The British Deer Society’s (BDS) call this week for the government to revise legislation that allows shotguns to be used to cull deer has received a mixed reaction from shooters and farmers.

A recent BDS study, Shotguns and their use on deer, concluded that there were ‘serious welfare issues’ when a shotgun is used for culling deer.

The BDS’s David Kenyon explained: “The BDS feels that this [exemption in the 1991 Deer Act] is out of date and open to exploitation. We are aware of a number of cases where muntjac, when skinned out, are found to contain gamebird-size shot, which is illegal. Our board has called unanimously for a change in legislation which will only allow the use of shotguns for humane despatch. The rifle, in the hands of a competent practitioner, is the clear choice for humane deer management.”

Currently, under Section 7 of the 1991 Deer Act, the ‘farmer’s defence’ allows deer to be shot during their close season with a shotgun in order to prevent crop damage.

Certain conditions apply, for example, the shotgun must not be smaller than a 12-bore and specific larger shot sizes must be used.

The proposal has received a mixed response from the shooting community, with some feeling that the loss of the Section 7 exemption will prove debilitating to farmers.

East Sussex arable farmer, Richard Cyster, told Shooting Times that he can see the reasoning behind the use of shotguns: “Though deer have caused damage on my farm, I personally do not shoot them with a shotgun. We have high-calibre rifles to do the job. However, I can see the argument for keeping the law intact. I’m aware of what a nuisance deer can be for fruit farmers. In this situation, farmers need to be able to shoot deer on the spot to deal with the problem quickly and efficiently. Scrapping Section 7 would be disastrous for a relatively small number of people, but to some it is the only option available.”


The rest of this article appears in 23 October issue of Shooting Times.

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