Anyone know the keeper? anyone know the true story?
By Brian May
7:30AM GMT 01 Dec 2012
Last week, I was accused of being “utterly hypocritical” because my land management agent had licensed a gamekeeper to cull deer on my forest land in Dorset. The gamekeeper in question, no longer employed by us, boasted that he had killed 23 young animals purely “for sport”. The part about deer control is true – but the latter claim is shocking to me.
For years, I have been a staunch opponent of the proposed badger cull, and I am firmly against all forms of cruelty to animals. But there is a vast difference between culling deer and massacring badgers. The two have very different aims. I acted on the best available advice in allowing deer culling for a limited time on my property, for the health and safety of the herd – and, as an animal rights campaigner, I certainly have no reason to apologise.
I inherited the tradition of deer-culling when I bought Middlemarsh, my 139-acre plot of land, in 2009. It has been described in some newspapers as an estate, which gives the impression of a grand, manicured country property, but it isn’t. I don’t live there; nobody does. It is a piece of forest land, which has been used for commercial forestry for decades. I bought it to protect it from development and to conserve its beautiful, rugged landscape by recreating a “primeval” undisturbed woodland where plants and animals could coexist.
When I took possession, I was strongly advised to keep up the existing deer-culling. I was told that the game warden was necessary to take out sick and weak animals to keep their numbers under control. This stops the land becoming over-populated and prevents animals from starving in winter due to lack of food. I was also advised that if I sacked the gamekeeper, the whole herd would probably be killed by poachers.
I took advice from my management company, UPM Tilhill, which said that the cull should be kept in place initially, so I could make an informed decision over time. I trusted them as caretakers of the woodland with all the experience that I knew I lacked. They issued a 12-month licence to a stalker to cull deer from March 2010. I did not know that he was killing for “sport”, as he claimed this week – he was employed to protect the herd. I find his motivation despicable, and I will never let him on my land again.