Venison on the menu

In December’s Messenger Magazine, Nick Betts wrote about the need to keep the deer population under control by culling, and only last week I read in The Observer “Wild deer set to wreak havoc in UK woodlands as venison demand plunges”.  The article goes on “Unmanaged wild deer herds could soon pose a threat to woodlands and important wildlife habitats in Britain because the commercial market for venison has collapsed during the pandemic.

Many in the game industry as well as conservationists fear too few deer are being culled to keep the estimated two-million-strong wild herd, the largest for 1,000 years, at a sustainable size.”  The article quotes Mike Robinson, one of the country’s leading game chefs “About 80% of the wild deer harvested in the UK goes to restaurants or the hospitality trade. But that sector is really struggling right now and demand has fallen through the floor.”  Shooting has dropped because the shooters can’t get rid of the meat, and if not enough breeding females are shot in the winter, there will be a population explosion later in the year.  This is highly damaging to our woodland, not to mention the fact that they eat a lot of grass which could be eaten by sheep or cows – and growing crops.  There are impacts on bird populations too. The RSPB says “excessive deer populations had a detrimental impact on the habitats of many birds, including nightingales, warblers and willow tits.”  There are other problems too: there are around 74,000 traffic accidents and the RSPCA says that between 10 and 20 people are killed each year, all in accidents involving deer.

The deer are beautiful creatures and we are lucky to have them in our countryside.  I personally love to see them.  The problem is, now that we no longer have their natural predators (the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf) in this country, there are simple too many and it falls to us to manage them.  No-one wants to exterminate them; it is a question of numbers.

The solution, Robinson says is for the British to eat more venison “If the public eat more venison then this problem will naturally start to go away because the price will go up,” he said. “There will then be more incentive to shoot deer.”

So, why not treat yourself to a bit of this fantastic meat: naturally lean, tasty, and completely wild, not treated with hormones, antibiotics, or growth promoters and not fed on anything processed.  Entirely wild and natural.  And if you get it from a respectable source, you can be sure that it has been killed very quickly and humanely.  Nick Betts can be contacted on 07710 722294 and weald.deer@gmail.com. and another highly recommended source is the Quinns, who can be contacted on 01424 838528.  These are also the people to contact if you are a landowner looking to get them under control on your land.  If there are any other local shooters or suppliers who would like a mention in next month’s edition, please drop me a line (andrew@wedmore.com)