Gamekeepers signal ‘fundamental opposition’ to deer management proposals

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said it would not take part in the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue.

Scottish gamekeepers signal ‘fundamental opposition’ to deer management proposals SGA

Gamekeepers have told ministers of their “fundamental and collective opposition” to changes to deer management being proposed by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has written to both Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon and biodiversity minister Lorna Slater to make clear it “cannot, with conscience, support measures” contained within the Scottish Government’s consultation.

Ministers propose creating new deer management nature restoration orders (DMNROs), which would give additional powers to nature agency NatureScot.

These could see a “range of deer management actions required” – including culling – in order to encourage nature restoration.

Not complying with an action requirement under a DMNRO would be an offence, the Scottish Government consultation says.

The SGA fears such orders could force gamekeepers to take part in the culling and gralloching – or disembowelling – of heavily-pregnant hind deer.

An SGA position paper warned this could be a “welfare and mental health issue for the deer manager”.

It stated: “One of our deer managers still recoils, 25 years on, from culling a hind in the first week of March and having to kill the calf inside.

“The SGA deer group believes that, if MSPs are to approve this, they should have to participate in the gralloching of a heavily pregnant hind themselves – that is how strongly this issue resonates.”

With the SGA accusing the Scottish Government of having “controversially progressed” previous changes to deer management “despite almost unilateral opposition from professionals”, it has now made clear it will not take part in this latest consultation.

Instead, the group said it would “seek other avenues, outside of the Government’s consultation” where the voices of those involved in deer management could be “better reflected”.

The SGA is currently proposing pilot schemes which it says could help meet targets for higher culls and improving biodiversity.

However, it made clear that “having examined the issues, it cannot, with conscience, support measures contained within the consultation, or the process behind it”.

Writing in the consultation document, Slater stressed she was “conscious that there are a wide range of interests in the management of wild deer”.

The biodiversity minister said that “effective deer management” was required as part of efforts to restore the natural environment.

She stated: “Achieving our ambitious targets on tree planting, woodland regeneration and peatland restoration will have a profound impact on improving our natural environment in the years to come, but we will not achieve those aims without effective deer management.

“That means we need to get the right balance of the right densities of wild deer in the right areas to maximise the environmental benefits they can bring as part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem.”

Slater continued: “The benefits of carefully managed wild deer populations are not just environmental.

“Deer provide important employment and social opportunities to our rural communities and they form an iconic part of Scotland’s landscape.

“This consultation is an opportunity for people across Scotland to have their say on further proposals to improve the management of deer populations and to help shape future legislation.”

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