The shooting community reacted with anger last week to the negative treatment by the media of the alleged killing of an Exmoor stag. Extensive coverage of the story included the front pages of The Times and The Daily Telegraph, features on Radio 4?s Today Programme and Radio 2?s Jeremy Vine Show, and live broadcasts on the BBC?s News at Six and ITV?s News at Ten. Though widely reported as having been killed by a legitimate deerstalker, at the time of going to press the animal?s death was still being debated.

The original story was fed to the press by Somerset-based photographer Richard Austin, who three weeks previously sold pictures to national newspapers of an Exmoor stag he had named ?Emperor? and which he claimed was the largest wild animal in Britain, despite the deer being, at a claimed weight of 300lb, well below the average for the species in England. A BASC spokesman said: ?The Exmoor stag was not the largest wild animal in Britain. The average weight of a red stag in the woods in lowland Britain is 400lb. In some areas, they can reach 600lb plus.? Mr Austin?s criticism of the supposed killing was echoed by numerous commentators in the press, despite the fact that many shooters identified the stag as a potentially suitable cull beast.

The rest of this article appears in 3rd November issue of Shooting Times.

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