conqueror arrived.These herds are growing exponentially: at the current rate, there will be almost 2.4 million deer in the UK by the end of the year.“It has no natural predators any more,” said Jim Lee, the lead wildlife manager of Forestry England. “Bears, wolves and lynxes are long gone.

Control through culling is the only plausible answer, otherwise deer destroy the habitats of our native flora and fauna, and the ability of trees and soils to capture carbon from the atmosphere.”Given the speed with which deer breed, at least 750,000 animals need to be culled this year just to stop this enormous population increasing further.

Thanks to post-Brexit complications in exporting the meat, however, and the lack of a UK market for venison, only 350,000 animals are currently being culled each year.At the

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