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Defra director Ben Goldsmith accused of releasing deer and wild boar

The rewilding champion is facing calls to step down

Ben Goldsmith

Ben Goldsmith and wife Jemima

Reports have alleged that Defra director Ben Goldsmith has allowed red deer to escape from his Somerset farm. (The official post held by Mr Goldsmith, 39, is as a non-executive board member at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.) There have been calls for him to resign on social media.

“Millionaire farmer Ben Goldsmith was under rising pressure over his Government post last night after he allegedly broke rules by releasing deer and wild boar, ” stated an article published in the Daily Mail online on 23 July and updated on 26 July.

The piece continues: “He also confirmed that he had been feeding wild boar on his farm although he denied releasing them, saying the animals had already been living locally.”

The Daily Mail says that its “investigation revealed that red deer escaped from Mr Goldsmith’s farm in the south of county due to inadequate fencing.”

Shooting UK contacted Ben Goldsmith directly. He replied: “I think most people who have noticed the story about the handful of deer which escaped their enclosure on my farm will be a little bemused by the fuss. Yes I should have contained them more effectively, and for that I’m sorry. I’m sure however that there are some people out there who will be quietly quite pleased to know that these beautiful, native animals are now living free in this wooded and wild part of Somerset.”

Andrew Gilruth of the GWCT commented to Shooting UK:

“The police say they are investigating this incident but everyone must remember we have laws about when and how animals can be released into our countryside, for good reason – they can cause havoc to both businesses and other wildlife.”

Simon Hoare, Tory MP for North Dorset, said: “I’m aware of this via friends affected by the rampaging boar on their land. If hobby farmers want to play they must secure their land as their hobby affects the livelihoods of others.”

Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, said: “If you want an example of why rewilding is an increasingly toxic brand in the countryside, there couldn’t be a much better example than this.

“Ben wants to make a difference, but imposing reintroductions will set back wildlife recovery, not help it.”

Avon and Somerset Police said: “We are investigating, in partnership with other agencies, after receiving reports of potential offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Deer Act involving the release of wild boar and red deer in south Somerset.”