Politicians calling for a county-wide cull of deer in Ireland have met strong opposition. Councillor Michael McClafferty has proposed that Donegal County Council bring about an “organised deer culling policy for County Donegal to cut down our deer numbers in a humane way.” However, the Alliance for Animal Rights (AFAR) has said the proposal is “inhumane”, and there is a better way of bringing the deer population under control.

AFAR’s Bernie Wright said to Donegal News, “GonaCon is a contraceptive that has been used for years in America. You often see how houses there are interspersed with trees so you have deer everywhere. That would be the really humane solution and the only problem, which isn’t a problem really, is that GonaCon isn’t licensed here. But that could be overcome quite easily. Only the government doesn’t want to spend the money. This idea of shooting deer, parents being killed in front of their children, it’s barbaric. All animals experience fear at seeing their friends killed and dragged away.”

Pádraic Fogarty, Campaign Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust, said the shooting of deer is “pretty brutal”, even if his organisation is only a conservation organisation that does not opposed to lethal wildlife management. He said, “we don’t know how many deer we have and it is something we have done nothing about. But going out and simply shooting deer is not the solution. We would strongly favour a deer management policy but we need to look at things like what the aim of that policy would be. We are not against culling deer but there is a lot that needs to be talked about before we start doing it.”

A spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said that deer are protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and that national culls are not carried out. The only culling done is within the state’s six national parks (Glenveagh, Connemara, Killarney, The Burren in Co Clare, Wicklow Mountains and Mayo’s Wild Nephin). However, Parks and Wildlife issued licences to hunt deer. Ireland has an annual open season from 1st September to the last day of February, during which deer can legally be shot under licence. For this year 6,000 applications have already been received.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.