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Deer in Great Britain: There are several reasons for the boom

Photo: Henry Nicholls / AFP

It is estimated that around two million deer live in Great Britain. There are too many deer, red deer, fallow deer and muntjacs, say experts - and warn that things cannot continue like this.

There are several reasons for the boom. "In the past, deer wouldn't have had a chance in rural areas because people were hungry," says Paul Dolman from the University of East Anglia to the BBC. "Now people no longer live off the land, so the chance of survival for deer is much greater." In addition, the animals in Great Britain have no natural enemies. Wolves and bears have been gone for a long time.

“Everything speaks for the deer,” says Peter Watson from the Deer Initiative organization. "The forest cover has increased and farmers grow grain all year round." Winter fruits in times when there was otherwise little fodder are a source of food.

Steep population increase

Milder winters due to climate change would contribute to increased animal fertility, says Watson. The fact that demand from restaurants fell significantly during the pandemic is another reason for the steep population increase: an estimated 80 percent of the copies shot previously went to the catering industry.

The industry is hoping for a turnaround. A major factor in controlling populations is the price hunters can obtain. If the demand for venison increases, they could be encouraged to shoot more.

So far, around 350,000 animals are shot every year. Far too little, say experts. Up to 750,000 kills are necessary. Conservationists would classify a population of less than a million as sustainable in order to reduce economic and ecological consequences, reports the Times.

"Now thousands of kindergarten children are joining the fight to control the increasing number of deer in Britain - by eating them for lunch," writes the newspaper martially. Tops Day Nurseries was one of the first educational institutions to put game on the menu for the 4,000 children it cares for in the south of England. Five dishes have been created together with the Eat Wild industry initiative, and game will be served twice within three weeks - that's 3,000 meals a month.

“The deer population is out of control”

Catering chef Pete Ttofis raves about the variety of dishes. The meat has not been treated with growth hormones or antibiotics, but comes directly from the natural habitat. Game dishes are not only considered rich in nutrients and vitamins, but also more sustainable than chicken and pork.

As the Sun reports, there are also considerations to encourage supermarkets to sell more venison. This could reduce prices - an opportunity for healthy meat for many people who complain about high energy and food costs. “The deer population is out of control,” says Eat Wild boss Louisa Clutterbuck. "Therefore there is no supply problem at all, there is an oversupply at the moment."

The enormous population has consequences: According to information, farmers lose crops worth several million pounds every year due to deer. In Scotland they prevent widespread reforestation. 75,000 wildlife accidents a year cause vehicle damage worth around £45 million (€52.6 million) - and cost around 10 to 15 people their lives every year. The animals can also transmit diseases.