No deer stalking for PM: what's that all about?
It's a sport loved by the royals and David Cameron but what does it involve and is it humane?
DAVID CAMERON says his "phenomenally bad back" has prevented him from going deer stalking in Scotland this summer. The Prime Minister has enjoyed the sport for more than 20 years, according to the Daily Telegraph, and he is not the only fan. Prince William has been a keen marksman since shooting his first deer as a teenager with his grandfather Prince Philip – and even the Duchess of Cambridge has been spotted on a shoot. So what is it all about?
What is deer stalking? It is a recreational activity for many but it is also considered necessary to protect crops, forestry and the deer themselves. According to the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC), deer are "prolific breeders" so culling is needed to prevent starvation and disease.
What do deer stalkers do? Dressed in camouflage clothing, deer stalkers track their quarry until they can get a clean shot at it. As Cameron explains: "It's a lot of crawling through the heather, sometimes for a very, very long time." Once killed, carcasses are immediately ‘gralloched' – essentially disembowelled – then cleaned and hung up to drain.
Where and when can you do it? The stalking season depends on the species and sex of the deer. The only deer with a year-round open season is the Muntjac, found in England and Wales. There are estates across the UK where deer can be stalked. While Balmoral is a favourite for the royals, Cameron prefers the 20,000-acre estate owned by his wife Samantha's stepfather, Lord Astor, on the Scottish island of Jura.
Do you need to own a huge estate then? No, enthusiasts can pay to stalk deer on estate-owners' land. A day trip to stalk smaller species of deer can cost £50-£200. But some wealthy hunters pay thousands of pounds to stay on the more exclusive estates, where a local guide will take them to the best spots and clean the antlers and skulls for them. Some marksmen will have the antlers of their kill professionally mounted, while the carcasses normally remain the property of the estate and will be sold as venison.
Is deer stalking considered humane? Many animal rights activists remain opposed to deer stalking as a "blood sport". BASC insists that stalkers should always consider the welfare of the animals. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the deer is assumed to be unaware of its stalkers and death should be instantaneous. Stalking is seen as more humane than hunting with a pack of hounds, which would chase the deer to near-exhaustion. This style of hunting is banned in the UK – although using up to two hounds to find injured deer is deemed acceptable by law. ·