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Outer Hebrides islanders vote against mass deer cull

Islanders on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides have voted against removing all the red deer from a 93,000-acre community-owned estate, in a move welcomed by the Scottish Countryside Alliance.

At an emergency general meeting held in Daliburgh, organised by Stòras Uibhist- which manages the estate- some 379 residents voted against proposals which would have culled around 1,200 deer.

Recent reports in the media revealed some residents had raised concerns about the spread of Lyme disease, while also blaming the animals for damaging grazing land and gardens.

The proposed motion stated: "We propose that Sealladh na Beinne Moire removes all deer from the estate area and concentrates on finding other viable alternatives and employment opportunities for land presently occupied by deer."

Only 140 of the 522 votes cast on Monday (20/03/2023) evening had voted in favour of the cull following an extended session in the busy community hall, which involved discussions and debate on issues such as, deer management, finances, health and jobs.

Alongside the impact on jobs, concerns were raised over whether the community could afford to undertake such a drastic cull, with some arguing it could draw finances away from other resident priorities such as affordable housing.

Responding to the vote, Jake Swindells, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance said: " Whilst it is understandable that deer numbers need to be reduced, this must be done as part of a carefully controlled deer management plan and not by eradication".

He went on to say: "Red deer, in particular, are iconic to Scotland. The ability of the non-native Japanese Sika deer to hybridise with our native Reds makes sanctuaries, such as our Western Isles, much more important. Sika and Sika/Red hybrids are now common throughout Scotland and everything should be done to protect the pure herds in places such as South Uist. It is commendable that the community recognise this".

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