As the demand for venison crashes, stalkers are faced with a stark dilemma, which is bad news for them – and bad news for deer

Tree-
planting targets and good woodland management is being put at risk as the demand for venison crashes.

Game dealers in the south and east of England have begun to refuse to take venison because their cold stores are full and they are unable to find buyers for the meat. The crash has been driven by the market already being well supplied with European carcasses, combined with the mass closure of restaurants across the Continent and the disruption of international trade.

This has left deer stalkers – who are preparing to start large-scale culls – unable to find buyers for their carcasses. This presents them with a dilemma: not culling or disposing of perfectly good carcasses as waste.

Recreational stalkers and those shooting smaller numbers of deer have begun to find new channels to distribute venison. They are selling it themselves or, in some cases, giving it away or selling at cost price through Facebook groups such as Giving Up The Game.

However, deer management contractors, who anticipate shooting large numbers of deer in the weeks ahead, face a much more difficult challenge. Professional deer managers will have far larger numbers of animals to deal with, making informal marketing impossible.

And their business models often depend on income from selling carcasses.

Shooting Times contributor Richard Negus pointed out that the problem extends beyond the deer-management sector and could affect Government targets to create more woodland in England. “Government grants don’t cover the cost of deer-proof fencing, so in almost all new woodland deer control is going to be vital,” he says. “Without the ability to sell carcasses, the deer-management system can’t function 
in the required manner.”

The poor state of the venison market 
has led to calls for the British Game Alliance (BGA) to act to help market venison. Liam Stokes, chief executive of the BGA told Shooting Times: “The BGA is aware of the challenges facing the venison sector. We have been looking very carefully at the issue and speaking to stakeholders to establish how we can help and how we might fund a venison-specific operation.”