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Support of Scottish Government sought by venison producers

A few years ago, an extremely conservative (and dare I say it, unreliable) figure was proposed as a best guess for the number of deer in Scotland. One million deer was the figure put forward to the Scottish Government, yet it is impossible to state just how many deer we have since the only reliable method of counting is done by upland deer management groups and estates, and mainly for Red Deer. Considering we have four species of deer in Scotland (Red, Sika, Fallow and Roe) you have to wonder how this figure was taken as gospel at the time. We know this is an inaccurate figure because we simply have no idea how many deer we have in the lowlands as it is virtually impossible to count them using the same techniques as upland deer managers. Current thoughts are that the figure is nearer to two million deer.

With the Scottish Government failing in some areas to meet net zero targets, which includes the planting of millions of trees, there is now a requirement to shoot another 150,000 deer each year to assist in achieving this goal. Deer eat trees and there needs to be fewer of them. I wish it was that simple.

As it stands, there are a small number of deer larders in Scotland that are available for public use. Most estates have one, or at least share one, but these are for private use and not available to recreational stalkers. Health and safety where our food is concerned is taken very seriously and venison handling establishments will not accept a carcass unless it has come from a chiller or taken to them directly from the field. The obvious question now is if we are to harvest an additional 150,000 deer per year then where do we take them to ensure they are sufficiently chilled so that they are safe to enter the food chain? It is all very well setting targets, but the key is being realistic and investing in infrastructure and logistics before demands are made.

Not only do deer stalkers need access to more cool storage facilities, but we also need a market for the venison that is harvested. We should not be shooting deer unless we know there is somewhere for them to go afterwards. The Scottish Government need to increase marketing efforts and make venison available to the average consumer, rather than it being a niche and expensive treat. Venison is healthy, lean, organic and we have plenty of it! Wouldn’t it be great to see venison on the menu for schools, hospitals, and other community establishments!

The Lowland Deer Network Scotland Group have devised a short survey looking at the available facilities in Scotland so if you have an interest in deer and use or own a larder then please take a few minutes to fill in this questionnaire.

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