We continue to be contacted regularly by members and non-members expressing dismay at FLS’s recent decision to cull red deer hinds from the beginning of September, being concerned about welfare consequences for orphaned juveniles - if these are not shot with the mother.
We must reiterate that, under the provisions of their General Authorisation, FLS are acting completely legally. BDS, however, has in the past, and currently is, exploring every opportunity to seek a review of the earliest cull date to be permitted under such authorisations.
We argue that while perhaps the majority of young are nutritionally independent of the dam after 12 weeks, most remain socially dependent on the mother for a considerably longer period, particularly among herding species such as red deer, and thus may suffer significantly from loss of the dam.
There is now considerable published research on both nutritional and social independence of juveniles and we are, as ever, urging the responsible authorities to review the latest research and reconsider the September start to such Authorisations.
As noted on our website (link above), a Deer Panel was established by Scottish Natural Heritage in 2010, just after SNH took over the duties of the former Deer Commission for Scotland, to include representatives of the deer sector who could advise the Directors of SNH of the likely sectoral reactions to SNH initiatives, developments and proposals.
The BDS was represented on this Panel by the Scottish Secretary John Bruce. The Panel met frequently through 2010 and 2011 to consider various reviews and proposals arising from ongoing changes to the Act. However, the development and completion of the concept of General Authorisations and Specific Authorisations went ahead swiftly without any consultation, not even with that appointed Deer Panel.
A consultation was held in 2013, to consider the experiences of the recently implemented arrangements, but we were advised that there had been insufficient public interest in the dates selected as to warrant any alterations, despite our personal attempts to persuade SNH. A further wider consultation of all Authorisations was undertaken in 2016 but concluded that such authorisations are required and that no changes were required to the dates of the General and Specific Authorisations.
On behalf of BDS, both the Chairman and John Bruce as Scottish Secretary continue to engage in discussion and objection with the relevant authorities. We will continue to do so and will, in particular, emphasise the welfare implication associated with social dependency, rather than simply nutritional dependency of juveniles.
We might finally note that the recent report of the Deer Working Group convened by Government concluded at paragraph 5.57 : “In reviewing the dates for the restricted close season for female deer, the Group’s view is that the season should not start before the current date of 1st April and should not end before the current date 31st August. However, the Group also considers there is a case for the delaying the start of the close season to 15th April and a case for delaying the end of the season to 15th September”. Although these comments relate to the general open and close seasons, if the Working Group felt that there were indeed potential welfare issues arising from culls carried out before 16th September, then presumably these concerns should also apply to Authorisations.