Deer stalking not affected by bill to ban stag hunting

THE Department of the Environment has confirmed that deer stalking will not be affected by a contentious bill to ban stag hunting.

Deer stalking is the practice whereby hunters shoot deer. They are licensed by the state to do so because they assist in keeping the deer population under control.

The Wild Deer Association of Ireland claims that the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010, which is expected to become law by the summer, could have severe consequences for deer stalking.

This is because the current draft of the bill contains a provision which would make it illegal to hunt deer with two or more dogs.

The Wild Deer Association said this provision would “curb, inhibit and possibly render unworkable the officially recognised and endorsed method of deer stalking”.

This is because deer stalkers need several dogs to locate a fallen deer quickly “so that the animal may be dispatched humanely”, the association said.

“When a deer is wounded, it immediately retreats and hides in deep cover. Without the assistance of dogs, it could take stalkers several days to locate a wounded deer or the deer might never be found. Thus, the purpose of using dogs is an entirely humane one.”

But a spokesman for Environment Minister John Gormley, who is bringing forward the bill, last night made clear that the legislation was not intended to impact on deer stalking.

An amendment would be made to the bill to ensure that deer stalking remained unaffected, the spokesman added.

The sole purpose of the bill was to ban stag hunting, he said. Stag hunting is the practice whereby huntsmen on horseback use a pack of hounds to pursue a male deer, or stag.

Animal rights campaigners claim stag hunting is cruel as it subjects the deer to a distressing ordeal which can last several hours. In practice, the bill is targeting just a single group, the Ward Union Hunt based in Meath, as it is the only stag hunting organisation in the country.

The minister’s spokesman said it had already been made clear to the Wild Deer Association that deer stalking would not be affected by the bill. But this communication did not seem to have reached the TDs on the Oireachtas Environment committee yesterday, several of whom criticised Mr Gormley and his officials over the bill.

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