Drop the female deer season change!


Why the SGA opposes changing the female deer seasons - and what Scottish Government must do NOW


  • While the SGA represents a significant proportion of deer managers to whom the season change will have no affect (mostly upland deer stalkers who would never, through conscience, choose to kill females either as early in the season, or as late), the SGA also represents contract stalkers who may be forced to cull females right up to late pregnancy in order to achieve a cull objective and payment. We know some will not speak up through fear of losing a contract. We, therefore, speak for their welfare and that of all our members


  • In certain circumstances/ environments, culling females up to 31st March will mean the female is very heavily pregnant. The calf inside her will be approaching full term. For the carcass to enter the food chain, the deer manager will have to open the mother and remove the calf. In certain circumstances, the calf may also have to be killed (see image below - WARNING: graphic image) Image sent to us, taken on 29th March

Size of calf, side culled mother, 29th March


  • Such experiences can be distressing and distasteful for the deer manager. Some can only undertake it through disassociation from the process. We have real concern that, by extending the season, this will mean more deer managers over time feeling compelled to carry out these culls (which can impact their mental health), in order to retain contracts. As the need for higher culls (through things such as ‘Orders’) becomes more urgent - as per Government priorities - there is a real danger this type of management will be utilised more and become normalised


  • We know that, in cattle, it is illegal by EC regulation to present females to slaughter at 90% into pregnancy. Animal welfare organisations want this to be 75%. In a BBC investigation looking at the mental impacts of abattoir work, the experience of workers having to kill pregnant cows and young calves were cited as particularly distressing. The same applies to the deer manager. https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50986683.amp
Screenshot from BBC online article investigating the mental health of abattoir workers 


  • We do not feel Scottish Government and NHS Boards can promise to spend £1.3 billion for mental health, then act in a detrimental way to the mental wellbeing of one subset of the workforce

Charity Gamekeepers' Welfare Trust is supporting the SGA's stance on female deer seasons


  • Charity Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust supports the SGA stance on this issue and believes Scottish Govt must drop the proposals. “We are increasingly concerned for the welfare of stalkers and deer managers who are passionate about the wildlife they manage. They are being pressured into culling deer outside current seasons which were established for sound, ethical purposes. The mental health of stalkers and deer managers, and that of their families, is undoubtedly being affected by these measures. With increasing mental ill health in rural communities and a suicide rate of more than one per week, this is becoming a crisis which cannot be ignored.”


  • For particular purposes, such as forestry, farmland and crofts, deer can already be shot under General Authorisation, up to 31st March. We feel this should remain, to take account of particular circumstances when culls may need to happen. However, we don’t think it should apply over all of Scotland and all environments, with no oversight or check and balance from regulators. It is unnecessary and could lead to the consequences outlined above.



  • Science from Rum has found that, due to the changing climate, red deer are calving earlier https://impact.ed.ac.uk/research/future-health-and-care/deer-reveal-natures-secrets-across-half-a-century/  Extending culling to 31st March, therefore, increases the chances of culling at the latest stages of pregnancy. Recently, Scottish Government changed the muirburn seasons to ‘future proof’ against earlier bird breeding, taking two weeks off of the end of the burning season, supposedly to protect early nests. With deer, Scottish Government is proposing to extend the female cull seasons, thereby doing the opposite. These two positions cannot both hold. 


  • At the other end of the season, when mothers will be feeding calves, Unite union has defended distressed Forestry and Land Scotland rangers who contacted the union with concerns about the numbers of lactating females hanging in FLS larders without their offspring. A Unite spokesperson said: “We have heard from many of our ranger members this year, upset by the sights in these larders.” Unite said FLS paid contractors per deer, with contracts ‘not renewed if tough targets are not met’. See article below


*Scottish Government proposes to change the female deer closed season: 16th Feb to 20th October




31st March to 30th September


What Scottish Government must do NOW!


As the largest body representing professional deer managers in Scotland, the SGA feels that it is imperative that Scottish Government enters direct dialogue with the SGA on this important subject as soon as possible


What can you do? If you want to see the female deer season changes dropped, write to your MSP. Urge them to reject the Scottish Government proposal

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